Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Rare Breed Exchange Part 2

I'd like to put a note of explanation here first. I was asked just how this exchange was done. There were a certain number of participants in the exchange and each person took one or two breeds from the rare breed list. They submitted a sample, often with a descriptive sheet of paper of that breed for each person in the exchange. As an example, my breed was CVM. I made up 10 sheets exactly the same, each with descriptions, some roving and raw fleece, and a small skein of yarn. I mailed this to the exchange coordinator, who then sorted everyone's so we all got a different sheet from all the different breeds. It is fun to do, and lots of fun to receive the exchange later in the mail.

The descriptions to follow are the notes from spinning the remainder of the exchange breeds, as there were twelve different breeds in the exchange. This ends up being backwards, but part one is below this, posted on 03/12/04.

Jacob US lineage

The sample submitted for this was actually from a petting zoo. It was still very nice, clean and soft to handle. There were two contrasting colors, a very dark part and a white part. Instead of mixing the colors, I divided them, and processed them separately.

The dark fiber was combed with my small combs. It combed really nice and I was able to spin a 19 yard 2 ply yarn of 16 WPI, and ended up with a very soft yarn. There was quite a bit of waste from the combing, but it didn?t seem too bad, so I used my hand cards to card that. It made a nice fluffy batt, and I spun the yarn on a medium weight drop spindle, just a small 7 yard sample skein.

I was inspired to try spinning this Jacob thin like Shetland, so I combed the white part of the sample, and spun it on a light weight drop spindle. I even let the singles rest on the spindle for awhile before plying. It was a lovely lace weight yarn. (I will have to edit later for exact figures, I am working from my notes away from home, and seem to have forgotten to write down the statistics on this skein)

I found I really liked working with this fleece. In fact, I went to a small spin-in last Sat and a vendor was selling Jacob fleeces, so I bought a 2 lb fleece to wash at home, and hopefully it will spin as fine as the above samples.

There are notes in my 10/14/03 blog about another Jacob sample I had worked with, which would also be US lineage.

Jacob UK lineage

Since one of the members of the exchange lives in England, we were lucky to have a chance to compare the two countries in several breeds, plus have access to some of the breeds only raised in Europe, and not in the US. There was a sample of Jacob submitted for us to compare. The sample fleece had two shades of deep brown, and an off white part.

Since the US Jacob combed so well, I decided to try the combs on this sample. I was disappointed though, it did not comb well. In fact, I named it the great disappearing fleece. I would put what looked like a six inch lock on the combs, and with each pass, the fiber got shorter and shorter. So it did not pull off the combs well. I did take some of the short bursts of top that I pulled off the combs, and spin it with a medium weight drop spindle. The white sample gave me an 11 yard skein of 2 ply 21WPI yarn, so even spinning with just short bursts of top, I was still able to get a nice fine yarn. Sometimes, I think there are advantages to having just that small nest of yarn in your hands while you spin, as far as getting a thinner yarn.


This is one fleece I have not had the chance to see before this exchange. It is a very primitive looking fleece, very long locks with no crimp. In fact, it does not look like wool at all, more like lock from the angora goat, only not even as silky as that. The sample felt like it had not been washed, or maybe only lightly washed.

I did not even try to card a sample, by the length, I could tell it would have just snarled up in the cards. So I took half the sample, and combed it with the hand combs, and half of the sample I spun straight from the locks without any processing at all.

The locks were very easy to comb, except for the static created by combing long locks. The top pulled off the combs quite easily, and there was very little waste left on the combs. The long top was very easy to spin, and I spun what I would call a ?hard? single. That is just the result of the twist going so heavily into the aligned long fibers. When I plied the sample, there were some small hairs sticking out of the yarn, although I did not think this breed was doubled coated, the hairiness of the skein suggested that. My small skein was 7 yards of a 2 ply, 23 wpi spun on the Roberta electric spinner.

I spun the second part of the sample by just pulling fibers out of an intact lock. It was very easy to do, although I got more short fuzzies floating around and on my lap as I spun. I actually got the same size skein spinning in this manner, same WPI. The only difference was that this skein was definitely fuzzier. It probably has to do with the fibers not being as aligned while spinning as well as those short fibers that would normally get combed out, were still present.

Now isn?t that an exotic name! I have no clue how to pronounce it.

This is truly an opportunity to see a sample of fleece from a breed not raised in the US. This breed is from West Wales.

The locks are white and open with a very broad waved crimp. It feels moderately soft to the hand. The sample only included a few locks and a sample of yarn spun by the exchanger. So I only had the opportunity to feel and admire the sample, not actually spin any.

I am sure this would be a great fleece to spin in the lock. It should spin into a tight yarn, that would be great for knitting and showing off cables and designs in the sweater. It is not the softest next to the skin yarn, but still very lovely.

North Ronaldsay (Orkney)

This breed of sheep live in the harsh seacostal areas of the islands off Great Britain and graze on seaweed! I can imagine their coats are great protection from the elements for them. What surprised me is that the fleece is still usable as a spinning fiber.

Two participants submitted fiber for this breed. The first was a raw fleece from a ram. I was surprised to read that it had been washed in what is called the cold water method. There was no lanolin feel to the fiber at all. There was still a bit of dirt in the fleece. The locks were short, so I did not try to comb them at all. I used my hand cards and opened the locks and carded them into nice batts. I spun these batts on my electric spinner. The resulting yarn had a lot of dark hairs running through it, which were not as obvious in the carded batts.

The second participant submitted a sample of top or pencil roving of the wool after processing. The information sent along with the sample, said they do dehair the fleece before processing, so there must be a double coat, that accounts for the dark hairs in the above skein. The difference between that raw fleece and the processed fiber was like night and day. This was very soft, springy fiber that was just lovely. There were two colors, a deep brown, and a white. There was only a little bit of the brown, so I kept that sample intact without spinning any of it. I spun the white sample on my electric. I could tell that it was made from a very short stapled fiber, I had to use the inch worm drafting, in order to keep the drafting zone intact. My sample skein had a single of 23 WPI but when I plied it, I could feel that very cottony texture that one experiences in short stapled wool. It felt very similar to the Southdown that I had sampled another time. Combining that hand, with the springiness of the fiber, and my 2 ply was a bouncy thick, barely 10 WPI sample.


This was another sample that only had a lock or two of the fleece and a sample of the spun yarn. It felt like a time saver, to be able to just stick these sheets into my notebook, but I do miss having the opportunity to play with the fiber myself. If someday I happen along some fiber, I can add the notes in this spot.

The fleece sample was a soft short stapled springy wool in a grey brown color. The sample sheet stated that the fiber is best when carded and I can agree based on the short length of the locks. The sample skein was a nice 2 ply in a tweedy gray color. It felt like it would be a bouncy yarn, and not good for any high pattern definition knitting. It reminded me a lot of CVM that I worked with earlier.

Northern Short tail family

The last sheet of the exchange was a collection of four different breeds all considered part of this family. They are raised in several different areas of Europe and have widely differing fleeces. The sample only included a lock attached to the sheet with a bit of information about each breed.

Gotland This sheep is raised primarily in Sweden. The long lock was soft feeling and had a wide evenly spaced crimp. It reminded me of our Border Leicester breed's fleece.

Heidschnucke This sheep is raised in Germany. The lock was a good twelve inches long. It was coarse, with no crimp or softness. There were obviously two different coats, dark black coarse hairs were intermixed with the yellow white second coat.

Romanov The sheep is raised in Russia. It is another obviously double coated sheep. But these locks were short and were a mix of brown and tan colors.

Spelsau This sheep is raised in Norway. It did not have the double coated appearance. The long lock had only a slight crimp. The tips were tightly closed and colored a dark gray. The lock opened up at the cut end, and lightened in color. The lock felt much softer, that it looked.

Looking at all these pictures from the links, and working with the wool, really adds to my amazement at how varied the sheep breed can be, adapting to many environments. Yet even with those adaptations, still providing fleece for us to use for warm clothes, meat and milk for our food, and playful lambs, to add to the joy of sunny spring days. I bet every shepherd, no matter what language they speak all laugh just as we do, at the bouncy lambs of springtime.


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