Sunday, April 10, 2011


photo taken from -

I wish you could feel the spongy coat on one of these sheep! Just lovely.

A few years ago a friend and I went up north a bit to meet with a very nice woman who raises Dorset sheep. I like to try the wool from different breeds and when I heard this breed was here in Maine I thought I'd go visit and buy some of her wool. Well, it's been a while and this roving has sat in my wool room all this time just patiently waiting for me to realize what a wonderful wool this is and spin it up.

Here's some info on Dorsets. It goes something like this; Centuries ago Spain brought Merino sheep into Southwest England and crossed them with the Horned Sheep of Wales, which produced a desirable all-purpose sheep which met the needs of that time. Thus began a breed of sheep which spread over Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and most of Wales and were called Horned Dorsets. In the USA they are called Dorset." Dorsets were brought to America in the 1850's so they've been here a while.
Taken from:

This is very fitting that I found the need to spin this sheep's wool now. As I type my son is on a train through Wales on his way to southern England! Dorset country!

Dorsets have what's considered a medium diameter fiber and a medium to long staple length making the yarn perfect for outer ware, socks, and blankets. One resource I'm reading, In Sheep's Clothing, says that this wool does not felt easily and that the grease content washes out easily with hot water and detergent. It also notes that since the wool is open and airy the fleece dries quickly. The staple often has more of a crimp after washing so it appears to have shrunk. For this reason it states to select preparation method after washing so you can see what the exact staple length will be.

Here's a wonderful write up of dorset wool:
It says that Dorset down wool is wonderful to hand spin. I agree! It is lofty and just a pleasure to work with. It is also suppose to take dye well. Good thing since I'm planning on dying it next week. More on that below. Dorset wool is the softest of the "down" fleeces. Down referring to short-wooled sheep with fleece that typically have a spongy handle and are considered lofty, air trapping, and warm. The fibers have a well developed spiral crimp and thus have excellent resilience, springiness, and elasticity. For these reasons the fiber has great shape retention and insulation.

This desire to spin some white wool came from my friend Lesley. Again she inspired me to try something a little different. She recently went to a weekend fiber dying workshop (lucky!) and now has a drum carder. During school break next week we will get together to dye some newly spun yarn. Well I can't play if I don't have some newly spun yarn to dye. So I pulled out one of the white rovings I had, that being this wonderful dorset and am I glad I did. The woman who raises these sheep said this will make lovely mittens and hats, outer garments. And I think she is absolutely right on! As I spin this all I can think about is what great mittens these will make. So now I have a project in mind. Mittens that will have a simple pattern of some kind.

I'll post a pic the yarn once it's all spun. And then next week invite you to see our dying day in progress!

On a slightly different note, I can't wait to try Lesley's new drum carder. I notice that when I card my Maine Island Sheep wool that there are lots of little nubs throughout it. I don't know if it's the wool or my carder, or my carding technique or all the above. But it'll be interesting to see what happens when I try it on a different carder. I'll let you know how that goes too.

So for now...spinning madly to get this all spun by next week. Ahhhh....such dilemmas I can live with :)

Happy Spring!


  1. Mary-- It turns out that I'm spinning for our dyeing day--mittens, too! Are you planning a single color or multiple colors? I've been enjoying the book Magnificent Mittens and Socks, by Anna Zilboorg, and it is full of gorgeous, multicolored mittens. Some with gauntlet cuffs. You'll see. I'm definitely holding a day just for dyeing. I have ordered a baby scale so we can be more precise. Otherwise, it is largely guesswork, and I want to be in control of what color and, especially, what value I can expect. Controlled dyeing is the color-knitter's dream. We can also do some uncontrolled hand painted yarn which is fun, too. I'll show you both my handpainted and precision-dyed yarns so you can make an informed decision. Looking forward to it. L

  2. Here's a link to that book you referred to: Holy crap Lesley! I don't think those were the mittens I had in mind! Maybe someday. I would like to do at least 3 colors. One main color and 2 others for a pattern around the wrist/arm area. That's what I'm thinking anyway. Do like the idea of some type of stitch variety around the cuff as well. Thanks Lesley! This will be fun. Can't wait.