Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wooly Words of the Week: Corriedale, Shetland & Rambouillet

For some time now, I have wanted to create a glossary page in my blog.  It occured to me that the best way to chip away at a big glossary project is to have weekly additions to it.  Therefore, I am unveiling a new zeithound blog tradition.  Each Wednesday, I will post a wooly word (or words) of the week which will likely be related to whatever spinning or knitting work that I've been doing recently.  The following Wednesday, when new wooly words of the week are posted, the previous week's words will move to the official glossary page that will be located on the sidebar of my blog.

For this week, in honor of yesterday's post about Pixie Girl's fleece and her genetic heritage, the wooly words of the week will be her mix of sheep breeds:

Corriedale:  This sheep breed was developed in New Zealand in the 1860's from crossing British longwool rams with Merino ewes, with the goal to have a dual purpose sheep that adapted well to different environments and produced high quality meat and wool.  The Corrie has been a very successful breed and is now the second most populous sheep in the world after the Merino.  Corriedale wool is considered a fine wool, but has some luster from its longwool heritage.  It is generally soft with a very well-defined crimp.  Much like the adaptable nature of the sheep, its wool can be prepared and spun in a variety of methods and is a favorite of many handspinners. 


Shetland: Shetland sheep are part of the Northern European Short-Tailed group of sheep, making them cousins of Icelandic and Finn sheep.  They come from the Shetland Islands located northeast of Scotland, where their geographic isolation helped keep them very closely related to their original stock that was likely left on the islands by Vikings about 1,000 years ago.  Their primitive ancestory gives their fleece characteristics such as a dual coat with a tendency to molt, and a large variety of natural colors.  Shetland fleeces can contain several different fiber types in a single fleece, with the finest wool located around the neck.  The wool has a well-defined crimp that almost spirals, and can be extremely soft and bouncy.  Shetland wool is excellent to spin woolen and has a tendency to bloom (or spread out) in yarn, creating a very airy, lofty, and soft yarn. 













Rambouillet: The Rambouillet breed began with a gift of highly coveted Spanish Merino sheep to King Louis XVI in 1786.  While the French Revolution wasn't kind to Louis, the royal sheep thrived and eventually became the base stock for most sheep breeding in the western United States.  They are the largest sheep of all fine wool breeds, and are primarily bred for their wool, not for their meat.  Their fleece is very soft with a defined crimp that can be a bit disorganized, and this kind of springy crimp lends itself very nicely to yarns that are soft, elastic and lofty.  Rambouillet wool has a very high quantity of lanolin and felts together extremely well. 

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