After I had tried out spinning a couple of times, I contacted my aunt, who runs a sheep farm in Voss, Norway. I told her about my plans and she sent me a fleece from one of her own sheep, that was recently shorn.
The sheep breed – pelssau
The sheep breed is one of the Norwegian heritage breeds, called Pelssau (Pelt Wool Sheep). It is a mix between Norwegian Spælsau and Swedish Gotland sheep, and has a very special wool. The staples are longer than any other Norwegian sheep breed, up to 10 cm if they are sheered twice a year. The wool is softer and more lustrous than the wool from Gotland sheep. It is a quite rare breed, only ca. 1 % of Norwegian sheep are Pelssau. You can read more about Pelssau here (in English): https://www.rhonna.net/norwegian-sheep-breeds and here (in Norwegian): http://www.nsg.no/saueraser-i-norge/category719.html#Norsk_pelssau
As far as I know, there is only one commercial yarn producer that uses wool from Pelssau, and that is Hillesvåg: https://www.ull.no/. Hillesvåg has three yarns from this wool, Sølje, Tinde and Blåne. These yarns are softer and more lustrous than their regular wool yarns, and has a significant halo as well.
This particular fleece
The particular fleece I am going to use, is mainly light grey and the wool is very soft to the touch. This light grey wool comes from the back and sides of the animal. But the fleece also has some areas with a little darker grey and more coarse wool. Pelssau has a top and bottom layer of wool, and I think this coarser wool is from the top layer, especially towards the front of the animal. The fleece even have almost black wool in some parts, but the dark wool has shorter staples and is softer than the rest. I think that the darker wool comes from just above the legs and towards the stomach of the fleece. But I could be wrong about this, since I haven’t yet met “my sheep” in real life.
Sorting the wool
Anyway – since the wool quality is not the same throughout the whole fleece, it is necessary to sort the wool into different qualities. Otherwise the yarn that I will spin from it will not be consistent at all. My spinning abilities are not yet good enough to produce consistent yarn, even if I sort the wool, but there is one less factor that will influence the finished product, if I spin yarn from the best parts of the fleece to use for the sweater.
I have practiced a little on the coarser dark grey wool and the charcoal softer wool, just to see how different the yarns from these parts of the fleece would become. They actually differ a lot in quality, but when knitted this is not visible.
Knitting with the first wool samples
My first attempt of spinning with the Pelssau wool turned into a pair of knitted slippers, since the yarn became quite thick after plyeing, 13 sts/21 rows on 10/10 cm in stockinette st on 5.5 mm needles. They are really warm and seems to be very durable. And the wool almost doesn’t pill, since the staples are quite long.
My second attempt was to make a pair of stranded mittens. These are softer, since I didn’t overspin the yarn as much after some practice. And they are also the warmest mittens I have ever tried on. The gauge for these are 22 sts/26 rows on 10/10 cm in stranded knitting on 4.0 mm needles.
So far I have been able to make useable yarn, for usable projects, and I am pretty happy with this! My next challenge will be to make a draft of the design, made to fit the yarn weight that I am able to make and my measurements. Whether it will be a traditional design or a more modern one, is yet to be decided. More on this topic in part 3 in a few weeks.