Southdown, Part 2


Posted by admin | Posted in 10kH, knitting, spinning | Posted on 11-10-2011

Once the Southdown was as clean as it was going to be and was dry, I began to experiment with processing.  I do not own hand cards, and my combs are Viking combs meant for long wools and medium-to coarse wools.  Southdown is neither of these.

Here’s where I learned something interesting: Deborah Robson says on the Rare Wools DVD that when working with very elastic and springy wools, one can use a worsted preparation and still get a woolen yarn.  AHA! I thought to myself.  My use of combs is validated!  I decided to go ahead and use my Viking combs to see how they’d work.

I loaded the combs with the scour-shortened locks and began combing.  Much of the VM that was left in the tips of the locks during scouring came out when I combed.  I had to comb over a table so the bits of dried grasses didn’t get all over my carpet.  Two passes with the combs was enough to get a fluffy mass ready for dizzing.  I couldn’t find my dizz so I used the hole in a ruler instead.  As I pulled the fiber off the combs, I noticed that I still felt some lanolin – scouring hadn’t removed all of it.  I ended up with several nests of combed top:


Southdown Combed Top

I did take two locks and save them out from combing.  Instead, I pulled them into a strand of fiber by hand, opening up the lock that way.  It was much less even than the combing, but it did work.  Those two locks are on the right of the above picture.

When I weighed the amount of usable fiber and waste, I noticed that I’d lost quite a bit.  I looked back over the waste to see if there was anything salvageable, but there really wasn’t.  There were a lot of pills in this fiber – I thought at first they were second cuts, but when I pulled them apart they became individual, full-length fibers that has balled themselves up.  A danger of very elastic fibers, I assume.  I ended up with 12g of waste and 29g of useable fiber from my original 59g amount.  The rest was lanolin and VM.


Southdown waste fiber

The nests are all ready to be spun now; they are just waiting for their turn on the wheel.  That will happen very soon, as I’m excited to see what yarn this will create.  I will scour the finished yarn to remove some more of the lanolin that remained from the first washing.

Southdown, Part 1


Posted by admin | Posted in 10kH, spinning | Posted on 02-10-2011


Southdown is the first sheep fleece I picked from my sampler.  I did a little research and here’s what I found out about the breed:

  • Southdown sheep come from Southern England.  They are a Down sheep – “Down” referring not to their wool, but to the breed’s origin of the “Downlands” of England.
  • Southdowns, like all Down sheep, have colored faces and white wool.  Babydoll Southdowns (an American version of the breed that is smaller than the English version) do come in colors.
  • The Southdown sheep is the originator of all of the Down sheep.
  • These sheep are primarily a meat sheep, with the fleece being a strong “second crop.”

The fiber came in a 59 gram sample (about 2 oz) that was raw.  It was quite pungent, and upon examining had not only quite a bit of VM (veggie matter) but also poop in the locks. The color was a dull beige yellow, characteristic of raw fleece.

Southdown fleece (raw)

The locks were blocky – they barely narrowed from base to tip, and had an average staple length of just over two inches. They had a very spongelike texture, which I’d never worked with before.  The individual fibers were curly and crimpy and within the lock lost their definition.  The fleece was very dense and springy.

Southdown lock (raw)


I put the entire sample into a lingerie bag and scoured it with the following method: 2 soaks in 130-degree water for 15 minutes each, then two rinses in 130 degree water for ten minutes each.  I shook the bag out on my sweater dryer, turned it on, and let the locks dry overnight.

The next day I examined the locks.  They were much whiter than they had been raw; they were now white at the base and a pale cream at the tips.  The tips still had a lot of veggie matter in them, I am assuming because the fibers were so dense together.  The locks had shortened by half an inch!  My research showed this to be because of the wool’s elasticity.  The poopy bits were still quite poopy, so they got another round of scouring.

Southdown lock (clean)

Southdown fleece (clean)


Part 2 is next – processing and spinning. :)



  1. Handspinning Rare Wools: How to Spin Them, Why We Should Care, by Deborah Robson.  2011: Interweave Press.
  2. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.  2011: Storey Publishing.
  3. Fiber Sampler Kit from The Spinning Loft.