Not many people know about a breed of sheep we have here in U.K which gives us a true British grown fine fibre for our art, crafts and industry. No air miles, no foreign processors, profit stays here, tax gets paid here.
Unfortunately this breed is as rare as the legendary hen’s teeth, so you won’t find it for sale in your average local yarn shop. That’s a shame, because I (and many others like me) need a source of consistent high quality fleece, grown by farmers, rather than hobbyists, in enough numbers to make the fleece a prospect for selling to the wool board in quantities they might be bothered about. Our wool industry is really rather sad these days. We get a token wool week, which trots out a few sheep, and a bit of designer gear, and that’s about it.
Mostly , if people are exposed to british wool, it will be from a hobbyist’s flock, or perhaps a national trust conservation flock of inappropriate fleece type. We are rarely exposed to beautifully grown fine garment quality wool, unless it has come from overseas. Ofcourse if you are lucky enough to know a hand spinner, or even a shepherd, you may know about the parlous state of our wonderful sheep heritage. It is very nearly a lost cause. Our modern taste and living conditions have made so many breeds all but redundant. Who wants hairy cast iron tweeds anymore? or jumpers that have to last outdoors? Many breeds are in insufficient numbers to maintain a viable genetic pool; let alone the numbers to be able to select for quality fleece. Many animals are in the hands of enthusiastic amateurs, which is wonderful, but also fraught with problems.
It doesn’t have to be so. If our farmers were encouraged with money and policy, to grow fine wool again, we would have a thriving and diverse group of local sheep breeds, fit for climate and terrain and our modern clothing. America managed it, South America, South Africa, Australia, all have found room for beautiful wool. Closer to us , so does Spain and Germany, home to the ancestors of our current fine wool breeds.We do have the expertise , the land , the farmers and the sheep.
So, back to my wonderful Bowmont fleece.
these are a couple of washed locks, not really shetland , nor typical merino, those are the parent breeds. Not too long for our current processing machinery. Does not need as heavy scouring as either parent breeds. Consistent crimp, over the whole fleece. No nasty surprises, no kemp or hair. Will go finer, for our delicate modern skin.
My sample fleece has been a real treat. I have enjoyed every bit of the processing and spinning of this wool. Yes, it ‘s fine, not superfine, but much finer than most of the commercial merino crop. I have spun a lot of merino, between 21 and 23 microns, this is finer (around 18/19 micron maybe) and different. Not the same as polwarth or corriedale. Slightly crisper, a bit more toothsome to spin, easier to spin and wash than merino. When I lived in Oz I had access to a large selection of fleeces from UK type breeds as well as merino type crosses. This has qualities that remind me of those fleeces. Bred for the fibre. and that shows.
On the wheel. Yup, it wants to spin fine , it makes it a pleasure to do so, I’m spinning this at a finer grist than I usually spin. It is going to make great lace. But you will need to spin really fine . Because all that crimp, means lots of recoil when you wash it, there will be bounce and softness. How will it wear, don’t know yet, but it is fine, this is not border leicester! I will probably ply some up too and see how it behaves.
I’ve chucked some in a hot dye pot without any nasty outcomes, so it is robust enough for my dyeing process.
And finally some yarn, Bowmont lace, this skein, 75 gms 1140 yards, so around 1500yds/ 100gms, and yes I do mix my measures up, must get a metric niddy.
Thank you Caroline for keeping this breed of sheep and making it available to handspinners. It is much appreciated.
you want to know more? g..gle bowmont, and don’t be put off by the hype.
fuzzyball, uk, nearly next year, what are you spinning?