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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Baa Baa Black Sheep

This is a Black Welsh Mountain Sheep from Desert Weyr Farm. Pretty soon she is going to have a couple (or three) little Black Sheep following her around and nagging to be fed. I have never seen a black sheep in the flesh (or I should say In The Fleece) but I have spun with BWMS wool and it was a real treat.

In Merrie Olde England any sheep that wasn't white was called "black" and its wool was less desirable. White wool can be dyed any color. Not so for naturally colored wool. However, as handspinning has grown in popularity, so has the market for naturally-colored fleece.

The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep have been specifically bred for their rich, dark wool. It is of medium crimp and coarseness, some being softer than others, but none of it is next-to-skin soft. The staple is medium length - 3-4 inches maximum. It spins into a nice, hard-wearing yarn, suitable for outer garments. It doesn't felt much and is easy to draft. The BWMS is a little sheep and the fleeces aren't large. It is a rare breed in the USA and there are only a handful of growers.

If you can find a nice BWMS fleece, consider yourself lucky!

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