I had a wonderful weekend in Michigan at the Spinning Loft. Beth’s a wonderful hostess, the students were bright and fun to be with, and I hope everyone had as good a time as I did. That’s not what I want to talk about though.
There’s a certain risk in hanging around with Beth. She sources, collects and sells a lot of breeds of fleece. In her shop, there are (be still my heart) thirty-five different breeds to be had, and that’s just in the wool department. (Denny walked away with some beautiful cotton to spin- and I almost got some too, until I remembered that I suck at spinning cotton, and that I was going to work on getting better at it with what I have before I added more to the stash.) I was tempted by some beautiful cormo- but I was on a bit of a mission. I’d had a poke around the shop and didn’t see what I wanted, and casually, over a cup of tea, I told Beth what I was after. A little Jacob, I said. Not too big, with lots of colour variation. Jacobs are a rare breed of sheep, only about 5000 in the world, with spots and horns. I love them for a lot of reasons – a good Jacob can be very soft and even and pretty, with a fine, even crimp through the fleece- but what really turns my crank is that they aren’t just one colour. They might be brown and cream, brown, cream and white, black and white or cream, or be all sorts of grey. They’re a fascinating heirloom breed. The next morning when I saw Beth, she had a couple of big bags. Turns out that what she’s got in the shop might just be the tip of the iceberg, because she’d gone out to her garage and come back in with two beautiful Jacobs. The first one was mostly black and white, and a very nice fleece, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Then Beth opened the second bag, and it turned out to be a little lilac Jacob. Now, I know lilac usually means pale purple, but in a Jacob, it means greyish brown. This one was perfect. Beautiful soft, several shades of grey on a creamy base.
I liked it, but I didn’t love it, not until Beth took a lock of the wool to the sink and gave it a little wash. We both just about fell over. That yellowy/creamy wool washed out to the most beautiful snow white.
I grabbed two more locks from other parts of the fleece and washed those too.
All the colours washed up more beautiful than I’d imagined. More grey than I expected…
and with that, I bought the fleece, because I imagined a shawl – a shawl sort of like this one from Three-cornered and Long Shawls (Love that book) with stripes that reflect the original colouring of the Jacob who made it. I don’t think I’ll do any blending – just divide the fleece into the colours that are present (I see four or five distinctive shades) and then wash and spin it into a simple two ply, somewhere in between a lace and fingering weight. Jacobs are pretty little, so it’s only about 1300 grams (or 3lbs, depending on your figuring.) and that’s way, way more than I’ll need.
I think I’m a little in love with this little sheepie, and I’m ever so glad that Beth has a fleece fetish. I’m pretty excited about seeing if I can make the shawl I’m imagining a reality.