I was chatting with someone last week about spinning yarn and she was saying how much it had expanded her love of knitting and weaving to be able to spin her own yarn too. I agree - it's a really good feeling to be able to start with a fleece and end up with a sweater. I suppose if you were a farmer, you could even start by trimming Jemima's wool in one season and be warm and cozy with the product by the end of the next!
However, not everyone wants to spin their own wool. It does, after all, take quite a time to prepare enough yardage for something sizeable and you may have to set to with dyepots and so on as well if you want a particular colour for your project.
So I had a peruse through the wonderful pages of Etsy the other day and found some wonderful yarns, each one using the wool from a different breed of sheep. Etsy is so good for that sort of thing and offers such a wide range of items. The photo above shows 16 yarns from 16 different sheep breeds! While those particular items may no longer be available, it will serve to give you an idea of yarns that you might find in your own searches.
The sheep breeds included in the photo are: Black Welsh Mountain, Blue-Faced Leicester, Bowmont, Corriedale, Falklands, Finn, Gotland, Icelandic, Jacob, Manx Loaghtan, Masham, Merino, Polwarth, Rambouillet, Romney and Wensleydale - whew! What a range of fibres.
Blue-Faced Leicester is a particular favourite of mine and I used this in a recent pattern, the Sawston Infinity Scarf. The yarn is soft, silky and has a lovely lustre to it. It just says "quality" when you see something made from this breed.
I also love Bowmont, although I haven't spun any of that for a while. However, I was very impressed with it when I last used this lesser-known breed. Some while ago I wove a blanket from another of the breeds on this list, too - Polwarth - and that was one of the softest and warmest blankets I have ever made.
And I have included my favourite "go to" fibre, Corriedale. This is great to spin and work with. It has a longer staple than merino but still having many characteristics of that breed. It takes dyes beautifully, too. You'll see that yarn featured in a number of my patterns including the Rare Earth Cushions, the Rare Earth Rug and the Ocean Currents Rug.
And of course that isn't even an exhaustive list of sheep breeds available. I didn't include another of my favourites, Coopworth (pictured above), which is a great choice for hard-wearing designs. And I could have easily gone on to include many more varieties. Try typing the name of another breed and 'Handspun' into the Etsy search box and see what comes up!
I hope you have fun exploring the yarns on Etsy and following up on any other hand-spun items available. If you would like details on any of the above patterns, please visit my website www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com.