Spinning Jacob Wool – one fleece, many colors

Jacob sheep are small, multi-horned animals somewhat resembling goats. I love their spotted colors because of the fun I’ve had with their wool fleeces. From just one Jacob Sheep fleece, I can create a palette of tones from light to dark. Let me share with you a couple of the approaches I’ve used to create yarns from these spotted fleeces.

Jacob Sheep photo courtesy of Redflight
Jacob Sheep photo courtesy of Redflight

I was fortunate to be able to attain fleece from Jacobs that had been bred for next-to-the-skin softness. I prefer getting whole, well-skirted fleeces. That way I can do my own sorting beforehand to not only keep the grades of wool separate (e.g. setting aside the softest from the neck area), but to also keep the colors distinct. I do this before washing. Then I pick and card the washed wool, while still keeping the colors separate.

Then the interesting creativity begins in combining the colors in a way to produce a range of light to dark tones for the intended project. One method is to spin singles of the separate colors, then “color graduate” the singles into a series of 2-ply yarns. An example in which I used this method is the Jacob Throw pictured below. The project was begun in the center with the lightest of the 2 -ply yarns and circularly progressed outward to the darkest. More about this project can be seen in the Resource Area of my HeartStringsFiberArts.com website.

Jacob Throw
Jacob Throw - Lace afghan in hand spun wool

Another fun thing I have done with the sorted colors is to make color graduated batts. I lay strips of light to dark on the carding cloth of a drum carder. For producing a 2-ply yarn, I need 2 batts for each resulting color-graduated skein of yarn. I make each batt as identical as possible in both total amount of fiber and amount of each color.

Batts carded from sorted Jacob Sheep wool
Batts carded from sorted Jacob Sheep wool

I spin a singles from end-to-end of one of the rolled batts, then spin another as-identical-as-possible singles from the other rolled batt. It doesn’t really matter whether you spin light to dark, or dark to light — just do the same for both batts. Now, ply the 2 singles together so that the colors basically align. Of course, you could also just use the singles in a project. I’ve included some old photos above and below to give you an idea of how the different stages look in going from batt, to singles, to 2-ply.

Singles and 2-ply yarns spun from sorted Jacob wool
Singles (left) and 2-ply (right) yarns spun from color-graduated Jacob wool batts (in background)

Oh, and you might notice in these old photos that there is a label in the picture. I used to sell my batts prepared this way back when I had a retail shop. I called them “Prismatic Roving”. I offered the monochromatic batts shown here. I also had some I would card from commercially dyed wools to produce a range of hues in a single batt. Those were more “Prismatic” in that they were colorful. But the monochromatic is still my favorite because of its simplistic, natural colors.

I hope to get my fibers and drum carder out again soon and play around with other interesting possibilities. I’d love to hear about interesting things you’ve done (or want to do) with Jacob wool, too.

Written by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer - Visit Website

5 thoughts on “Spinning Jacob Wool – one fleece, many colors”

    1. sue keys here. Just bought my first Jacob fleece and am pondering keeping the colors separate so I can spin a tweedy look. Have in mind a boxy sweater/coat. Also bot the first clip of baby kid, wonderful smoky grey to dark milk chocolate, which i thought I would insert as I’m knitting for a “rastafarian” look. haha
      Would appreciate advice on this fleece prep.

  1. I really thought these were goats! Amazing work, reminds me of my granny’s knitting work. The finished products color looks really soft and light which I adore!

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