In this article extract, taken from the The Country Smallholder magazine, Jack Smellie meets the very talented Bec Briar who works with her own flock’s fleeces to create stunning fibre and woollen products.
When I asked Bec what was the most important aspect of her life with sheep and wool, her answer spoke volumes.‘I want other people to experience the absolute joy in learning to work with their own fibre, to encourage them to thoroughly explore it, to learn from it and to understand how to match the wool in their hand to a perfect final product.’
This desire to be as inclusive as possible and to celebrate what surely has to be one of the most under-rated materials we know, underpins all that Bec does.
GORGEOUS PRODUCTS FROM NAMED ANIMALS
Bec’s workshop on the edge of Exmoor is a little like the Tardis, tiny to look at but inside, full beyond imagination of the most amazing fibre and woollen products. From here she produces shawls, blankets, scarves, yarns, drop spindles, plant dyes and a huge variety of weaving kits. She also teaches, offering one-to-one and small group tuition in a variety of spinning and weaving techniques as well as wool processing and preparation.
Her woven shawls are truly exquisite. You cannot help but run your fingers over them, following the intricate patterns and noticing the fine relationship between warp and weft. Watching her warp her floor loom, a stunning Dryad Counter Balance that is, she proudly announces, as old as she, is a lesson in patience and total concentration as she manages different colours of warp, hundreds of metres at a time, and ensures they get threaded though heddles and the reed, in exactly the right order.
The wool she works with comes from her own flock of mainly primitive sheep: Portlands, Exmoor Horn, Shetlands, and Icelandic as well as a variety of sheep from carefully chosen nearby local flocks that include Jacobs and Gotlands. Every product she makes, is a reflection of the individual animal from where the fleece came. You do not just buy a scarf from Bec, you buy a scarf made from the fleece of a sheep named Viola, or a shawl from the Shetland trio of Vita,Gib and Yeva. When you buy a fleece box containing yarn, raw fleece and slivers, each item is carefully labelled so you know exactly which animal’s fleece you are working with.
This article extract was taken from the September 2023 edition of The Country Smallholder. To read the article in full you can buy the issue here.
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