Make a Wooly Sheep for Imbolc

As globalisation spreads, many people around the world are celebrating Chinese New Year tonight and tomorrow but few may know that we Irish actually have our own Spring festival at this time of year. This year both the Chinese and our own festival even happen to fall on the same day! Most people who have grown up in Ireland will have heard of St. Brigid's day, but long before it had that name, this festival, marking the beginning of Spring was known as Imbolc.
Imbolc signified the beginning of Spring in ancient Ireland. The golden, coconut scented Gorse flowers bloom, hinting at the imminent return of the sun, yet there may well still be flurries of snow outside, or in our case this year, high winds and lashing rain.



February is usually one of the harshest months of the year in Ireland, characterised by bitter cold weather and seemingly endless grey skies. Creating a family celebration during this month can be a wonderful way of focusing instead on the warmer weather yet to come.
Imbolc is a good time to refresh or begin a home nature table. A good way to mark a special time of year is to find or create a space in your home for nature. A sunny windowsill, a shelf or a small table is perfect. Even the centre of a dining table can be used. Use a white cloth, perhaps reflecting the snow outside, or hopefully just the snowdrops, as a table cover. Gather snowdrops, gorse and twigs with sticky buds to place on the table. These small signs of new life show children that the earth is waking up.
To further embellish the seasonal table a sun cut from gold paper could be suspended above it or perhaps the addition of a Brigid’s Cross might be appropriate in your home.
One of the symbols of Imbolc is sheep or lambs. The word Imbolc itself translates as 'in the belly' which is believed to refer to lambs about to be born. Ewe’s would therefore be lactating and milk might have been a first fresh food available after the long hard winter.
This easy, wooly sheep is a perfect project to keep little hand busy and cosy at this time of year and will look beautiful on your family nature table.
Simple Wool & Peg Sheep
You will need:
  • 2 Wooden Clothes Pegs
  • Cardboard
  • Black Paint
  • Wool Yarn (the chunkier the better!)
  • PVA glue


To assemble:
Paint  the pegs black, from the middle, at the spring, to the tip of the ‘pinching end’ and let dry. Cut a kidney bean shape out of the cardboard and paint one end black and let it dry. This will be the face.
Pin the pegs onto the body using a dab of glue to secure. Make sure the sheep can stand steadily before the glue sets. You can also secure the wool under a peg while you do this. Let the glue dry.

Begin winding the wool around and around the cardboard until your sheep is well covered and plump. When the pegs and cardboard are well covered, snip the end of the wool and tie off onto another strand. Tuck the loose end in.
You might like to use some extra wool or fabric scraps to add ears and a tail, though the sheep will be just as attractive without.

Why not get the whole family involved in this Imbolc activity and make a whole flock of Spring sheep!

7 comments

  1. Really lovely post Sadhbh, someone was telling me the other day about a tradition where girls call to neighbouring houses and are given eggs.... the girls are referred to as Bridogs (something akin to the wren boys I imagine except for the wren)... have you ever heard of this or know the significance?

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    Replies
    1. I'm not sure I know of this tradition, though I am familiar with the word 'Brídóg' as in modern Irish it means 'Bride'. Eggs would be a symbol of fertility and also as hens start laying again at this time of year, they would be symbolic and appropriate gift for the beginnings of Spring. This below, is from Wikipedia:
      "At Imbolc, Brighid's crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brighid, called a Brídeóg, would be paraded from house-to-house. Brighid was said to visit one's home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brighid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brighid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock. Feasts were had, holy wells were visited and it was also a time for divination."

      So, I suppose they would be similar to the wren boys in a way - though significantly less violent!

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  2. These are so cute. And I'd never heard of Imbolc, that's cool.

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  3. I just saw these now. I promise I wasn't copying you with mine!!! I like the pegs as legs. Cool idea.

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