Last week I wrote about the Swedish spinning championships 2019. In this blog post I will take you with me to the Swedish fleece championships.
Fleece highlight of the year
The Swedish fleece championships is one of my favourite events of the year. This is when I meet talented shepherdesses who know what spinners want. It is also the time when I buy my best fleeces. I take notes of the winners and put them in my list of shepherdesses to contact when I need a specific breed or quality.
There were 54 competing fleeces, which, as I understand it, was a record. The fleeces are sorted into categories depending on the breeds that are competing. This year there were eight categories:
Seven fleeces competed from the most common breed in Sweden, the Gotland sheep. Strong, silky and drapey are words that I think best describe this breed. Not a next to skin material, but prefect for socks and sturdier garments.
Six stunning fleeces competed in this category and I could have eaten all of them. From pitch black, through caramel ripple to beaming white. Rya wool can be described as long, strong and shiny with strong outercoat and soft undercoat and very little crimp. The fleece has traditionally been used in Rya rugs. It works wonderfully as a sock yarn or for embroidery.
My first fleece was a finewool fleece and since then it has been the wool I feel most familiar with. Soft, crimpy and and warm are words that come to mind. A very good candidate for next to skin garments such as mittens, sweaters and shawls. This is my go-to wool for woolen spun yarn from hand-carded rolags. Six fleeces competed in this category.
The Swedish Leicester come from Leicester longwool sheep that were brought to Sweden in the 16th to 18th centuries. Just like Gotland wool the fibers are long, strong and drapey. The two breeds have been co-bred in Sweden to make pretty skins. Not next to skin material, but it makes an excellent warp or as a strong component in a blend with something softer. Seven fleeces competed in this category.
Six fleeces competed in our biggest conservation breed, the Värmland sheep. They were all lovely and represented the colour variation very well. The fleece is a dual cote with lots of fine undercoat and long outercoat. The breed is quite versatile and you can get anything from strong and rustic warp yarn to silky soft locks I have made mittens and half-mitts from a Värmland fleece and medalist in the fleece championships of 2017.
Jämtland sheep are our newest breed. Officially it has been a breed for less than ten years. It is a crossbred between a meet crossbred Svea sheep and merino. Seven fleeces competed in this category.
General domestic breeds
This was a category for domestic breeds that were to few to make their own category. Nine domestic breeds and domestic breed crosses competed – Helsinge, Klövsjö, Jämtland/Härjedal/Åsen, Gotland/finewool, Gotland/Rya and Gotland/finewool/Rya.
Six exciting crossbreds competed in this category – Finewool/Leicester, East Frisean, Finewool/Dorset, Finewool/Leicester, Gotland/Texel and Jämtland/Leicester.
I had a allowed myself to buy three fleeces from the auction of the competing fleeces following the prize ceremony. That is about the amount of wool I can manage to bring home on the train. I also wanted to buy some smaller quantities of wool for, say, upcoming breed study webinars.
Long and silky Rya
On this year’s wool journey I experimented with making a sock yarn blend with Rya and mohair. On the championship auction I managed to get the gold medalist – a shiny white lamb’s fleece from the Shepherdess Kari Lewin. She won an obscene amount of medals for her fleeces of several breeds – Swedish Leicester, Rya, Gotland and Swedish finull.
The second fleece I bought was also a medalist – a bronze winning white Värmland lamb’s fleece. It was unusually shiny and with lots of variations in fiber length and fiber type. I have spun some Värmland of very different character and colour and this was my first white Värmland fleece.
The last fleece I bought was not a medalist, but still such a beauty. It was a shiny white Klövsjö fleece with long and Rya-like locks. Klövsjö sheep is another conservation breed. I wasn’t alone in having fallen in love with this fleece. I bid against another spinner (and, as it turned out, a follower) for a while until I won. Then I offered her to share it with me and she happily accepted my offer.
There was also a raw fleece market where shepherdesses sold their fleece. There wasn’t very much space and therefore not many vendors. Still, I got what I wanted.
First of all, I got some mohair for my sock yarn project (see Rya paragraph above). I haven’t really worked with mohair before so this will be exciting.
Next up was a small bag of Swedish finewool. This is my favourite breed and the one I started out with eight years ago, but since I don’t have a project planned at the moment I didn’t get a whole fleece. Instead I will use the wool for teaching purposes.
Another smaller batch for teaching purposes was some Jämtland wool. My favourite Jämtland wool supplier covers her sheep and shears them once a year, so her fleeces are remarkably clean and has very long staples.
I’m always keeping my eyes open for conservation breeds, and I found one that I hadn’t planned to buy. I stumbled upon a stall full of Åsen wool as if it was meant to be.
Going back home
We had a couple of days to ourselves and then we had to go back home. I had bought seven batches of wool (two whole fleeces and five smaller batches). I had also received a bag of Norwegian pelssau from a friend, so there was a lot of wool to take home.
Luckily I had brought vacuum bags for the transport. I could press my eight bags of wool into three practical bags and fit them in our luggage and get home on the train.
If you are looking for me in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be washing fleece.
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