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My Fibre Journey

Written by Rowena

I have just retired (for the third time) and many of you may know me as the face behind The Lucky Ewe the little bricks and mortar fleece, fibre and yarn store at Oatlands, in the middle of Tasmania. After ten years behind the counter, in the studio and out on the farm, I have passed on to Karen the absolute joy of meeting, talking with and helping the most wonderful multitude of customers, visitors, makers and associates one could wish for. I will sincerely miss you all.

My own yarn story started two lifetimes ago in the mid 1970s when my first husband saw a friend of ours spinning and said, “Sandy can teach you how to do that and you can make me a jumper”. Yes, famous last words! Well, the Ashford Traddy in kit form was purchased by the husband, for my birthday, at the then Penguin Craft Shop, was put together and Sandy did indeed sit me down and get me going on the wheel. My first fleece was from a Lincoln/Romney/something-else ewe from Deloraine called Sid, who came to live with us at Devonport. Black, brown, white and spotted, she was long stapled, super greasy, daggy and stinky: but that’s what we spun in those days. Phillip had show horses and we kept them in paddocks at Spreyton: Ideal for a flock, and Sid was soon joined by several other black and coloureds and Marty the b&c corrie ram. The journey began.

Sometime later we moved to Campbell Town to work on a farm which ran, at that time, beautiful Corriedales. Yarn was spun, jumpers knitted by my mum and sold at the Ross Wool Centre and I was immersed in the joys of woolcraft. I remember buying Pantone dyes and my still functioning Royal ball winder from The Sheep’s Back in Launceston and lurking in the corner of the shearing shed hoping to score that beautiful fleece. The sm

all flock was supported by the farmer and the husband and would have numbered 20-25 black and coloureds by the mid 1980s. I sold most of my clip to Waverley Woollen Mills. I had visions of opening “a little shop” and seriously looked at premises in Campbell Town, wrote a Business Plan, talked to people. Then life got complicated, we relocated and my flock was dispersed. The wheel went into mothballs. My husband passed away suddenly not long after and although the wheel sat in the corner and glared at me, I could not sit at it.

Some years passed : moving house, work, raising children, a new partner, life. The wheel continued to glare at me. A small amount of yarn was spun. Then one year I went to Agfest and stopped to talk with Maree from the Wool Shop who was there with Ashford products. It was the year the Knitters Loom was launched: yes….well. Literally hundreds of shawls, wraps, ruanas, scarves and cushion covers were churned out mostly using the

plethora of fancy yarns available at that time. I marketed, faired and shared; met an amazing collection of fellow makers and customers and started thinking about that 29-year-old Business Plan.

So, in 2010 my partner, who was the consummate sheep man and taught me everything I know about sheep and wool: shearer, wool grower, livestock carter, fan of “the wheel”, suggested we might like to come home from Victoria where we had spent some years working, and a find a spot

where he could get work, knew people and I could have my shop. A visit to friends at Oatlands took me past a lovely heritage cottage, directly opposite the newly refurbished Callington Mill. It was for sale. We inspected. An offer made. Council was supportive. We took possession and the shop opened on December 19th, 2010, as Oatlands Handmade (OH).

For three years I represented Tasmanian makers, taking high quality artisan craft on commission. The stock ranged from visual art, jewellery, made objects through to felted clothing, knitted and woven articles and giftware, and my own product. I stocked a little bi of fleece and fluff. Then in 2013 the world changed again, my partner died (yes that one too) and I thought I would close but due to the concerted efforts of woolcraft colleagues on the mainland and too much stock in the shop, I was convinced to keep going : OH, was reborn as The Lucky Ewe and so it became.

The last seven years have gone in a blur. Learning to dye in the Studio of the wonderful Wendy Kolthoff, workshopping with stunning makers, travelling yearly to the mainland to the Australian Sheep and Wool Show AKA Bendi, forging lifetime friendships with fellow makers, shepherd/esses and wool processors, talking to fiberistas on tours, working with the stunning Saxon Merino, Corriedale and English Leicester fleeces of local woolgrowers, supporting the Aussie Bale Project, helping the most enthusiastic cadre of customers and visitors to Oatlands and latterly joining the Board of the Australian Fibre Collective to champion 100% Australian Grown and Processed, I feel so privileged to have known you all. I am not disappearing nor giving up the wool : the glaring wheel has gone to a new owner but the six left behind will be kept busy over the coming months while my new home is being built in Launceston. There is a sunny studio on the house plans for inside and a “wet” studio outside for me to play in and spare bedrooms for visitors! We shall see what transpires next year…..

Thank ewe, thank ewe, thank ewe for your friendship and support one and all: I look forward to seeing you at the Ross Summer Day 2022 and Spinning Group at Devonport where I will be for around 8 months - and perhaps after May next year we might see a new adventure begin.

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