Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sheep to Shawl

Armed with 10 completed sheep breeds and Breed Binder, we headed off for our first public appearance, as part of the 2012 Sheep to Shawl Competition in Surrey BC. I am a member of the Richmond Weavers and Spinners team (my 3rd year). Teams consist of a weaver, 4 spinners, a plyer and steward/educator where washed fleece will be taken to finished, woven shawl in 3 hours. In judging, 10 points are awarded for education and display so in a competition where only a point or 2 can be the difference between 1st and 2nd, every little detail counts.
The Breed Binder was a fabulous draw to our display as initially like me, who knew there were so many kinds of sheep? Visitors were fascinated by the difference in fibers with of course Cormo winning the fight for fondling. I never tired of hearing Wow as I would glance up to see the Cormo being stretched in and out like an accordion. As I spun, I was filled with pride at the interest my samples and binder garnered and couldn’t wait to help it grow. I am also proud to say that our RWSG team, the Yarn Birds (Yeah thanks Pauline for that name…the same Pauline of Chee-vee-iot fame) won first prize for our shawl which was handed in to the sound of my cowbell ringing friend, Dotty.

…well, I think we won. The lone judge was making excuses
and apologies for the winning team without actually
 announcing them as winners nor asking congratulations
 from the audience until Judith screamed “We Won!” What’s
with that? It was a beautiful, flawlessly woven shawl of
handspun  and hand dyed warp and presented with an even
twisted fringe. And as for the “Look at them, they’ve been
spinning all their lives” comment from the Judge,
 go sit on a tack!

1: [1]I’m under 50
2:[2]I have blue hair
3: I’ve been spinning 3 years

[1] Except for the time at the River Rock Casino buffet when the attendant asked how many seniors . Having performed a scan of the non-existent line up, I asked what she meant. She meant me! I was 43! 43 I tell you and worthy of every indignant exclamation mark!! Her turn will come soon enough, biatch.
[2] Hmmm, my Nana had blue hair too…just a bit more pastel and a bit less electric!


[1] Except for the time at the River Rock Casino buffet when the attendant asked how many seniors . Having performed a scan of the non-existent line up, I asked what she meant. She meant me! I was 43! 43 I tell you and worthy of every indignant exclamation mark!! Her turn will come soon enough, biatch.

[2] Hmmm,not a useful point as my Nana had blue hair too…just a bit more pastel and a bit less electric!

Thursday, 13 September 2012



Staple: 8.5-12.5cm

Micron: 21-23

About Cormo Sheep:  The Cormo were developed in the earlier part of the 1960's in Tasmania, Australia, just like me with the exception of inception for me was on the Mainland. Corriedale rams were crossed with Saxon Merino (Heck yeah I want a whole lot of that!) ewes. The fleeces are consistent with 90% having to be within 2 microns of the average.


My Spinning experience: Before I go any further, I am adding Cormo to my Top 10 of I-want-more-of-this-stuff list. I had never spun anything before with such elasticity. It was the most amazing spinning experience. The fiber has a well-defined crimp which made it not only fun but quite easy to spin. My sample was flicked open locks. With such a fine fiber, caution need be taken with processing as it would be so easy to spoil with neps by improper carding.
The resulting yarn was incredibly sproingy and would be perfect for anything requiring wickedly insane elasticity in addition to unbelievable softness.

More than any other, the super soft Cormo fleece/yarn sample garnered the most attention on our display at the recent Sheep to Shawl competition.

My princess skin rating is 4 ½ stars

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Chee-vee-iot, chee-vee-iot, chee-vee-iot!


Staple: 10-15cm

Micron 24-33

About Cheviot sheep :pronounced Chee-vee-iot) there appears no reliable information further than that sheep were in 1372 "a small, but very hardy race over large tracts of the Cheviot Hills". Originally there were 3 types within the breed being Border Cheviot or South Country Cheviot, [1]Brecknock Hill Cheviot (from Wales) and North Country Cheviot (from Scotland). The Cheviot Sheep Society was formed in 1890 and is one of the oldest sheep societies in existence. They are used a lot in breeding including Canadian Arcott, Montdale, Border Leicester, Rygja, Steigar and Perendale. They blend extremely well with other breeds.

The wool has a unique 3D crimp.

My princess skin rating 3 stars

My Spinning experience: my sample was an easy spin from a flicked open lock. The resulting yarn was medium in coarseness with next to skin wear ability. Apparently it is a fabulous yarn for socks. Cheviot fiber blends well with other fibers. I currently have some pretty Cheviot/Tussah Silk on my wheel. At spin night the other week I was asked about my fiber by my fellow spinners.  Cheviot (pronouncing She-vee-ot) I replied. Pauline commented how she always thought it Chee-vee-iot. Now Pauline’s from the UK so she may just be on to something with the rest of the group hailing from Australia, Germany, Norway and Canada. I took to the internet, specifically Ravelry when I got home and posed the very same question. Just how do you pronounce Cheviot? Aj from Fair Isle weighed in with chee is correct, pronounce it shee and English breed society will look at you in alarm. That was enough to implant a Chee-vee-it earworm which sadly enough is back after writing this article. Chee-vee-it, chee-vee-it, chee-vee-it…as I run screaming from the room.

[1] Now known as Miniature Cheviot Sheep in the USA

Tuesday, 4 September 2012



Critical Conservation Breed

Staple: 18-38cm

Micron: 33-42

About the Cotswold: It is very hard to date this breed.  It has been written that they are as old as the hills with references to them being brought to England by the Phoenicians between 500BC and 100BC. Other references have them introduced by the Romans with their wool known as the '[1]Golden Fleece’.  Modern Cotswolds date to the Leicester Longwools of the late 18th, early 19th century when introduced to Native sheep. As an important export, they not only played a major role in the development of many Cotswold towns and villages, but also in the finances of the nation. A wool ransom paid for Richard the Lionheart's release. The Lord Chancellor sits in The House of Lords to this day on a sack stuffed with wool to show the pre-eminent position which the wool industry has played in this country's affairs.  Cotswolds are a large sheep with long, curly locks and distinguished by a fine tuft of wool on the forehead.


My spinning experience:  Whilst not spinning [2]golden threads with my Cotswold sample, it was a really pleasant spin from a well prepared fiber.  The fiber was long and didn’t require a lot of twist. My resulting yarn would knit up with great stitch definition…with or without the gold. It would also be awesome as a tailspun art yarn. I would love to have enough to weave and whilst modern commercial yarns with silver are readily available, wouldn’t it be fabulous to spin and weave this with gold, for historic value of course! I recommend Cotswold as a fleece you simply must spin. I could have written pages for all that I have read so recommend reading further on them for the full experience.

Cotswold addendum: I was recently at the GVWSG where they had a table of old books by donation. the sheep on the cover of Cotswold farm rare Breeds Survival centre booklet immediately caught my eye and insisted on not being put down. I initially read the book by the cover and wrongly assumed it to be just about Cotswold sheep which would have totally not been a bad thing. it was so much more but I would like to add a few really interesting snippets I didn't read anywhere else.

The actual name of Cotswold is derived from Cotes, the shelter in which sheep are wintered and Wolds being hills, so...Cotswold Sheep are Wolds of the sheep Cotes. Also of interest I didn't find anywhere else is that Cotswold sheep are always washed before shearing and that every village in the Cotswolds has its own wash pool.

Lastly, it was often dyed red for Cardnals' robes. thus far the Cotswold sheep would have to be one of the most fascinating and richest histories I have thus far studied.

[1] Perhaps supported by the writings of amongst others, Herodotus(450BC) pointing to the province of Koraxis in the land of Colchis (today's Georgia, by the Black Sea) as the origin of cloth of gold using wool in place of flax.
[2] Gold, beaten, cut and drawn into exceedingly fine filaments, was woven into the wool.  The first known description of this process (Exodus 39:3). It was known as the Golden Cloth.


Monday, 3 September 2012



Staple 7.5-12.5cm

Micron: 24-33

About the Corriedale Sheep: Corries are accredited to New Zealander, James Little in 1874 where he bred Merinos with Lincolns. By 1890, these crossbreeds became known as Corriedales.  They adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions from the heat of the equator to the peaks of the Andes. Should you come across a Falkland fleece, good chance it is a Corriedale. Same as for fiber sold as Punta. Punta is not actually a specific breed but the name given to sheep that pass through the port of Punta Arenas, Chile. With such a broad micron range, one Corriedale can feel very, very different from another.  Corriedales are thought to be perhaps the second most numerous breed of sheep in the world exceeding 100,000,000!


My spinning experience: Great, great, just great. Tell them it’s great. That’s how you do it” my Husband offers in response to my wanting to write before we head on out to the hardware store. You know, I think he is right. Whilst I’d like to think he has been learning something as he continues to not only keep the Master List updated but to keep the laminated cards for the skeins all organized as well. One thing to keep in mind when selecting Corriedale to spin is that it can come in wildly varying micron count leaving you unrestrainedly excited to possibly indifferent. My sample was….just great! Look at that crimp.

My Princess skin rating is 3 ½ stars

Saturday, 1 September 2012

California Variegated Mutant

California Variegated Mutant or CVM

Critically rare breed
(in 1990, less than 2,000 worldwide)

Staple: 7.5-15cm

Micron: 21-25

About California variegated mutant sheep: CVM have a fascinating history coming from 2 badger faced lambs appearing in a Rommeldale flock in the 1960’s. Large scale mills avoided even a single fiber of random colours showing up in fleece, resulting with culling of the coloured lambs. Californian, Glen Eidman(passed away 1999) saw things differently and bred these sheep focusing on the colour and fleece quality. With mills turning away the coloured fleece, CVM’s were marketed towards hand spinners. CVM offer near limitless colour and marking combinations (including dark grey, black, brown, moorit and spotted, barred face badger pattern) in addition to lovely fleece that not only [1]darken but become finer with age.
My spinning experience: I had never spun CVM and was immediately in love. It was an easy, enjoyable spin with the resulting yarn as sproingy as heck…or lofty if you prefer. I ended up spinning this breed fleece from 2 different sources and have not been disappointed at all. Californian Variegated Mutant is hereby the first breed of this project to be added to my Top 10 of I-want-more-of-this-stuff list.

[1] Most sheep are born their darkest and lighten with age