One of the main attributes of the Portland is its beautiful fleece. Natural, renewable, breathable, hypoallergenic, comfortable, warm, cosy and cool, what fibres can boast of the attributes of this glorious yarn?
Unlike synthetic fibres Portland wool is fully renewable, being produce naturally each year and by using this product you are supporting the husbandry of this beautiful little animal. Without shearing sheep can overheat in the summer, collect parasites, become ‘cast’ (that is stuck on their backs with feet in the air, unable to right themselves) a position from which they can die.
Wool production has very little environmental impact, unlike its man-made rivals There aren’t many materials that don’t involve plastic or some other material that is detrimental to the environment. Normally due to the small numbers of Portlands, you are able to trace a fleece a to an individual animal or at least a single flock. You can wash, spin and knit it into a finished garment without the use of any plastics, chemicals or energy and know your partner in the production of your beautiful garment.
All those hours of enjoyment in the making, many more in the wearing and even at the end of its useful life your wool garment can be composted.
Sheep’s fleece is ideal for your garments, naturally stain resistant as the fibres are protected by natural oils, making them less pervious to dirt, and for the same reason the colour does not fade. Being a natural product, it is high in water and nitrogen content, so naturally flame retardant, and when fully used it can be recycled and returned to the land where it is biodegradable.
Being breathable it absorbs heat and releases it to keep us cosy in our homes, and for the same reason homes with Portland rugs and throws have improved acoustics as sound is also absorbed.
Portland wool is a sort after product, creamy white, soft a good staple and very adaptable with dyes
When shorn on average the fleeces weigh around 2 kilo with a staple length of around 6 to 10 cm, and a micron count of around 26 – 30.
The fibre has an irregular crimp, wavy and disorganised.
It is a lovely hand spinning fleece, easy to open and comb, absorbing
dyes easily and should be in all spinners portfolio. For new crafters the
wool is gentle on the hands, soft and with a soothing feel, and you can
easily finish a project quickly, it will not make you regret ever buying
your wheel or dropped spindle! For experienced spinners it is a go to
fleece when you want to relax and switch off, chatting to friends or
relaxing in an evening, your fingers and toes will just guide the fibre
into a beautiful result.
Normally it is a clean fleece, not clinging to vegetable matter or dirt
and a simple cool wash is often all it needs, or indeed spin it from
the raw, the lanolin will add water protection as well as an aroma.
Portland fleeces are great for showing, standing out from other breeds.
Keep your fields as clear of brambles and the like as you can, and when shearing keep away from straw and hay. This will help when you prepare the fleece and removing any vegetable matter. Skirt the fleece, that is take off the dirty edges and any dags (poo) which are attached.
Next take a staple of wool and give it a good tug, if it breaks the fleece is ‘tender’ and of no use. Breaks in a fleece can occur for many reasons; illness, pregnancy and stress being some of them.
When you have a nice clean fleece lay it cut side down, fold the sides into the middle then from the back end roll it towards the neck, tuck in the loose end to secure. Pop it into an old pillow case or paper feed bag, do not use plastic or it will sweat.
Then you are ready to show, check with the show secretary which class they would like it in, but normally it will be short or fine wool class.
Fleeces should be clean and free from all debris.
Fleeces should be rolled in accordance with Wool Board directions.
Fleeces should be stored in paper sacks or net containers -do not use polythene bags.
Wool on the hoof
If you are showing on the hoof do not fuss too much, Portlands are shown in a natural state, not pampered or pimped. Remove vegetable matter and localised washing to remove any dirt is fine, but do not card or comb the fleece
Trimming of tail wool is acceptable in accordance with good animal husbandry.
Animals entered in wool on the hoof classes should preferably be 'wearing' their full fleece -if animals have been sheared a short period prior to entry in these classes - the rolled fleece should be available for presentation to the judge as required.
Be aware of current movement and transport regulations.
Enjoy your fleeces!