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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Dawn's Woolly Wednesday - Rare Breed Portland

So another month goes by, hope you're all having fun with your fibres.

My spinning became rather suspended when the connector from the treadle to the rod to turn the wheel snapped and I needed to order one, had meant to get a spare in but alas never got around to it. All fixed now so I was able to finish plying another 200g skein of the zwartble. I have a pillowcase full of the remaining fleece carded and still working my way through it.

However, I think I have talked about the zwartble enough so this month I am going to share some other fleece talk, preparation, washing, carding, etc. After all it is late Spring here and the sheep are having (or have had) their woolly coats sheared and all the spinners out there are excitedly picking up something nice.

Actually there is something else woolly related that has happened this month that I could share, but instead I will share that over on my other blog - I have been lucky in the last week to obtain a 2nd hand Drum Carder, something I have hoped for. It's a wonderful handmade model, you can read about that here.

Back to the fleece. I think I mentioned a filthy fleece I had that I wasn't sure would come to anything in a previous post. Here is the tale of that fleece. I believed it was going to be a white fleece, but who could be sure when it looked like this!
 Knowing what fleeces I had picked up from this farmer I deduced that it was indeed a Portland White fleece - a rare breed in the UK, so I was interested to see if I could rescue it (I do have another one in a much better state).
The other Portland fleece, before washing
Now washed and stored

Portland Breed: Rare Breed considered At risk
The fine, creamy fleece is much sought after by handspinners. Lambs are born with a foxy-red coat which changes in the first few months to a creamy white though some red kemp fibres may be found on the britch. The wool is of good quality with a fibre length of 6-9 cm. The Portland sheep is a heathland breed that has been found in its native Dorset area for several hundred year.

I set to washing it in the handbasin so I could work on those tips, and was really pleased when I identified that it was the first shearing - you know when you look at the tips and can see it hasn't been sheared before. Even more pleasing was to see the crimp, gorgeous. I knew that if I could only get it clean it was going to be a good fleece. No Kemp found on it either, just a lot of dirt and vegetable matter (grass, etc).

Ooh lovely and crimpy

Ooh filthy!
... but it is white underneath all that dirt

I'm pleased to share that it came out quite white to get dried (see below), still a bit of vegetable matter (VM) in it, but that would easily pick out or come out during carding.

Drum carded and it looks like this.
On the drum carder
Off the Drum Carder

I'm not sure the photo does it justice, this fleece is a beautiful white and has a lovely lustre and shine to it, it glistens when the light hits it. Here it is in better light, but still not the same as seeing it in the flesh. Much better than the original photograph isn't it?

Portland teased ready to card on the right
and a carded batt on the left

Hopefully by next month I shall have finished the Zwartble and have started spinning this Portland so I can share some pictures of it spun.