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Author Topic: Sheep for yarn  (Read 6153 times)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2017, 07:07:49 am »
Micron count is just one factor, and is not the be-all and end-all. 

When we had Deborah Robson (internationally recognised fleece expert, co-author of the seminal work The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, and previous editor of Interweave magazine) to give us workshops on our own local sheep, she made thre point that possum, the finest fibre of all at 5 microns, is so short it is hard to make yarn which isnít intensely itchy, because of all the ends of fibre sticking out!  And Iíve experienced blending cashmere (another fine but short fibre) into a mix to soften it, but finding the same - soft to stroke but itchy to wear.

Another eye-opener from our workshop with Deb.  I was in the North of England at the time, and we studied five of the six English Northern blackfaced hill and mountain sheep first, plus the Hebridean, then the Blue-faced Leicester, the North of England Mule (blackfaced hill ewe x BFL tup), the local commericlal sheep type (known as the Soft Fell, being a mix of Mule, Texel and a few other ingredients) and finally the Castlemilk Moorit.  (I must have forgotten two, Iím sure we studied 12 in all!)

The hill sheep we studied were Rough Fell, Lonk, Hexhamshire Blackface, Swaledale and Derbyshire Gritstone.  (I hadnít managed to source a Dalesbred Fleece.). All but the last are double-coated (as was the Heb) so you could separate the coarser, longer outer fibres from the shorter, very much softer inner layer.  Between us we tried pretty much all combinations - outer only, inner only, and mixed, and experimented with combing, carding, spinning from the lock, from the fold and from the combs, and spinning woollen, worsted and all points in between.  I was amazed at the softness of the woollen-spun inner coat of the Swaledale, but the biggest eye-opener for me was a sample of Hexhamshire Blackface, both layers together, softly woollen spun.  It was such a gorgeous soft-feeling yarn, I popped it in my bra for the ultimate prickle test.  Late in the afternoon I remembered Iíd put it in there and actually wondered if it had fallen out, because I simply wasnít aware of it at all.  (And I am a person who is a bit sentive to prickly wool.)

Why is lambswool generally softer?  Because one end of the fibre isnít cut, perhaps?  Being the first clip, the outer end is the tip of the fibre the sheep was born with.  All subsequent fleeces have two cut ends.  (Unless the sheep are roo-ed of course.).

In my own view, the sharpness of the cutting blades, and the skill of the shearer (which includes maintaining the cutting equipment during shearing) have a huge impact on the fibre.  A clean sharp cut will not prickle nearly so much (if at all) as a cut made with blunted blades, in a set of clippers in need of being cleaned of debris and lanolin.  In the extreme, the latter is less of a cut than a tear, and will leave a ragged end with a twistiness that makes it escape even the tightest of worsted spins and prickle the wearer, however fine the fibre to which it belongs.

And donít get me started on pilling, and the lamentable quality of some big brand British wools... ::)

So the upshot of all of that is to say that many, many factors affect the prickle factor.  If you embark upon this venture because you like sheep and will enjoy learning about what affects the yarn that is made, youíll have enormous fun and might end up with yarn that suits your need. (Though possibly not every year ;p). If you really need to be producing repeatable yarn that gives you the soft but strong yarn you need, I think you might struggle - not least because only one Mill in the UK can produce a truly combed preparation, and thatís John Arbon in Devon - and he only does runs in the tonnes.  (And the difference is evidenced by the fact that any spinner whoís used his tops goes back to him again and again and again... ;)).   

I think Iíd start by asking the Mills you might use for samples of yarns theyíve produced that they think might meet your need.  Then you can at least start from a position where all you need to get right is the fleece; you know the Mill can do the job with the right input.  And the Mills will be able to advise on sheep breed too, of course.

My bet is that, if you do get to the point of having sheep, theyíll be carefully-selected Wensleydale or Teeswater, or a cross of those with Blue-faced Leicester, or a Leicester Longwool.  (Iím actually daydreaming about crossing a Leicester Longwool with a Doulton Flock Border Leicester now... :yum:).

Karen of Griffiths Mill made a formal frock (for the RBST anniversary dinner) from Wensleydale, so Iíd start there, I think.  And itís always worth talking to the Natural Fibre Company; theyíve got enormous experience.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2017, 07:27:09 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

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2017, 10:09:22 am »
Ahhh...., thanks for the replies on "mulesing". I have not heard of it before, so have now learned my "fact of the day"!

clydesdaleclopper

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2017, 12:27:09 pm »
@SallyintNorth I have a Lincoln Longwool cross Gotland which is lovely. Unfortunately its a boy - my LL girl keeps having blooming boys!
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.

Blackbird

  • Joined Jul 2012
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2017, 10:43:15 am »
Ooh! Clydesdale Clopper - a Longwool Gotland cross sounds like my dream sheep! If I ever make any additions to my flock, I would go for a BFL and a Gotland.
Where are we going - and why am I in this handcart?

clydesdaleclopper

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2017, 12:42:00 pm »
@Blackbird you are welcome to buy him - he's going for meat otherwise.
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.

Blackbird

  • Joined Jul 2012
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #20 on: December 01, 2017, 01:52:45 pm »
Am tempted @clydesdaleclopper - though sadly you are too far away (we are in South Northamptonshire) and I don't currently have the space for another sheep :(
Where are we going - and why am I in this handcart?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2017, 08:35:53 am »
@Blackbird you are welcome to buy him - he's going for meat otherwise.

 :'(. Wish I was closer!
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

ChalkyBee

  • Joined Nov 2017
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2017, 10:18:38 pm »
I have the go-ahead from the landlady to have the sheep here, our next plan is to try and get use of the two meadows across the road! This is looking like it's an actual possibility! :)

ChalkyBee

  • Joined Nov 2017
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2018, 11:58:47 pm »
Hi all!

It's looking more likely we will get the field which means sheep! I've been thinking about breeds and perhaps for a starter flock Shetlands seem the way to go (The choice made easier by hearing there may be more land available for expansion of the flock down the line).

If anyone has any tips on choosing a good shetland for fleece, it would be greatly appreciated! :)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2018, 08:09:13 am »
If youíre not a handspinner yourself, it might be best to buy from a flock already producing a successful wool yarn?  (That you like ;) )

Or get recommendations from spinners of flocks whose fleeces are good.
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

Foobar

  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2018, 11:58:00 am »
As a slight aside, I recently bought a Hill Radnor shearling tup and his fleece is fantastic (never had a Radnor before), and there is lots of it!  Comparable to a Shetland I think in terms of micron, just lots more of it per sheep!

ChalkyBee

  • Joined Nov 2017
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2018, 09:53:11 pm »
We have the field! :D It is going to be levelled, weeded (to remove the abundant thistles) and re-seeded before we use it (sharing it with friend who requires it to be flatter). It looks like we wont be able to have sheep until August at the earliest which is okay as it gives me plenty of time to find the right ones. The field is also bigger than anticipated so possible to have more than 4 sheep, and the farmer has also offered me more grazing land if needed. Time to really get thinking about this.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep for yarn
« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2018, 11:31:39 am »
Whoop whoop!  :excited: 

Congratulations, very happy for you. And welcome to the slippery slope... ;)  :D
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

 

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