THE RISBY FLOCK of Pedigree Lincoln Longwools
At home in the Lincolnshire Wolds.....


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The Frock from the Flock

I was always taken by a series of glossy Brintons wool carpet adverts in the 1990s. The adverts featured striking gowns made from carpets
(I have since discovered that they were designed by Vivienne Westwood, a woman I have always much admired).
In addition, David Robinson of Louth museum,  came to the breed association's AGM in 2008, and gave a talk on, amongst other things, the Lincoln Stuff Balls. A society event, cleverly devised in 1788 the to maintain the demand for worsted. Ladies of the county were required to attend adorning a woollen petticoat, each year of a different colour, as chosen by the patron of the ball.
I am usually very disheartened at 'shearing time' seeing our beautiful clippings of lustrous locks bagged and practically given to the wool board! I have consequently set out on a mission to prove that wool is still a wonderful commodity to be celebrated, and what better way to celebrate it than on our own wedding day.

 Shearling Ewe 'Risby Olivia' provided the fleece for the skirt.                              My final design, sketched by Caroline Chamberlain.
With the help of local Lincoln bridal couturist,  Caroline Chamberlain my design was translated into a pattern from which we could work. Caroline made a complete mock-up of the dress in calico, in order to get the an exact fit and to generate a shape for the bodice to be crocheted. The crochet for the bodice was commissioned separately and was made from hand-spun lincoln longwool. I found an interesting stitch called 'ruby lace', which resembles a series of tiny crowns. Caroline assembled all the separate components of the bodice and it was finished with hand-sewn accent crystals in each of the crowns. The back was corseted with a lincoln longwool felt underlay and felt roses trimmed the base.

My design aim was to create a beautiful bridal gown in its own right, with wool being the final surprise of the piece. I wanted to show a full range of possibilities for 'lincoln' wool within one garment. Having shown the effect of the hand-spun spun wool, worked into at pattern and the versatility of the wool felted I then decided to go for the dramatic effect of the the natural raw wool staples (washed - of course!). 
Despite the pre-nuptual insomnia I was suffering over the total eccentricity of the project I was determined to carry on regardless. Lincoln longwools are an integral part of our lives and with hind-sight what other fibre could possibly compare for my wedding day attire? I knew that there would be some breed promotion mileage in the dress, although I was completely naive about what was to follow.
Armed with 10kg of raw fleece clipped from Olivia, an old tin bath and several boxes of soap flakes I set to work washing the wool and separating it out into individual staples. Washed 'Lincoln' staples, especially from a shearling at its first clipping, are long, curly and lustrous and are a total reflection of the breed. If faced with the opportunity you would not be able to resist the temptation to stroke and caress the locks, as their tactility is quite irresistible.
The staples were machine sewn directly onto a lincoln longwool woven cloth (the 4th dimension of the dress) and within 8 months (unbeknown to me) I had created a concept gown that was about to go global!

The story was featured in our local paper

and from there it was picked up by the  DAILY MAIL  and the rest, as they say, is history!

...and to answer the two most asked questions NO, the dress was not itchy! although you could say I am hopelessly dedicated, the dress was of course unavoidably fully lined. and NO it was not hot! Even on a glorious day in May I could not feel the heat of the sun beyond the dress, in fact, I was remarkably cool. This is true testament to the natural wonder of wool, as the wool board's poster campaign in the fifties used to say:

'Warm in winter, cool in summer, there is simply no substitute for wool'


'A gown made of the finest wool, which from our pretty lambs we pull ...'
From 'The Passionate Shepherd to his Love' written by Christopher Marlowe
One of the readings at our wedding service. 

and the theme continued... 

Waistcoats and a bridesmaid's dress with embroidered Lincoln felt panels.        Stationery featuring my own shepherds crook design.          Hand-made chocolate lamb favours from local  award winners, Special Edition Chocolates 


An embroidered ring cushion made from felted lincoln longwool.



A delicious locally sourced wedding breakfast,

which included hogget from our own flock was provided by celebrity chef  RACHEL GREEN, a champion of local produce and Great British Farming.


and to finish,


a wedding cake topped with a specially commissioned sculpture of the bride and groom, made with tiny fibres of our lambswool.






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