Tuff Socks Naturally: Shropshire

April 19, 2018

And I’m back…from school holiday, glorious weather and children going hither and thither.

Back to serious matters.

Back to Tuff Socks Naturally, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion, share pics and projects on this blog or Local and Bespoke or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

This week, Tuff Socks is all about Shropshire fleece, my next exploration point on this most exciting adventure. I have met Shropshire before through the Collingwood Children’s Farm and admired its spring and bounce. But for these socks, I ordered some fleece from Marilyn Mangione from Shropshire Woollies in Strathbogie, Victoria. It came in the post in a most impressive parcel.

Apart from fleece by the kilo, Marilyn also sells Shropshire roving and some yarn. She is a sock knitter herself and has made some incredible durable socks from her sheep.


The kilo of fleece I bought contained variegated grays. Colour is quite rare in Shropshire as a breed, but Marilyn breeds a true handspinners’ flock and the grays are just beautiful. Apart from colour, it was a typical Shropshire fleece, blocky staples, high bulk, blunt tips and a staple length of around 2 inches and 8 crimps per inch. Like other Shropshire fleeces I have tried, it was a little tender in parts.

Shropshire originates from south-west downs of England and was one of those breeds who were successfully improved in the early nineteenth century as a dual purpose sheep.  It came to Australia in the 1850s and was very sucessful until the 1900s when smaller Southdowns became popular for meat production.  Shropshire is a downs breed, bouncy and naturally resistant to felting. It is a conservation breed in the UK, US and Australia. In 2013, there were only 8 registered flocks in Australia. You can read more about the Shropshire in Australia at the Australian Rare Breed Sheep Project.

As the staple length was short, I knew I would be carding this fleece so I just separated the colours, bagged the fleece in washing colours and scoured them.

I lost 30% of the fleece weight during scouring and it almost doubled in volume! This is a super springy, bouncy, energetic kind of fleece. Good for socks I think!