Black Welsh Mountain
Average Fleece Weight - 2.25 - 5.5 lbs
Average Fibre Diameter - 26 - 36 microns
Average Staple Length - 2 - 4 inches
Black Welsh sheep are small (approx 30" tall) and the only sheep that are a pure black and don't grey with age! The females are polled and the males are majestically horned, like this handsome guy to the left. These sheep come from the southern mountain of Wales and are on the rare breeds list in Canada. According to the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook, the black colour has been around since medieval times and was a highly desirable commodity - much like it still is today.
When judging, I usually place these in the medium class for a few reasons;
- their fleeces aren't as soft as those in the fine category
- they certainly don't have a long staple length.
- they have a moderate luster
- they have a lofty/spongy feel to them similar to other medium/down wools
Black Welsh fleeces do very well in a wool show for handspinners. The dark black and sometimes brown tips from weathering make for beautiful yarn for blending. Unfortunately they do not do so well in a Commercial setting because black cannot be over dyed and Black Welsh fleeces don't weight very much because of their size. I would suggest to those producers looking to enter their coloured fleeces to stick to the artisan shows.
This sample is from a good friend of mine - Val Fiddler of Newland Ranch and Wooly Wool of the West. The staple length is 2" and you can see sun weathering on the tips. These fleeces should be free from kemp.
This is a great example of a typical Black Welsh staple structure. It is blocky at the base with somewhat tapered tips. You can see a more defined crimp in this example compared to the picture on the left. This came from a 2 or 3 year old ewe.
Depending on staple length, I would likely use carders to prepare these fleeces for spinning, or flick them open and spin directly from the lock. Your yarns will be nice and lofty but very dense, which makes for so many great projects! If you are looking to add some colour to your work, look no further than the true black wool of the Black Welsh Mountain sheep. I am planning to knit a hat and possibly a nice pair of durable mitts out of my fleece. Keep your eyes peeled for these fleeces at the next wool show you go to. Since they are small, they are great fleeces to work with because you don't feel overwhelmed at the amount of wool you need to process.