Tuesday found me in a day long class about classic down wools taught by Deb Robson, the previous editor of Spin-Off Magazine and co-author of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook and The Field Guide to Fleece.
One of the most striking comments Deb made early in the class was that she sometimes feels like she doesn’t know all that much and has to remind herself that she does. I about jumped out of my seat. If Deb Robson still occasionally has imposter syndrome (and let’s be honest, she basically wrote the spinner’s fleece bible) then maybe there’s still hope for me!
Down breeds have a quality that other sheep breeds don’t; their fleeces don’t felt. This makes them an excellent replacement for superwash wools and in hard-wearing items like socks and gloves . We explored six breeds: Southdown, Suffolk, Oxford, Dorset Down, Hampshire & Shropshire. Almost all of the down breeds have some amount of Southdown genetics in their history. Out of the breeds we sampled, Dorset Down was my favorite.
Most of our samples were scoured fleece, so I combed half to spin worsted and carded half to spin woolen. I was surprised that all my worsted samples had a fair amount of luster. I’ve always thought about down breeds as being more matte in appearance, but there was some lovely shine to the worsted samples.
These wools all have a springy quality and, while not incredibly soft, they have a hand-feel unlike any other type of wool I’ve sampled. I wish I could pass a lock through the internet for you to feel. Some of the samples were very clean and some had a great deal of vegetable matter.
Robson also sells the most beautiful guide sheets on breeds. The sheets we received in class are printed on a high-gloss, heavy cardstock. If you think the stock doesn’t matter, oh, it does. These are going straight into my personal spinning library. Check out Robson’s website for more information. Her blog is fantastic and she is an incredibly prolific writer and content producer. Her videos are terrific if you can get a hold of them as well. Check out her books or videos for more information on down breeds!
In addition to the class itself, I asked Deb to sign my wheel. Beth Smith, who was also in our class, signed my wheel too (and probably thought I was a little nuts when I told her I reviewed her book online — fangirling doesn’t always look pretty on me)!!!
Finally, guess who showed up in my class, too? If you guessed Sasha from DM Fibers and Skein Shop, you’d be right. We caught lunch together and Sasha was so sweet, she brought me some ramie, faux cashmere, and silk noil to play with. We had a great conversation about the digital community and chatted some ideas on future spin-a-longs we might do. Keep your eyes peeled later this year.
I’m worn out, but it is so very worth it. We’ll be back tomorrow with more Ply Away updates!