Suffolk are a “Down” wool breed, which means not that their fibres are technically (in the scientific ecological fiber world) the same as “downy fiber” like goose down or qiviut. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook reveals the “Down” name comes from a county in Northern Ireland.
One of the interesting things the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook talks about is breeding and genetics. The Suffolk breed is also related to Norfolk and Arcotts.
The Suffolk I have was most likely grown in the US. Suffolk is one of the two most popular wool breeds in the country because they are a good choice for a dual purpose breed. The wool, however, is apparently not very popular for hand spinning. I can attest, at the KY state fair, one farmer came up to our Spinning group as we were demonstrating and said, “is there even a market for wool nowadays?” (Talking about his Suffolk wool) Every one of us was like— “YES!!” Then, he mentioned they were Suffolk, and several of the women said “well, that’s only good for felting”… this week I got up close and personal with some though, and spun it a few different ways, so I do have a happy report!
The majority of US Suffolk wool is sold in wool pools which kind of work the same way tobacco sales worked before the Tobacco Program. It is gathered, combined, sorted, and sold to industrial mills, and the wool pool managers distribute the funds…
But imagine if it was all processed by small scale mills—think how many people we could employ, the quality of hand made wool products, and the beneficial environmental impacts.
I started off my adventure by looking through my fiber to check for moths as I always do. Passed the test 😂 so into a hot wash of 125+ F water and Unicorn Power Scour with lavender essential oil. After three washes in my salad spinner, I dried it on my solar (diffused) drying rack for 18 hours. I combed it on my wool combs and the rest of the Vegetable Material (VM) fell out easily (wear an apron!) combing was a little difficult because the fibres meshed together really well with their kinky crimp. I had actually been working on several combing and dizing projects, so my hand STILL HURTS… dizing was also hard to get started (I pulled the wool through a hole in a seashell to pre-draft, prep the fibre so it will be easier and neater to spin) but once I hit my sweet spot, the fiber came off beautifully into a lovely combed top. I spun most of the combed top into a beautiful, lofty skein probably a DK weight yarn. After it was finished, I dyed the yarn and remaining fibre in Cushings Perfection Acid Dye and washed it clean, leaving it to air dry after a spin in the salad spinner. With the remaining fibre, I carded some rolags and spun it up on my new-to-me 1800’s Great Wheel spinning wheel. The Suffolk wool was very well-suited to the great wheel due to its short staple length and general poofyness. (That is a technical term—okay fine, loft). I was very happy with each of the steps of this process and am very glad I was able to do this experiment and share my experiences with you! Hope you enjoyed the wool of the week Suffolk edition 💙💙💙
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sTate fair ready!
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ky state fair quilt
A sustainability major at U of L, beginning farmer, crafter, and writer.