Fleece & Fiber
I first fell in love with Leicester Longwool sheep through their fleece.
I had been weaving fleece rugs and the Leicesters' lustrous, crimpy, long lock holds its
structure well. I became so enamoured of the fleece of these sheep that I started to
research the breed. The Leicester Longwool has great historical signifcance and
unfortunately is now critically endangered; this convinced me that this was a breed that I
would enjoy raising. Our first Leicester Longwools arrived from Virginia in July 2011.
Once the sheep arrived, I fell totally in love with the sheep themselves. We have
increased our flock so that we can have enough sheep to be able to put together starter
flocks for other farms and so that we can have more fiber to work with and have
available for our fiber friends.
Leicester Longwool
                     
Leicester Longwool
Fleece Characteristics
Length: per year up to 10" or 5"
(half-year)
Weight: 5 lbs. (half year) - 18 lbs.
(full-year)
Fiber Diameter: 32-38 microns
Lock: Long, distinct locks with crimp that
is well defined from pointed tips to flat
base. Very high lustre.
Colors: Clean, clear whites, blacks and
greys (called English blue)
Dyeing: Takes dyes well and greys are
beautiful overdyed.
Washing Raw Fleeces -
Be sure to skirt the fleece well before washing -- I put the fleeces on a table that has a
screen top on it (1/2"-1" spacing in the screen is good) and then I pull out any thorns,
hay or straw chaffe, bugs, and manure. Also shake well to remove any small second cuts.

At left is a photo of the fleece from one of the lambs sheared in the fall. Below is the same
fleece after washing. The key to getting the fleeces really clean is to get the lanolin
dissolved in
very hot water. Most hot water heaters are not hot enough to do this. So if
your hot water heater will not go to 140-160 degrees, you can add boiling water (from a
pan off the stove) to bring up the water temperature. Then I put in about 2 lbs. of raw
fleece to soak.
Be sure not to let the machine agitate! I let the fleece soak for about 30
min. or so and then set it to spin cycle to spin out the water. Pull the wool out and repeat.
For those who don't want to use their (top loading) washers, you can do this in large
plastic or metal tubs.
Yarn for Sale-- I have limited quantities of
Leicester Longwool yarn made from our lambs' wool. It is
spun into a beautiful 3 ply worsted weight. Currently in stock
is white lambs wool.
$35 (approximately 250 yards; skeins weigh from 6-8 oz.)
"It is said that the immortal Bakewell kept a black ram for use in improving the Leicester. ...In Quebec the common stock of the
country appears to all intents and purposes to be of the pure Leicester blood, and no doubt it is, as the foundation of that stock is
said to be from an early importation of that breed. The flocks are very uniform in type, but one thing...there was the large number of
black individuals found in every flock. In quite a number of cases 25% of the flock was made up of black sheep."
(p158)
An Interesting Experiment:
"...at the Iowa experiment station with the view of testing the relative merits of several of the more
prominent breeds of sheep. Ten lambs of each variety were selected and fed in the same way. Of the
British breeds the Cotswolds gained the most rapidly in weight, the Suffolk and Lincoln breeds coming
next on the list, the Oxfords and Dorsets being last. In the yield of wool the Lincolns came first with a
fleece averaging 12.85 lb.; the Cotswolds were next with the fleece of 12.65 lb.;
the Leicester next
with 11.50 lb.
; the Oxfords next with 10.95 lb.; the Shropshires next with 8.75 lb.; the Suffolks next
with 7.65 lb.; the Dorsets next with 6.8 lb.; the Southdowns next with 6.75 lb. The Merinos sheared
9.9 lb.
The most valuable fleeces in natural condition were the Leicesters, the Lincolns,
Cotswolds and Oxfords in the order named. The Merino fleeces were estimated as being worth the
least money per pound in their natural condition, but after scouring commanded by far the highest price.
The Merino fleeces shrank 67 per cent in weight.
The Leicesters showed the least shrinkage-- 38
per cent."
(p160)
Reference:
--Modern Sheep Breeds and Management by "Shepherd Boy" Associate Editor. American Sheep Breeder Co., Chicago, IL 1907.
I have used  many different products for washing raw fleeces
over the years. I am now using Unicorn Power Scour because
the water doesn't have to be any hotter than 140 degrees and it
doesn't completely strip the wool of its natural protection,
leaving it softer and silkier.Depending on how dirty and
greasy the wool is, I may wash it 2-3 times. Then rinse with
clear water. I also like Unicorn's Fiber Rinse and will
sometimes use that with the last rinse. I am now carrying this
product line, so let me know if you're interested in buying
Unicorn products..
Then I dry the wool on screens in our greenhouse. Or, if we
have the wood stove going, I'll put screens across chairs and
dry it by the wood stove!
Roving & Batts for Sale-- Rovings and
batts are white or light, medium or dark grey. Please
email for availability.
$3/oz or $32/lb for rovings;
Felt batts are
$35 each (approximately 1 lb. each)
Washed Locks-- For doll makers and weavers, I
will handpick and handwash raw locks and sell them by the
pound
(white, colored, or 50/50 white & colored locks) $35 per pound.
Email lavenderfleece@charter.net or
phone
989.832.4908 to order