The One with All the Sheep
Maple, the Australian Heritage Angora goat
Have you seen all of the darling lamb and baby goat videos going around social media? I have to admit that I can't get enough of that hopping, jumping, running, and general cuteness! I watch every one of those videos that pop up in my social media world, and there are a lot of them!
Along with all the sweetness of those babies, there's the sweetness of the fibers they produce. We are fiber people, so it's wonderful to connect those little frolicking babies with the wondrous materials they produce. Sheep, goats, yaks, camels, alpacas, muskoxen, rabbits—I'm thankful for them all. I'll even throw a bone to the worms and spiders that give us their fabulous silk.
Spin-Off editor Anne Merrow was surrounded with photos information about these animals while working on the Natural Fibers issue of the magazine. Here she is to tell you all about it!
All Fibers, All Natural
Do you count sheep while you're trying to sleep? While working on the newest issue of Spin-Off, I counted sheep with my eyes wide open. I got to nineteen different breeds in no time—not counting two articles on goats and one on alpacas. That's right—it's the Natural Fibers Issue!
|A bevy of fleece-producing lovelies!|
Every year, Spin-Off dedicates one issue to the fiber bounty that nature provides. We have a joke in the office that I look for reasons to put a cute goat photo anywhere there's space in the magazine. Roger Sawley's Australian Heritage Angora goat Maple is so adorable—how could I resist?
In the Natural Fibers issue, it's hardly a challenge to find a reason for some gratuitous goat! A lot of us suburban and city-dwelling spinners may not get a regular fix of fiber on the hoof (or paw or pad), so it's important to be reminded of where the good stuff comes from now and then.
This fall I've had a chance to visit with some fiber beasts. So far I've resisted bringing any of them to my home, but I haven't been so lucky with fleeces! It's easy to be overcome by wool fumes.
So I'm living vicariously through fiber producers around the world, from Jill Graham's Cashmere goats to Kate Larson's sweet Border Leicesters. And lest we forget the plant kingdom, this issue has a number of features on cotton.
—Anne Merrow, editor, Spin-Off
Not only are there all of those fabulous animal photos and articles, but Spin-Off always includes beautiful knitting patterns. There are three really nice patterns in the Winter 2015 issue:
|From left to right: Jacob Hat, Wool into Stone Afghan, Winter Twilight Mittens|
Subscribe to Spin-Off today so you won't miss out on any of the special photos, articles, and patterns!
The One with All the Sheep
Do you count sheep while you’re trying to sleep? While working on the newest issue of Spin-Off, I counted sheep with my eyes wide open. I got to 19 different breeds in no time—not counting two articles on goats and one on alpacas. That’s right—it’s the Natural Fibers Issue!
Every year, Spin-Off dedicates one issue to the fiber bounty that nature provides. Well, with some help from humans. Today’s immense variety of sheep is largely due to the intervention of selective breeding to promote certain traits and suppress others. In Kate Larson’s article on three breeds of Leicester wool—Border Leicester, Bluefaced Leicester, and Leicester Longwool—she discusses how the efforts of one man in nineteenth-century England brought forward a class of sheep with great options for handspinners. And the effects of breeding aren’t just in the past; Kate interviewed a number of breeders for her piece and offered their insights into the current state of their favorite breeds.
Kate’s article overflowed with information, so the profile of one farm didn’t fit in our pages. So we’re delighted to introduce you to yet another Leicester breeder.
A Ross Farm Leicester Longwool. Photo courtesy of Ross Farm.
Amy and Scott Manko, Ross Farm
Eighty Four, Pennsylvania
Amy and Scott Manko purchased their first Leicester Longwool ram, Mr. Jefferson, from Colonial Williamsburg in 2008. The Ross Farm averages twenty-five to thirty Leicesters, including lambs and wethers. A few years ago, Amy was interested in introducing a heritage sheep breed to the farm. Having a strong attachment to Colonial Williamsburg made Leicesters an easy choice. Shown here is a six-month staple.
"We really try to conform to the breed standard as much as possible with such limited genetics to work with in the breed. The ideal sheep in my flock would be Piccadilly and Camellia. They are both stout little ewes with an excellent fleece. Both raise a lamb each year unassisted, are easy to handle, and have excellent parasite resistance. They are not my friendliest ewes, but they make up for it in every other way."