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Deb Robson and Tussah

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for the sheep!

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« Orkney: Getting to and from North Ronaldsay | Main | Shearing a lot of Shetlands »

February 03, 2014


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Devin Helmen

Beautiful photos and BEAUTIFUL fleeces! I had to laugh at the wet fleece...Here in the midwest I encounter that a lot- the fleece soaks up the humidity and then when I bring it home into the air conditioning it dries out considerably. Looks like the folks at your workshops will have some choice materials! Thank you for sharing!

Barbro Heikinmatti

Absolutely wonderful. And full of interesting thoughts, as always. Thank you! Says one with the house full of fleeces in the process of being scoured :)


Lovely - almost as nice as buying all that fleece myself!

Meg Mahoney

What a terrible thought -- coming home without all those fleeces. It's great to see the beautiful before & after shots!

Joanne Seiff

Thank you thank you for this vicarious fleece acquisition experience! I am grateful. Even your photos came at the right moment...we have no sewer line at present (more on my blog) and I have never needed to pretend it was me washing the fleece more than I do today!


Your poaching of terroir for fleeceis both pertinent and profound. It highlights similarities between the way food products are thought about within the Slowfood movement and how fibre is thought of in the Fair Fibre movement. It captures both the effect of the environment and culture on the development of particular fleece characteristics and potentially the effects of sheepon the landscape. It places the fleece firmly on the back on an animal on the earth. I am thinking particularly here of Australian breeds, specialised merinos producing superfine fibres on our impoverished, fragile soils and Polworths, bred specially for the higher rainfall of the Otways. Terroir is a marvellously rich term that will bear more exploration. Needleandspindle.com


Incredible - love the white fleece. And what is "toppy"? It sounds intriguing.

You know - I just love all the grades of Shetland fleeces and recently crocheted and fulled some of the primitive handspun into baskets. I can't tell you how much fun it is to do that.

Wait. I expect you might have a small idea. :-)


Deb, I don't think you are poaching the use of terroir - it seemed natural to me and so I went to wikipedia :


"Un terroir désigne une région naturelle considérée comme homogène à travers les ressources et productions qu'il est susceptible d’apporter, notamment - mais pas uniquement - par sa spécialisation agricole."

Roughly (and badly). A 'terroir' is a geographic [not political] region which is is considered to produce a homogenous type of resource, notably - but not uniquely - agrictural resource.

So wool fits squarely into that. The wine brigade have adopted the term for wine and moved it into American, but I think its reasonable and correct to extend it to its original use.

The whole of that article in fr.wikipedia, although a little bit pompous, feels very relevant (IMO) to landrace breeds. Google doesn't translate it all that well, but it gives you a feel for it. Of particular interest to me the importance of cultural input as well as the physical geography.

Doesn't that almost define a landrace breed and its output?

Deb Robson

Thanks to everyone for the comments! I'm traveling, and have been able to read them through e-mail but not easily respond (internet connections are patchy).

"Toppy" is what I heard Oliver Henry call fleeces where, I think, the tips of the locks become noticeable both on the sheep and in the fleece. As far as I can determine--and I look forward to having an opportunity to talk more about this with Oliver--it's a visual assessment that corresponds to the structure of the locks. Once I'm sure of what it means, I'll see if I can remember to put up a post about it.

I was hoping I hadn't "poached" the word terroir for this application, but simply used it as a lens for perceiving a little differently! Yes, Australia and New Zealand have been particularly noted for developing breeds and strains exceptionally suited for the available climate regions. That's a huge part of why those countries are so noted for their wools on the global market.

Rod, thanks for going back to the French origins of the word, which I didn't take time to do. Yes, it does seem to pretty much define a landrace and its output. (Landraces can be breeds or not: it's a fine point whether a locally distinct population ends up being called a breed or not, and a discussion for another time--although I suspect Carol and I mentioned it in Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook.)

Laura Walters

I recently heard an interview with someone in Iceland who claims that the wool of Icelandic sheep in the U.S. is markedly different from wool from the same breed at home in Iceland. I'm sure that has to do with the land/climate/conditions, right? I wonder how the fleeces of my Gulf Coasts in the mountains of NC are different from those in their home territories in the Gulf states. Intriguing.

Susan J. Tweit

I'm with Rod and others: I think terroir is a perfectly appropriate word for landraces and fleece. Thanks for appropriating it and for the discussion. I chuckled with you about the peat, since I've spent some time in peat bogs as a botanist (yes, they're very mucky, especially at certain times of year) and those fine organic particulates are very familiar. (And very interesting under a microscope, should one choose to collect them and look!)


I'm all for borrowing a term from another domaine, just need to define what we mean with its new usage... but yes I agree that doing so can dilute the meaning of the term. Not in terroir's case though, I see terroir being used all the time as a general term to mean "local," even to describe people. (I live in France.)

I discovered your blog this morning thanks to my mother, who was at Madrona and won a copy of Fleece & Fiber, and when she got home she emailed me to give me the reference. I'm not into spinning (...yet ... I'm only a new crocheter) but rather all things slow, artisanal production, collaborative and sustainable economies etc.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that, and hi, and great blog - I'm now a follower!


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