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British Sheep

In the 1970’s, there was growing recognition in the UK and the USA that many livestock breeds were in serious decline, and in fact several breeds had already become extinct. The timely establishment of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) UK in 1973, and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy in 1977, now The Livestock Conservancy, has slowed that decline. Flock keepers and sheep farmers plus producers and consumers of wool and meat products are all working towards increasing the population numbers of primitive, rare, and threatened British breeds.

balwensheep

Balwen sheep, Wales

Photograph by Kathie Miller

Margaret's area of special interest is weaving with the wools of these primitive, rare, and threatened British sheep breeds. Her overall woven objective is for each British breed piece to look as if it were lifted directly from the sheep itself: robust, lustrous, unrefined, sleek, rugged, elegant. Her handwoven one-off creations are offered using a selection of extraordinary and storied wools, many certified organic, and most obtained from those directly involved with the animals. Margaret has the ongoing privilege of working with British sheep breeders and flock keepers in the UK and the USA who continually battle the odds by raising sheep that are generally small in number and stature, in addition to producing fleece that is not always marketable because of uncommon colors and textures. She respects and is in awe of all her wool sources. A devoted handspinner and now dear friend in the UK, also pursuing conservation, expresses the spirit of these legendary breeds with skill and artistry through her handspun yarns, which find themselves in many of Margaret's pieces. A UK sheep farmer who arranged the transport of her breed's yarn by a friend traveling to the USA to help Margaret eliminate the high shipping costs. Other sources discounting the very costly overseas postal charges or surprisingly adding an extra skein without charge. Fulfilled requests for fleece from farmers who have never had such a request. The stories are wonderfully endless.

Using the UK and USA wools of these vulnerable British sheep, Margaret is working on a life project - honoring the breeds by weaving a private collection of “Preservation Wraps”. Each naturally colored and highly textured wrap represents a watchlisted breed. When complete, there will be over seventy pieces in her collection.

Margaret is also dedicated to promoting awareness of the fragile futures of watchlisted British breeds through research, articles, presentations, artisan shows, and gallery exhibits.

© 2018 Antrim Handweaving – all rights reserved

Primitive, rare, or threatened British sheep breeds currently represented by Antrim Handweaving

Badgerface Welsh

Galway (Irish Origin)

North Ronaldsay

Balwen

Greyface Dartmoor

Oxford Down

Beulah

Hampshire Down

Portland

Black Welsh Mountain

Hebridean

Rough Fell

Blackface (Scottish)

Herdwick

Ryeland

Blueface Leicester

Hill Radnor

Shetland

Border Leicester

Holmie

Shropshire

Boreray

Jacob

Soay

Castlemilk Moorit

Kerry Hill

Southdown

Clun Forest

Leicester Longwool

Suffolk

Cotswold

Lincoln Longwool

Swaledale

Dalesbred

Llanwenog

Teeswater

Derbyshire Gritstone

Lleyn

Welsh Mountain

Devon & Cornwall Longwool

Lonk

Wensleydale

Dorset Down

Manx Loaghtan

Whiteface Dartmoor

Dorset Horn

Norfolk Horn

Whitefaced Woodland

Exmoor Horn

North Country Cheviot

Wiltshire Horn

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eweonstkilda

Soay sheep, Wales

Photograph by Kathie Miller

Photograph by Kathie Miller

Soay ewe, St. Kilda