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FIBRE BREED ANALYSIS
by Jackie Gustafson

As a new spinner finding just the right fleece to practice on can be very confusing. To make this decision a little easier for other beginners, I have researched a variety of fibre producing breeds that are most recommended for us newbies. I will be adding to this list from time to time so please come back.
COLUMBIA
The Columbia breed was the first breed of sheep developed in the United States. This sheep is a cross between a Rambouillet ewe and a Lincoln ram. The purpose for pairing these two together was to have a hardy sheep that was able to survive in the rough western ranges. The Columbia is grand sheep with a heavy white fleece. Rams weigh around 250 pounds. Ewes weigh from 150-250 pounds. They have medium fine fleece that weighs between 9-18 pounds.

Fiber Education
The average staple length of a Columbia fleece is 3-5 inches long.

Preparation and Spinning Methods
I was told it is better to card this fleece on a drum carder rather then hand carding it. The reason not to hand card this type of fleece is because of the long staple length. It can be rather clumsy. I also heard that is it best to predraft this roving somewhat before spinning. The person I spoke to said it would be more suitable to send this fleece off to be processed.

Fleece Usage
I am advised that this fleece is a good all-purpose fleece. Soft to the touch and can be worn next to the skin. It has a good staple length and the fleece has a creamy white color.


COOPWORTH
Professor Ian Coop developed the breed Coopworth in the 1950's. This breed is the result of a Romney ram cross-bred with a Border Leicester ewe. The Coopworth sheep are an average sized sheep. Ewes average about 140-175 pounds and the rams range 175-250 pounds. Coopworth is a worthy wool supplier and a good meat animal.

Fiber Education
The Coopworth fleece averages between 11-12 pounds. The wool has a 5-6 inch fiber length. It has a high luster and little crimp. There is not a lot of flexibility in this fleece but it is hardwearing wool. The Coopworth takes dyes readily.

Spinning Methods
In a conversation with a woman I was told that the fleece she purchased was a little bit hard to draft. Due to the length of the fibers this sort of fleece is very pleasing in thicker wool.

Fleece Usage
This hardwearing wool is perfect to use for socks and outerwear. I am advised it is also excellent wool for use as warping threads for weaving. Singles make a strong warp.


CORRIEDALE
The Corriedale is the result of selected breeding using Lincoln and English Leicester rams on Merino ewes. This breed is the oldest of the crossbred wool breeds. It was developed in New Zealand and was first registered in 1868.

Fiber Education
This type of fleece has a bright luster. The average staple length is between 4-7 inches. By reason of its length, this fleece is excellent for beginners. Avoid fleece that is matted at the tips and excessive stickiness as this type of fleece will noil in carding which in turn will produce lumpy wool that will eventually pill.

Preparation Methods
Corriedale fleece cards well for woolen wool. If you have noils to remove, comb the fleece, which will guarantee smooth wool.

Spinning Methods
The wool from the Corriedale thickens when you wash it so be sure to spin finer wool than necessary but do not over spin, as you will lose the pliability for which this wool is recognized. The wool should be very light, soft, and airy no matter what thickness.

Fiber Usage
This wool is ideal for baby wear. You can also use it for anything that requires soft pliable wool. Another tip, this wool felts easily so launder with care and when you want to make a felt project try Corriedale.


ICELANDIC
Icelandic fleeces are among the most rare in the world, grown only in the high mountains of Iceland. The number of sheep in Iceland is decreasing every year, making this lovely fiber scarce. The Viking settlers brought the flocks to Iceland more than a thousand years ago from northern Europe. Spinning Icelandic fleece is like taking a trip back through ancient times. They are medium in size. Ram's weigh in at 198-220 pounds. Ewes weigh in at 132-160 pounds. Icelandic sheep have a dual coat. The outer coat is called the Tog. This layer of fiber is long, and strong. The inner layer is called the Thel. The inner coat is down-like and it is very soft and irregularly crimped.

Fiber Education
Icelandic sheep may have multicolored coats ranging from white through grays and browns to black. The average staple length of the Tog or outer coat is about 8 inches or longer while the inner coat or the Thel is about 2 inches in length. This fleece is not very crimpy but the Thel is fine, soft, and fuzzy while the Tog is hairs are long, coarse, and relatively straight.

Preparing and Spinning Methods
Some people have told me that carding this fleece is not advised due to the length of the Tog fibers. Some spinners did tell me that a drum carder would come in handy for this process. Commercial processing is recommended for beginners. Icelandic wool felts extremely well so be careful when washing it. Do not churn or agitate the fibers. Icelandic wool is lower in lanolin than other wool so it does not collect a lot of dirt or vegetable matter. The unspun pencil roving of the blended Tog and Thel is used to knit lightweight, durable, incredibly soft and warm sweaters, mittens, hat and other garments. The Tog fibers draft beautifully and spin into strong, hairy, scratchy cord. The Thel fibers respond more like angora and spins into soft, fuzzy, appealing wool.

Fiber Usage
This fiber is suitable for heirloom draperies, upholstery, saddle covers, and decorative cloths. Using the Thel fiber you can knit undergarments, shawls, baby clothing, and other items of soft warmth.


JACOB
The Jacob sheep is a very aged and unique British breed. This breed has distinctive characteristics that include a spotted fleece and a tendency to yield multiple horns. The ewes mature around 120 pounds or less and the rams are somewhat larger.

Fiber Education
The staple length of Jacob wool ranges from 3 to7 inches with an average of 4 inches. Many flocks are preferred for horn pattern rather than wool quality. Because of this the Jacob does not have quality wool.

Preparation and Spinning Methods
Some women told me that they card this fleece only once because they want to preserve the natural color pattern and avoid an entire blending to gray. Spinning this fleece is up to the individual. The fleece may be sorted into piles of white, black, and gray. At this time it can be carded separately or it can be carded together partially for a variegated effect. The finer fleece may be spun into finer yarn.

Fiber Usage
The coarser Jacob fleece is best used for only outerwear garments. The finer fleeces are practical for wearing apparel, and afghans.


LINCOLN
Lincolns are among the oldest sheep breeds. They are also the largest sheep and slow maturing. The rams are often used in crossbreeding.

Fiber Education
Lincoln's have fleece with a staple length ranging from 8 to 12 inches.

Spinning Methods
It is recommended to spin and ply very lightly to preserve the silky, mohair-like qualities of the fiber.

Fiber Usage
This type of wool is suited for rugs and outerwear. This wool can be inelastic and harsh to the touch so is not recommended to be worn next to the skin. It is lustrous and longwearing and it takes dye well. Someone did tell me she calls it her "indestructible yarn" for sock knitting.


MERINO
The Moors introduced this breed into Spain in the eighth century. Today this breed is grown mostly in New Zealand and Australia. A country sheep and farmed purely for its wool it's said this breed yields the finest wool of any breed.

Fiber Education
This is fleece is bright and white with staple length of 2 to 41/2 inches.

Preparation and Spinning Methods
One woman told me that she had some difficulty with washing this fleece and she would clearly suggest commercial treatment. A short forward draw for the worsted preparation of this fiber as this wool has a lot of stretchiness.

Fiber Usage
This is best used in fine knitting and crocheting such as hairpin lace, baby wear and shawls. This fleece is not appropriate for heavy knitwear. The constant washing would cause it to shrink and matting would occur. This wool is excellent for lace weavers.


RAMBOUILLET
The Rambouillet is the largest and the strongest of the fine wool breeds. Rams weigh up to 250 pounds and ewes are around 170 pounds. Rambouillet is used as a purebred or for cross breeding. They are generally found in the western part of the United States and in Texas.

Fiber Education
The staple length is from 3inches to 5 inches. This wool is not as lustrous as other wool's. This fiber is very elastic.

Spinning Methods
Several methods were used to spin this type of wool but what I heard was the method of choice is the short draw. The fleece spins to be a nice fine, even wool.

Fiber Usage
This fine, soft wool would be very nice for baby items, sweaters that you can wear next to the skin, and even nice soft socks. This fiber has the ability to be used in felted garments.


ROMNEY
The American Romney sheep has been developed from the original Romney Marsh breed of England. The ewes should weigh about 140 pounds and the rams average 175 pounds.

Fiber Education
The fleece of the Romney sheep is well crimped from butt to tip. A bright, healthy presentation of this fleece is Romney's trademark. This wool is the finest of the lustrous long wool breeds. The locks average around 4 inches to 5 inches long.

Preparation and Spinning Methods
Romney fleece can be carded both by hand or drum carder or combed as it has a long staple. This fleece is very "bouncy". It can be spun with the short draw but I have talked to people who use the long draw as well as spinning from the fold.

Fiber Usage
This is not a next to the skin wool. It does make very pleasing sweater that you can wear a shirt underneath or used for outerwear. Mittens and hats are a great choice for this type of fleece. I heard that felting is not as easy with this wool.


SHETLAND
This sheep is akin to the old Northern breeds and is quite small. The ewes weigh about 60 to 90 pounds. The ram weighs in about 135 pounds. They are very sociable and loving and come in a wide array of colors. In 1980 Tut Doane and his wife Linda brought in the first of these Shetlands to the United States.

Fiber Education
The fleece from the Shetland is soft and lofty.

Preparation Method
Shetland fleece is so fine that special care must be taken when washing it to elude felting. This type of fleece is full of vegetation and should get a good shake before washing. Wash the fleece in hot tap water with no agitation, and rinse it in the same temperature water. You can hand card it if you like to add the loft to the wool. It is best not to comb it because you can lose airy sponginess that the traditional Shetland wool manifest.

Spinning Method
Some spinners use the modified long draw. Shetland seems to naturally spin quite fine.

Fiber Usage
Shetland wool is very soft and spongy. It is commonly worn next to the skin. This fiber is so soft that it is appropriate for baby clothing, traditional Fair Isle sweaters, socks, gloves, shawls, and hats. This wool has excellent felting abilities.


ALPACA
An Alpaca is related to the camel and llama. The Alpaca is a very friendly and gentle animal. At one time you could only find them in Peru, now, you can find them in the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand, France, and Japan. They stand about 4.5 feet high including the head. They weigh from 100 to 175 pounds.

Fiber Education
Alpaca fleece comes in 22 different colors, which range from white to black. There are also all shades of gray, browns, fawns, and reds. Alpaca fleece is very soft, fine and has a silky feeling. This type of fiber is free of guard hair which makes wearing it comfortable and not itchy. This fiber is strong and very resilient after it is spun. Alpaca fleece contains no lanolin so you will not get that greasy feeling when spinning it. Alpaca fleece is often compared to cashmere but it is more durable and easy to care for.

Preparation and Spinning Methods
Because this fleece contains no lanolin, it will require little attention prior to spinning. It might be a little dusty since Alpacas like to take dust baths so you may want to wash it for cleaner spinning. You can comb this fleece into top or you can card it into sliver by hand or on a drum carder for spinning. Whatever you wish to do you can simply take a handful of locks, tease the locks out to loosen the fiber and spin it directly from the mass of silky fluff you have in your hand.

Fiber Usage
This fiber is so soft you can wear it next to your skin. Sweaters, mittens, scarves, hats and baby clothing can be made with this fiber. I am currently spinning this fleece. What a dream. Even as a beginner spinner I am really having fun spinning Alpaca fiber. I received a sample from a farm, which enabled me to try it first before buying a large quantity.

2001 Jackie Gustafson

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