A SMALLHOLDER from Haddington is proud to be producing ‘vegetarian’ sheepskin rugs.

Shepherdess Jill Walker, 49, uses wool from her own small flock to create the rugs, along with wool from other sheep which might have otherwise been set alight or sent to landfill.

She makes the rugs at her home at Letham Mains and uses a felt back rather than sheep skin, taking a whole day to make one rug.

Jill said: “I gather up my sheep’s fleeces after they’re sheared, creating a rug with a felted back so that there is no actual sheep’s skin involved – only the wool holds the rugs together.”

Hence the name, Vegetarian Sheepskin, a product which Jill says is unique in East Lothian.

She has spent the last two years perfecting the process through lots of “blood, sweat and tears”.

Jill hopes her vegetarian rugs will help show that wool need not become merely a by-product and can be transformed into beautiful rugs and throws.

Jill added: “The wool produced by my farmer friends’ sheep isn’t all the super fine quality deemed worthy by Harris Tweed and its ilk.

“But it’s good for many more things than it’s currently used for and definitely shouldn’t be wasted.”

Farmers have expressed their sadness about wool prices, with one taking to an internet forum saying: “With the wool price we got last year, it now makes sense to burn some of the wool from the sheep rather than carting it back to the wool board.”

Another said that out of the £700 a year it costs to shear sheep and transport the wool, the money received back falls far short of this but they need to get back whatever money they can.

Jill says she helps farmers out by taking this wool and using it to make her rugs, saving it from being burned or thrown away.

The backing for each of her rugs is made by carding wool on a hand carding machine, which is then felted to the back of the fleece using hot water and “lots of elbow grease”.

On the rug-making process, Jill said: “It’s hard work but each rug I make is made with love and all the positive energy I can muster so the recipient will receive a quality product I’ve been very proud to make.

“I also give a fair price for the fleece I buy, even if they are now sadly of little value to the farmer.”

Jill, who also owns Orchard House Chalets, showcased her rugs at Haddington Farmers’ Market on Saturday. Her creations will again be on sale at the next market on October 26.

She has eight sheep: four Bluefaced Leicesters; two Zwartbles and two Shetlands.