Mystery Solved…sorta

February 3, 2014

It has been hot, too hot for doing anything much with fleece other than looking at it.  Just right for a spot of evening verandah knitting in the company of a cold beer.

IMG_1635Thank you everyone who took a look at my mystery fleece and offered suggestions on identification and approaches to spinning.  The consensus is that the fleece is likely to be from a Border Leicester or a something looking very similar.

BLcloseupABCImage by Australian Broadcasting Commission

It is worth re-posting the comment left by Deborah Robson. She literally wrote the book (with Carol Ekarius) on fleece: The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook (2011).  Her approach to identifying the fleece is quite dazzling.  She was super kind to share her knowledge and advice.

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.” 

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!

BLgroupImage by iverbrackie.com

Thank you Deborah!

If you like the way her brain works, Deborah Robson has an article in the latest Spin-Off magazine (Winter 2014) on the importance of spinning and knitting from rare breed sheep fleeces.  She also has a free class on Craftsy called Know Your Wool, all about working with breed-specific yarns. She blogs at The Independent Stitch.


I am thinking that this fleece is destined for socks.  The kind of socks that never, ever wear out. But as I have been wisely advised, I will sample and swatch first to see if I can actually wear this next to my skin.  Fingers crossed.

I leave you now with a pic of a Blue-faced Leicester (which my fleece is not) that I personally consider a slightly romanced breed name.

BLFImage from Alwinter Border Shepherds’ Show