Courtesy of the SpinOff Fiber Resources 2009 list (downloaded from the Free Stuff), I found Painter Hill Farm (http://painterhill.com), here realtively local to me in Pennsylvania ... you can actually order your fleece online at $8/lb and since it's not so far, shipping costs are reasonable. But the SpinOff list wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped - there seemed to be a lot of Alpaca listings, and I have nothing against Alpaca, but they seemed to be crowding out the sheep!
I have a mental list of fleece that I would love to get ahold of... I'll list the breeds below. I was wondering if you have a source for raw fleece from any of these breeds if you would be willing to pass them on?
Wensleydale Lamb Fleece - The Wensleydales are (as I understand it) the finest of the longwool breeds ... they also lack "kemp" (coarse, ruff hair fibers), and the wool is supposed to have very nice luster. Colors are black, dark grey, and sometimes a blue-grey. The appeal to me is that I think the lamb fleece of a Wensleydale would be soft enough for a sweater, the only longwool breed that would work well for that.
Montadale - These are one of the often overlooked "down" breeds whose wool is naturally resistant to felting (a sort of natural "superwool"). Particularly, Montadale's are more often considered meat breeds (being a vegetarian, I squint my eyes as I say that, and battle internal conflicts with using fleece from sheep who will become somebody's meal, but that's a different topic). By the numbers (micron count, staple length), Montadale fleece seem to compare very well with Corriedale, with a higher yield. Although down breeds have little luster, they do make very lofty, elastic, springy yarns.
Dorset - Dorsets are another down breed, still a medium wool but a bit more coarse than a Montadale. The appeal of the Dorset is that it is very very white, with no kemp or black or grey fibers. Like the Montadale, it is very lofty, elastic, and springy.
Polwarth - Just looking at the numbers for this breed, it almost seems like the ideal handpinning fleece. With 23 - 25 microns, it should still be next-to-skin soft, but with a staple length of 5 - 7 inches! It's supposed to have soft handling and good crimp... it sounds just great.
Targhee - Targhee has some of the same appeal as Polwarth for me ... fineness in about the same micron range, and 3 - 5 inch staple length. So, for both, I'm looking for Merino-like softness without the fuss.
Southdown - One type of Southdown is the miniature "babydoll" ... it's very soft with microns of 19-20 ... as soft as cashmere!, but also short stapled (2-3 inches). It is supposed to blend very well with smoother fibers like angora or mohair because it has many "barbs" ... it would likely felt extremely easily.
Navajo-Churro lamb fleect - This sheep is dual coated, with the undercoat being extremely soft, and the outer coat coarse and hairy. A lamb fleece, though, should have a outer coat that isn't too coars and would give strength to the yarn while I'm thinking the inner coat would give it softness. Also, the fleece come in some nice colors.
Perendale - This fleece is supposed to be exceptionally springy and makes an excellent woolen yarn, light yet bulky. The wool isn't very fine - it's a the coarser side of the micron range for a medium wool sheep, and it's low luster. One online source says that if you try to spin it worsted that you end up with a yarn with "all the worsted strength and wearability, but with reduced weight and added warmth" ... that sounds interesting to me.
Some Others - Finnsheep, Cormo, Columbia, Hampshire, Suffolk, Tunis, Clun Forest Shropshire, Romeldale
Are there sheep breeds you haven't spun that you find interesting and want to try? Do you have mail-order sources for any of these as raw fleece you would share? I'd love to hear :).
apob, here are some of my favorite wool sources:
You can visit:
www.sweetgrasswool.com has Targhee
www.lincolnlongwools.com has Lincoln, Targhee and Crosses
Fiber Frontier: Lisa Wilson, Great Falls, MT 59404
Ranch Lillian LeVeque, Cascade, MT 59421
and natural colored Icelandic roving
colored Icelandic yarn
& washed Icelandic fleeces
Big Sky Fiber Farm, Jan Johnson, Ulm, MT 59485
roving, yarn available
One resource I forgot to mention that I had found online for raw fleece (but haven't purchased from yet), is http://www.localharvest.org/store/wool.jsp?q=fleeces
If you check with Spin List on Yahoo!, you'll find some good sources. They rate ebay and other sources for quality and reliability.
One place I've used is FleeceforSale with Yahoo!. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FleeceforSale/ It's a list of fleece, #, $, and location. I'm picky. I've had pretty good success.
This is so funny, I am almost embrassed to reply. I have over fifty head of sheep that started out as a spinner's flock. I got a few registered Shetlands and then I would go to shows and purchase other breed fleeces that I didn't have...so my fiber stash began to grow and after spinning some of the different breeds that I liked, I would start finding breeders to buy that breeding stock. Soon I had Corriedale, Oxford, Shetland, Polypay, and Border Liecesters. A couple of years ago I went to Rosebud, Mo and purchased a white ram, White Knight, from Fibermaid Fibers. He is a beautiful Border Liecester and I love to spin his fleece. I have used him to cross breed several ewes and I will have about 20 first shearing fleeces from his off spring from last Spring. I have sold several fleeces on Ebay and I always skirt my fleeces heavily and go over them with a fine tooth comb, I sure don't want bad feed back. I imagine most sellers are like myself. I have not found a fleece yet that I don't enjoy spinning, weaving or knitting.....and that is what my husband worries about.
My plans are to some day have it set up to have fiber fans to come to pick out their fleece while on the sheep (all my sheep are pets and have a name) and then help skirt it after the sheep is sheared and take it home on shearing day.
Wensleydale is my favorite of the longwools but I would consider Blue Faced Leicester the finest of the Longwools. As far as Wensleydale being the only longwool appropriate for a sweater, I would have to disagree. I have a cardigan from Leicester Longwool that I love and make shwls all the time from most other longwool types. I think the coarsest Longwool is Lincoln but have had lamb fleeces which still would work for garments...maybe not next to skin but surely as outerwear.
I have a Montadale fleece right now that I would sleep with. it is beautiful and soft. I do think the down breeds are often overlooked as soft, longlasting and wonderfully springy wools.
I also love Perendale because of its length and crimp.
I have all of the breeds you have listed available at my shop. you can buy them in quantities as small as 4 ounces. We also have a fiber sampler with 18 breeds as well as descriptions if you are interested in doing a breeds study at home without having to buy full fleeces.
Thanks, Beth! I've never worked with Blue-faced Leicester, but when I was doing my internet "armchair" compairson of breeds I guess I was thinking of it more as a medium wool breed. I see references to BFL with staple lengths of 3" - 6" with averages of 4" - 5". My understanding is that "medium wool" is normally 3" - 5", so would that put BFL more at the upper end of the medium wool breeds? Or is it considered the lower end of the longwools? Other breeds normally considered medium wools like Corriedale (3.5" - 6") and Targhee (3" - 5") would seem to have similar staple lengths to BFL.
Wensleydale has a 8" - 12" staple, so I guess there's no ambiguity as to what category it belongs in - it's very long. I was looking at micron counts for Wensleydale fleeces and seeing 33 - 35. The "itch point" for next-to-skin wear is supposed to be 28 microns ... above that, most people will think a garment is itchy. BFL's micron count is 24-28, so you're right, definitely BFL would make the less itchy sweater.
I see other breeds where the low end of the micron range is lower than Wensleydale (Coopworth or Border Leicester, for example), but Wensleydale's high end of that range looks to be lower than all other longwools? And it looks to be pretty consistent, with micron range of 33-34 (wherease Border Leicester is 30-38, for example) - so it looked like a good candidate for the average softest of the longwools. That's why I was wondering if a Wensleydale lamb's fleece might get below the 28 micron next to skin itch point.
Blue Faced Leicester is and off shoot of the Leicester breeds which puts it in the Longwools category for me. The categories usually have to do with the breed's history and what breeds are its ancestors and also what the crimp is similar to. BFL has a somewhat curly look as do most of the other longwools. Fine wools have a more up and down wave and the Down Breeds are more spiral in their crimp. Now some breeds get put in one category or another just because their wool resembles others in the category.
As far as the itch factor...I've had Alpaca that was fine but felt itchy and so I'm not sure you can completely rely on the micron count...though it is a good place to start. Also, I rarely wear a sweater without something under it and so the more medium micron breeds are fine as long as I have a tshirt on.
I do have some Wensleydale lamb that I would sleep in...but maybe not for a thong, huh?
Thanks for the explaination on the sheep breed categories, Beth! If you have a chance, maybe you could chime in on my post about what to do with the Navajo-Churro fleece I'm working with right now (see my other post). I would value your feedback.
I guess I should stop work on that pair of Wensleydale long-johns? :)
Have you considered Jacob sheep? As a handspinner wanting to raise my own sheep, I investigated lots of sheep breeds by going to fairs and sheep shows for a few years, eventually falling in love with Jacobs. I wanted fiber that was versatile in terms of spinning different yarns. Jacob wool is considered a medium, but I've found a range in the fleeces from fine to the coarser side of medium. The staple is fairly long, and the greatest benefit is, since they are spotted sheep, you get a variety of colors within the same fleece: white, black and a mix for tweedy gray. Some Jacobs have white with gray spots (called lilac), and some of the gray is a beautiful chocolatey-gray. It spins beautifully, and felts well, too. I've had my own handspinners flock of Jacobs for four years now. We'll be shearing soon, and I'll have fleeces posted on my website: www.fourwindswool.com
You have a Churro lamb fleece? Should be nice. I may be tempted to process that all together. Adult fleeces I almost always separate the coats and spin them each on their own for different uses.
Churro is pretty easy to separate by hand by holding the cut end of a lock in one hand and the tip in the other and just pulling. A single comb can be helpful with the separation too. Just load the lock onto the cob as close to the cut as possible and pull out the the wiry outer fibers.
The under coat of this breed will be medium coarseness so good for outerwear and the outer coat is very wiry and tough so rugs and other home dec items like tassels work well.
I'd love to blend the under coat with another wool that will add spring and bounce but haven't tried it yet.
(just found this post....I think I find a new "section" of the Spin-off website every day!)
Not "embarassed" you're totally BLESSED. All those wonderful friends out in your pasture! I'd love it!
I fell in love with a "town-raised fireman" and if it isn't big, shiny and red he's not interested! ha ha!
So I "showed him"---I joined the historical society and found a friend with about 25 sheep....she graciously
GIVES me fleeces!!! Most are "mixed" breed, but all of them make lovely yarn.
Wishing you many happy hours of relaxing spinning!
Most of my fleeces come from my own flock here in southwestern NY. I try to process fleeces by myself most times. At times I have sent them out for processing..
I have Dorset (white of course), Finnsheep (jet black, warm black, light and medium gray, white, pied (white/black or white/brown spotted) and hopefully in this lambing solid browns...) Shetlands (jet black, warm black, variagated grey, emsket grey, moorit, musket... I have never had a white...) and Icelandic (in all their colors I think...!)
I now have more fleeces than I or my family use on our own, so some are available each year.
Mary Tucker, Lighthouse Farm
PS: Sometimes I want a color I do not have or a fleece type/breed I do not have and like you search on-line... I begin by looking in two places for those items:
Stillmeadow Finnsheep, Elizabeth Gossner of DeRuyter, NY - she has a silvery gray badgerface line of Finns with awesome fleece and color! contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for information on what she has available...
The FBA (Finnsheep Breeder Association) has a breeders list by state... many breeders have the same colors as I do... they may be closer to you.
They often know people who have other breeds...
I have raw cashmere. $15-$20 per ounce email@example.com
Thanks, I feel that I am very blessed. I took the camera to the meadow with the sheep a last week. I put some of the pictures of my sheep on my blog. http://www.coffmanspinningcfarm.blogspot.com/ Take a look if you find the time. I have a BFL ram and have used him for cross breeding to get the type of wool that I like to spin and knit and felt. His and his off spring's wool felts so easily. BFL has a luster and almost a silky handle.
I have sold almost all of my fleeces this year. Next Spring I will have a new inventory when we shear again and I think our fleeces will be even better than this last year. Our breeding program's goal is to have a beautiful wool that spins easily and looks great and will be of durable wear.
I am awaiting a batch of processed wool yarn that I sent off last Spring from our flock. It is very expensive to have wool processed into yarn (about $25 a lb.) but I have found that I can't do it all. Take care of sheep, skirt and wash each fleece, spin it, knit or felt it...so I still do some of all but decided to cut some corners on part of my wool prep so I have more time to weave. On my older post on my blog you can look at my studio and looms.
Debbier, I also love big red fire trucks...and I also love mixed breed wools, really no two fleeces are just alike...variety is the spice of life!