fredag 11 mars 2011

Gotland Sheep. My Fiber Studies 13

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

Gotland sheep belong to the North European short tailed group of sheep. It is a multi purposed breed: pelt, meat and wool. It's a polled, big sheep, born black and lightens to gray with black heads and legs when grown up. There are many color variations including white, but the silvery gray is most appreciated. The Gotland sheep has been bred from an old sheep breed called "utegångsfår" with primarily good pelt and meat as the goal. From Gotland it has spread to the rest of Sweden and to other countries. It is closely related to the Gute sheep. The Swedish name for the breed is "Gotlandsfår".

The Wool

Even if the Gotland is a fur sheep, the wool can be used for knitting and weaving yarns. It's much appreciated by handspinners. The wool is wavy and lustrous and can be spun into a large range of yarns.

My Experience

I got a very nice raw wool sample from Ingrid in Sweden. There was at least three clearly different types of fiber in three gray shades and of different lengths. For simplicity I sorted the wool in three heaps, ignoring the different staple lengths and concentrating on color. Photo above.

hand carding the two lightest gray into rolags
hand combing the darkest gray into tops
hand carding the combing waste into rolags
Spinning Wheel: Louet Victoria
Ratios: 1:6, 1:8.5
WPI in singles on my WPI tool: 14-18

The rolags were easy to spin with a woolen draw, only I found that open, lofty rolags were easier than tightly rolled puni types. I spun a 2-ply from this prep, and just to see how it would look I also spun a thick singles.

The light gray fibers were the coarsest. This surprised me, because usually darker fibers are coarser. I thought these fibers came from a part of the sheep's body where the fibers are coarser no matter what color they are.

The darker gray was coarse also, but not as much as the lighter gray. I spun a 2-ply yarn with woolen draw. I could use this in a hat if I use a softer yarn in the brim.

The darkest gray were very lustrous and silky fibers, so I hand combed them on my single pitch mini Louet combs. These combs were not the best ones for this fiber, but they are the only combs I have for the moment. I spun a worsted 2-ply sample. This yarn would be a good upholstery yarn.
          Locks, combed tops and carded combing waste

I got enough quite good combing waste. I carded it and spun a woolen 2-ply. This yarn would be good in heavy outdoor sweaters, hats and mittens. It could also be used for weaving rugs and blankets.

The few meters of left overs on the bobbins I used for:

a 4-strand cabled yarn that can be used as a cord
a ply-back 3-ply yarn


Again a sheep breed with many possibilities. From a small sample of fleece I got 7 yarn samples. All of these can be used in different ways in weaving and spinning, and techniques such as nalbinding, braiding and more.

Read more:
Rasbeskrivning Gotlandsfåret
British Gotland Sheep Society
American Gotland Sheep Society

M.L. Ryder, Sheep & Man. Duckworth, 2007