Category: Hûrd

Cumbrian Wool, Ruhnu Wool

Jim, Richard and David discuss Cumbrian wool – its uses in the past, and the way that it was historically valued in the UK.

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Selma and Riina discuss Ruhnu wool – its uses in the past, and the way that Selma uses wool from her flock on the island of Ruhnu in Estonia to make socks, hats and vests for her family.

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The singing sands on Ruhnu

As well as being home to one strain of the Estonian Native Sheep, Ruhnu also has beaches with singing sand. This means that when you walk on the sand, it emits a kind of squeaking, high-pitched tone.

This is what the singing sands sound like, mixed with the sounds of the ocean lapping at the edges of this island, home to Selma’s flock of sheep.

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The aeroplane to Ruhnu

Ruhnu is a small island, 96km from the Estonian mainland. About 60 people live on Ruhnu, including Selma, who has been keeping sheep on the island since the 1950s.

To access the island, it is necessary to take a very small 10-seater plane from Pärnu Airport.

This is the sound of the aeroplane landing on Ruhnu, where Felicity went in search of the native Estonian Ruhnu sheep.

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Joel’s Forest

This is the sound of the Forested area in the landscape where Joel Roos and Julika keep their sheep. The sheep do not graze in the woodland, but they live very near to it and can be heard baa-ing sometimes from the woodlands’ edge.

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For a UK Contrast to the Estonian Spring Forest, try listening to the Wintry, Cumbrian Winds on the landscape where Hilary Wilson keeps her Rough Fell Sheep.

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Tinylamb – the sound of young “Wool on the Hoof”

On Janni Talu there is a tiny lamb whose mother has not enough milk to feed him. He is fed instead by an obliging Nanny goat, who has extra milk. Because of the extra attention he receives from Joel and Julika, he is unafraid of people, and very friendly and vocal. The tiny lamb has a tiny sound.

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The phrase “Wool on the Hoof” comes from an agricultural award I saw at Jane Knowles’ house in Cumbria, in the UK. This prize is awarded in the UK to the sheep with the most excellent fleeces, according to breed specifications. Jane and Brian Knowles’ Rough Fell sheep have won this award several times, because their fleeces are – as per the breed – long, strong, white, characterful, and perfect for stuffing mattresses! There is no “Wool on the Hoof” agricultural prize in Estonia as far as I know, but several shepherds and wool enthusiasts have built the organisation “Hea Villa Selts”, which means “Good Wool Society”. Surely the sheep grown by members of Hea Villa Selts would be the most likely candidates for the “Wool on the Hoof” prize-category, if such a competition existed in Estonia?

Here is Jane talking about the mothering qualities of the Rough Fell Sheep.

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UK Sheep mothers; Estonian Sheep lamb.

Heimtali Craft Fair

Music from the Heimtali Handicraft Fair, which included 7% beer from Saaremaa; many craft demonstration; a 100m walk and knit race with points awarded for graceful falling in the event of not-looking-where-one-was-going, fine handiwork, and speed; and this wonderful accordion music, accompanied by some form of tool-making and general Estonian chit-chat.

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For a little comparison to links between British handicrafts and UK folk music, you might enjoy listening to the Mayday Knit Weekly Feature which Felicity Ford put together for BBC Oxford in 2010.

It is here.

Cranes and Sheep

Heard in Estonia, in a field full of sheep; a pair of Cranes singing.

Here they are together, recorded at Jaani Talu. Joel helped Felicity to see, find and hear these special birds, which are an important part of the daily soundscape on his farm in Pärnumaa.

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Here is the sound of the Cranes. They are a pair; the second sound is an answer to the first call.

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Estonian Sheep/Eesti Maalammas

Here is the sound of the flock of sheep which lives on Jaani Talu – one of the most wonderful places in all of Estonia – where Joel and Julika Roos keep Estonian Native Sheep; Åland Sheep; Swedish Finewool Sheep; Estonian Native Ruhnu Sheep; and various cross-bred animals which they are developing themselves in order to improve the quality of wool grown on their farm. Julika is a member of Hea Villa Selts, which means Good Wool Society, and there will be more information about the wool produced from the Jaani Talu flock in coming days on Felicity Ford’s blog.

Here is Joel and Julika’s blog, and here are their sheep. The huge variety in the colours of the sheep at Jaani Talu is matched only by the range of sounds they produce!

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Muhu Pink (Kiperoosa) and Berkshire Blue (Woad)

Muhu is an island off the Western coast of Estonia. The women who inhabit this region are renowned for their production of accomplished, elaborate, multi-coloured textiles. A vibrant shade of pink is prevalent in many examples of handiwork from Muhu, as can be seen in these socks, which are held in the collection of the Estonian National Museum.

Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island details the distinctive textiles of Muhu Island and was written by Anu Kabur, Anu Pink and Mai Meriste, and published by Saara Publishers Ltd.

Kata is an Estonian knitter with very quick fingers and a talent for colour. She has created a recipe for Muhu Pink, and kindly allowed Felicity Ford to record the sounds of colouring yarn in this distinctive shade. Kata’s family live in the same district as Saara Publishing Ltd., so after dyeing the yarn, Kata took Felicity to meet Anu Pink. At Saara, the intricacies of the Muhu Island book were discussed, as was the accuracy of Kata’s version of Muhu Pink, which is known in Estonian as Kiperoosa.

You can hear below the sounds of Kiperoosa yarns being dyed, and you can see Anu Pink comparing a photograph on her computer with Kata’s colour. The recording details Kata’s thoughts on Muhu Pink; the rinsing and washing out of the dyepot in Kata’s shower-room; the weighing out of the dye chemicals; the addition of yarn to the dyebath; and the addition of vinegar to the dye-bath to fix the acid dyes.

Finally, here is a close-up of some gloves which – in a style characteristic of Muhu’s talented needlewomen – combine cross-stitch, crochet, embroidery and coloured knitting in a single garment. They belong in Anu Pink’s collection of Muhu textiles and were in all likelihood made to demonstrate the skills of the maker (and her suitability for marriage) than to be comfortable or practical garments!

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In exchange for this Estonian textile sound, some sounds from the UK of yarn being dyed with Woad are additionally presented below. To create this recording, Woad was grown in Felicity Ford’s garden in Reading, Berkshire, and was used to dye some plain white yarn a range of different blue shades. The resulting blue yarns were knitted up with other yarns dyed with plants from Felicity’s garden, in order to create a kind of knitted representation of the plants (both wild and cultivated) growing in her particular region of the world.

The recording details the picking and washing of Woad leaves; the squeezing out and rinsing of those leaves into a dye bath; the addition of bicarbonate of soda to the dyebath (for alkalinity); the aeration of the dye-bath in order to introduce oxygen; and the gentle simmering of yarns in the dye-bath. Above the sound-recording you can see the yarn dyed in the Woad bath and the scarf that was knitted with it.

The scarf was designed to be both serviceable and useful, acting as a reference for future plant-dyeing projects, and as a warm scarf. There is no distinctive tradition of knitting lace scarves in Berkshire, but the plants used to make the colours in the scarf relate to the landscape in a very literal manner, being directly of and from it.

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Combing Rough Fell wool

This is the sound of hand-combing the washed fleece of the Rough Fell sheep, which is grown in Cumbria, in the UK.

The Rough Fell fleece is strong and characterful and once fetched a very high price for the stuffing of Italian mattresses because of its bounce and strength.

The wool grown in Estonia which is used in Mooste is also good for stuffing mattresses and wool-filled mattresses, pillows and duvets are important outputs for Villakoda, in Mooste.

This recording of Rough Fell fibres was created by attaching contact microphones to wooden wool-combs. You can clearly hear the scratchy qualities of the fibres themselves, as they are combed.

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