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Prototyping Herdwick fleece insulation

Over the past weeks we’ve been working on a new bag design which requires thermal insulation. There is no better insulating material available to us than Herdwick fleece, the dense, coarse fibres that protects the animals from the elements at 3,000ft.

In production we will have the wadding prepared in the workshop, for the first prototype however is a one-off made in our studio. Although the fleece is already scoured (cleaned of most of the flora and fauna Herdwick’s inevitably carry around), this process doesn’t entirely eradicate the unmistakable eau de sheep, that wonderfully pungent natural aroma. For the first bag prototype the wadding is made in three panels, a base and two sides, custom-sized to fit the bag exactly.

The fleece arrives with us packed into firm bundles, the fibres matted in dense clumps. These are carded by hand, the fibres repeatedly combed into a relatively flat surface around an inch thick. This is sandwiched between two layers of thin cotton, carefully pinned in position and slowly stitched through, edges first to hold the fill in place, then evenly spaced stitch lines, up and across. The end result is a success, an even fill with no dead spots, light in weight and entirely flexible. We’re confident of the material’s insulating properties, but full testing will be carried out on the finished bag.