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The Fabulous Fleece Company Blog (2019)

How to enjoy a Nordic Christmas

Thomas Rasmus Skaug /

With our favourite addition to Fab Fleece's collection of sheepskins this year being the Norwegian Grey Pelssau fleece - we thought we’d take our festive inspiration from Norway too and discover how Christmas is celebrated there.

After all, Norway has the snowy winter wonderland weather and are experts in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere with some Scandinavian hygge.

Jul is a special time in Norway with lots of delicious food and fun activities involved. So here’s our lowdown on the essential elements of a Nordic style Christmas.

Christmas kicks off

The festive season usually starts on the last weekend in November in Norway, with the baking of many Christmas cookies... up to seven different kinds actually! These include sandkaker (sand cakes) - shortcakes baked in little molds and filled with jam, jelly or fruit and cream and krumkaker (curved cakes) - a waffle biscuit rolled into a cone shape and filled with whipped cream. There are various other buttery cookie delights and as well as pepperkaker (gingerbreads).

Visiting Christmas markets is a very popular activity and Maihaugen in Lillehammer is one of best ones to visit. Alongside the market you can enjoy sleigh rides and visit historic houses that recreate Christmas as celebrated in days gone by.

Other December activities include going to at least one cheerful Christmas concert and enjoying Julebord parties. You gather together with friends, colleagues or family to eat all day and night. It seems that the main goal for the evening is to get so drunk that you (almost) can’t find your way home!

Little Christmas Eve

On December 23, Norwegians celebrate Lille Julaften, (or Little Christmas Eve), a time when the family comes together to decorate the house and tree, make a gingerbread house, or eat risengrynsgrøt; a hot rice pudding served with sugar, cinnamon and butter.

An almond is hidden in the pudding, and if the almond turns up in your portion, you win a marzipan pig! A Norwegian alternative to finding the sixpence in the Christmas pudding!

Norway is very big on marzipan - one of the manufacturers Nidar estimates that Norway's population of 5 million can get through more than 40 million marzipan figures during the festive season!

Christmas Eve - the main event

The Silver Boys Choir (Sølvguttene) appear on national television for their annual festive concert and at 5pm, church bells ring throughout the cities to announce the official start of the holiday.

The evening will start with a traditional meal - the most popular Christmas Eve dinner is either ribbe (pork ribs or belly), or lutefisk, cod cured in rye and served with bacon, mashed peas and potatoes. Lutefisk is both loved and loathed by Norwegians who largely agree that eating it once a year is enough!

After dinner, people usually hold hands and dance around the Christmas tree while singing carols. Julenissen, or Santa Claus, then comes into the living room to hand out presents. The family and guests then play games, sing and open gifts the rest of the evening.

Rest for romjulen

Romjulen is the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when shops are usually closed or have limited opening hours, with Norwegians typically heading to the slopes for skiing and sledding with their families. As unlike the mild UK, Norway actually has a decent amount of snow in most places at Christmas time, which helps add to the seasonal atmosphere.

More Nordic inspired ideas

If like us, you can’t head to Norway to experience these wonderful sounding festivities first hand this year, then you may still be inspired to add some Norwegian touches to your own Christmas - especially when it comes to home decor and cooking.

Head over to Pinterest to see our latest board - A Nordic Christmas - for more ideas.

Wherever you spend Christmas, we hope you have a God Jul!

Cosy up in Coppa Club’s igloos

Everyone loves a spot of alfresco drinking or dining, but at this time of year?! Brrrrr!!! Well, now you can eat and drink while enjoying the outdoors, and keep satisfyingly snug too, inside festive pop-up pods from Coppa Club.

From these timber-framed globes, with sliding perspex doors, you get 360 degree views of your surroundings, while always staying winter warm.

Each igloo has heating and speakers for added ambience and is decked out like a Scandinavian sitting room to create that hygge factor. The decor is designed around a winter woodland theme, with twinkly lights, candle lanterns, evergreen fauna, plus warm blankets and snuggly sheepskins.

That’s where Fab Fleece Co came in, of course! We supplied the finest sheepskins to drape around Coppa Club’s latest trio of pods that have just popped up outside their newest venue in Brighton’s South Lanes. Clustered round the dolphin statue in Brighton Square, the igloos will stay in situ over the winter months.

If you’ve not come across Coppa Club before, aside from the new Brighton club, they have four other venues in their home county of Berkshire plus a London outpost at Tower Bridge. This is where the igloo concept first took off and became a runaway success the past couple of winters, with eight enviable pods overlooking the Thames across to The Shard.

So if you’re visiting London or Brighton this winter, try and grab yourself an igloo experience. The bookable spots sold out super quick after their release in late October, but they still keep open a few walk in slots everyday so you may get lucky.

And if you can’t snag a spot in an igloo, the main Coppa Clubs still offer a very laid-back and inviting place to stop by. Designed to feel like a members club but one that is open to everyone, each venue combines smart dining with more casual spaces for a coffee, cocktail and food.

Open all day, every day, the lounge areas are comfy with sofas to relax in. There's great wifi and plug sockets if you want to use the venue for work meetings or settling in with your laptop. Then when work is done you can gravitate around the clubs' iconic copper bar.

Sounds like our kind of place. Think it may be some time before they open a Coppa Club here in Norfolk though, but we can keep our fingers crossed!

For more information about the latest Coppa Club igloos in Brighton, visit the website:

The making of Granny Greymuzzle

While most Fabulous Fleece customers buy our sheepskins to use rugs and throws in their homes, we sometimes receive orders where they are being using in more unusual ways.

Our fleeces have been ordered to dress characters for theatre or TV - the English National Opera for their production of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, or the production team needing costumes for making a Game of Thrones style TV advert for Aldi.

We’ve also had talented makers out there buying a fleece to dress a rocking sheep before. So we were really intrigued to find out about Granny Greymuzzle - a sheep character crowned with hair made from one of our lambskins that was created by York-based artist Jay McGahan.

After initially asking if Jay would mind sharing some pictures and the process of how she made Granny Greymuzzle, we also discovered a compelling backstory behind the character and its creator. It’s an inspiring insight into how 29 year old Jay has used her artistic talents to create a character that helps her connect with an enthusiastic animal-loving community and also cope with her chronic illness.

So over to Jay to tell us more…

"In 2011, I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease, a spinal condition that causes constant pain in my lower back and lower half of my body. So I had to give up my career as a tattooist as I was no longer able to work. I've seen specialists and had a number of treatments, but there’s currently no cure in my case, so I've had to adjust to life being chronically ill.

"With medication, aids, and regular physiotherapy I'm coping better now, and despite my health issues, I still continue with my art as I find a lot of joy in creating things. However they are mostly hobby projects for myself or my friends because my health means they progress at a very slow pace.

Jay's myriad materials for making her characters

Finding the furry fandom

Before I can tell you about Granny, I'll have to tell you about the furries - in its most basic description, it is a fandom of people who enjoy anthropomorphic characters. That's animals with human like characteristics; a good example is Disney cartoons. The furry community is huge, and heavily driven by people being creative and making up their own characters through art and writing, or even music, videos and costumes.

We have conventions and meet-ups in cities all over the world, and often do entertainment for kids and fund raising for charity. In fact, I recently went to the UK's biggest furry convention 'ConFuzzled' 2019, where they raised over £30,000 for The Vale Wildlife Hospital. It's through this amazing community of artists and animal lovers that I found life-long friends as it's a very supportive group.

I've been a furry since I was around 13 year old and first discovered them on the internet, but it wasn't until my health issues stopped me working that I invested more of my creative efforts into making my own fursuit, which is what we call our costumes.

Creative costumes with many purposes

"Granny for me, is just a fun costume to wear when I go to these sort of events. But for everyone that has their own suit, bought from makers or built themselves, they can mean and be used for so much more.

These fursuits are used for TV and movies, for charity fundraising, general entertainment and performance. Some people even use them to help ease their anxiety and depression by becoming something fun and different for a while. I know that creating Granny and using her has certainly made me happy."

Designing around disability

"I had made some characters before Granny, but I eventually figured out that with my health conditions I needed a fursuit that would be easy and comfy for me to wear, and not look out of place using my cane or rollator.

That's when I came up with the idea for Granny, I designed her specifically around my disability and aids, and so that people would be more likely to treat me gently. People often design their own characters as an ideal animal version of themselves, or an alter ego they can play.

In Granny's case, she's very much a character. Her second name 'Grey-muzzle', is an affectionate term people in our fandom use for older members of our community, so 'Granny Greymuzzle' was the name I based her whole design around."

Finding strength in weakness

"Most people have just been calling her Granny though, since she's the first elderly character that I know of that has been made into a fursuit. And as for why a sheep? I just like sheep, and one of my first stuffed animals as a kid was a big fluffy one that I still have.

The response I got while making Granny's début at ConFuzzled was amazing - what really touched me was how many people said how Granny reminded them of their own grandmothers. One person in particular told me how they too have chronic health issues and they thought Granny was a great idea of how to play off that weakness."

How Granny Greymuzzle was made

"The base is made out of upholstery foam, which I hot glued, carved and sculpted into shape. Then I taped the base up with regular parcel tape, then cut it off and made darts and seams for it to lay flat on paper to make a temporary pattern. The rest is mostly just a lot of hand sewing and acrylic paint.

Granny’s eyes, nails and hoofs were sculpted out of wax clay, which I then molded using silicone and made resin casts of. The part you see out of, the iris and pupil, is acrylic painted buckram. Her eyelashes are made from foam and cut out plasticard. And her glasses are just some metal craft rings and a bit of metal from the DIY store that I haphazardly stuck together!

Lastly, she also has a small 9V battery powered fan inside her snout, which makes wearing her a lot more tolerable, but she's still quite hot to wear! I also have a ice-pack neck scarf that was specifically designed for costume performers to help with the heat."

Wow - the resourcefulness and attention to detail that has gone into this character is astounding. Thank you so much Jay for sharing your personal story - your creativity and determination in the face of such adversity is truly inspiring.

If you’d like to find out more about Jay’s work, please click these links below.

All images ⓒ Jay McGahan.

Autumn style for your home

Image credit:

There's lots to enjoy about autumn before the Christmas chaos sets in. Yes, Halloween is a big focus of the season but it seems a shame to decorate your home for just this one night of activity when anything spooky is outdated come November 2nd.

So we've compiled some inspiration for decoration that more widely celebrates the fall season, to bring in the beautiful colours and textures we're enjoying outside.

Hang a natural wreath

Wreaths may be a more of a Christmas tradition, but autumn ones look equally great on your front door and make a stylish entrance. There are lots of natural foliage you can entwine together to make one, and designs can range natural mono shades to something with more colour.

This great article by interiors stylist and blogger Kerry Lockwood has some great ideas for different styles of autumn wreaths to inspire you.

Image credits: 1.; 2.

Add in autumnal colours

Take a colour cue from the changing shades in the trees and landscape outside - palettes of golden ochre, pumpkin orange, russet red and deep chestnut brown.

You could bring these colours in to your interior temporarily, by changing soft furnishings and accessories. Celebrate natural brown shades by creating a display of small brown glass bottles, or make a larger brown demijohn a focal point to hold some autumnal foliage.

Image credits: 1.; 2.

If you're looking for a more permanent style update, you could use the autumnal palette to inspire a new interior scheme as an accent colour used on walls or with key pieces of furniture. Pumpkin orange or russet red looks great contrasted against dark grey walls, and neutral furniture can be pepped up by some ochre yellow paint.

Image credits: 1.; 2.

Layer on soft and chunky textures

The temperatures are dropping now and fires are being lit, so add lots of layers to your chairs, sofas and beds with big cable knit blankets and sheepskins, of course!

If the blankets feature autumnal golden and russet shades then all the better. They look great folded and piled on top of a deep brown leather trunk or wooden blanket box.

Images credits: 1.; 2.

Light candles to add ambience

The clocks have gone back, which means there's going to be a lot more dark hours coming up so make your indoors a cosy place to retreat to by adding lots of candles or warm fairy lights. Particularly great when added to your favourite reading nook!

Image credits: 1.; 2. Unknown via Pinterest

Bring seasonal fruits and foliage inside

There is lots of decorative materials to be harvested from outdoors at this time of year. Autumn sees an abundance of apples, which are great to have for table displays, as are pumpkins and mini gourds.

Image credits: 1.; 2.

You can also use pine cones and acorns to make natural garlands to string across some plain walls. Or take some nice crisp leaves collected from the falling trees and simply tape them to the walls for something super quick!

Image credits: 1.; 2.

These are just a few ideas for ways to bring the best of fall into your home interior. For more seasonal inspiration, visit our autumnal home style board on Pinterest.

Sending your sheepskin to a specialist cleaner

When your sheepskin desperately needs bringing back to life, you might be frightened to take drastic action. But there’s no need to be daunted or haunted if you use a sheepskin cleaning specialist. We tried the service out for ourselves to see what’s involved...

Sheepskin owners will know how quickly a fleece can embed itself as a beloved item in their household. After a while though, lots of love and usage means the sheepskin can start to lose its lustre.

Regular brushing and washing - if your fleece is small enough to fit in your machine and you follow our care guide - will often do the trick although please take into consideration that some sheepskins may be heat sensitive and set hard in the process. However if you have a large or bespoke sewn skin or one that’s in a sorry state from years of use, you will need to have your sheepskin professionally cleaned.

That’s when sending it to a specialist leather and hide cleaner is the best plan. But if you’ve not used a service like this before, it might be a little daunting to send your precious fleece off for treatment.

Finding a sheepskin cleaning expert

To get some behind-the-scenes insight into what the process involves, we sent an item to London based family business Ace of Suedes, a specialist leather and hide cleaners. To really set them a challenge, we picked one of Lucy’s well-worn quad sheepskins embedded in dog hair that had seen heavy use when travelling to numerous country fairs in her van.

We were confident it would be in safe hands though, as Ace of Suedes cleans hundreds of sheepskins every week. Its specialist machines, equipment and processes are uniquely tailored to help clean, re-oil, brush and finish all types of sheepskin, suede, leather, furs and hides.

The company also has many years' experience - it was set up over 30 years ago and has since become the first choice supplier of specialist cleaning services to dry cleaners throughout London, the south east and beyond.

The cleaning process in more detail

So when your sheepskin first arrives, it is booked in, inspected and photographed to assess its current state. Ace of Suedes’ experience makes them able to advise customers quite accurately on the likely results and outcome of treatment, which helps to manage expectations.

Happily most sheepskin rugs can be successfully cleaned and so they embark on a two-step process that includes being infused in genuine leather oil. This is different from a standard dry cleaning method, where the chemicals and temperatures used would damage the skin in most cases, making it very dry and discoloured.

Ace is equipped with big machines too, so can cope with sheepskins like our quad - plus much bigger and heavier ones.

In most cases, the cleaning process will remove most unwanted odours such as those from pets, but if smells remain, an ozone chamber is used to tackle them and neutralise germs and bacteria. Ozone is also especially useful for water, mould or smoke damaged items.

After cleaning, the skin is tumbled for a considerable amount of time before being thoroughly brushed to try and regain its original texture and appearance.

If you’re thinking of sending in an animal hide for cleaning, and wondering about that process, the cleaning part is largely the same but the finishing varies depending on the type of item / skin.

Before and after - the big reveal

To see the final results of the skin we sent and there’s nothing like a good before and after photo comparison to show the transformation. So here’s the big reveal…

Although these images were taken by different cameras in different light conditions (the before pic was taken at Ace and the after pics were taken by Lucy when returned) you can clearly see the massive improvement in the appearance of the skin to the right. So it's safe to say we were very happy with the final results.

Here’s a detail of the cleaned fleece’s texture with full fluffiness restored...

Based on our experience, we’d highly recommend getting your Fabulous Fleece or animal hide cleaned by Ace of Suedes. They offer a free weekly collection and delivery service throughout London and the surrounding counties. If you live further afield in the UK, you can still access Ace’s services by posting your item to them.

For more details visit, call 0208 981 3232 or email

Wonderful wool for your wardrobe

TFFC is passionate about supporting the wool industry as a sustainable, natural material and we’re always keen to hear about other companies who are working with wonderful wool.

So when a customer got in touch to tell us about Herne clothing and its collection of top performing outdoor garments made from wool rather than plastic-based fibres, we were all ears.

The use and wide-scale environmental impact of plastics - and manmade materials derived from plastic - is an issue that we are becoming much more conscious of.

While many outdoor enthusiasts seek to tread as lightly as possible when exploring the beautiful countryside, they typically do so cocooned in synthetic, plastic-based fabrics.

That’s something that sustainable outdoor clothing company Herne is looking to challenge - to produce clothes for exploring the wilderness that work with nature rather than against it.

Herne’s signature item - the stag shirt - is lightweight, durable, insulating, weatherproof, odour resistant and comfortable, while also allowing ease of movement and breathability. That’s because its made of wool, which naturally has all these properties, while also being a renewable and biodegradable fibre.

We talked to founder Ed Magor to find out more about his journey to create Herne Clothing and its wool to wardrobe process.

How did the idea for Herne Clothing first form?

The concept was first seeded two years ago when I was staying with a family of traditional ranchers and hunters in New Mexico, who work hard in rugged terrain and testing weather.

They gave me a book written in the 1920s by a wilderness hunter and explorer, who found woollen stag shirts to be the ideal clothing item for hiking in the backcountry, glassing the mountains, or stalking through the forests.

I loved this idea of a piece of natural, sustainable clothing that left no trace or impact on the wilderness; clothing that genuinely allowed the wearer to live wild.

And what inspired the company name?

No long after returning to England, I went stalking in Savernake Forest in Wiltshire - the ancient hunting grounds of Norman kings - and on that trip first heard the story of Herne.

In local folklore, Herne was a wild huntsman who saved a king from being gored by a stag but was himself injured, only to be cured by having the stag’s antlers tied to his head. I felt Herne strongly symbolised this idea of living wild and working with nature rather than against it, and was a really appropriate name for the new business.

With an idea and identity now formed, I next began researching the history of stag shirts, their design, construction and fabrics. The weighty and itchy Mackinaw wool referenced in the 1930s book was not going to appeal to the modern consumer. I knew that if a sustainable outdoor clothing product was going to succeed it had to be every bit as technical and as comfortable as its synthetic rivals.

So how did you go about finding a wool that would work?

We needed a sheep breed whose wool offered warmth and weather protection, softness and durability. Simple in theory, but wools that offer durability and weather protection tend not to be soft or as warm, whereas soft and warm wools are not as durable.

Our research revealed a little known ‘Scottish Merino’ or ‘Bowmont’ breed. Merino sheep, famed for their warm and super soft wool but unable to survive the wild wet weather of Scotland, were crossed with hardy native Shetlands, perfectly at home in the worst of weather.

This new breed produced Merino quality wool that naturally offers amazing thermoregulatory properties, as well as being moisture wicking, odour resistant, and super-soft.

What about the sustainability of your source?

Securing high-quality wool of the standard to provide the required performance and durability was one thing, but I also wanted to ensure that the sheep had been well cared for and raised in a sustainable and ethical farming system.

Many years of working with supermarkets had instilled in me a deep distrust of certification bodies, so the only way I could guarantee this care and quality was to create and tend for my own flock. But sourcing the right sheep wasn’t easy!

Despite once leading the world in wool and textile production, the British sheep industry has been largely focused on meat production for the last century, with wool a mere by-product.

As a result, Merino sheep are exceptionally rare in Britain. However, after many telephone calls, motorway miles and trips to Scotland, I managed to track down rams and ewes from individual small-holders and farmers. The Herne flock began to take shape on our family farm.

So how do you care for your fine flock?

With daily care and careful management, the flock now operates on a rotational grazing policy, moving the sheep between pastures and setting aside areas of land on the farm for flora and fauna. Managing soils, habitats and water, trying to integrate the best principles of organic management wherever we can. Sowing chicory on our grasslands to act as a natural anthelmintic and clover to build soil fertility.

Tell us more about the first shearing...

Our much anticipated first shearing was in August 2017. We shear in the hottest and coldest periods of the year when the wool condition is at its finest.

After shearing, the bundles of wool are carefully checked, sorted and graded. Weights and quality are noted beside each sheep’s unique ear tag number – data to guide our breeding and the flock’s development over time.

Micron count, the fineness of the fibre, the length and crimp are all important factors to consider when producing the wool needed for our stag shirts to ensure they perform flawlessly.

So how did you go from wool to wardrobe?

With the first yield of wool secured and more on the way, I began working with one of the oldest family mills in Yorkshire, a county famed for its wool heritage. Together, we set out to produce a lightweight fabric with weather resistance, warmth and softness against the skin.

Bringing to bear generations of experience, the mill began experimenting with weaving densities and mottled melanges of colour shades that create soft natural camouflages for different environments.

We finally perfected a dark green for the oak and pine forests. A lighter green with hints of brown for the open grass plains, and a grey for the rocks and snow of the mountains.

With the fabric finalised, how did you create the stag shirt?

I began working with a Savile Row tailor to combine the heritage feel of traditional stag shirts with a modern style and contemporary tailoring. Every detail was considered to maximise the shirt’s functionality for outdoor activities.

Pockets were sized and angles were tested. Collar stand heights were experimented with to keep the weather out while ensuring comfort, and shirt lengths and hem design were tailored for ease of movement, whether horse riding in the backcountry or hiking up mountain slopes. Shoulder yokes and arms were optimised for hiking with a stick, stalking with a rifle or casting a fly rod.

Samples were made and tested in all conditions - from stalking in the lowlands to hiking in the highlands, in snow, sleet, rain and sun. Together with friends, I attempted to destroy and ruin the samples, knowing that they would have to withstand great amounts of real-world abuse in harsh environments.

Almost two years after my trip to New Mexico and the idea of Herne we launched our first range of Stag Shirts and merino layers.

Who are your customers and why do they buy from you?

Herne has tried to engage with a conscious consumer, someone who appreciates high quality and design, together with a desire to tread lightly on the world with sustainable purchases.

Our customers are found all over the world, although we have had fantastic support from the USA who have maintained a strong wool heritage and appreciate our 100% British designed, grown and made products.

How much are perceptions changing around sustainable clothing?

People have had decades of marketing by large outdoor clothing brands that to survive in the wilds you require the most modern synthetic fabrics, forgetting that mountains and continents were explored in natural fibres!

So it’s going to require a concerted effort to persuade people that natural fibres and fabrics can offer the same, if not better, performance. Price is also a sensitive issue, sadly, as synthetic fabrics are often cheaper to make than sustainable alternatives so persuading people to swap is going to be difficult.

It’s great that people are just beginning to appreciate that actually the most technically advanced fibre in the world is Merino Wool and obviously the more that opinion formers and individuals can do to encourage sustainable choices the better.

To find out more about Herne Clothing, plus view or purchase their signature stag shirts and other Merino based clothing, visit their beautiful website:

Game of Thrones excitement

With the majority of the population currently gripped by the final season for Game of Thrones, we've had our own GoT related excitement here at Fab Fleece HQ lately.

We supplied the fleeces to the costumes to appear in this fun new GoT themed advert from Aldi. The skins are looking great... well, until they get torched that is!

We've been lucky enough to be seen in: