The Shepherd's Bag

The Shepherd's Bag

A Thing of Purpose 

"Don't chuck that," said John as I was about to put a length of plastic into the recycling bin.

"Why?" I asked, annoyed that my tidying frenzy had hit a hurdle.

"It's a thing of purpose," he said, grabbing it and showing me some marks on the side. "It's used to measure the water in the dip tank. For when we dip the sheep."

A Thing of Purpose. I liked that. And when it came to thinking of a tag line for our Shepherd's Bags, it had to be A Thing of Purpose. The Shepherd's Bags were a solution to the problem of how to make Herdwick wool profitable. In 2016 it was worth pennies. I had met the farmer and writer James Rebanks a couple of times and mentioned to him that he really should do something with his wool to add value. 

"Ok," he said, "You take and do something with it, and pay me when you make some money."

Farmer James Rebanks preparing a tup for the show ring

"Great," I said smiling, crying inside as I had no idea what I could do. I had made some knitting yarn but Herdwick is not a first choice of yarn for a scarf or jumper, it being hairy and scratchy if worn next to the skin. John had the idea of Shepherd's Bags as these were a traditional bag a shepherd would use, walking up the fell to check the sheep, perhaps carrying a poorly one back to the farm in the bag.

Shepherd walking his land with his crook and shepherd's bag

We collected wool from James's farm, had it spun in Huddersfield and then sent the yarn to Woven in The Bone for weaving. I had no idea how to get tweed made so I did a lot of phoning around different mills. Sam, who owns and runs Woven in The Bone, was the only person I spoke to that wasn't irritated by my lack of knowledge! She talked me through the process and steps I needed to take, mills I might be able to work with closer to home. But I decided to work with Sam as I appreciated the support she showed me. 

Once the Herdwick cloth was woven, a brilliant seamstress, Sally Cowell, who lives locally, designed a pattern for the Shepherd's Bags and started making them for me to sell in our shop.

They've proved very popular and not only can they carry a poorly lamb home from the fell, but as Lauren Laverne demonstrated, they're the perfect size for carrying albums!

image taken from a twitter post by Lauren Laverne on a David Bowie album in her Shepherd's Bag.