onsdag 9 mars 2011

American Finnsheep. My Fiber Studies 12

I take part in the SpinDoctor Rare Breed Wool Challenge on Ravelry. My blog posts are tagged SpinDoctor. The challenge ends June 30th 2011. You find SpinDoctor's podcasts in my Link List to the right.

The Sheep

Finnsheep belong to the North European short tailed group. It's an old breed, with an estimated age of one thousand years. At the beginning of the 20th century wool was an important part of the breeding, but after World War II meat became more important. Because of that the size of the sheep has grown quite a lot. It's been exported to at least 40 countries, the main cause being it's high prolifacy. It's not unusual with 3-4 lambs. Before WW II the wool was highly appreciated, and was exported to many countries. It was sometimes called "Nordic Merino".

The pelt has been a big article in earlier years. You can still see sheep skins used as bed linens for babies in our harsh Finnish winters when families are out walking. When I was a child I loved sleeping in grandma's sheep skins, one under me, one covering me :) I think I fell i love with clean sheep wool then, under school age.

The breed is also known as the Finnish Landrace, or more familiar, the Finn. In Finland it's called Suomenlammas in Finnish and Finsk lantras in Swedish.

In this study I look at the American version of Finnsheep. I will return to the sheep of my own country, the Finnish Finns, later.

The first Finnsheep were imported to America in 1966 by the University of Manitoba in Canada. There is an interesting article about the breed and it's wool I prefer to call "American" rather than "Finnish" here: Grace Hatton: Fiber Basics. Often when animals are imported to another country, they are crossed with other breeds. That happened to Finnsheep in America also.

The American Finnsheep are rare. Not many purebred Finns are born each year.

The Wool and My Experience

The Finns are mostly white, but there also all the natural color variations of brown and black. A grey variation of the Finnsheep is called Kainuun Harmas.

American Finnwool is classified as "longwool" by The Spinning Loft, where I bought my sample. In Finland the sheep are sheared twice a year, so the staple length is not what I would call longwool. The sample I got from The Spinning Loft was long. I forgot to measure it and even to save a lock, so I can't say how long it was, but about 12-14 cm is a qualified guess. On the whole I was so astonished by this "Finnwool" that I lost my nerve :) I was happy about it, yes I was! It was a lovely fiber.

I combed the sample after I scoured it. I nearly damaged it by agitating it while it was still in the water, silly me. I'm well aware of one the characteristics of Finnwool: it felts. It felts if you look at it and say "felt!" The combing left me with lots of waste because of that, but I ended up with beautiful small tops, like small clouds. I spun them fine on a 1 oz drop spindle, plied on slightly heavier spindle. It was under plied, so I put it through my spinning wheel... phew... and knitted a lace sample. The wool really behaved like a longwool, which hasn't stopped astonishing me.

So what to do with the precious combing waste? I was angry with myself for almost spoiling this wonderful fiber, so I put the waste in the dyeing pot, added blue and red dyes and acid. Then I spun it on a supported spindle and plied it with a yellow singles I found in my stash. I got a pretty nice light weight yarn I can use as an example for "don't give up easy" in Spin in Public events.
Yes, this is a balanced yarn even if it doesn't look like it! It's low twist in both singles and the 2-ply

Next time I encounter American Finn I'll try not to loose my nerve.

Read More

American Finnsheep Breeders' Association