This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Romeldale: the story of a rescue

Remember this photo from a few posts back?  This is the Romeldale painted top/roving  that I got from a friend.  Romeldale is a sheep breed originally developed in the early 20th century in California by one family, who are still raising the sheep, but now in Oregon.  The sheep started with a cross between imported NZ Romney rams and Rambouillet ewes, and then standardardized for the fine, white wool that large wool manufacturers wanted.*  It is lovely stuff for the hand-spinner, too. 

It does felt.  When I pulled the top/roving out of the bag, I found that all of it was slightly matted, though just short of felting. In the process of dying, it had apparently either been overcooked or exposed to abrupt temperature changes. In addition, I found that there were two batches. In both, the colors were lovely, but blocky.  In one, the sections of colors tended to separate as it was drafted. The other was splotchy, with long sections of white interspersed with bands of color. Neither appealed to me, though I loved the colors.  So my problem was how to get what I had to what I wanted:  

I decided to process the two batches separately.  Both of them were going to need to have the fibres loosened.  This I could do by first "popping" them--  holding a section just long enough so that the fibres wouldn't separate and giving it a quick snap.  I did that along the entire length of each section of wool, then gently attenuated it into a roving-thick rope.  

I broke that roving into four equal length sections, laid them together so the fibres lay in the same direction, and attentuated them so they became again a single roving. After doing this several times, the blocks of color gradually softened into  more muted and shaded colors that merged with each other along the length of the roving.  

The batch with the long sections of white took more work.  Not only did it need to be attentuated many more times, I sometimes broke a section and moved it to another location to even out the colors.  I even moved a bit from the other batch to add a bit more color

The first I spun as a fairly chunky yarn.  The second is near lace-weight.  Laid side by side, you can tell they are related, and yet they each have a distinctive character.  

And they are both lovely and soft to the touch.  I think the thin one will become a scarf, and the chunkier one will be mittens, or a cap, or maybe a pair of soft winter slippers.  

 * Romeldale sheep does also come in other colors, but these were bred separately from the white commercial herds, in  joint effort with another breeder.  In the 1970s, a few sheep with badger faces showed up.  The breeders decided to work with the strain to develop a multi-colored sheep.  This became the California Variegated Mutant (CVM).  Same breed, but bred separately to keep the colors pure in the one case, and to maintain the color patches in the other. In time they will become separate breeds; some believe they already are. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius is a wonderful source of information about western sheep breeds and other fibre animals. 

No comments: