Powarth: A Revelation in Softness

Sheep, Breeds And Management (1893) (14779551134)

My first Polwarth roving came as a gift from my Father-in-law shortly after I got my Hansencrafts miniSpinner. At the time, I was in love with Merino’s baby-soft, fine hand. I set the hand-dyed Polwarth braid aside for a whole year before I revisited that decision. After picking it up again, I wonder at my foolishness. That first Polwarth roving was a revelation, an opening to yet another breed of sheep to completely adore.

Descendents of Merinos and Lincolns, the first Polwarth sheep were bred in Australia and New Zealand by ranches hoping to combine the softness, length, and luster of their parent’s locks while producing a herd that had as much value for their meat as for their fleece. South America and the Falkland Islands have since welcomed Polwarth sheep into their herds, too.

Yarns spun from Polwarth are generally skin-soft yet sturdy. They often drape beautifully, making them better for soft work rather than tailored pieces. They’ll make reasonable gloves or outerwear, but not the kind you’ll want for heavy duty outdoor activity. They do wonderfully in crochet, knitting, and weaving.

If you’re planning to spin some Polwarth, try locks, flicking, or combing. Carding is an option, particularly with the shorter locks. This fleece produces bouncy yarn, even when you spin it worsted style, offering generally lightweight yarns even when they’re spun thick or chunky. Use more twist if you want more durability, less to emphasize the softness. Polwarth dyes much like Merino fleece, taking the color fairly easily. Treat it as you do other fine wools both in the dyepot and when scouring.

Polwarth Data:

  • Staple length: 3-7 in (8-18 cm)
  • Microns: 21-26
  • Locks: Dense, retangular staple with flat or pointed tips and well-defined, crimp that’s tight or a little more open
  • Colors: White, silver grays to black, tan to dark brown
  • Fleece Weight: 9-15 lbs (4.1-6.8 kg) raw, approx. 25 percent grease.

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