Wow time is really running away from me at the moment! I can't believe September is nearly over! I am just in time..
I used short fibre merino for Judit Poc's Lizard workshop a couple months ago.. that was the first time I'd ever used it and I was curious to see how it would be different from 'normal' merino. I'm pretty sure other people must be curious about it too so decided to use it as a Fibre of the Month.
|Image from World Federation of Merino Breeders|
I brought my short fibre merino batts from Norwegian Wool. They have a good choice of colours and provided absolutely excellent (very friendly) service. Maggy also kindly provided me with plenty of information about the fibre which I am going to summarise here.
The Merino sheep originally comes from Spain, where records first show it being traded in 1307.The Merino sheep is an excellent forager and very adaptable and was closely guarded for its superior quality. Before the 18th century the export of Merino Sheep from Spain was punishable by death.
The Merino stocked at Norwegian Wool comes from South Africa, where they are reared for both their meat and wool. Merinos were first introduced to S.A. in 1789. Wool sheep breeders in S.A. are well organised and have great regard for husbandry of their sheep and the environment. Mulesing is not a widespread procedure as the South African Merino has been bred with less skin folds so there is less wool growth in the animal breech area. Many woolgrowers shear the breech area halfway through the growth cycle of the fleece. This is called ‘crutching’ and eliminates the moist woolly environment where blowfly can flourish. The Merino stocked at Norwegian Wool is mulesing free.
Merino sheep need to be shorn at least once a year as their wool doesn't stop growing. If allowed to grow unshorn it causes major health issues. Many flocks are shorn 3 times every 2 years (approx every 8 months).
The wool is finely crimped and soft, typically 3-5 inches in length and very fine (12 to 24 microns). The finest (and most valuable) wool comes from hogget's. According to my dictionary a hogget is a yearling sheep.. a lamb between weaning and first shearing. A hogget fleece is the first time the animal has been shorn and has the softest, finest fleece the animal will ever produce. Maggy's references: Wikipedia, www.nzMerino.co.nz, www.Merinosa.co.za, www.capewools.co.za and www.woolmark.com
Maggy and me both found it impossible to get a definitive answer as to WHY short fibre merino is shorter than the merino used for tops.. but it seems most likely that it is simply due to a shorter period of time passing between shearings resulting in shorter fibre. If anybody knows more on this please comment.. we both found this lack of definite, clear information quite frustrating.
|mmmm left a little too much fibre in those corners..|
to be honest I wasn't thinking about them at all..
Laid the same as previous samples: 20cm x 20cm square, 3 layers.. and felted hard to achieve maximum shrinkage.
This is 21 micron but if I'm totally honest feels coarser to me.. probably because it's shorter. The staple length is approx 2" (5cm).
If you pull tuffs off and lay them down with ends overlapping (shingling) it takes a long time to lay out and is quite lofty, needing wetting down after each layer. (for my project I re-carded it into variegated batts on my drum carder and was able to carefully peel nice even layers off to layout.. this was quicker and less pouffy.
Finished sample size: 14cm x 13cm
Shrinkage: 30% x 35%
Short fibre Merino gives a firm felt which would be very good for structural pieces, hats and bags... (and I'm sure many, many other things :) this is just what I think I would use it for).
Next time: Short Fibre Merino Project