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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clun Forest Sheep - Wool AND Cuteness!

There is something charming about a white sheep with a black face. And what about those little stick-up ears? The Clun Forest Sheep is definitely a sheep worth knowing. The breed originates in the same area where fictional Brother Cadfael went about curing the sick and solving murders - the borderlands in the area of Shropshire, England and Powys, Wales.

Clun Forest Sheep are hardy and disease resistant. The ewes are good mothers and don't need assistance with lambing. They often produce twins or triplets. The rams are naturally hornless.

Clun Forest wool is lovely to work with. It is a down wool, which means it comes from one of the breeds of English sheep that originated in the downs region - the south of the country. Down wool is generally of a medium coarseness with good crimp and blocky, medium length staples. It has a lot of bounce and loft, and makes great socks, mittens, sweaters and hats. Industrially, it is often used to stuff futons.

Clun Forest Sheep don't produce big fleeces so it isn't economical to raise them for wool on a large scale. I have only been able to buy the wool directly from farmers. It's worth the hassle of finding someone who will sell you a Clun Forest Fleece or roving - working with down wool is a treat, and very different from working with a longwool (Romney, Blue-Faced Leicester) or a finewool like merino. I'm a big fan of good down wool - Dorset and Clun Forest are my favorites.

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