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Deb Robson and Tussah

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« As seen on TV: Fleece-washing kit! | Main | Answer the sheep, please, it's ringing. . . . »

July 14, 2008


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Wow, what a super post! I am also intoxicated by wool, as you know, and I think we may even have had a CVM/Romeldale conversation last year. What I find most interesting about all this is how literal some spinners are about buying a specific breed's wool. This makes great sense when working on a rare breeds' project. However, when looking for a specific kind of wool for a project, I often feel it's more important to examine and touch a variety of wools in the category I seek--I am often surprised by what I come home with, but it's the attributes of the individual fleece that matter to me...not strictly the breed. Breed matters, of course, but individual fleeces vary, and that's important too!

Deborah Robson

Thanks, Joanne . . . glad you like the post!

Wool isn't a manufactured product, so it isn't produced by machines to specific mechanical tolerances. It's variable: within breeds, from animal to animal, from year to year, from this part of the fleece to that, and even along the length of a single fiber.

I'm a big fan of breed-specific fibers mostly because I know we need to support the market for the rare-breed fibers if there is to be enough economic incentive to keep the populations around and viable. That doesn't mean I spin either general breed-specific wools or rare-breed wools exclusively; it does mean I have a bias and that I pay attention to it, because I think it matters.

And I'm also a great believer in evaluation of an individual fleece for its strengths, regardless of where it came from.

Analysis is just one of our tools. What we apply it to, and how, depends on our own personal goals and what we need to accomplish.

I like to be surprised with what I come home with (pleasantly surprised, of course).

The internet gives us access to many more options, while limiting our ability to evaluate in person. Yet even on-site evaluation (at a festival or elsewhere) isn't ideal. I always feel "on the spot," am aware that I don't want to disturb the fiber more than minimally, and can only do certain types of assessments before I've made the commitment and bring the wool home and get my hands into it. Then the truth begins to come out.

Linda Cunningham

And this post explains why I've been taking fleece-judging classes. I'm just amazed that more spinners don't take this kind of interest in what they are buying, particularly at judged shows with silent auctions (from MS&WF on down).

In my experience, most fleece show judges aren't spinners: they may know the technical standards (and up here, there is a great deal of difference in the stated form requirements between grading a commercial fleece and an artisanal one), and tend to grade to the former standards even when using the form for the latter.

Not me! I see dirt, VM, and second cuts, and I mark that fleece down. Way down.

While I may not be at the level of my instructor in being able to pick up a lock, give it a quick squeeze, and determine micron count, yield, breed, sex, and age (and for all I know, diet and musical preference!), I have become a holy terror in buying at silent auctions.... ;-)

Great post, Deb!

Ellen Bloomfield

Thank you Deb. I -do- have plans for my fleece to use for myself. Its still a very nice fleece, just not what I expected.

Its all about the education process. I can say this is what I have and this is why I did the things I did with it.

Also, our definitions of "crisp" are different. My definition means it can be compressed and it springs back to the original shape. Not silky feeling nor super-fine.

Deborah Robson

Ellen, I figured you would be changing course and working with your fleece to make the most of it.

It's a fascinating topic, though, about what we expect from a breed and what we find in front of us. I love the variability, even thought it's sometimes inconvenient!

Although they're useful sometimes, I have a hard time with many of the words applied to wool, like "spongy," "crisp," or "cottony."

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