Now that I've started knitting with my handspun Shetland, I need to get another project on my spinning wheel. About a year ago my friend Heather from Canada, sent me a lovely Polwarth fleece. (That post, complete with photos of my cats' snoopervision, is right here.) That fleece has remained on my mind through several other spinning projects, but the time has finally come to get it out and spin it.
When Heather first sent me the fleece, she told me that she had gotten it because it was too tender for commercial processing. However, she had still found it to suitable for handspinning, especially as it is a lovely fleece.
- Staple length, 4 to 5 inches
- Staples tender about midway in length
- Staple shape, rectangular
- Color is a fairly consistent brown as you see in the photo
- Tips, some sunbleached
- Crimp, ranging from 5 to 10 crimps per inch
- Luster is low
- Hand is fairly soft
I've got about three and a quarter washed pounds of this fleece and have looked it over pretty closely. Interestingly, only part of the fleece appears to be tender; there are some very sound locks in it as well. This puzzles me, because from what I've read about the causes of tenderness (poor nutrition, stress, parasites) it would seem that the entire fleece should be consistently tender, which it doesn't seem to be the case here. Even so, it is long enough to still be spinnable, even with breaking.
The biggest challenge will be in deciding how to process this fleece. It is likely that it will break during carding. Even so, the fiber will still be long enough to spin. A potential problem would be really short bits breaking off, which would later become pills in the yarn and anything I made with it. So I think I will experiment with processing before deciding how to deal with it.
And before I forget, while I was researching tenderness, I came across several useful fleece evaluation resources I'd like to pass along:
- Handspinning Fleece.pdf by Joanne M. Hiersch for the spring 1988 Blacksheep Newsletter
- Wool Assessment from the Shaltz Farm website
- Notes from Judith Mackenzie’s Class on Fleece Selection and Grading for the Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America
Posted 17 March 2008 at http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com
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