Posted By Vilija on December 30, 2016
No, not the Merino nor the Rambouillet, we will always want soft, lustrous wool. And, no, not the Suffolk or other farmed sheep for meat. But did you know that of the 1400 or so breeds of sheep around the world, over one-third of these breeds are in danger of extinction?
By seeking out fibers produced by other, lesser known breeds, we help to maintain the genetic diversity in the sheep population. Why worry about that? By necessity, industrialized agriculture has consolidated domestic animals into standardized systems of production. Animals are bred for genetic uniformity. Only a handful of breeds have been able to acclimate to these systems. Although highly productive, they are unlikely to adapt quickly enough to climate or environmental change, nor to serious disease outbreaks. The more diversity in a gene pool, the better the shot at adapting to changing conditions.
At CNCH 2017 Asilomar, we spinners have a chance to learn more about a few particular breeds of sheep that are not always on our spinning fiber radar – Beth Smith’s Princess Breeds: Turbo-Charged. As participants in the age old tradition of creating our own yarn, we should be interested in the conservation of the lesser known breeds. Beth is very knowledgeable in this field and will give you information about choosing the perfect fiber breed for a particular type of yarn, how to prepare the fiber, and tips on how it spins best. The historical back stories of these breeds are also fascinating and will make the yarns you spin so much more special.
Treadles to Threads Spinners Guild recently finished a year-long study of 15 rare and endangered breeds of sheep. Beside seeing the incredible diversity of sheep out there, we have learned there is still so much more to learn. This would be a great project for any fiber loving guild in CNCH, and this workshop would be a great place to begin.