Friday, 3 January 2014

Hand Spinning a Hebridean Sheep Fleece

This is UK 110131 00076.  She is a Hebridean ewe hogg, which, I think, means she was a lamb in 2012.  Her first shearing was on 31 May 2013.  She looks mutinous in the photo, courtesy of the seller, scocha. This small sheep's fleece arrived clean, open and well skirted.  I was delighted at how silky it was to handle, having read that Hebridean fleece is durable - euphemism for harsh.  
Feast your eyes on this dark wool with gingery highlights.  Each staple was long and tapering, with a softer undercoat.  The lustre and depth of colour is gorgeous. Little white hairs of kemp were scattered throughout.  Carding rolags from the raw fleece was easy work, since there was no matting in the blanket and the moderate lanolin just held the fibres together nicely.  
I did have a go at combing to separate out the longer fibres.  The photo shows how the shorter ones just got knotted up in the process.  I don't know how they could be salvaged for spinning.  My intention was to spin about fingering weight, which proved quite possible working from rolags, since I don't mind the yarn being a little uneven.  I just remind myself that people go on courses to learn to make art yarn.  
This Hebridean became what I consider a poetry yarn.  Prepare for a bout of bastardised Byron.  

UK 110131 00076 walks in beauty, like the night, 
And all that's best of dark and bright 
Meets in her fleece and in her wool, 
Thus mellowed to that tender light 
It spins up something wonderful.

I came over all lyrical about the colour, lovingly picking out the odd white hair of kemp. Spinning with medium twist and plying loosely, I decided the yarn was soft enough for skin contact. I chose what I think is a cracking men's scarf pattern to make for my firstborn.  It is called Mister X, by a German designer who has put an English version of her pattern on Ravelry.  The family burst my balloon, as is their wont. Crocheting away during a preChristmas get together with my sister's family, I expected them to marvel at my yarn.  Not 'Oh, you're making a brown scarf now, are you?'  In vain did I point out the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress.

I got another reality check on Boxing Day when my son broke it to me gently that a bloke wearing this scarf would not make it to the bus station in our small town.  Did I want my tiny darling to come home with teeth missing?   Could he not have socks instead?  Hey ho, my alien roots are showing again.  Coming from England, with brothers who will slip into a frock faster than you can say 'fancy dress party', has evidently warped my perception of what passes for manly attire in Wales.  I still consider it one of the best things I have made.  

The remainder of the fleece was spun about double knitting weight and made into a Butterfly Wedding Cowl, which I will keep for myself and sod them all. Hebridean fleece isn't as smooshy soft as Polwarth. It is sturdy and a pleasure to handle.  Maybe it takes a spinner to appreciate it's finer qualities.  Good job I have a tough hide and eyes to see the tints that glowed in UK 110131 00076.  

Far too good for socks.


  1. Don't blame you for keeping it yourself . . . ungrateful lot !!! ;-)

    1. It is a terrible burden, living with Philistines.

  2. Lovely and beautiful. Sod them all indeed :).
    I * think* if you used combs you could remove the shorter bits similar to how the tog and thel are separated in icelandic. I actually have an icelandic with the very same colouring that i need to spin up this winter.

    1. How interesting - I have just had a fascinating search around tog and thel. Thank you so much for the suggestion. Sounds as if the coats can just be pulled apart - too late to try that now, but another time, I will have a go.