Monday, 30 March 2015

Ryeland and Coloured Ryeland Sheep

Ryelands are said to have been named after the fields of ryegrass that they grazed on in Herefordshire back in the 1300's, when they were raised by monks.  The Ryeland is one of the oldest breeds of sheep in Britain and had one of the finest wools of the time.  Queen Elizabeth I was given some stockings made from Ryeland wool in the 16th Century and from then on stockings made from any other wool were not too well received.

Today, the fleece of the Ryeland is not not as fine as it originally was, having being crossed with other breeds to increase meat production, but they do still produce a relatively fine and fluffy fleece which is probably best spun woollen style due the loft and good elasticity of the wool.  It can be spun worsted style too if that is your preference, which will make a lightweight yarn with a smooth finish and will be more durable than a woollen-style yarn.  Ryeland fleece does not felt as easily as most other wools and so is very good for items that need a lot of washing.  You can dye Ryeland fleece of both varieties and the fleece will produce a lovely matte finish.  Just remember that when dyeing the coloured fleece it is best to choose a stronger darker colour for best results.

Regular "white" Ryeland Sheep

British Ryelands are relatively small sheep, compared to some other breeds, producing a fleece of 2-3Kg with a staple length of around 2-5 inches, although generally more 3-4 inches.  British Ryelands also have a gene which can produce offspring with dark coloured fleece.  These are not referred to as "black" due to the fact that the coloured fleece may have many different colours in them including black, various shades of grey and brown.  Other strains of Ryeland, such as Australian Ryeland, do not have the coloured gene.

Coloured Ryeland Sheep, these ones are predominantly brown.

Coloured Ryeland Sheep showing how mottled the colour can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment