Everyone mentioned on this page really exists
On British farms we don’t “factory farm” sheep, they are farmed extensively. “Extensive farming” could be described as ‘free range’ farming. The sheep have the freedom to roam the fields and hills of the UK, grazing naturally.
The busiest times on the farm are lambing in the spring and shearing in the summer. Sheep farming is practiced in the same traditional way as it has been for hundreds of years.
Your Baavet originates on the hills and in the valleys of British farms and the wool for our completely natural wool Baavets comes from British Sheep farmed on British farms by farmers we know.
So our story starts here down on the farms like those of :
Will Williams, and Griff Williams who farm on the grass rich fields Lleyn Peninsular up here in North Wales where the weather is mild due to the influence of the sea.
The year really starts on a traditional sheep farm in the autumn. It’s at this time of year that the females, the ewes, come into season and are ready to be mated by the rams. The ewes coming on heat brought about by the reduced daylight of autumn which means that they will then give birth in the spring just as the grass begins to grow providing them with feed to produce milk for the lambs.
Some of the pedigree Lleyn ewes we use for your lovely Baavet wool.
One of the things farmers do that has an effect on this natural process is to keep the rams away from the ewes, usually in late October, so they will then know when to expect lambing. The other thing farmers do is to feed the ewes about 2 months before lambing when there is very little grass to help the ewe through this difficult time. If they give extra feed too early in the pregnancy the lambs will be very big and the ewe will will have a difficult birth.
As lambing time approaches so does one of the busiest times on the farm. If the sheep have been on the hills they are brought down close to the farm
The majority of ewes lamb in the very early morning usually just before it's light so the farmers are out and about checking the sheep for any that are having problems. This can go on for nearly a month.
The other regular jobs are rounding up the sheep throughout the year to dose them against various common sheep ailments, this of course is where the world famous border collie comes into its own. But a more recent addition is the quad bike which makes it much easier for the 2 legged sheep herder!
This is Griffith Williams out and about with his sheep.
After lambing the next big event in the year is shearing which normally takes place in early summer. Sheep shearing is a back-breaking but skilled job and in a normal flock, will take all day. The shearers are usually young farmers, who travel from farm to farm during shearing time. Many of these young farmers come from as far afield as New Zealand and Australia to work on the British farms during the shearing season, which can take all summer.
Shearing usually involves the whole family - there are jobs for everyone. The sheep are penned and brought one at a time to the shearer. The shearer carefully shears the sheep with electric clippers in one continuous process which results in a big fluffy fleece. This is carefully rolled up, tied into a bundle and put into a very large wool sack which can hold around 60/80 fleeces. These sacks are then loaded up and taken to a central sorting place.
Will bringing his wool sacks to be collected and put on a large lorry
For the start of the next stage of the wool's' journey to you.
It’s taken to our wool merchant’s warehouse in Halifax where the wool is graded, or sorted out, because we can’t use all of the wool for your special Baavets. This is a very skilled job which takes years of practice. Unfortunately this is yet another skilled trade that is dying out.
Once the wool has been graded it travels to Dewsbury, to one of only two scourers left in the country, to be washed. Scouring is the term used for washing the wool
The fleeces are put into giant tanks of hot soapy water; literally giant washing machines. The washing process removes the lanolin, natural oil, and any dirt or animal muck. Our wool has a second washing process to make it even cleaner. Nothing goes to waste in the process, everything is recycled. The lanolin is used in many different industries, including pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Even the sheep muck that is washed out returns to farms as manure. Then the washed wool is dried and the clean, fluffy wool is ready for the next process.
The washed wool now goes to a mill in Huddersfield where it is carded and quilted. Carding is the process of teasing out the wool and combing into soft woollen layers. The Mill has been carding wool since 1934 and the owner David has been in the wool trade all of his life. He is as keen as ever to produce a quality product. His son, also David, works alongside his father as the engineer for the Mill. Together they run one of the last remaining traditional carding mills in Yorkshire.
This sounds a simple process but the quilting machine itself is a very complex piece of engineering. It has taken many months of trial and error for David to marry the two processes of carding and quilting together into one complete production line.
We take our clean and fluffy wool to the mill. The process starts with the wool being placed into large hoppers from where it is fed into the giant carding machine. These machines consist of a series of large rollers like an old fashioned washing mangle. The rollers have hundreds of tiny spikes all around them which pull or tease the wool out into longer fibres. After travelling around the rollers the teased woollen fibres are then fed onto a continuous moving bed of soft fluffy fibre. The carding machine can be set to produce different thicknesses and weights depending on the wool’s eventual use. The wool moves from the carding machine and is fed directly between 2 rolls of the finest cotton fabric. This is travelling under the feet of Steve in the picture, our quilting expert. It then travels up and into the multi-needled quilting machine. The carded wool is now firmly enclosed in the cotton fabric so it won’t ever move around. It’s a continuous process and the quilted material is being put onto a roll which is cut about every 30 metres , which is as big as we can handle. The rolls are covered and stored ready for their journey back to Wales where it all started.
Back in Wales under the ancient walls of Harlech Castle, discreetly hidden away in a small industrial estate, is Baavet HQ
Roger and Lesley Baavet's founders outside Baavet HQ under Harlech Castle
Here the quilted rolls are made into the individual Baavet products. Your Baavets are then ready for packing and dispatch, from Ewe to You.