Mystery Fleece

January 30, 2014

IMG_1526I was recently given a bag of fleece.  Beware of free fleece, most spinners will tell you.  There could be moths or it could just be a poor quality fleece.  I did know the provenance of the bag however. It was from an experienced spinner, passed to a new spinner to learn with and when the spinning did not settle, was passed to me. This boded well, I thought.

The fleece is clearly long wool, sturdy, strong and few crimps.  But what kind of long wool? Can anyone give a guess?

IMG_1522Here is what is known

  • the staple is about 17 cm or 7 inches in length
  • there are about 2 1/4 crimps per inch
  • definite locks but not really curly
  • smooth feel, not overly coarse
  • uniformly cream in colour
  • was thought suitable as a beginner’s fleece
  • most likely Victoria, Australia origin (so unlikely to be anything particularly rare

IMG_1555I am leaning to Border Leicester after looking at these locks in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. The authors, Robson and Ekarius say it is an easy to spin fibre, more so than Blue Faced Leicester or Leicester Longwool.  Given that fleece was thought appropriate for a beginner spinner by an experienced one, this makes sense.

However, I have absolutely no experience with long wools apart from Blue Faced Leicester tops.  There are far fewer crimps per inch than the BFL that I spun. Could it possibly be a Leicester Longwool fleece?

Do any of you know what the mystery fleece might be? Any ideas are most welcome.


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  1. It’s all a bit exciting, this mystery fleece and the detective work to identify it, isn’t it?!

    I’m not a spinner so I’m no use but I’ll watch to see the outcome 😉 someone will know for certain

  2. I think you could be right the other two it could be are Leicester and Lincoln longwool. I think they are potentially coarser than the Border Leicester, i am not familiar with BL, refer you back to your book! The other option is that it is a mule as opposed to a pure breed. That would be my favoured option as a well chosen mule fleece is perfect for a beginner. In the end fleece varies hugely depending on the land it is grown on, ultimately your intuition will get you where you need to go! From a cold and wet UK about 150 miles from Leicester!

  3. Well, you are probably right. I have some Cotswold from Montana that is similar to that…..we all know how sheeps seem to get mixed and matched! :0 However, I would wash this in the lock and spin from the lock so I would know how the fleece ‘wanted’ to be spun. and yes we can force a fleece into any twist/grist we want but is that the way to bring out the best in it. Conversely you could comb it. With that length, carding could get messy.
    SO, I’m probably no help at all 🙂
    I did get some B L from KY and some from northern WA and they were quite different! Waiting to see what you do with it…NO pressure 🙂

  4. How fascinating! I love the photo of the sheep, she looks as though she’s hopeful that it’s her breeds fleece. I like the idea of a Blue Face Leicester, do they really have blue faces?

  5. Mystery fleeces are always a challenge! In no small measure because of the number of crossbred sheep out there. I have one fleece here that lost its tags, and while I can tell which group it would be in, I wouldn’t be so bold as to put a breed identification on it (unless I can figure out, by process of elimination, which fleece got separated from its paperwork).

    And identifying a fleece from photos (without the tactile input) is even more of a challenge. Yet.

    It would surprise me a lot if that were a Bluefaced Leicester. They have really squirrelly little crimpy locks that are (1) distinctive! and (2) not something you’d give a beginner unless you wanted them to hate spinning. (BFLs’ faces look blue because of the short white hair growing from dark skin.)

    That said: your 2.25 crimps/inch pretty much removes this from the realm of Cotswolds, Leicester Longwools (also called English Leicesters), and Lincolns. They’re at more like 1 crimp/inch. Not to mention all three are considered rare breeds by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia, so somebody would probably have noted the breed if one of them was involved.

    The crimp profile is too low to be most Romneys, although they’re quite variable and it might be one.

    Victoria is in what the Australian Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer called, in a 2006 report, “region 8,” classified as the eastern high rainfall area, close to the southern high rainfall area (that’s “region 10b”). Like other parts of Australia, regionally appropriate Merino types are predominant in these areas. For meat, in 10b the Merinos are crossed with Dorsets and White Suffolks. In 8, the Merinos are crossed with Poll Dorsets, White Suffolks, “and to a lesser extent Border Leister [sic], Dohne and SAMM.” http://bit.ly/1kp6ZMd

    So I think we can make an educated guess that you’ve got a Border Leicester there, or something that could masquerade as one. It sounds like the right crimp, length, characteristics, and . . . geography.

    Still, certainty is something we can’t ask for.

    Looks like it will be fun to spin, though. Have a good time!

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