Have you ever come across a fleece that is captivating? It pleases your wool senses. It inspires possibilities. It begs to be handled. You love it so much that, after washing, you diligently check on it every hour or so to see if it’s dry yet. Deep inside you know it’s really just an excuse to gaze upon it’s loveliness just a few more minutes. The hand, the crimp, the color… the everything…too wonderful for words.
So, Jacob… um…well.. Jacob didn’t do that for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great. It’s a good breed with good sturdy wool. It just didn’t thrill me like I thought it would. High expectations (and lack of doing my homework) is so often a downfall. I got this nice fleece from a farm in New York. It is a yearling fleece! The staple length is 4 to 5 inches which falls right into the expected 3″ to 7″ range. It washed up nicely with 3 washes and 3 rinses. It has a nice balance of dark and light colored wool being a piebald (white with dark spots).
Jacob’s have medium soft wool. This one is, for the most part, pretty soft, which you would expect from a yearling. After washing, I dug into a section to start getting a feel for the wool, it was riddled with kemp. Ugh, I was confused and a little worried. Visions of limited-use skeins flashed before my eyes. Oh dear!
Further investigation revealed it was just that one little area with kemp. Oh, thank goodness! Regarding kemp, I have since read two different things. One, it’s common for Jacobs to have kemp. Two, another source said there should be little to no kemp. Huh. The length is more than great on this fleece. It ranges from 4″ all the way up to 6″ with the bulk of it in the 5″ range. Another common acceptable Jacob trait is varying lengths of wool on each sheep. Often the darker wool is shorter. Jacob fleece is also know to have a nice open structure and light in the lanolin department. It has a down-like quality even thought it is not double coated. It fluffs up with lots of spring when spun. The micron range for the breed is 26-36.
Oh, I almost forgot, one of the main characteristics is the horns. Jacob are polycerates. They have 2 to 6 horns.
A brief history: These charming small framed sheep come from England where they have been very popular for centuries. Beyond the most recent centuries, it is unclear of the original original decent. Some think maybe the area of Syria. Today there are British Jacobs and American Jacobs. Jacobs were imported to the US during the mid 1900’s.
The British decided to breed Jacobs for an even fleece and larger overall body structure. Jacobs in the US have been breed to enhance the quality of wool but leaving other original characteristics the same.
Jacobs are a Heritage or primitive breed. In the United States, they have been put on The Livestock Conservancy conservation list, currently at a “Threatened” status.
Small batches of washed locks and flicked locks are available in my Etsy shop as of the publishing of this blog entry.
Freshly washed and in progress – Suffolk.
This Suffolk fleece came from Black Sheep Gathering in Albany, Oregon. I grabbed it at the last minute on my final pass through the fleece market. The breed was not marked, but it was dense, fluffy, nice crimp, not terribly dirty, and in my price range considering I just spent a boat load of money at the market and already purchased two other big raw fleeces.
After months, I finally got around to sending a couple of emails to find out exactly what kind of sheep this lovely fleece came from. A very nice coordinator at BSG contacted the ranch where “Bella” resides. Heard back, Suffolk! Suffolk was not on my “learn more about” radar. I hadn’t ever even considered it. I am so glad I grabbed this fleece. I love it.
It was a real pleasure to wash. Most of the dirt came off in a pre-soak. The lanolin came off with one wash. Beautiful fleece with half the wash work! It’s a nice white and has all the characteristics you expect from the breed.
Suffolk is a down breed. This fleece is medium, slightly on the softer side of medium. It cards up wonderfully on the drum carder and hand cards. The first quick sample yarn I spun straight from a lock, separated with my fingers and spun on a wheel (a). I get so eager to test once a fleece is washed and dry! I spun an extra nice lock on a support spindle as well – teased by hand (b), it was easy and nice spinning (note: Don’t judge my sample too much. It was a grab and go situation. Spun to test the wool, not make a perfect yarn.). The last sample, which I just spun up yesterday, is from roving I made on my drum carder (c) and (c2).
I have three small batches (6 ounces each) of this washed fleece in my Etsy shop. Coming up, I’ll have either batts or roving available as well. Feel free to contact me via email if Etsy isn’t your thing.