Agri Vehicles Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Sheep for yarn  (Read 6152 times)

ChalkyBee

  • Joined Nov 2017
Sheep for yarn
« on: November 27, 2017, 09:27:14 pm »
Hi everyone,

I'm new to this site and have found it whilst investigating sheep breeds for yarn. I produce cloth on a jacquard loom and am considering getting a small flock of sheep purely for yarn (and also for grazing the meadow). I have experience with grey-faced dartmoor only, and have been advised that for fine yarn I should be looking for either Bowmont, Blue-faced Leicester or shetland.

I've read a bunch of articles but I would be really interested in hearing from some people in the know which breeds you'd recommend for a small flock, likely around 6, for yarn production. How feasible is it too? Does anyone do this? My longer term aims would be to also hand-weave items too and perhaps expand the flock if all goes well.

I'm based in Norfolk and the sheep would be kept in a field adjacent to my home and basic shelter possible.

Any advice greatly received.  :sheep: :sheep: :sheep:

Bionic

  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Talley, Carmarthenshire
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2017, 10:16:34 am »
I have Ryelands, 3 coloured and 3 white. I love my girls and use their fleece for spinning and weaving. Having said that I am not the best spinner so don't do fine yarn.
Something with a longer staple length would probably be better for you.


One big factor, no matter which breed you have, is how you look after the sheep. Mine are outside all of the time and I get lots of veg matter in the fleece which is a real pain to remove. Some that keep sheep for their fleece keep them inside during the winter and/or put coats on them to keep the fleece clean.
Life is like a bowl of cherries, mostly yummy but some dodgy bits

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2017, 12:25:22 pm »
What a lovely reason to get your flock  :hugsheep:   :spin: 


I used to keep a small fleece flock of wethers for a number of years, purely for their special fleece.  They do get a bit fat, but they don't mind if you don't.
Breedwise, unless all your weaving will be uniform, why not have a few from different breeds?  This would widen your choice.  I haven't done enough weaving yet with enough different breeds to advise on that, but I'm currently experimenting with blending silk with Hebridean and Shetland fleece, with lovely results.  This might add strength to your weaving, softness and drape.  Depends on what you are producing of course.


Once others have come up with some suggestions, why not buy fleeces of possibles to try them out, before plumping for actual animals?
My fleece flock was for spinning and knitting, but I'll tell you the breeds.  There was a pure Jacob, Fred, chosen for his lovely fleece from among the flock we had back then.  There was a white Shetland, (Cuthbert) ditto, but many Shetlands have lovely fleece, whereas it's more difficult to find a suitable Jacob.  We had a Polwarth/Dorset/Ryeland ewe (called Spinning Jenny) with the most wonderful fine, crimpy, white fleece, who we crossed with a Shetland and a Jacob.  The male lambs were castrated to join the fleece flock - the Jacob X (Muffin) was mostly dark brown but with white splashes, and the Shetland cross (Jumbo) was white with a fleece so huge and fine I sold it in two halves. Their female twins (Maddy and Mumbo)  were kept for breeding to produce more interesting crosses.  We had a Gotland ewe we put to Shetland tups, one white, one coloured, and her offspring were either coloured or white. We kept Garbo as a wether and Greta for breeding, and a white male whose name I have forgotten  :o .  All that is to suggest that you don't need to keep all one breed of fleece sheep.
The fleece from wethers tends to be a bit better than that of ewes which are lambing each year, but the plus side of keeping interesting ewes is that you can play around with producing brilliant crosses.


Different breeds will do better in different localities.  For example Gotha the Gotland ewe, never produced a useable fleece because hers always cotted before we could get her shorn, although her cross lambs had no problems.  Gotland fleece though would be wonderful for weaving.


If you know nothing about keeping sheep, then learn that first, with a small flock.  I would suggest you learn to hand shear, as relying on a shearer has problems.  They tend to machine shear (which is usually to clear the sheep, rather than to preserve the fleece at its best), and they come when they can fit you in, not when the sheep are ready, and for quality fleece you need to harvest it at just the right time.


Of the three breeds you mention, Bowmont is the finest, but perhaps not ideal for warp, and most difficult to source, BFL is variable but soft and a bit higher micron count than Bowmont, and Shetland is extremely variable - best to choose stock from a breeder who breeds for quality fleece.  First shear fleece tends to be finer and 'nicer' than older sheep, but with very old sheep the fineness and softness can improve.


Just some thoughts.



« Last Edit: November 29, 2017, 12:29:47 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2017, 12:42:24 pm »

One of your problems will be to get someone to shear a small number of sheep, and shear them to produce a nice fleece for working with (as opposed to just get it off and stuff into the bag for the Wool marketing Board).


Depending on quantities of yearn you need for projects, I would also go for a mix of breeds, and ideally wethers. You can then do one every so often for the freezer as well and replace with something else intersting, but it means that you don't need to breed, keep a tup (who would need a different field for most of the year) etc etc


I have had Bowmont sheep and tbh, the were a pain in the proverbial - foot problems, their fleeces dry very slowly and are really good at accumulating bits and pieces - grass seeds, dead insects and all sorts else.... Bowmonts need an experienced shearer, due to their Merino characteristics - skin folds in their necks, and experienced keepers - they were really good at losing their lambs in the field and then just standing there and bleating until human went into field and re-united them...


But Shetlands are a good choice - easily handled, relatively cheap and widely available, as well as different colours and nice fleece. I only spin mine for handknitting and use as weft on the loom, not sure hand-spun would be strong enough for warp (at least not my handspun...).


Gotlands and in particular their crosses with Shetlands are nice sheep, but the fleece needs careful handling, and ideally Gotlands need twice a year clipping otherwise fleece only good for a dog bed....

Louise Gaunt

  • Joined May 2011
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2017, 01:33:53 pm »
I don't keep sheep, but have used my hand spun for weaving. Some Jacob/mohair blend I bought at a wool fair made lovely warp for a length if fabric I made into cushion covers. i used some hand spun Zwarbles for the weft, and it gave me quite a thick but really useful fabric. Are you planning to spin your wool yourself or send it off for processing?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2017, 02:31:30 pm »
Oh what a lovely topic! 

I keep a fleece flock for spinning, knitting, weaving and other crafts too.  Like Fleecewife, I enjoy having a variety of types, and crossing my sheep to get the characteristics I want.

If I could only have one type, it would be one of:

  • Shetland x Blue-faced Leicester
  • Exmoorino (Exmoor Horn x Bowmont/Merino)
  • Romney

I weave on a table loom but don’t know anything about jacquard; what type of yarn, what thickness and twist, what you’re looking for in terms of finishing...  If you want a cloth that fulls well, a bit of Shetland would be helpful, but depending on warp tension and how much abrasion you get while weaving, it may not be strong enough on its own.  If you need a good strong warp, then a longwool would be good.  If you want lustre, then BFL or Wensleydale or Teeswater, or blend silk into the yarn.  If you want to be able to raise a nap, Wensleydale or Gotland... And so on!

In terms of producing yarns, if you’re not looking to handspin, then having 6 largeish sheep all the same would give you a choice of processors including Natural Fibre Company (min batch size 10kgs I think.). If you have 6 sheep all different then you’re looking at the likes of Griffiths Mill or Halifax Spinning Mill, who will do one-sheep runs.

You’ll probably want worsted spun, so check with your chosen Mill they can do that.  You’ll get a stronger, more stable yarn from a combed preparation, which not all mills will be able to do.  But if you want it a bit fluffy, for fulling or raising a nap, then worsted spun from a carded prep or roving would probably be fine.

Do let us know how this proceeds, please - I’ll be very interested in what you find out and what you decide to do.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

clydesdaleclopper

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2017, 02:32:02 pm »
I keep a flock of Gotland x Shetlands. The Shetland in them makes them a bit hardier and improves the feet and gives a wider range of colours. They have great fleeces which are always popular with spinners. Gotlands are very friendly and are polled which I prefer.
Our holding has Anglo Nubian and British Toggenburg goats, Gotland sheep, Franconian Geese, Blue Swedish ducks, a whole load of mongrel hens and two semi-feral children.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2017, 04:20:26 pm »
Sally :wave:  said:   "......Natural Fibre Company (min batch size 10kgs I think.)"

I think it's 20kgs or even 25 now for yarn - 10kgs is for carding only, which I've had done with first shear Heb and it's great for volume spinning.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2017, 04:54:25 pm »
I think it's 20kgs or even 25 now for yarn - 10kgs is for carding only, which I've had done with first shear Heb and it's great for volume spinning.

Yup, website says min 20kgs for everything now.  To get 20kgs good fleece off 6 sheep, you need to be talking a big sheep with a big fleece.  Romney, Wensleydale, for instance.  Leicester Longwool if you want something a bit softer.  Exmoorino would just about do it, if you can keep them clean and don’t need to skirt too hard.  Or you can store fleeces for a year and send two years’ worth in together.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Blackbird

  • Joined Jul 2012
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2017, 05:46:40 pm »
Ooh - lovely topic  :wave:
I have a flock of 7 sheep for their fleece and for my own interest - a Greyface Dartmoor wether, a Hebridean x Leicester Longwool wether, 4 Shetland ewes and my newest addition, a Shetland x Leicester Longwool ewe - the latter producing the most marvellous fleece, soft, lustrous and crimpy with beautiful colours.
I spin, not weave (though weaving is on my to do list for next year).
I don't breed from the ewes and they produce a nice soft fleece with a good staple each year, BUT they are definitely getting lighter in colour each year.
Do let us know how you get on and what you choose!
Where are we going - and why am I in this handcart?

ChalkyBee

  • Joined Nov 2017
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2017, 09:38:24 pm »
 :sheep: Wow! Thank you for all the replies, some really useful information there and things I hadn't thought of.

In terms of weaving requirements, I will be using a cotton warp, so the wool will be for weft only, and blending with other fibres is certainly an option. The final products are woven baby wraps, so the cloth needs to be strong, but also soft to the skin - although it is accepted that there are some people who just 'can't do wool' because of the itch no matter how fine. Merino seems to be the chosen wool in other companies' products, or lambswool. However, I would like to try and use fibres from happy animals and whilst I understand the why it is done, mulesing doesn't quite sit right with me.

I would love to have a mixed flock but didn't think that was really possible, although the grey faced dartmoor i have cared for are happy enough to spend some of the year with a flock of Hebrideans. And it never even occurred to me that you could keep male sheep for fleece either.

They would be kept outside most of the time, but being so close to home they could be a bit more pampered, but I wonder if this is enough. I also know a very friendly shearer who deals with the dartmoor who lives in Kent so it would be a case of tempting him to make the journey.

I love that there are other people keeping sheep for weaving! Makes me feel a lot less barmy! :D

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2017, 10:26:47 pm »

What do you mean with the term "mulesing"? Is that crossing two (pure) breeds to create a "mule" (as I would understand it) and if yes, why is that a problem?


This is the second time within a week that I have come across this term and having read on another blog that a certain company will not use fleeces from "mulesed" sheep/flocks, but I cannot quite think of what the reason behind may be other than a wish to use only traditional breeds.


I am just curious...

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2017, 11:46:23 pm »

What do you mean with the term "mulesing"? Is that crossing two (pure) breeds to create a "mule" (as I would understand it) and if yes, why is that a problem?


This is the second time within a week that I have come across this term and having read on another blog that a certain company will not use fleeces from "mulesed" sheep/flocks, but I cannot quite think of what the reason behind may be other than a wish to use only traditional breeds.


I am just curious...


No, mulesing of merinos in Oz is something totally different.  Look it up, but as I understand it, it means removing the great rolls of loose skin this breed and its crosses have.  Sounds pretty painful, but I believe it is done to prevent fly strike.  Someone else will know the details.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2017, 12:00:41 am »
ChalkyBee, for the fineness of fleece you need to know the micron count.  I think a micron count in the low teens doesn't itch, but anything much coarser will do so, especially for babies.  The way to test for a rough micron count is to feel the fleece with a flat hand, eyes closed.  Basically, if you can feel it with the centre of your hand then it's pretty coarse; if you can't even feel it with your finger tips then its fine enough for a baby.  Some Shetland sheep have such fine fleeces that the shoulder wool is within the no-feel category - Shetland breeders who breed for fleece quality will have their flock micron tested, so you can source from these flocks to be sure your purchases have fine fleece.  No-itch depends on the micron count of the coarsest fibres in the staple, not the finest - just one coarse fibre can ruin a skin-soft garment.


Have you thought of keeping alpacas (again , fine fleeced animals)?  Or rabbits, or Angora goats, which produce mohair?
You mention Kent - you might get away with dry-climate sheep such as Bowmont, Polwarth etc there, but here in our wet bit of Scotland, the fine sheep grow pink or green algae on their fleece  :o :o , fleece along the back and rump becomes weathered and fragile, and the whole fleece can be really quite muddy.  We would never keep sheep coated or indoors, but each person has to make their choice
« Last Edit: November 30, 2017, 12:03:55 am by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2017, 06:15:41 am »

What do you mean with the term "mulesing"? Is that crossing two (pure) breeds to create a "mule" (as I would understand it) and if yes, why is that a problem?


This is the second time within a week that I have come across this term and having read on another blog that a certain company will not use fleeces from "mulesed" sheep/flocks, but I cannot quite think of what the reason behind may be other than a wish to use only traditional breeds.


I am just curious...


No, mulesing of merinos in Oz is something totally different.  Look it up, but as I understand it, it means removing the great rolls of loose skin this breed and its crosses have.  Sounds pretty painful, but I believe it is done to prevent fly strike.  Someone else will know the details.

As I understand it, mulesing is the process of stripping off the folds of skin around the britches on Merino sheep, in order to reduce the risk of flystrike in these very woolly sheep.  We are led to believe that it is done without anaesthetic, using something akin to electric clippers, and renders the treated sheep a bloody mess.

I say “led to believe” because I have no first hand experience of how this is done, and am aware of many exaggeratedly bloody videos and descriptions of other livestock practices which give a falsely cruel impression.  So I’d be prepared to believe that the actual process of mulesing is less barbaric than it appears.  However, mulesing is widely talked about in woolly communities and I’ve never heard or seen a refutation of the description.  But then again, I’m here on the tiny isle of GB, with a tiny flock of sheep who have names, and some of them come when they’re called too, literally a world away from Oz where most Merino wool is produced in flocks numbering thousands if not tens of thousands.  So perhaps the great Oz wool marketing hasn’t felt the need to disabuse me.

You can get non-mulesed wool, and I understand that most Merino-producing countries with the exception of Australia are moving away from mulesing.  Using breeding to reduce the prevalence of excessive skin folds, and husbandry that minimises the risk of flystrike - keeping sheep in open windy sites, for instance. 
« Last Edit: November 30, 2017, 06:17:51 am by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

 

Turning fleece into yarn

Started by mijbil (7.9)

Replies: 10
Views: 4775
Last post June 05, 2014, 05:56:22 pm
by kanisha
No-kill flocks for fleece, fibre and yarn etc

Started by SallyintNorth (7.73)

Replies: 25
Views: 5993
Last post August 24, 2016, 12:15:12 pm
by kanisha

Forum sponsors

FibreHut Energy Helpline Thomson & Morgan Time for Paws Scottish Smallholder & Grower Festival Ark Farm Livestock Movement Service

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2021. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS