One of the best parts of spinning wool is getting to experiment with all the different breeds. There are so many! These days it’s easy to get your hands on a wide variety of breeds, plus there are many great resources of information about them. I thought this fall would be a great time to introduce some new breeds into my line of hand-dyed combed top.
If you’ve been to my booth in the last year, you have seen the basket of little wool balls next to the counter. These 1 ounce balls are great for all sorts of projects, beginner spinners, and felters alike. Initially this was a Corriedale-cross, but I didn’t have much information to give when customers asked about it. This led me to switching to Cheviot, a wool with similar texture and quality.
Another breed that has been replaced (at least for now) is the Falkland wool. While it is a very popular fiber for spinners, but I thought it was time to try something new. I had the opportunity to purchase a bump of organic Polwarth, a breed similar to Falkland and one of its contributing founders. It is incredibly soft — a characteristic that is high on the priority list for many of you. Also, I added Targhee, the first domestically grown combed top I have had the chance to purchase. I find this wool to be incredibly spongy, so it will have great elasticity and bounce. Both will be available in September at A Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs, OH.
Interested in learning more about these new breeds? Read a bit about their history and distinguishing characteristics. The following information has been taken from the supplier’s website.
Cheviot Wool top is a beautiful natural white color. The micron count is between 27-33 and average staple length is approximately 4 to 5 inches. The wool top is open without being slippery making it an excellent wool for beginner spinners. Cheviot is a main British wool breed. They originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border of England and Scotland. They were referred to as the Border Cheviot and are the foundation stock for the Brecknock and the North Country Cheviots. This hardy breed can withstand harsh environments and are known for being great mothers.
Photo from North Country Cheviot Sheep Society
Targhee is a domestically grown wool that is processed in the United States. The Targhee breed was developed at the Experimental Sheep Station in Dubois, Idaho in the mid 1900’s. The foundation stock were ewes of Rambouillet, Corriedale, and Lincoln bloodlines bred back to Rambouillet rams. Approximately 23/23.5 microns.
Photo from Raisingsheep.net
100% Certified Organic Polwarth Wool comes from the Falkland Islands. The wool was selected from two family farms on the islands and measures an incredible 22 microns. The fleeces were processed in the UK. Sheep that are raised organically are not subject to mulesing, and they are not dipped for pesticides. In addition, the number of sheep allowed to graze in any give pasture area is limited to the natural carrying capacity of the land. And as with most wool that comes from the Falklands, it is very white. Noted for its elasticity, durability it is still considered a delicate fiber with bounce and drape.
The Polwarth sheep was developed in Australia by breeding Merino rams to Lincoln/Merino ewes so the foundation stock is 75% Merino/25% Lincoln. The Polwarth sheep were developed to make a dual purpose sheep with a finer wool that would contribute a more significant portion of the ranchers income. They are a hearty breed of sheep that can be found in climates that are considered too wet or cold for Merino sheep. The Polwarth breed has both polled and horned sheep. The most common is the polled. They are a large sheep with a high yielding fleece (between 8 – 13 lb fleeces).
Photo from New Zealand Sheepbreeders’ Association