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Author Topic: Best British sheep breeds for felting??  (Read 897 times)


  • Joined Jan 2013
Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« on: November 06, 2019, 04:11:07 pm »
Hello  :wave: , please can someone recommend a good breed of sheep for felting? Ideally a traditional British breed?
Also, ideally with a fairly short staple (think that's the right term)? Thank you  :fc:


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2019, 08:51:28 pm »
Is this for sheep to keep then to felt their fleece or to buy in as fleece?

There are lots of breeds out there which will felt.  As an easy all round native with fleece which you can spin and felt (and sell) you won't go wrong with Shetland.  They come in lots of different colour schemes too, and white if you want that.

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  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2019, 09:04:15 pm »
The finer the fleece the better it is for felting (easier to felt if you don't it want to....). Most professional felters use Merino as it can be bought ready carded in all possible colours.

If you want native - Bowmont and Shetland will felt easily, as will Gotland (most often on the sheep unfortunately...), but Gotland is not native and comes in variety of tones of grey.
What kind of felting are you planning on doing?


  • Joined Jan 2013
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2019, 09:46:41 pm »
Thanks both.
I recently acquired some Gotland and Shetland sheep, they are lovely and can't wait to use their fleece next year. I wanted to do a bit of felting over the winter, so plan to buy some whole fleeces off eBay or similar. I saw some lovely looking Portland fleece, but I'm not sure how well it felts.... A neighbour of mine keeps Zwarbles and has offered me one of her fleeces, no idea if it'll felt or not!?


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2019, 10:32:06 pm »
^ There's only one way to find out, but I've heard from several sources that Zwartbles wool is especially good for felting. Just be aware that there is big variation within the breed. We tried for a couple of years to breed sheep with a thick "felty" fleece to cope better with our high altitude, but both tups we tried didn't pass on their fleece characteristics. As a result, most of our ewes now have a more open, softer fleece. So, whilst that's probably better for spinning, I don't expect it would be as good for felting as the thicker variants.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2019, 11:23:08 pm »
You don’t say if it’s wet felting or needlefelting you are wanting to do.  Some breeds are good for one but not the other.

Blue-faced Leicester (BFL) doesn’t needlefelt very well, I believe, but wet felts beautifully.  In my experience, it is the absolute prince of wet felting fleeces.  I did a workshop where I used BFL and everyone else used merino.  My item was solid in a very few minutes while everyone else worked up sweats, getting hot and bothered, for half an hour or more.  I almost felt like I was cheating!  :D

Ryeland needlefelts really well but is fairly resistant to wet felting.

Shetland wet felts well (although not as nearly effortlessly as BFL, in my experience) and is shorter staple than BFL, as you say you want a shorter staple. 

Breeds resistant to wet felting include Texel, Cheviot, many of the Downs breeds. 

I think all the Longwools will wet-felt fairly easily - Wensleydale, Teeswater, Leicester Longwool, Lincoln Longwool as well as BFL certainly do.  (You can of course cut the locks in half or even thirds if you want shorter staples.)

Manx is a short staple and will both wet felt and needlefelt. 

I’ve never tried to wet-felt Castlemilk Moorit and I’ve never had it felt on me (or on the sheep) - and I have handled it fairly roughly whilst washing and dyeing.

I haven’t specifically tried wet-felting Portland.  If I had to have a punt, based on its handling during washing and dyeing, I’d suspect it’s not the best for wet felting, but I haven’t specifically tried.

Zwartbles fleeces are indeed highly variable; I’ve had fleeces from different Zwartbles sheep that were so different to each other (in every respect except colour) that you’d have thought they were from different breeds.  Some would have wet-felted well, I think, and others were totally felting-resistant.  (As a milk and meat sheep I guess there’s no reason it should have a fleece standard.)

Your Gotland will certainly wet-felt, although of course like the Zwartbles it isn’t a British breed.

Hebridean fleeces are famous for felting on the sheep’s backs, so if you can get them off the sheep unfelted I imagine you could then wet-felt.  Some Hebs are double-fleeced, the shorter underlayer being finer and softer and much more prone to felting than the coarser, longer outer layer.  You can separate the two layers fairly easily as you prepare the locks for carding.

Despite what one would expect, some of the northern blackface fleeces will felt.  The coarsest of them all is the Rough Fell, and yet I managed to felt a Rough Fell fleece as I assumed that, being a coarse hill sheep’s fleece, it would not be prone to felting, and I handled it too roughly while washing it in the bath.  But most of these types have the double coat, like the Hebridean, to a greater or lesser degree, and the softer, shorter, finer underlayer usually wet felts extremely easily.

I’ve a friend who uses fleece from her own flock to make felt.  She makes shoes, purses, hats, brooches, and all sorts.  She has BFLs, Shetlands and crossbreeds.  Her absolute favourites for the fleeces for felting have some BFL and some Shetland in them, and she has a couple with a bit of Teeswater in there too.

Sorry, I’m a bit passionate about British sheep and their fleeces...  :innocent:
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Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Jan 2013
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2019, 08:56:35 am »
Wow! Thank you, very helpful!!
I've ordered a Shetland fleece and will give the Zwarble a go too  :excited:


  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Best British sheep breeds for felting??
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2019, 08:29:36 pm »
I have a needle felter who goes out of her way to get my Zwartbles fleeces.  I have not tried wet felting with it yet.


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