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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sheep Study: Cotswold The Washing

Next in our study is the Cotswold sheep.

The Cotswold sheep is a longwool that is thought to be one of the oldest known sheep breeds.  It has historical roots around the areas of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire in England. Some authorities claim that the sheep were present even before the Romans in 54 BCE, being brought in by the Phoenicians in the earlier 100 BCE years. The locks themselves are often sold as "Santa's Beard" hair, for use in dolls.  Cotswold sheep are normally polled and have white faces and black hooves. The wool can be tan, grey, or white, with white being (sadly, in my opinion) the most sought after for those "Santa Beards".

From the Books:
Staple Length: 7-12 inches
Micron Count: 34-40 microns
Luster: high luster, silky
Felting: modest felting qualities (although my shepherd said that if you even *look* at some of the locks funny, they will felt...)

My Experience:
I received two types of samples, both white and the natural grey/tan.  Both were lustrous and long fibers, which displayed themselves in perfectly curled ringlets when first pulled out of the box.

The White:

In its raw state, my white sample weight 3 1/4 ounces.  Some of the tips were felted, but otherwise, the fiber was free flowing.  The white samples came from sheep named Dinah, Glinda, and Nibbles, and there was a little bit of hay and vegetable matter in the locks.

Staple length: short-6.5 inches, long-7.5 inches
Crimp: 4-5 crimps per inch
Fineness: soft, almost like a silky hair, not as soft as optim Merino, but as soft as regular Merino, and less coarse than the cheviot I had been working with.

Prewash Weight: 3 1/4 ounces, out of bag
Washing: 3 washes, 2 rinses (with no additives)
Postwash Weight: 2 1/5 ounces, out of bag

When we do the math for the percentage change,
                                                  --------------  x 100  =  percentage change

               We get:
                                     --------------  x 100 = -.32   or 32% Loss
The Gray:

The gray locks were slightly more silvery in color than a true gray. This is one of the natural colors that Cotswold can be, (other colors are fawn, darker brown, dark grey to almost black, or a tan color) and I have to say, with the luster that is inherent in the breed, these locks were *shiny*

Staple Length:  4.5 inches on the short end, and 8.25 inches on the longest end.
Crimp: 6 crimps per inch
Feel: This was softer than the white, but also had more crimps per inch. I am thinking that the darker locks will require a little less spin than other samples, because of the higher crimp ratio.

Prewash Weight: 3 ounces
Washing: 2 wash, 2 rinse (last rinse with conditioner)
Postwash Weight: 2 ounces

Percentage Change: 33% loss

The reason why I had added conditioner to the last rinse of the gray Cotswold locks was because I had already completed spinning a sample of the white, and felt that it was a bit coarse. In order to rule out my washings as the culprit, I washed these samples with conditioner. When I do the spinning samples, we will uncover whether washing or spinning was the cause of the coarseness of a previous squishy fiber (another post, to be sure. Stay tuned for Sheep Study: Cotswold Spinning)

What we have learned:

When washing raw Cotswold locks, we can expect between a 32-35% loss in weight. There wasn't much lanolin in the raw locks that I washed, so I expect future numbers to be around the 35% end of the spectrum.  Of course, lanolin production varies with the season and the conditions that the sheep are in. No two fleeces are really the same, regardless if they are raised on the same farm. And also, these sheep were not raised without pasture or with coats. There was vegetable matter in all the locks. The good thing is that my shepherd knows the value of handspinning, and was sure to be careful to not throw hay on her sheeps' backs, but still. Vegetable matter is unavoidable in most cases. However, most of it will come out during further processing.

Up next in this Sheep Study: Combing versus Carding, Processing Locks for Spinning

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