It’s almost an old fashioned idea these days, keeping sheep for their wool. However, for Ginny Cochran of the Sheep Shed in Gorebridge, it was while she was running her hand through her Ryeland sheep’s wool that she had the inspiration to try to do something with their soft, downy fleece, as it was too good to waste.

Ryelands are one of the oldest heritage breeds, originally from Hereford, and are classified as a ‘down’ breed, meaning their wool is particularly soft.

Her idea has flourished into a cottage business where she is producing her own range of high-end tweed and also has a range of homeware, bags and hats that she designs herself.

We meet in Ginny’s farmhouse in Gorebridge, that she shares with husband Michael and daughter Georgie, and she has recently handed over the running of her horse livery business to a manager so that she can concentrate on her textiles business. “I wanted to do something different, something for myself, and as I’m really passionate about the sheep, it seemed like an obvious choice.”

My husband was a commercial sheep farmer before we moved here, and he really didn’t want to get any more sheep. But both my daughter and I loved the look of the Ryelands, and they have such a docile nature. Ginny has 23 at the moment, both white and coloured, but is hoping to build her flock up a little more.

“I looked into where I could get the wool processed and unfortunately, the only place I could find that could do the entire job from receiving the raw fleece to returning it to me as yarn was the Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall, even though I would have ideally liked it to have been in Scotland.

“The company are terrific, I just put the fleeces in bags they send me and off they go. I then had to find a weaver. I literally picked a name from the book and I have honestly hit the jackpot. I am working with Robin Elliot who is based in Selkirk. He has been amazing. We worked together to design three patterns which I am really pleased with. He has guided me through the whole process of designing the tweed and given me some terrific advice.”

When compared to Harris Tweed, Ginny’s fabric is supersoft and light and drapes really well. Harris tweed is usually woven from Blackface wool, which has a rougher texture.

One thing that Ginny is happy to report is that she has found the people involved in the Ryeland Sheep Society completely supportive and welcoming. To meet the minimum weight needed for the wool to be sent off she needed more fleeces and they were more than happy to oblige.

“They have been so friendly and encouraging. They asked me to come and talk at their AGM, and though it was scary for me, I found it easy and I loved it, as they were as enthusiastic as I was,” says Ginny.

Now that she has got a year under her belt, she has a range of products that she is pleased with, but is always looking for more ideas to expand it.

The tote bags were first using the lovely herringbone tweed with funky coloured lining and straps.

She has also created a line of cushions using all her tweeds, brown twill with a deep red yarn and also a light fabric that comes from the white Ryelands wool. She sews them all here at the farm in her workroom.

Ginny’s latest passion is for her range of country style hats. Both ladies and gents, they are slightly beyond her sewing capability so she has them produced in Yorkshire.

“I’m really excited about the hats. I am happy to produce them to order at the moment until I build up my market.”

Speaking of markets, Ginny has been plunged into a world of marketing that she is happy to admit she struggles with. Social media, publicity, markets, shops are all new territory for her.

“I’m trying to find the ideal places to sell my hats. I think that the shooting fraternity would appreciate them, so I have been looking at hotels that host shooting parties and also the world of golf would be a terrific place to market them.”

That means lots of research and trying to get her name out there. This year she is having a larger run of tweed made, and also there will be more colours involved. She shows me the swatch of colours. Stunning teals, purples and greys pop out which will be turned into a range of throws as well as fabric. She also hand makes a range of capes, lined with contrasting bright colours. They have a classical design and drape beautifully, as the fabric is so fine.

Using her herringbone fabric she asked a local dressmaker to create a ladies suit to show customers exactly what the fabric would look like when made into clothing. She has had many offers from people to buy the suit, but she is keeping it to show the versatility of the fabric, which she sells by the metre.

Ginny is working from an ethos that she will carry with her on this new project. She says: “We believe in sustainability, ecologically friendly and bio-degradeable products in today’s society of plastics and synthetics. All of our tweed is woven in Scotland and is 100% wool. From farm, field and fleece.

This year she has already taken her range to Dalkeith Show, and Perth Yarn Festival and the big one this year will be the Country Living Fair in Glasgow. Ginny says it’s a big gamble financially as she is a really small business, but she knows she has to get out there and get the Sheep Shed name onto people’s lips.

The other thing that Ginny is really enjoying is running lampshade workshops twice a week. Clients turn up and spend the morning or afternoon making their own lampshade, which is fun and creative and with lots of coffee and cake.

She says: “It’s a lovely positive few hours. We do floor lamps, turn whisky bottles into lamps, or make the perfect lampshade to suit their home. I find that clients turn up thinking they can’t do it. But they are always really pleased to leave with a stunning, hand made lampshade. I get groups of ladies coming who are friends, hen parties and lots of people who just want to use their hands to create something beautiful. I also sell the lampshade kit so they can buy another one to do at home.

“Everything I make financially is going back into the tweed business until I manage to build it up, but I am really enjoying the workshops. It’s lovely to meet so many new people.”

We then head off to see the stars of the show - the flock. Just along the road Ginny gets out the car and walks over to her two tups, they are like huge teddy bears. They wander up for a proper cuddle and a scratch. The lambs are bleating away in the adjoining field, trying to coax another feed out of Ginny when they are already knee deep in grass. They are docile and friendly, she is clearly really attached to them.

She adds, as we walk through the flock: “My friends say to me, “I’ve seen some alpacas for you Ginny.” I’m quick to let them know that’s a firm no! I’ve enough going on at the moment.”

Ginny is happy to take commissions for her bags, capes, and hats and she will be selling Ryeland yarn shortly. Her range of throws and coloured tweed will be available from mid-October.

You can see Ginny and her latest range at the Country Living Christmas Fair in Glasgow on November 15-18. And next year, she will be exhibiting at London's Make it British Fair. Check out her website at