Welcome to BarberBlackSheep!
BarberBlackSheep is run by me, Katharine Barber, from our smallholding on a hill top (bryn) in beautiful Mid-Wales.
The start of it all...
I was born and grew up in Shropshire but spent my childhood holidays in North Wales where some of my family originates from. My two main passions from my earliest days were animals and textile crafts. Both these stayed with me throughout my childhood and teens and I continued to experiment with textiles as a hobby when I started working in mixed veterinary practice as a nurse. In 1996 my parents and I moved to our smallholding 1,000ft up on a Welsh hillside and bought the sheep that came with it. I started to learn more about these wonderful animals.
I started hand-spinning in 2006 using the fleeces from our small flock. My interest in spinning quickly grew into a passion for all things woolly and colourful and in time I learned to card and dye fibres and weave with my handspun yarns. I changed the emphasis of our sheep breeds from meat to growing high quality fibre for hand spinning. In late 2006 I started breeding pedigree Gotland sheep and also crossing them with other native British breeds such as Black Welsh Mountain, Bluefaced Leicester and Leicester Longwool and sold the surplus fleeces to local spinners as my flock grew.
I started selling the dyed fleeces online in April 2014 and these were followed in due course by other dyed and carded fibres.
2015 saw the addition of importing the exceptional Haunui New Zealand Halfbred combed wool tops in a wide range of natural colours from the family-run business Haunui Wools in South Island, NZ. BarberBlackSheep is proud to be able to bring the mid-range micron Haunui to UK and Europe in a variety of our products to compliment our home-grown fibres.
The story today
I've just ventured into having the fleeces from my selectively bred sheep spun into luxury yarn at a specialist worsted spinning mill here in the UK. This exciting new venture is the culmination of many years work and the resulting small yarn line is limited and precious - but something I'm ultimately very proud of!
I also dye, card and spin other non-wool fibres and blends. Most are natural such as silk, alpaca, llama, yak and some cellulose fibres. I do occasionally use manmade fibres for softness, sparkle and curiosity value as well as to provide something for those who are sensitive to 100% wool (although I try to avoid those made from plastics and non-biodegradable fibres).
BarberBlackSheep as a business is a one-woman band. I also work on the small-holding I share with my mother, growing some of our food and tending to our animals as well as working part-time for the veterinary practice where I used to nurse. However most of the time I am dreaming about new colours, textures and ideas for the shop. I am inspired mostly by the nature that surrounds me each day and the stunning Welsh scenery and history of my homeland.