Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fibre of the Month November - Estonian Batts

Getting in during November just by the skin of my teeth - though the project will follow in early December (cos it isn't finished yet!)

This month I'm using Estonian Batts from Jane Flanagan Textiles - the batts are a blend of Gotland and merino.  Jane was unsure of the proportion of merino to Gotland in the blend.. but having used them to me they feel and behave like they are mostly Gotland.  I think maybe they are a little softer to handle than if it were just Gotland...

And as this is a blend I'm talking a little bit about both breeds :)

Gotland Sheep
Love the natural colours and wonderful curly fleeces
image from
Just look at that face!  What a beautiful sheep!
image from edengotlandsheep.wordpress
According to the British Coloured Sheep Breeders Association:
Gotland are a Northern Short Tailed breed, originating from the island of Gotland, where primitive examples still exist.  The modern Gotland sheep is famous for its' furskin in attractive shades of silver grey.  This is a sheep which yields 3 crops; good flavoured meat, a soft silky fleece, and its' furskin.

Gotland ewes are good mothers, easy to lamb, prolific and milky.  Lambs are fast to suckle and fast growing from birth.  They are a medium sized friendly sheep that is hardy and adaptable.

Fleeces weight  3 - 3.5 kg
Staple length 13 - 18cm
Averages 35 micron but can be as low as 18-20  /  Bradford count 48 average

Merino Sheep
According to Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd:
Merino are the oldest established breed of sheep in the world, the breed is named after a nomadic Berber tribe in North Africa who brought their sheep with them to Spain in the 12th century.  After 1786 the Spaniards relaxed their ban on exporting breeding stock.

Fleece weight 4 - 6 kg
Staple length 6 - 10cm
Micron count less than 24

I have a history in history :) I spent many years working for my local museum service and had a particular interest in textiles..   Considering how important the domestic wool industry of Britain was, it may be surprising that as well as exporting an aweful lot of fleece, our ancestors actually IMported it too!  The softest, most expensive and highly prized wool (only available to the rich due to it's cost) was imported Spanish Wool.  Which of course must of been merino..  These days in the UK we get most of our merino from Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America.. you wouldn't imagine merino being here back in the medieval - until you hear of the history of the merino breed.. wonderful.  This made me really happy when I worked for the museum 'cos it meant I could get away with using merino fibre when I wanted.. it was Spanish Wool :)

And this is what Jane Flanagan says about the blend on the webshop:
'The wool is collected directly from farmers in Scandinavia and Estonia, and is then gently washed in a bleach-free liquid soap.  It is dyed to a beautiful range of colours without the use of harsh chemicals, so that it retains some lanolin and the natural feel and smell of pure wool.'

As you can see I haven't had time to embroider the details on as yet..
Laid out the same as previous samples: 20cm x 20cm square, 3 layers and felted hard to achieve maximum shrinkage.

These batts come as a cut edged square measuring about 20" square (from memory, I didn't measure).
You can feel that there is a nice amount of lanolin in there.  There wan't much veggie matter in the batts I brought.  

It's very easy to peel even layers from the batt to work with!

The sample is made from a very strongly coloured dark orange which I can report was pretty colour fast!  I had a small amount of colour run when I used very hot water in the last stages - but I'd of been more surprised if I didn't.

Finished sample size: 13cm x 12.5cm
Weight: 9.7g
Shrinkage: 35% x 37%

This has made a nice strong felt, now that it is finished it has a softer surface texture than I'd expect from Gotland alone.  But this doesn't detract from the strength of the felt..  It has a slightly hairy finish (actually I noticed while felting that it 'sheds' like Gotland usually does).

Next time: Estonian Batt Boots :)


Vermont Grand View Farm said...

So exciting to see that the Gotland fleece makes lovely, strong felt. I have just purchased a small flock of Gotland sheep! They arrived last Friday and I am so excited about being able to not only knit with my own wool, but also do felting. You can visit my blog and read about the exciting arrival of my Gotlands!

FeltersJourney said...

Hi Kim, wow how exciting! Your description of chasing the ram down the main road and his eventual capture made me smile :) x