Hebridean is a formerly endangered sheep breed that is originally from Scotland and survived on the islands of the Hebrides. On these islands in the northwest of Scotland, the living conditions are extreme. Hebridean sheep show a tremendous adaptabilty which helped them survive in this inhospitable environment and rough climate when Scotland switched to commercially more versatile breeds in sheep farming.
The Hebridean wool varies between dark brown and black. Some sheep can even be slightly grey, especially when their fleece has been bleached by the sun.
Nowadays, Hebrideans are only rarely bred, because their colour does not meet the commercial requirements. The wool is very sturdy and withstands even the roughest weather, but because of its darkness it is pointless to dye it.
Our Unique Vintage Yarn – a Rarity
We refine the dark Hebridean wool with our particularly soft, white Merino wool in order to create the luxurious mélange yarn Heb Merino Fine. It is, for many reasons, something very special:
- Similar to Manx Loaghtan, it is very difficult to find Hebridean wool in certified organic quality, because this kind of sheep is so rarely bred in general today. Therefore, the precious mélange yarn is also produced only in small amounts. Once it is out of stock, we have to wait for the next sheep shearing, which takes place only once per year. Therefore we came up with the idea to create a yearly vintage yarn with its terroir, where the sheep are bred, and the year indicated – as is common for a special wine. We also wanted to emphasize the uniqueness by numbering each skein individually. Similar to a good wine, the appearance and quality of the wool can vary from year to year, depending on the weather conditions (with the amount of sun, temperature, rainfall) and soil conditions, all influencing the terroir.
- The yarn has subtle light and dark reflexes due to the natural colour of the sheep and is available undyed and in 6 dye colours. It is a Fingering weight yarn with 200m/50g (218yds/50g) that is particularly suitable for Fair Isle knitting, shawls, accessories, and luxurious tops. Because of its high share of softest Merino wool it can be worn comfortably on the skin.
- We process this yarn, as we do for all our yarns, according to the strict GOTS criteria, without dangerous chemicals, under strict controls for harmful residues, and with fair working conditions.
- We donate 0.50 Euro of each skein we sell to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust which is committed to the protection of endangered sheep breeds in Great Britain. We hope that by doing so we are able to contribute to the support and further spread of these unique four-legged survivalists.
Protection of the Species
Great Britain has a long tradition of sheep farming and with almost 60 different breeds a fascinating variety. However, almost half of these breeds are in danger of extinction according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST). The RBST is committed to the protection of endangered breeds of farm animals and especially of sheep in Great Britain. It also publishes a list of endangered species.
In Germany, there is an organization with a similar concern, the Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Haustierrassen e.V. (GEH). It initiated, among other things, the Arche project with over 90 participating farms in Germany, organises an animal sponsorship project and supports local work by means of regional groups.
Rosy Green Wool supports the RBST with a donation from each mélange skein sold and the German equivalent GEH by means of a sheep sponsorship.
The Sheep Farm
The Hebridean raw wool which we use for our yarn comes from Fowlescombe Farm in Devon, England, where the sheep are kept according to certified organic farming standards.
Fowlescombe is located close to Dartmoor and its history goes back to the year 1537. The estate has now for many years been led with dedication by Barbara and Richard Barker and is certified by the Soil Association to organic standards. The Barkers are committed not only to the conservation of rare sheep breeds, but to the protection of animals and environment in a much broader sense and they are members of the committee of the RBST's Devon Support Group. Fowlescombe offers holiday cottages in a magnificent landscape – 2009/2010 the farm has won the Beautiful Farm Award for West- and Southwest Great Britain.
We first visited Fowlescombe in June 2014 for the sheep shearing in order to meet Barbara, Richard and their exceptional sheep. The animals graze on bountiful pastures over several hills and on meadows with apple trees. The lands stretch over 191 hectars in all. Currently, they have about 100 ewes of the Manx Loaghtan and Hebridean breeds. Together with the lambs and rams, there are about 250 sheep in total on the farm.