Black Sheep, Black Sheep

Since today is a crap day – as in, “holy hell, I can’t see out to the road for the damned blizzard!” kind of crap day – I thought I’d write about something close to my heart. Black fleeces.

The term “black sheep” has a specific meaning and is a catch-all, all at the same time. The first entry in the Free Dictionary, fount of all knowledge says “a sheep with black fleece”. Also, according to Wikipedia, fount of all knowledge that really should be further researched (just sayin), the term “black wool” means “any wool that is not white, but not necessarily black”.

That being said, I have a hell of a lot of black wool here. Not black exactly; the fleeces that I’m currently slogging through are a variegated gray (two half-fleeces from the same sheep in different years) and a lovely chocolate alpaca fleece in a batt (my sister’s Giftmas present to me). In fact, I think I’ve had 3 fleeces that I can say without fear of contradiction are black. Black by anybody’s definition of the word. One was an alpaca roving. I think I’d like to start a shawl with that yarn this spring – I might have enough.

My favorite black sheep, not counting camelids of any kind, are:

Navajo-Churro. They have been in the Americas for over 400 years, primarily raised by the Dinè tribe and the source of their beautiful woven rugs. It’s considered a rare breed. The sheep come in a wide range of colors from white-ish to black and other colors and patterns in between. The wool is considered longwool and they have a dual coat. Right now, I have a bag full of the leavings from combing; mostly shorter wool that came out, I’m going to try carding it and see how it spins up.

Shetland. They are native to the UK and also come in a wide variety of colors and markings. The fleeces can be either a single coat or a double coat, but I think I’ve primarily worked with single coated fleece.

Jacob. The first rare breed that I ever worked with and still my all-time favorite type of unprocessed wool to work with. Also a native of the UK, they have two sets of long horns (some Churro sheep have this as well) and have spots. The spots can be black or “lilac” with varying amounts of white in a given sheep. You can blend the fleece for a gray-ish color or separate out the black/lilac and white bits to spin separately. As I found out the hard way, some fleeces are more easily separated than others.

That’s pretty much it for today. Off to comb some more wool and make some soup. Unrelated activities, I promise.

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