When thinking about wool products, images of knitted jumpers and that pair of socks you reach for on a cold winter’s day come to mind. Victoria Theodorou, the owner of Suffolk business My Flock and I wants to change that perception and show the world just how versatile wool can really be.
‘Many products that are currently made using plastic can be replaced with wool, due to its unique properties’ she tells us.
A full time shepherdess and mum of 3, her lightbulb moment came when delivering a small and poorly lamb a couple of years ago.
‘I didn’t have electricity at the sheep shed at that point, so couldn’t use a heat lamp. I went out and bought some puppy coats to try and while they did the job and the lamb grew up healthy, I always felt that they could be better. It dawned on me that what the lamb needed was a thicker covering of its own wool!’
The first My Flock and I product was born, a wool filled wax lamb jacket. Realising that the properties of wool, a natural fibre, mean it can replicate the functions of products made with plastic, Victoria and her mother Lynne set about coming up with ideas of what other products their wool could replace. Today, My Flock and I produce a range of beautifully crafted products from wine coolers - wool is thermostatic, so will keep your bottles cold for you - to garden kneelers which are ordinarily made from memory foam using chemicals.
‘Wool already has that viscosity and elasticity naturally. The fibres can be bent backwards 20,000 times before they will break and it reshapes itself within seconds. It still boggles my mind why we are trying to invent a product using chemicals that harms the environment, when we have a sustainable and biodegradable one in wool’
You will be hard pressed to find a maker as connected with their materials as Victoria. Overseeing the journey of her wool from the birth of a lamb through to the finished product after the wool has grown, been sheared, processed, carded and stuffed, the production chain from raw materials to finished product is truly transparent.
‘If you work with wool as a crafter, spinner or clothing maker you have this amazing product processed for you and you can start working straight away. When you own the sheep, as I do, there is so much to think about. Different factors affect the growth of wool, environment, weather, disease, soil type. When doing routine jobs such as worming or drenching throughout the year and you need to mark the sheep when done, I need to remember to not use heavy sprays and only a little dot right at the top or back end so as not to stain the wool.’
As a maker of planet friendly products, providing natural alternatives to things normally made with plastic, it is important for Victoria to reflect her values in every area of the business.
‘I am big into beautiful packaging so the tissue paper needed to be acid free and recyclable or recycled. The black wrapping paper is the same. The string that wraps it all up, even the tags and of course the mailing bags.’
So what’s next on the agenda for the innovative shepherdess? Victoria is currently working on introducing new sheep and new products, including rugs, to her store.
‘I have chosen a Welsh Mountain breed called a Torwen which is currently on the RBST (Rare Breed Survival Trust) watchlist. They have black wool but the sun bleaches it a beautiful caramel brown on the tips.’
Victoria’s love for her work is clear and shines through in everything she puts out into the world, from her beautiful products to documenting her journey on her Instagram account. She has some advice for anyone looking to take the plunge to turn their passion into their business.
‘ Research a lot! Plan, plan, plan and when you think you have it all down on paper and have all the ideas ready, go back to the beginning and plan it all over again. You will be surprised at how many more ideas come to you, things you’ve missed or decided don’t work. Go for it, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, it’s scary but then the most lucrative things are often the scariest.’