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The Fabulous Fleece Company Blog (2017)

Spotlight on our latest bespoke sheepskins

We love the variety of individual requests we get for our bespoke sheepskins service so thought we'd share with you more details of the most recent items that we've been making in the Fab Fleece workshop...

Tibetan Lambskin Blanket with Square Cushion/ Pillow Covers

This beautiful custom blanket/throw was compiled with 12 Ivory Tibetan Lambskins stitched together. Our customer also asked for some square pillow covers to be made to match, which we happily did, combining a lambskin front with a white wool backing. The finished products remind us of fluffy clouds and we think they look heavenly...!

Grey Rarebreed Sexto

This photo was taken when all the six skins had been laid out and matched, ready for the cutting and stitching. Love the subtle mix of tones with this one. So much nicer and more natural than a uniform colour dyed sheepskin!

Light Rare Breed Decto Sheepskin

Another great example of combining some lovely light tone individual rare breeds together into a large sheepskin - this one combines ten sheepskins.

Extra Large Dark Rare Breed Sexto Sheepskin

Moving over to the dark side, this is bespoke sheepskin combining six darker rare breed sheepskins. It's made super sized by being a compilation of our extra large sheepskin stock.

Baby Lambskin Blankets

Last, but most definitely not least, is this baby lambskin blanket. We will soon be adding these to our website as a new product to order, once we've got Mike to take a proper photograph of them in his studio. But until then you get an exclusive sneak peek of this new product in the workshop!

Amazing Animal Portraits by Alison Elliott

Alison in front of her painting 'Lord of Men I'

We recently came across the stunning paintings of artist Alison Elliott when she ordered a sheepskin pet bed for her cats and we got chatting about her work - specialising in painting animals, particularly horses and dogs.

With Fab Fleece Co, and many of our customers, being big animal lovers, we were intrigued to find out more…

'Ambition' 2017 Foal of 'Talent' - Oil on Gesso Panel 18 x 20cm

Bringing subjects to life

The first thing that so striking and admirable about Alison’s animal paintings is their awe-inspiring realism. So it’s very telling that when we ask Alison to name an artist that really inspires her, she says the photographer Richard Bailey.

Indeed it’s hard to believe Alison's paintings are not photographs themselves, as they portray her subjects so realistically through attention to the minutest of detail.

'I want each subject to come to life…so much so that one can almost feel them breathing,' says Alison.

‘Sunny’, 2013. Oil on gesso panel, 10 x 15cm

‘Sunny’, 2013. Oil on gesso panel, 10 x 15cm

A love for her subjects

It is Alison’s attention to the minutiae of an animal’s form that sets her apart from other animal portrait artists. Through her paintings, you can see the deep admiration Alison has for her subjects, a love which is demonstrated by the intimacy and almost obsessional level of detail that she manages to achieve.

Animals have always been a favourite subject for Alison, ever since she was a student doing Art Foundation at Winchester, where she learnt the key skills of life drawing and photography.

As a painter, Allison is completely self-taught, learning the majority of her working process from books and magazines, reading and experimenting with different techniques and supports over the years. She uses traditional painterly methods, updating the techniques of the old masters for a contemporary audience.

‘Talent' 2017. Oil on linen, 105 x 150 cm

More about the process

Each painting starts with a consultation with the subject’s owner to identify the animal’s character. This usually involves both owner and animal visiting her studio for the initial photographs from which the paintings are produced.

Getting these initial images right is crucial to capture the clarity and colours that Alison needs to make an accurate representation of her subject.

Once a single photograph is selected to work from, Alison decides on the scale of the painting by projecting her chosen image onto a paper backdrop.

Stivalery BJ, 2017 Arabian filly. Oil on gesso panel 13 x 18cm.jpg

Focus on the subject and its detail

Like the photographer she admires, Richard Bailey, Alison strips her compositions down to just the bare essentials and focus only on the subject, ‘cutting it out’ from its environment. This minimal approach places the animal at the epicentre of the painting, with no peripheral distractions in the background to draw the viewer’s attention from the portrait.

Each painting takes four layers to get to the most precise detail, with each layer adding progressively finer marks using gradually smaller brushes. The fourth and final layer is a tweaking layer, done to bring out the finest of details such as eyelashes, highlights on hair and light in the animal’s eyes.

This process is the same for both miniatures and larger canvases, although of course the larger canvases take considerably more time.

‘Molly’, 2014. Oil on gesso panel, 10 x 15cm

A question of scale

Indeed the choice of size and scale of the portrait is another distinguishing hallmark of Alison’s painting. Many of her earlier paintings are life size – such as portrait of the horse Fledalji and Boy, her painting of a six month old Giraffe she photographed while in Australia - which are both presented at 1:1 scale.

These larger works create a huge impact on the viewer and dominate the space. However, Alison paints miniatures of smaller animals, mostly made to commission as portraits of much-loved pets and are usually sized between 10x12cm and 18x24cm.

The small works invite the viewer to draw near to appreciate the detail. Because of their size, they can be fitted into even the most crowded home.

Alison doesn’t usually frame her work but these miniatures come with a custom-made presentation box. This is for protection, so that clients can make the decision about framing themselves. It’s also a lovely way of wrapping up the commission as a package, especially if it is a gift.

Most recently, Alison has been focusing on her smaller and more accessible portraits of both dogs and horses. But whatever the size, she is dedicated to recreating her subject’s every detail and bringing them to life in paint!

If you are interested in seeing more of Alison’s work or commissioning a portrait of a much-loved animal, please see Alison’s website - https://alison-elliott.myportfolio.com

Supporting Norfolk Greyhound Rescue

As some of you may know, I said goodbye to my beloved Ruby recently. She was a wonderful dog and companion for over 15 years. As painful as it was to lose her, I knew I had to move on and open up my heart to care for another dog. That search to find another canine companion brought me to discover Norfolk Greyhound Rescue (NGR) and its work...

What is Norfolk Greyhound Rescue?

This non-for-profit organisation, local to Fab Fleece HQ, does a magnificent job of finding caring people in and in around Norwich, in Norfolk and beyond, to look after Irish greyhounds, lurchers, strays and unwanted pets who are otherwise destined for a very unhappy ending.

The organisation is run by retired Norwich based couple Richard and Hayley, who spend all their time tirelessly working to save these poor dogs, travelling to Ireland and rescuing those who are at death’s door. They are also supported by a wider team of volunteers who generously donate their time to this worthy cause.

Why the dogs need rescuing

Norfolk Greyhound Rescue prioritises rescuing Irish hounds in particular, as thousands of dogs are bred for the track in Ireland every year, and a staggering number of them don’t make it. They are either discarded if they are just ‘not good enough’ to race, or if the dogs do make the race track, they are quickly abandoned when they stop winning and have outgrown their use.

Sadly very few of these hounds end up in pet homes in Ireland. The Irish dog pounds are so overrun that they will only hold dogs for a week before destroying the poor creatures. It’s heartbreaking.

New hope and a new home

However, that’s where Hayley and Richard step in to offer these condemned dogs a brighter future by bringing them back to the UK. The organisation has no central kennels like Battersea, as they prefer for the dogs to be housed in foster homes when they reach this country. This is kinder to the dogs, as they get to experience some of the love and luxury of life as a pet.

Whilst the dogs are in foster care, their fosterer can assess their personalities, start training, and be able to tell a potential adopter much more about the hound. Before being permanently rehomed, the charity arrange a home visit with the dog to see how both parties get on.

Meeting Bart

That’s why the lovely Bart (pictured top and below) came to my house for a visit. He was an adorable dog and quite the comedian too - we all laughed as he managed to make himself quite at home by wedging his bottom into the very small bed of my other dog Archie, a wee Jack Russell.

As lovable as Bart was, we weren’t quite the right fit for him, however another adorable greyhound should be coming to live with us soon. That’s another thing I really admire about what they do at NGR - they spend the time making sure that the dogs find an owner, and a home, that’s right for them.

How to help

The whole experience has made me determined to help this wonderful cause as much as I can, which is why I have chosen Norfolk Greyhound Rescue as The Fabulous Fleece Company’s charity to support on an ongoing basis. You can help too...

If you are interested in adopting a greyhound, they do make wonderful pets - being very gentle and affectionate. What’s more, they don’t need as much exercise as you’d think. So if any dog-loving Fab Fleece Fans out there could offer a rescued dog a new home, do get in touch with Hayley and Richard via the contact details on their website.

You can also help by fostering a hound, donating a one-off or monthly payment via the website, contributing quality unwanted items for raffles and tombolas. If you’re local to Norwich or Norfolk, you could also support their events such as walks, quiz nights, craft fairs and more.

Hayley also runs regular online auctions via Facebook so do follow their Facebook page.

The Fabulous Fleece Company has just donated some pet beds for an upcoming auction so do take a look!

For more information on Norfolk Greyhound Rescue, visit the website: http://norfolkgreyhoundrescue.co.uk

A Famous Fabulous Fleece?

Our double rare breed sheepskin - seen here draped over the gorgeous brown leather sofa in Patrick Drake's bedroom - could soon be famous...

Patrick's apartment is available to hire for shoots with brands, magazines, movies and tv shows. Usually they use the lounge upstairs, but the most recent shoot was in the bedroom and our fleece featured in it :-)

Here are some other images of Patrick's fabulous apartment, so you might recognise his pad when it pops up in your favourite magazine or tv show. Do keep your eyes peeled and tell us if you spot it... and our fleece!

Carry on glamping: Five fabulous glampsites!

There's been a rise in staycations in the last few years, especially with the weak pound discouraging holidays abroad, and this domestic tourism boom is reviving British campsites.

But for those of us are not seasoned tent dwellers and do not relish the full back-to-basics experience of camping, glamping is the perfect compromise to add a level of luxury. With the British summer weather being so unpredictable, a nice wood burning stove and cosy, ready-made bed can make a stint under canvas much more appealing!

There are increasingly more cool glamping sites popping up across the country, with fabulous accommodation options that include ready-furnished bell tents, yurts, tipis and shepherds' huts.

Our favourite glampsites are those adorned with reindeer hides and sheepskins of course! After all, skins and hides are a natural camping and glamping companion for warmth and are much nicer underfoot than a plastic groundsheet!

So here's our round up of five fabulous glamping sites across the UK...

Camp Kátur, North Yorkshire

Image © Camp Kátur: www.campkatur.com

Camp Kátur is an off-grid glamping site in Yorkshire, set within a beautiful 250 acre English country estate. This site just outside Bedale - named after the Icelandic word for happy - is ideal for those who like quirky accommodation, a good dose of adventure sports (such as quad bike trails and a tree top aerial adventure) plus eco-friendly facilities.

Inspired by camping experiences from around the world, you can choose from safari tents, bell tents, tipis, unidomes, hobbit pods and geodomes as your abode! Pictured above is a wonderful geodome, furnished with a proper bed and wood-burning stove.

To end your invigorating day enjoying the outdoors, relax in the eco spa with its wood-fired hot tub and sauna.

http://www.campkatur.com


Crafty Camping, Dorset

Image © Crafty Camping: www.mallinson.co.uk/glamping.html

Nestled in secluded woods near Lyme Regis in West Dorset, Crafty Camping is the creation of expert woodsman Guy Mallinson. Here you will find various luxury clamping dwellings for adults only - three bell tents, two yurts, a huge tipi named Hoppus and a shepherds' hut named Bodger - within this beautiful woodland setting. To sharpen up your wood skills, you can also enrol on a green woodworking course at Guy's craft workshop on the site.

Naturally, all of the accommodation has wood-based frames designed and made using the traditional craft techniques taught here, plus beautiful wood features such as handcrafted wooden headboards. We also love the liberal use of reindeer hides in the lodgings - such as in the gorgeous interior of Hoppus the Tipi pictured above.

http://www.mallinson.co.uk


Soul Camping, North Cornwall

Image © Soul Camping: www.soulcamping.co.uk

Soul Camping is in a beautiful meadow overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in North Cornwall, just a 20 minute walk from Port Isaac, the beach and the coastal path.

Each of the stylishly furnished, 5 metre bell tents boast super sea views. You're guaranteed a good night's sleep too on comfy king size beds with top quality bedding. What's more, there are lovely bedside sheepskins to sink your feet into when you wake up.

Best of all, you can also watch the sun go down in the wood-fired hot tub on site!

Wild Luxury, North Norfolk

Image © Wild Luxury: www.wildluxury.co.uk

There are two private camp sites at this idyllic site on the beautiful North Norfolk coast - The Hideaway and Thornham Bay. We especially love the latter, nestled within an apple farm right by a secluded beach! On site there's a a farm shop and a bistro set in a magnificent yurt tent, plus the lovely village of Thornham - with 3 pubs and a deli - is walking distance away.

The Serengeti Safari Lodges here are VIP level luxury... they each sleep six with their own warm ranges, hot shower and flushing toilet. The welcoming living area is furnished with a gorgeous animal hide on the floor to add warmth, comfort and some serious safari style!

http://www.wildluxury.co.uk


Wild Mountains, Carmarthenshire, Wales

Image © Wild Mountains: www.wild-mountains.com

This riverside meadow is opposite a very quaint, National Trust-owned, community-run pub in the tiny village of Cwmdu, Carmarthenshire. With just four bell tents - this small scale glamping site allows for real privacy and tranquility, while enjoying the Black Mountains close by.

Wild Mountains is owned by Tom, Lisa & their dog Ambrose, who wanted to share their love of the outdoors, nature and adventure with everyone. A stay here is a great mix of nice home comforts inside the tent, but a feeling of the great wilderness outside.

Being on the edge of a designated Dark Sky Reserve, you'll enjoy some fantastic stargazing here on a clear night too.

http://www.wild-mountains.com


Our furthest flung Fab Fleece Fans!

We've been making quite a few bespoke sheepskin rugs for international customers lately so we thought we'd showcase some of our furthest flung fleeces...

Gone to Gozo!

Above is the wonderful holiday home of Fab Fleece Fan Caroline Logsdail, who recently ordered two Rare Breed Octo sheepskins from us to furnish her house on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. Don't the natural tones of the fleece look fabulous combined with that sandstone wall?!

You may be thinking that sheepskins would be too warm for a hot Mediterranean climate like on Gozo... Well although it seems counterintuitive, sheepskin is excellent at cooling us down in summer due to its temperature regulating properties. Read more here about why sheepskin keeps you cool in summer.

Caroline also asked our advice on the best way to store the sheepskins in the low season when the house is not in use. We'd say leave it out wherever possible. However, if you do need to put your sheepskin away into storage, be sure to place it in a large cardboard box with plenty of room to aid good air circulation. Never wrap it in plastic as sheepskin needs to breathe!

More far flung fans

Returning to look at other places our sheepskins have travelled to, we recently sent out a Chocolate Brown Rare Breed Decto sheepskin to the USA to adorn a hunting lodge. We've made several for ski chalets in the Alps and as we speak, we are preparing a bespoke sheepskin for a customer in Gibraltar!

So if you are not based in the UK but would love to own one of our rugs, we have shipping options for many different parts of the world. See our delivery page for more details on international postage. If your country is not listed, contact us for a delivery quote.

The benefits of using sheepskins for yoga

ⓒ Natalie Seager

Although it’s commonplace to see people carrying those rolled-up rubber mats on their way to yoga class, more may now be sporting a woollier variety… a sheepskin rug for their yoga mat. The idea of using a sheepskin for yoga has been gaining ground in recent years, especially due to the rising popularity of Kundalini yoga.

Kundalini is more spiritual type of yoga that is extremely useful for stress relief and some its high profile practitioners include celebrities like Demi Moore and Russell Brand.

Why sheepskins are used in Kundalini yoga

Being a meditative style of yoga, Kundalini is generally performed in a seated position, with poses that are held for up to five minutes, often with eyes closed.

Sheepskin is seen by yogis as a way of protecting your energy from that of the earth, but it’s also very practical in having lot of cushioning to provide comfort during all the time spent in those seated postures. The soft texture of the fleece is also very soothing when you are practicing deliberate relaxation and meditation.

ⓒ Natalie Seager

ⓒ Natalie Seager

Yoga in Yorkshire

This idea of a sheepskin rug being a useful accessory to practice yoga, or mediation, was recently highlighted when Fab Fleece customer Natalie Seager got in touch to buy a selection of Herdwick sheepskins. She is a yoga teacher and wanted to use the Herdwicks in her new yoga classes, so we were keen to find out more...

Natalie is based in Halifax, West Yorkshire and trained as a Hatha yoga teacher nearby in Hebden Bridge three years ago, after practising yoga for many years. As soon as she started teaching, she was drawn to including something called Yoga Nidra into her classes. But what is it?

Practicing mindful relaxation

“Yoga Nidra is a beautiful, restorative practice of creating relaxation with awareness,” Natalie explains.

“It’s not a ‘doing’ yoga practice so much as a ‘being’ practice. Firstly you lie comfortably so that the body and mind can settle. You are then guided by a facilitator's voice into a trance-like state (between wake and sleep) where the brain can process deeply and you can experience profound relaxation.” Sounds blissful!

ⓒ Natalie Seager

Inspired by Cumbrian Herdwicks

Natalie first discovered the appeal of using sheepskins when in Cumbria, where she carried out her training course to become an official Yoga Nidra facilitator.

“We had the most beautiful set up and stunning views, but one of the aspects that made it such a luxurious and comfortable experience was lying on sheepskins,” she says.

“They warmed my back and added something very special to the whole ritual of creating a personal space to rest.”

“While in Cumbria, we were surrounded by Herdwick sheep,” Natalie continues, “so I was drawn to buying Herdwick sheepskins when setting up my space for delivering Yoga Nidra back home in Halifax.”

ⓒ Natalie Seager

“The most beautiful Herdwick fleeces I found were those at The Fabulous Fleece Company. Lucy could have not been more helpful. I have a shop business too and I hugely value dealing with suppliers who offer not only great quality products but are also friendly and helpful.”

We wish Natalie every success with her new venture. It sounds wonderful! Natalie kindly allowed us to use her beautiful images to illustrate this post so you can see what an appealing set up she has.

For anyone lucky enough to live near Halifax and able to attend Natalie's fabulous yoga classes, do check them out. For more information about Natalie and Yoga Nidra, visit natalieseager.co.uk

Camomile Cottage and our latest photoshoot

© Tim Kahane

Well, what a wonderful photoshoot we had last week for all our new fleeces and skins! The weather was glorious and we were also spoilt by having such a fab location - the beautiful Camomile Cottage in Eye, Suffolk.

Aly and Tim Kahane, the owners of this luxury bed and breakfast - were the most welcoming hosts in letting us use this 450 year old farmhouse for the day. Camomile Cottage is a traditional grade II listed 16th century timber framed building, nestled in the picturesque Suffolk countryside.

© Camomile Cottage

We could not have had a more lovely backdrop to photograph our fleeces and hides. We made the most of the greenery and space outdoors in the summery weather, like with this shot featuring some of our bespoke quad sheepskins.

© Mike Harrington

Inside is equally fabulous. The decor is authentic and charmingly traditional - the interior boasts real log fires, unspoilt original timber interiors, romantic period furnishings. It feels very homely - you can happily imagine snuggling up here in the cold of winter.

© Mike Harrington

Fabulous photography

As always, Mike Harrington and assistant Annie of Packshot People were wonderful to work with on this shoot and did such a great job to get so many fabulous shots in the time we had. Here's a behind the scenes shot of them in action, takings shots of me as I shake out one of our lovely Welsh Sheepskins. However, there was one model who was the star of the show...

Fabulous Fozzie

Like us, the Kahanes are big dog lovers (you can bring your dog if you come to stay at Camomile Cottage) and we absolutely fell in love with their Labradoodle called Fozzie. So gorgeous!

© Tim Kahane

To thank Fozzie for her hard work as being a superstar model for the day, we gave her a new Rare Breed Sheepskin Pet Bed. Here she is enjoying it during a well deserved rest...

© Tim Kahane

A super stay in Suffolk

If you are ever looking for a great place to stay in Suffolk, then Camomile Cottage comes highly recommended but don't just take our word for it... It was recently picked as the winner of an award for 'Best B&B with Quirky Character' by Dorset Cereals.

For a look behind the keyhole, to meet Aly and Tim, and get a better feel for how lovely it would be to stay here, watch this video...

Hibernate with sheepskins in the bedroom

Now we are in deepest midwinter - where the festive glow has faded, mornings and evenings remain dark and icy and Spring is still a while away. No wonder sensible mammals hibernate at this time of year! So why not embrace that hibernation theme and resolve to get more sleep while there’s less incentive to stay up or be outdoors.

To help make your bedroom in a cosy, inviting retreat that aids relaxation and comfort, you can add a few sheepskins, of course! These tactile and soothingly soft items are ideal in the place of rest. At this time of year they also provide warmth, of course. And they add style as well as practicality, which is why you see sheepskins in boutique hotels and ski chalet bedroom schemes.

So here’s our round-up of ideas and inspiration for ways you can use and style sheepskins in the bedroom.

The Forest Room at The Bull Hotel in Bridport, Dorset

1. As a bedside rug

There can be few things better than sinking your toes into a supersoft sheepskin. It’s a sensory treat for your feet, which makes a great way to start the day when you first get up or to finish it just before you slip into bed at night. That's why a sheepskin makes the ideal bedside rug.

You could place a large single sheepskin half way down the bedside, however given the length of a bed and the floor space around it, a double sheepskin sewn end to end to create a longer, narrower shape that's ideal for placing alongside. This is exactly what customer Nia Salini did, seen in the picture below right.

1. http://carlaaston.com/designed/12-low-angled-ceilings 2. Nia Salini

1. http://carlaaston.com/designed/12-low-angled-ceilings 2. Nia Salini

2. At the foot of the bed

It depends on the size and layout of your bedroom, but if you have ample space at the foot of the bed, place your sheepskin on the floor there. It looks particularly great if that's the floor area you see as you first walk in.

A sheepskin also looks great on top of an ottoman, blanket box or bench if you have once of those at the bottom of the bed - it draws the eye and also creates a more comfortable seat for perching on.

1. http://www.sfgirlbybay.com/2014/12/18/the-beetle-shack-family-home-project/ 2. http://domino.com/aurora-james-brother-vellies/image/57ae2eb72df7fb38178b4680

1. http://www.sfgirlbybay.com/2014/12/18/the-beetle-shack-family-home-project/ 2. http://domino.com/aurora-james-brother-vellies/image/57ae2eb72df7fb38178b4680

3. Over your bed as a throw

The bed is normally the key piece of furniture in the room, so having your sheepskin on the bed itself helps to really make the bed a feature, as well as show off the beauty of the sheepskin itself. A double, or even better, a quad sheepskin draped across the bottom of the bed looks fab and also keep you totally toasty on the coldest of nights. Just look at this bespoke Herdwick quad sheepskin below...

We've been lucky enough to be seen in: