The Sophisticated Sheep

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Sheep Halters

We have a handful of old nylon rope halters we use at lambing time, so ancient that no one can remember making them. They're not exactly pretty but they get the job done.

Over the years I managed to pick up one cotton sheep halter that fit my sheep perfectly. The halter section was always somewhere I checked at agricultural shops just in case I could find one in the size I was after. The cotton halters, more often than not, were white, which wasn't exactly practical. The single black halter I bought was what I wanted for my sheep but also seemingly impossible for me to find again.

So in early 2019 I decided to look into making some new halters for my sheep. At first I thought practically, buying a kind of rope that was strong but soft. I settled on flax. This first halter was knotted just like our old halters and made to be the same size. (As it happens it's one of these early flax halters that I keep in my pocket at lambing time now.)

I was pleased with my flax halter and its fit for my sheep, but once I set my mind onto an idea I do like to experiment further. Part of my inspiration for learning more about rope in the first place came from people on Instagram making rope leads for their dogs. Dyed cotton leads were very popular and very pretty. While it was a struggle for me to find a halter to fit my older sheep, for tiny lambs there were white halters readily available. So I learned how to dye them fun colours. This was very successful.

So that was a solution to the boring, white lamb halter problem but what about the adults? Here I did some research and came up with an idea for making a cotton halter in the size I wanted by sewing loops and then covering that with decorative whipping (the thinner pink cord). I took Rosie for a walk to test my idea. The halter was strong and looked good, and, above all, fitted her perfectly.

And that was it for a few months until I combined two ideas - dyeing cotton rope and making my own halter. The result was a smaller halter that looked great and fit well. By now I had very thoroughly solved my boring halter problem, and so for a while I moved onto other things.

But the following year, in 2020, with the arrival of more pet lamb models, I was experimenting again. The dyed cotton halters may look great, but they are extremely time-consuming to make and can stain easily. I wound up coming full circle and returning to knotted halters. I'd come across a website that was a paradise for someone like me - they had this smooth PPM rope in various colours and thicknesses. This rope was waterproof as well, which was an added bonus.

There was twisted rope made from the same material so I made some halters using this too. Of all my halters these were the most difficult to make - the rope was slippery to handle, and to splice it I had to unravel the three strands of rope and braid them together. It's a technique that I managed to use many times, but I'm not sure if I could do it today without watching a few online tutorials.

The grown-up sheep got their own version of this halter too.

The same online shop also had some cotton rope that was already dyed, which was quite the time-saver. By this time, however, I had spent over a year developing my sheep halters and thanks to various prototypes I'd made, I thought that maybe my sheep had enough halters. I ended up making a couple of these cotton halters and then no more.

So that was it for me, my sheep and halters for a few years until in 2023 I finally got around to making and testing a halter I'd planned to make a year earlier - a knotted halter for the grown-ups.


Dog Collars & Leads

At the same time that I was working on my halters, I began to make leads for dogs. I used the cotton rope and sewing method from my first cotton halter and moved on to dyeing cotton ropes as well.


It was working on dog leads that got me interested in trying to make a dog collar. I learned about strips of leather and rivets and made a few collars which I'd call dodgy by my current standards. But it was all about the learning process, which for me is the main thrill of the thing. In the autumn of 2019 I went on a leather course with a professional saddler and there I learned some extra tips and how to sew leather together rather than using rivets. I made a small collection of matching leather collars and leads for my dogs that I'm still proud of today.

BioThane - a plastic leather alternative which is basically a length of webbing with a protective, flexible, waterproof coating - soon came to my attention. I was curious about this material, so I bought some to make a few collars and leads from as well. I enjoyed making things from BioThane once I got the hang of it. One advantage of it is that leads can be any length because you're not limited by the size of an animal's hide, and another advantage is the wide range of colours available.

In late 2023 I returned to dog collars and leads - Poppy started to outgrow the puppy collars I had left over from Susan's childhood, and I thought I would make her a puppy-sized collar myself. Because this collar was to be worn at home, I chose to make it from the more durable BioThane. I added a few extra holes so I could keep adjusting it as she grew - which was fortunate as she grew fast!

For walkies out and about, I made a few leather collar and lead sets, also with a few extra holes. I hadn't sewed leather for a few years, and I was worried that I would have forgotten how, but fortunately not! Opening a parcel of fresh leather straps for your project is also just as thrilling as ever.

Making the collars and leads for Poppy reminded me that I had been meaning to make collars and leads for all of my dogs, so I finally managed to get that done! Everyone now has a matching BioThane collar and lead set.

Leadropes & Headcollars

One advantage to me learning all of the above skills was that it solved a problem that I'd been having with Blue Belle - she seems to be an unusual size. Her head is neither mini Shetland sized nor standard Shetland sized, but somewhere in the middle. Initially I had been using foal headcollars for horses and these were fine but were a bit of a wonky fit for her.

Eventually I managed to come across a couple of leather headcollars that fit her well enough. While I was experimenting with cotton halters for sheep, I made Blue Belle a leadrope too.

Once I was confident with BioThane I really wanted to try my hand at making a headcollar for Blue Belle. Ever ambitious, I made this headcollar and leadrope set using a western-inspired design I'd found online - only the instructions were in German, so I sort of made it up as I went along. It turned out to be a bit on the big side, but I later adjusted the fit slightly. It's a halter I use very often now. First time on:

After some adjustments:

Shortly after I made her a navy headcollar with rose gold fittings. This is another headcollar that sees a lot of use.

In late 2022 I made a leadrope extension for the western style headcollar set so I could be further away for photos.

This worked so well that I made an extension for the navy set as well, and then followed that up with a dark green and rose gold set. This set hasn't seen as much use yet because I'd like to make a few adjustments here and there.

Now Blue Belle can be as stylish as she wants!


I love wearing t-shirts with fun designs on them and I also like making use of my photos beyond the blog, so I had to have a go at designing t-shirts of my own! These are all available to buy for yourself via my Redbubble shop.



I'd always enjoyed working with clay in school, and when my friend took me to a craft shop in Belfast and I saw the polymer clay, I knew that was the next thing I wanted to learn about. In the year since, I've come a long way, even designing some of my own cutters (the horse in the photo below is one of my designs). I make a handful of necklaces at a time, and I can't possibly wear them all, so any extras I've made are available on the Etsy shop. (Please send me a message or email if you'd like a necklace outside the UK.)


Coming soon!

Etsy | Redbubble | Blurb | On the Blog

Last Updated: 29th November 2023

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