Talking about Hog Island Sheep

Wow, its’ been about two years since I’ve written anything on this blog. I like to write and I had the best of intentions when I started this blog. But I think I fell victim to a combination of not having enough time and having nothing significant to say. Now, 5 months into COVID 19 lockdown, I still don’t have enough time, but I do have some things to say. I want to talk about Hog Island sheep and their wool. I’m a registered fiber supplier with the Livestock Conservancy’s Shave ’em to Save ’em program and I’ve noticed lots of questions about Hog Island wool on the SE2SE’s various social media groups.

I’m going to skip the essay on the history of HI sheep for now. The Livestock Conservancy and Deborah Robson’s Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook cover that topic pretty well. We know that Hog Island sheep are one of the few American breeds of sheep, that they’re critically endangered, and that they’re considered a feral breed. These facts got me interested in HI sheep to begin with, and I came to like them so much that last year my husband and I purchased a pair of non-breeding ewes from Mount Vernon estate to add to our little hand spinner’s flock. Their registered names are [Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association] MVLA Olga and MVLA Anita. I’ll be talking about them a lot.

Olga

Anyway, the purpose of these posts will be to explore what we do with this charming historical breed and their wool going forward. What is the future of Hog Island sheep and how can we use their wool in our every day lives? In which of the fiber arts applications does this wool really shine? Well, it’s a bit matte so won’t actually shine at all, but you know what I mean. How does it take dye, can you felt with it, weave with it, knit sweaters with it? What’s best way to prepare it for spinning and what are the best ways to spin it? Worsted, woolen, 2 ply, 3 ply, etc. If things go well I may even post a few videos of me working with Hog Island and demonstrating ways you can deal with the short staple length that so many HI sheep seem to have.

I’m going to spend most of the next post exploring the wool itself. I currently have five Hog Island fleeces in my studio and I’m going to pull locks from each of them to find how many characteristics they share and how they all differ. I will note that while HI wool has a reputation for being non next-to-skin soft, I’ve found plenty that is delightfully fine. I’ve also found plenty that is of a moderate softness and would be great for hats and mittens or even a sturdy shawl or wrap. I already have several projects planned for the future but I’m open to suggestions if there are things you’d really like to see covered. You can leave me a comment here, DM me on Instagram @baltimorewoolcompany, or send me an email at baltimorewoolcompany@gmail.com.

I’m off to spin more Olga wool. Look for my next post in early September!

This Week: Carded Batts

It has been one of those weeks where I’m too busy to sit down and write. I’m finishing the last of the shearing, trying to get the grass and garden under control, and carding all of the wool I’ve been washing. Instead of a long post I’m going to share a few photos of carded and blended batts, fresh from the drumcarder.