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The Fabulous Fleece Company Blog (2013)

How to get a roaring fire in seconds

For those of you who’ve not come across one before, a fire pipe - also called a blow poker, fire blower or human bellows - is an ingenious tool for getting a fire going quickly. It’s much more effective compared to traditional hand bellows.

It’s always a popular item for us at this time of year – especially with people looking for an unusual yet practical present for those ‘hard-to-buy-for’ friends and relatives.

So how does it work? Well, when a fire needs some encouragement, you simply place the shaped end of the pipe right into the base of the fire then blow from the other end of the tube.

The hollow pipe funnels your breath to deliver a strong, steady stream of air directly where it’s needed - and without blowing ash everywhere.

Its length means you don’t need to get so close to the fire to revive it and risk getting singed eyebrows or sooty knees.

Gathering around the fire is a great social activity in winter and the fire pipe creates a real talking point. People are always fascinated to see it being used and most want a go themselves.

They are equally amazed by just how well they work to get a fire going and how you don’t need that much puff to do it!

Our own Flordon Fire Pipe has two other practical uses too - as a traditional fire poker to stoke the wood or coal, and as a toasting fork. On a cold morning, fire-toasted crumpets taste particularly good...

Fire starters: homemade firelighter ideas

Now the evenings are drawing in and there’s more of a chill in the misty air, it definitely feels like it’s the season to get the open fire going indoors.

When starting the first fire of the Autumn, I always get the chimney swept and checked for safety to make sure no fire bricks are cracked. I’ve had my chimney catch fire before, so I’m talking from experience here!

Then I get stocked up with some ready-made firelighters to use through the winter, to store by the fireplace ready to help get the fire roaring.

I find dried citrus peel is particularly good - it’s full of oil so quickly bursts into flames and gets your kindle burning, plus gives off a nice scent too.

I save all the peel from oranges or lemons I’ve used when cooking, then let the peel dry out underneath the wood burner. Once dried, I keep a bucket of it by the fireplace ready to throw on the fire and get it going with a crackle.

Pine cones also make great firelighters and also look nice by the fire until ready to use. I found a great post about how to make some pinecone firelighters recently on Kate’s Creative Space - a blog with lots of useful articles (illustrated with lots of great looking pictures) on rustic living, craft and DIY.

Using a bag of gathered pine cones, some basic tea lights and cupcake cases and candle scent (optional), Kate’s post takes you through how to make a batch. Here’s the link if you want to try your hand at making them: Kate's article on homemade pinecone firelighters.

The Lady Edith's new petbed

t’s always great to see our hides and fleeces ‘in the wild’ being used and enjoyed. So it was lovely to receive these photos of one happy customer - The Lady Edith - a rescued lurcher dog - enjoying a snooze on her individual rare breed sheepskin.

Lady Edith’s owner, Kate Mobbs-Morgan, is a regular attendee at some of the wood fairs where The Fabulous Fleece Co. has a stand, as she does horse logging demos at these events. We caught up with her at the Surrey Hills woodfair recently, when she bought another Fabulous Fleece Company sheepskin.

Like us, Kate and The Lady Edith spend a lot of time travelling with work, so they use the fleeces to make life on the road a bit more comfortable. One sheepskin stays on Kate’s chair and another on the front seat of their lorry for The Lady Edith’s travel comfort.

Kate is based near Monmouth and does great work logging timber in the traditional way with her two lovely Ardenne horses, Kip and Sol. She helps manage land and forests in environmentally sensitive area for woodland owners, the Woodland Trust, RSPB, the National Trust and similar charities.

If you are interested to find out more about horse logging and Kate’s work, then do visit her site, Rowan Working Horses.

A 'homespun' firepit

When I'm on the road attending various shows, often having travelled a good distance to get to an event, it makes sense logistically to stay overnight and camp beside the van.

I always have a fleece or hide nearby to keep myself warm, of course. But I find an injection of extra warmth on chilly evenings is always welcome so I like to huddle around a good campfire!

Happily, I now I have my very own firepit that I can take with me in my van to the shows. It may look purpose-made at first glance but its actually a recycled old washing machine drum! Despite its laundry-related past, the metal drum has lots of qualities to recommend it for this new use...

It’s a great to hold a bag of logs in the back of the van until needed. Then when in use, this all-metal container throws out lots of heat. The drum holes around the side draw in the air nicely to feed the flames. Plus the round edge is a good rest for a grill if I want to cook anything on top.

If you are a regular camper and like to recycle, I would really recommend you try sourcing your own ‘homespun’ firepit!

Featured in August issue of Period Living

Rushed to the newsagents in Norwich this morning to pick up the new August issue of Period Living magazine just out - it features our Reindeer hide. We were really chuffed to be included in the style notes on how to get the look inspired by a Reader's Home.

The home in question is a disused 1930s railway carriage that has been transformed into a wonderful shepherd’s hut style retreat in the Yorkshire Dales (looking out to views of sheep-filled fields in the distance!)


It looks great - rather envious of owners Debbie and Richard Greaves for having such a welcoming bolthole at the end of the garden. They have done a great job of refurbishing the interior to give it a homely and rustic feel.

Aside from the reindeer hide rug beside the bed, other great furnishings that caught our eye included a reclaimed wood-burning stove, some colonial-style wooden lounger chairs and lambswool throws.

If you haven't seen a copy, here are a few pics:

How to care for your Reindeer hide

* We've had a lot of requests for advice looking after skins, so we've creating a new section called Product Care. This article is an older version of the How to care for your reindeer hide in that section.

We often get asked by customers how to best look after a reindeer hide. Investing in an timeless item like this, you will want to treasure it for years to come. So what can you do to keep it in tip-top condition?

Choosing the best place for it

Hides are more a decorative or ornamental item - rather than a durable, hard wearing one. So we’d recommend positioning in a lower traffic area of your house. Stepping or walking on your reindeer hide too frequently or sitting on it for long periods of time can cause the hairs to shed.

Avoiding hot spots

Extreme heat can also cause the hide’s hairs to shed excessively. With that in mind, it’s best to not place too close to sources of extreme heat such as directly in front of a fire, in conservatories, close to a radiator or in rooms with underfloor heating.

Animals love to dig out the long hairs too so try not to place in your pet’s favourite spot or let them get too attached to your hide!

Cleaning your hide

To remove any loose dirt, give the hide a gentle shake by hand outside. You can also use your use vacuum cleaner on a low setting with brush attachment. Hang against a wall and gently vacuum from head to foot.

Drying your hide

Reindeer hides are naturally waterproof and are great to be used outside as chair or bench covers. However if your hide does get very wet, try to dry it out soon after. Leave it to dry naturally outside, preferably in bright natural light but not direct sunlight.

Following the points above, you should be able to treasure your hide and keep it looking great for many years.

Our first photoshoot

Really excited to be on location for The Fabulous Fleece Co’s very first photoshoot this week - taking lifestyle images for this year’s autumn/winter range.

The cut-out images we already had are great for seeing detail on the product pages - but we also wanted atmospheric shots of the rugs etc in a homely setting help to really visualise how good things will look in your own home and life!

Imagining winter in June

We needed to take the pictures now before the frenzied pre-Christmas activity gets going late summer. With a majority of our items being seasonal and made for colder climes, we also needed to create cosy, wintery scenes. You'd think this would be challenging in June - but considering this month’s dreary weather, it’s not so hard to imagine!

The photoshoot location

We enlisted our photographer Mike Harrington to capture the scenes, who came along with assistants Annie and Brydon to help with styling.

Our destination was Lime Kiln Farm, a lovely English cottage B&B in Banham on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Many thanks to owners Margaret and Tony Wilkin for letting us use their lovely farmhouse for the day. Do keep them in mind if you ever come to stay in Norfolk.

As well as providing the warm and welcoming interiors ideal for our indoor shots, the setting outdoors is wonderful. The farmhouse has beautiful gardens looking out towards the surrounding marshland.

The Lime Kiln is no longer a working farm but does still have stables - in fact, Puzzle the resident horse was rather curious to see all our activity disturbing his usual peace.

Ruby (my dog) was rather bored by it all, but she did a star turn as our model for the sheepskin and luxury pet bed shots. We had great fun trying to get her to look out the window at the right time for a shot of the sheepskins on the bed - our tactic involved placing Mike’s phone on the windowsill and setting the alarm off!

A good day's work

Margaret prepared a lovely lunch to keep energy our levels up. Bar this short break, we worked flat out 9am until 7pm to get the images we wanted. It was worth it though - really pleased with the results, which really add colour and appeal to the website! Many thanks to Mike and his team for their hard work.

My favourite picture? Probably the Jacob’s sheepskins hanging outside on the washing line, although the cosy fireplace shots that we are saving until late autumn to reveal are great too - watch this space!

We've been lucky enough to be seen in: