It arrived in a box, carefully rolled so it was easy to lay back out again.
The long fibres are crisp and wavy, rather than tightly crimped, with a shorter, finer layer at the base. Though this sheep lived in Scotland, the breed originated in the Lake District. I had read that Herdwick sheds water more efficiently than other fleece and can confirm that scoured skeins dry out in no time. What a good strategy for a rainy climate - instead of producing oils to waterproof their wool, Herdwicks simply don't get wet. Visions of UK564083 00014 tossing aside an umbrella and giving it a bit of the old Gene Kelly - Singin' in the Rain. Anthropomorphism? Beatrix Potter, eat your heart out.
Combing the locks did not go well. The undercoat got separated out with other shorter fibres, but drafting roving off the comb was frustrating. The fibres did not want to drag a continuous flow behind them, so I kept getting handfuls of one staple length.
Carding makes a bouncy rolag. Using high twist, it is quite feasible to woolen spin a fingering weight yarn.
Being such clean, dry open locks, spinning from the fold was a delight. First time I have been able to spin without so much as flicking tips with the dog brush. No preparation was needed before spinning an 'artistic' aran or chunky wool - what a pleasure to work straight from the fleece! All credit to scocha, who clearly knows what a spinner values.
I divided the wool into darker and lighter halves. As the top photo shows, darker locks came from the chest and shoulders and the dark yarn proved softer. I've done very little dying on naturally sheep coloured wool, which is lovely anyway. However, I did wonder what the effect might be on the lighter yarn. I had just fermented the lichen I collected after the October storms.
Since the dye was ready to use, I brewed up a vat for a couple of the paler skeins. The picture above shows the three colours and weights of yarn I had to choose from.
A good looking hat was featured in this month's Purl Two Together news. This struck me as the perfect purpose for wool that doesn't get wet. Better still, the Novi Hat pattern by LThingies is free. I used the softer, darker wool spun about aran weight, coming down to a 4mm hook to get the right tension. The needlefelted brooch is made with Dorset Poll fleece from the same dyebath, so you can compare how the grey fibres sadden the colour relative to the effect on white fleece. Some comparisons are odious. There will be no comments about the wool looking better on the sheep.