I recently had the opportunity to spin up a sample of wool from a milksheep -- this is a very rare British breed mainly bred for its meat. However, Justine Lee, who recently came to speak at the Hampshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers, has been working with milksheep breeders in search of good wools for fashion -- her goal is to develop a partnership with local sheepbreeders, spinning mills, and knitters to create good quality but affordable knitwear.
This link takes you to the main page for the British Milksheep Society -- it's got lots of good photos of the animals and information on the history of the breed and its current status. It's a fairly new breed of sheep, being introduced only in the past 60 years or so.
Justine gave me a small sample, already scoured, to have a play with after her talk at the Guild meeting.
Milksheep are a down breed, so their fleece tends towards being very springy, almost spongey.
It opened up and bloomed in my triple carder, and after only a couple of passes became a white fluffy cloud. There's a glint of sparkle in the batt, but that's because acrylic sparkle is like the glitter of the fibre world; there was still some gold stuff left on my carder even after a thorough clean and hoovering.
I spun up a small skein and plied it; it's about 9 - 10 wraps or so to the inch.
Small swatch knitted from the skein:
And I was playing around with a new rigid heddle loom, so I filled a bobbin's worth with the yarn to run it onto a big sampler.
Anyway, I'm always keen to try new fibres, and this was quite nice stuff. The samples are on their way back to Justine now with some of my thoughts. With luck she'll be able to take some of these thoughts and the samples forward, as she'd like to be able to work further with the small farmers who raise these lovely sheep -- there are less than 150 of the animals in the UK.