Cheryl read about my Rare Breed Sweater spinning and kindly offered to send me a generous handful of Galway Cross fleece from Ireland. I was delighted with her offer and very grateful to receive it.
My initial impression of the sample was that it was a down type fleece. So I was surprised to read that the Galway breed is descended from Longwools in the UK. Actually, I didn't have much information on hand about Galway sheep; it isn't listed in Fournier and Fourniers'In Sheep's Clothing, nor in Anne Field's Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics.. I did find it on the rare breeds list in Spin-Off's Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools, but only on the reference list of rare sheep breeds. And there is a photo of a Galway ewe on page 6. But evidently no one made a Galway entry for the Save the Sheep Project.
I'm a little surprised that it isn't used more by handspinners because at 50's/56's it is graded as a medium wool and so is suitable for handspinning. Perhaps it is just that rare.
Cheryl did mention that the breed is crossed to improve lambing and that it is used primarily as a meat breed in Ireland. The fleece is not considered to have much value, and in fact is used to insulate houses(!).
Here is what I can tell you about the fleece she sent.
The staples of my sample measure 2 – 3 inches in length.
They are quite clean with very little dirt or vegetable matter. There are some second cuts, but not too many.
The staples are rather rectangular in shape and quite uniform throughout the sample. They have a crimp of about 8/inch. There is not a lot of luster and the grease content is low.
There is very little discoloration of the tips, which are quite sound. In fact the full length of the locks are sound.
While it is not the softest fleece I've handled, it is certainly not the coarsest. It is quite springy and elastic.
As I mentioned, my first impression was “down fleece” so I immediately thought of warm cozy socks and autumn jackets. It is definitely a candidate for a woolen preparation and long draw spinning. I will use my trusty dog comb to open both tips and butts and handcard it into rolags. I think it will be lovely to spin.