Friday, August 28, 2015

In defense of the 'meat sheep' fleece.

I often encounter a prejudice against the fleece of sheep raised primarily for meat. This amazes me as my favorite breeds, Tunis, Cheviot, Dorset, Suffolk, and Texel are all dismissed as meat sheep with fleece not worth spinning or good only for rugs. There are some sheep whose fleeces I would not use for clothing( and…well…as in everything IT DEPENDS) …karakul and black welsh mountain for instance, though I enjoy working with both fleeces. In the end, for those, it would depend on the fleece itself, and the type of clothing. Their fleece absolutely has worth and value to the handspinner, though.
My first list, however, are my go-to fleeces for socks and sweaters that need to take heavy wear. Sure I love the mind-blowing softness of a nice Corriedale or a CVM (though I still am not a fan of merino, which I find insipid), but I love a bouncy, sturdy, hardwearing yarn more than anything. A softer yarn can end up with a limp effect in the finished object, in my own experience though I am sure there are many many cases where it does not. I personally like a finished object with a little body, and a hard wearing nature. I am not easy on my clothes and I want my handmade things to stand up to normal use.
I am not a sheep history expert like Deb Robson or a breed ambassador and teacher like Beth Smith, but this handspinner likes to use a variety of fleece, find a variety of uses, and use a variety of techniques to see what made wool such a ubiquitous material in the past, and find out how I can use it now. If you ever have thought of branching out from the standard BFL, Merino, Cormo, Targhee, offerings that seem available everywhere but weren’t sure if it would be usable, or your thing, I encourage you to experiment! The ‘meat’ breeds all have eminently usable and useful fleeces with good qualities and characteristics.  Take a chance, you may just find a new favorite!


Unknown said...

A am with you Devin. I have a boatload of horned Dorset cross and Babydoll Southdown to spin. Looking forward to that nice bouncy yarn.

Devin said...

Mmmm, Dorset is lovely! I have only sampled baby doll Southdown, but I was very impressed with the possibilities.

Unknown said...

I haven't that much experience with the 'meat' fleeces. Grew sheep when a young man on the farm. Sold the lambs for meat. Not into spinning then, so didn't try the fleece. The shearer would take the wool and sell it. Like the merino, cormo, coriedale, etc. What part of Minnesota do you call home. I grew up in Iowa and now living in the Fingers Lakes area of NY state. Dale Jackson

Unknown said...

I haven't tried the 'meat' breeds. Used mostly corriedale, cormo, merino. Raised sheep when young of the farm in Iowa. Sold the lambs for meat. Not sure what the breed was. The shearer would take the wool and sell it. Now living in the finger lakes region of NY state.