Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sock Fiber Review 4

More explorations of sock spinning...

1. Romney aka Marsh Romney aka Kent (Romney) : these sheep originated in the Romney marshes area along the southeastern coast of Britain, facing France. It's a long-wool breed, originally bred for the worsted wool market. The breed is excellently suited to damp conditions and was exported to New Zealand in the mid-1800's, where today it (and its crosses like Coopworths and Perendales) makes up the bulk of the sheep population there.  It also appears to be quite popular here on the we(s)t coast of Canada, so its fiber is available at local fiber fairs. This batch I got from the Cowichan Fiber Fair last fall, it was a carded roving (commercially prepped by a small local mill, I think) and dyed in nice autumnal colours. After my previous experiments with a cable-plied longwool (which I didn't enjoy), I did a straight 4-ply to mix up the colours as much as possible. The fiber does not feel as slippery as Border Leicester, but it is easy to spin fine. It feels very strong, but not elastic, which is what you expect from a longwool. Because of the carded prep, the yarn is fuzzy - not smooth.

[Romney Ram, photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

[4-ply Romney yarn]
 [Romney Socks!]

I knit up a pair of socks and these feel much nicer than the cable-plied Border Leicester ones I made a few months back. The knitting experience was more pleasant (more "give" to the yarn) and the resultant socks a bit more elastic - though not as springy as a downs breed! I'll have to give them some months to see how they wear compared to my downs breeds socks.

2. Jacob : these are funny little sheep, a "heritage" variety with more than 2 horns, and some can be "piebald" (multicoloured). Their history is obscure, but this is a very old breed - one of the old world's "landraces". They have recently played an interesting role in understanding the genetics of Tay-Sachs disease. The commercially combed top I got was very dark brown - a natural "black". It's rather coarse - scratchier than the downs breeds I've tried - has very little lanolin, and is crimpy - not as crimpy as southdown, but still produces a nice springy yarn. The combed top I got was easy to spin fine. I plied it for a 3-ply cable or crepe construction, with a single ply of shetland - dyed pink - to make a 30/70 shetland/jacob marled yarn. The yarn fluffed out a lot to make a very poofy skein. This wasn't a very tight ply, so I will knit the heels and toes using millspun sock yarn with nylon, or I'm pretty sure they'll wear out within a few months. But this is a nice breed to experiment with.

[jacob sheep]

[3-ply crepe or cable plied jacob/shetland yarn]

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