My first fleece was a Romney. It wasn’t the highest quality, so I didn’t feel as bad as I otherwise would have when I accidentally felted half of it during the scouring. I had plenty left to practice my spinning skills. It spun as easily as promised, and my first yarns were as lumpy and rough as any beginners, but they held together.
Romney is hugely popular in my area of the Pacific Northwest. They’re well adapted to our damp, boggy winters and hot, dry summers. Romney’s hail from England’s Romney Marsh in Southeastern England. Their ancestors, likely a selection of unknown local sheep who’d moved in with the area’s first settlers and adapted to the damp, cool conditions across the centuries, bred with Dishley Leicester sheep in the 1850s or so, producing offspring who were at home in marshy, damp climates. They spread to the United States, and in fact to Oregon specifically, in 1904 under the care of William Ridell, a Scottish immigrant on our area.
Today, you’ll find Romneys strongly represented not only in the USA but also worldwide. They’re still a favorite in England, of course, and have become quite ensconced in Eastern Europe, Africa, The Falkland Islands, New Zealand, and Australia as well. Romney sheep are known for being particularly laid-back, easy going, and generally gentle and friendly, characteristics that make them especially beloved of ranchers and shepherds in my hometown.
Romney yarns are versatile. While they aren’t as soft as a Polwarth or Merino, they can be soft enough for some next-to-skin wear, like gloves, socks, and outerwear. Romney really shines in household goods, like cushions and curtains, seat covers, rugs, and mats. They’re one of the longwool breeds, but their fibers are generally considerably finer than cousins like the Lincolns and Leicesters. You can spin it from the locks, or flick, comb, card, or even drum card the fleece for spinning. Pretty much, Romney performs well under any type of fiber preparation. The finer fleeces may not be suitable for felting, but average to more coarse fleeces are favored among felters.
(Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
- Staple Length: 4-8 in (10-21 cm)
- Locks: Distinct locks with bold, uniform crimp across each staple
- Microns: 29-36 (USA), 33-37 (New Zealand), 30-35 (UL)
- Colors: White, black, gray, silver, brown
- Weight: 8-12 lbs (3.6-5.4 kg)
Sources and References:
- The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius
- Ramstead Ranch
- American Romney Breeders Association
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