The fibre from a Scottish Blackface fleece has three distinctive characteristics. Firstly, the staple is long, sometimes very long (6 – 14 inches). Spun correctly, this creates body and exceptional strength. Secondly, the fibre is very stable – it lacks elasticity – which means it recovers beautifully from compression. In our opinion, this creates a yarn which lends itself to outerwear. Garments which need to maintain shape and structure, while generating exceptional warmth and durability. Finally, the fleece is entirely white and takes dye wonderfully, allowing us to create a range of appealing and enduring colours.
Look around the internet and you will find Scottish Blackface fleece described as having a micron count between 28-40 microns. This officially defines the fibre as coarse. Often, the description will even state ‘carpet wool’. Occasionally it will add that the finest fleeces are used to manufacture the wonderful Harris Tweed. All of this is true. So how then has Lifelong Yarns produced yarn of such softness and bounce to appeal to handknitters?
- the breeding and husbandry of the flock is crucial (see Our Flock)
- we carefully select the most suitable fleeces from within the large flock. In particular, we use shearling fleeces from young sheep. This ensures the fleece has not yet been stressed by the reproductive duties of the sheep and that there are no blunt cuts on the tips of the fibre from the previous year’s shearing. Also, using only fleeces from young sheep means that whatever kemp is present is not yet thick (coarse) and therefore does not create an itch against our skin
- the long staple length of the Scottish Blackface fibre means that ends are easier to capture within the yarn during the spinning process
- the particular spinning process used to process our fleece by the Border Mill
Are we disclosing commercially sensitive details above? Perhaps. But there would be no-one happier than Lifelong Yarns to see more mills producing yarn from the Blackface clip and more knitters creating garments to replace the synthetic fleeces to which we have become so wedded.
Just remember you saw it here first!