Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sheep of the Week: Jacob

One of the hardest parts of spinning fiber into yarn is choosing from among the oodles of materials.  You can't always tell from the way a fiber feels in the store how it will feel once it is spun and washed, its twist set, then knit into something yummy.  In a cruel twist of fate, fiber that is soft enough to swaddle a baby (think Merino) generally will be more delicate and likely to wear out sooner.  And what is durable and sturdy (Wensleydale, anyone) is what that itchy scarf is made of.  You know the one.  It's on the floor in the back of the hall closet the last time you checked.  And as I search for materials, either in my local shops or on online, I find that there is an information underload.  So I am trying to educate myself about various breeds of sheep by both researching and experimenting first hand with a variety of fibers.  Each week, I will study a breed and share my findings.

First up, the Jacob.

I stumbled across some beguiling fiber at a local shop, The Asheville NC Homecraft Shop, which carries many locally produced products, including rovings from Hobby Knob Farm, just up the road in Weaverville, NC.  This stripey madness is what I spied:

When the lady in the shop told me it came from one sheep with 4 horns, I knew I had to investigate.  I also bought a Jacob batt, when had been well blended to a uniform gray, and which I dyed in my Carolina Sunrise colorway---purples, indigos, coral and red--and spun into a textured yarn for which you'll just have to stay tuned.  

Until then, let me introduce you to the Jacob.  Does this look real to you?

Octavia, from Hobby Knob Farm.

From Hobby Knob Farm. I only see 2 horns.

They're like the panda bears of the sheep world!  Only with horns.  And hooves.  And I bet they reproduce more easily.  Anyway...they believe that these sheep come from the Middle East, through Spain and Portugal to Britain.  Its wool is of medium luster and is best when spun into a thicker yarn, either worsted or woolen.  It is not a next-to sensitive skin wool, so save it for knitting into outerwear and outdoor garments--hats, mittens, sweaters, vests.  

I decided to use some of my top to practice the second lesson of Art 101--the Autowrap.  I carded some gorgeous mohair with a little sparkle to serve as my wrap, plopped that in a bowl at my feet and started treadling.  Now, I'm not much for brown yarn.  I'm just not much for brown, period.  And the mixing of the brown and the white of the fiber is a little obscured by the mohair which, I grant you, could have been spun a little finer.  But the more time I spend with my little skein of Jacob, the more enamored I am.  You decide.

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