Sheep Breed Study Closeups

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  • Sheep Breed Studies - October 2014 Breed Box from Namaste Farms

    UK Breeds: Jacob, Whitefaced Woodland, Romney, New Forest Boreray, and Hebridean

    My continuing exploration of sheep's wool from various breeds around the world following along with the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. I've been purchasing Breed Boxes from Namaste Farms and enjoy listening to Natalie's informative discussions of the featured breeds with Martin Dally on Namaste Farm's BlogTalkRadio cast.  

    You can read my other sheep breed closeups here.

    Jacob (UK)

    This is a long staple fleece (about 7 inches) with no crimp and is more coarse and straight from what I'm used to seeing (North American). The sample had distinct dark brown and white without any light gray (lilac) color. It's not the softest handle but would probably be OK for outerwear.

    Whitefaced Woodland 

    To be honest, I was not a fan of this sample at all. It seems like mostly kemp and feels like mattress stuffing. It could just be this particular sample, but it was one of my least favorite of many breeds I've looked at.

    The Whitefaced Woodland is a large breed of heavy horned British hill sheep. It also known as the Penistone sheep after the Yorkshire town where it dates back to 1699. It is listed as a vulnerable breed. 

    Romney (US)

    In the podcast, Martin said that this doesn't look like a UK Romney fleece at all. It is in fact from the US. They have a very dense fleece with a broad crimp and squared off tips on broad flat locks. I've spun a lot of Romney from local Virginia farms and I would say that this is very comparable to those fleeces. They are classified as a longwool although they don't grow as long as others like Lincolns or Teesawaters for example. I really liked this sample. It's very clean and has a nice lustre. Martin said that in the showring it may not be as good because it doesn't have as even a crimp and lock formation and blocky tip that you would like to see with this breed.

    New Forest Boreray 

    This sample was very interesting. it's very soft and fine with a few inch staple and wavy crimp with long tips similar to a Shetland in handle. It does not have any coarse hair like some primitive breeds. There are some small bits of white kemp but nothing too bad. Martin thought it was a lamb fleece because it is very soft with fine tips. It is a tender fleece though, so when you tug on the ends, it will break apart. Natalie said it could be because they were rooing though when it was sheared. I noticed that the cut end is where the breaks occur, so I agree that it would naturally break there and the tips are actually stronger.

    From Wikipedia:

    "The Boreray is a breed of sheep originating on the St Kilda archipelago off the west coast of Scotland and surviving as a feral animal on one of the islands, Boreray. It is primarily a meat breed. Also known as the Boreray Blackface or Hebridean Blackface, it is the one of the rarest breeds of sheep in the United Kingdom, and is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group of breeds. It is the only sheep breed to be listed in "Category 1: Critical" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, because fewer than 300 registered breeding female Borerays are known to exist. The Boreray should not be confused with the Soay sheep, also from the St Kilda archipelago, nor with the Hebridean sheep, which was formerly called the "St Kilda", although it is probably not in fact derived from the St Kilda sheep."

    From The Smallholder Series website: 

    "The Boreray is a primitive breed. They stand approximately 55cm at the withers. The tail is short. Both sexes are horned and the horns of the ram are large and spiral. The face and legs are black, tan or grey, often with dark marks on a white background. The wool is predominantly cream or light tan with a small proportion of sheep having grey or dark brown wool. There is sometimes a dark rump patch and a dark colour, particularly in rams. Average mature ewe weighs 30kg. Boreray Sheep are the descendants of the domestic sheep which were kept by the St. Kildans. When the inhabitants evacuated Hirta, (the main island of St. Kilda), in 1930, all their domestic stock was evacuated with them. Any stock left on the island was killed. But a replacement flock of domestic sheep had been kept on the island of Boreray. These sheep were left there after the evacuation and have lived feral on the island since 1930. In recent years a small group was taken off the island and the descendants of that small group are now registered with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. "

    Hebridean

    I really love this sample. It's much nicer and softer than the one in the September 2013 Breed Box. This is another one that the cut ends will break off about 1/2 inch from the end and I believe was rooing. I really like the lock formation with it's long waves that come to a pointy tip. The sample is a bit felted but would make a great tailspun yarn boa. So as far as spinning, this would be tough to spin in a traditional fashion, but I would keep it's lovely primitive character and keep the fleece intact. If I had a larger sample, I would felt it into a rug.

    From: The Smallholder Series website: 

    "A small, fine boned sheep with black wool and two or more horns, belonging to the North European short-tailed group. Usually a dark brown colour, the Hebridean is horned in both sexes, some rams having 4 horns. From the Western Isles, the Hebridean became popular as a parkland sheep in England in the 19th century."

  • Sheep Breed Studies - January 2015

    Sheep Breed Studies - a few Norwegian / rare and primitive breeds

    I purchased some amazing fleece samples from The Spinning Loft. I wanted to try some breeds I haven't spun before. I bought a bunch but only washed half of them. Here are the breeds for this month that I sampled:

    • Grå Trøndersau (2 fleeces)
    • Norsk Pelssau
    • Ryeland 
    • and a black Shetland double coated fleece 

    All images © Elysa Darling | 222 Handspun

    Gra Trondersau A

    Gra Trondersau wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    Gra Trondersau wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    From Wikipedia: "The Norwegian Grey Troender (NorwegianGrå trøndersau) is a very rare breed of domesticated sheep that originated from crossbreeding native landrace sheep with the now extinct Tautra sheep in the late 19th century. There are currently approximately 50 individual animals, nearly all residing within Norway.[1]The Tautra breed may have had Merino blood which could explain the softness and crimp. (I think they look like Merinos from the old photos).

    The description of this fleece was: "A rare Norwegian breed from Trondheim, Gra Trondersau is soft, silky, crimpy and lofty.  A dense fleece with  great locks.  Some weathered tips, and some minor VM with evidence of the rise typical of more primitive breeds. Very nice crimp. A very pretty fleece."

    It really is lovely. It's softer than I expected and reminds me of a Shetland.

    Gra Trondersau B

    Gra Trondersau wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    This is the second Gra Trondersau fleece. It feels a bit more primitive - not quite as soft, but the color is very nice. 

    Norsk Pelssau

    NorskPelssau wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    NorskPelssau wool fleece - © 222 Handspun(Norwegian Pelt Sheep) A Norwegian landrace breed originated from Gotland (Sweden) and Old Norwegian breeds (a "grey-bluevariation of short-tailed Spelsau sheep in the early 1960s"). This is the description for this fleece: "Typical blue color with very lovely locks. Soft, silky & shiny. Clean and VM free. Crazy wavy crimp, but a bit shorter than the other Norsk Pelssau. This is a fine fiber! Average staple length 4.5″.

    So I think this fleece description is understated. The color is an absolutley stunning silver. It has a beautiful curly lock structure and the lustre of a Cotswold when washed. I am in love with this one.

    Ryeland 

    Ryeland wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    Ryeland wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    From Wikipedia: "The Ryeland is one of the oldest English sheep breeds going back seven centuries when the monks of Leominster in Herefordshire bred sheep and grazed them on the rye pastures, giving them their name. It was introduced into Australia in 1919 and are classified as an endangered breed by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia and also are one of the nine heritage breeds[1] that were the foundation of the sheep and wool industry in Australia. The Ryeland was one of the breeds used to introduce the poll gene (no horns) to the Dorset breed in the development of the Poll Dorset.[2] "

    Here is the fleece description: “Blackie”  Very pretty charcoal with nice staples and low VM.  Some weathering.  Scours true to color. Average staple 3″.

    This is a very interesting fleece. It is very dense with a fine crimp that reminds me of a sponge. The tips are cotted a bit but I love the blunt shape of the locks. They are almost perfect rectangles. A very cool fleece.

    Shetland 

    Shetland wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    Shetland wool fleece - © 222 Handspun

    Most of the Shetland fleeces I have spun are not double coated so I chose this for that reason and also the very beautiful black color. It has long typical primitive staples that I think would make a cool rug.

    Here is the description: "Low VM, nearest to true black on a shetland I’ve seen. really nice dual coat with very pretty locks.  I love this fleece. Average staple 6″"

    You can read more of my sheep breed studies closeups here.