Two Sheep

Sheep Breeds

There is much to discuss when looking a sheep breeds and fiber. I will not try to capture all the intricacies relating to a sheep fleece as this is a blog for the non-expert.
Below I separate breeds by typical fiber qualities and provide a non-exhaustive list of sheep breeds, categories, and traditional fiber uses as a general guide to interpret the sheep farms and single sheep fiber listed under the resources page.
A list of sources used to compile this page is provided at the bottom of the page.

Fine Wool Breeds

Fine wool fibers are those considered soft enough to wear next to the skin. Traditionally this includes fleece from breeds such as:

  • Merino and mixed breeds with merino

  • Rambouillet

  • Cormo

  • Targhee

Image by Anders Jacobsen

Medium Wool Breeds

Medium wool breeds are white-faced mixed breeds and have a range of softness. These fleeces can be used to mix with fine fiber to provide a more durable garment. 

Border Leicester

Corriedale

Columbia

Note: I found Corriedale to be fine against the skin but this can vary by particular animal fleece. 

Sheep in Field

Coarse Wool Breeds

Coarse wool breeds can be used for outerwear and rugs. A few seen in this area are:

Lincoln

Cheviot

Navajo-Churro

Romney

Dorset

I found some Cheviot to be quite soft. Wool from different sheep can vary among the same breed. Care of the sheep and its fleece can affect quality.

Image by Kasper Lau

What's Staple length?

The length of a lock of wool from a sheep's fleece from the base to the tip is referred to as staple length. Mills will typically have equipment that is tailored to a specific staple length range. Below is an image of a mix Border Leicester and Romney fleece.

staple length image_edited.jpg

What is Crimp?

A sheep's lock can vary by the amount of crimp that is present. Look at the close-up of the lock above and notice the fiber appears to be wavy. Crimp adds bounce to fibers and is important when making garments that need to have a bit of stretch.

zoomin_crimp.jpg

I referenced many URLs while learning about sheep and fiber. Below are a few specific to sheep breeds and fiber qualities. 

Wool Grades and Sheep that Grow Wool

Meadow Mountain Wool

Raising Sheep

Independent Stitch

World of Wool