I have finally gotten around to penning a thank you to Des and Marylyn Stevens (Hallylulya stud) for the box of Ryeland fibre that I found at my front door around Christmas time. The busy-ness of the season allowed only time to open, smell and touch. Though I searched everywhere, no email address meant no quick note could be tapped off from the passenger seat of a car, a line at the grocery store or other waiting zones.
Sometimes using slow mail seems appropriate when working with these passionate, non-technical rare sheep breeders. It is good to take a moment and enjoy the pleasures before moving on to something else. Sitting down at the wheel yesterday, I had a moment to spin these beautiful Ryeland staples raw from the fold, no flicking or prepping the fibre in any way. Though the fibre had a small amount of dirt and lanolin, it spun beautifully like this. The day (and therefore the fibre) was neither hot nor cold. The fibre was quite happy to be spun into a thin thread in the grease. I often find that raw fibre likes to be a thin strand, though these older breeds can surprise the innocent by fluffing upon wash. I love the gentle shine of the lanolin on my hands as I spin in this way.
I then wound it into a centre-pull cake and chain plied it. A quick squirt of dish soap and a share of surplus, boiling water from making my tea instantly melted the dirt and lanolin away, just one wash and rinse. I hung the skein over a door knob and checked it this morning.
The Ryeland skein is a creamy white. The finished yarn is bouncy and elastic. The yarn has a lovely softness to it that I would be happy to wear next to skin, though those well entrenched in the "cult of soft" may want to blend it or use it for other garments.
The Ryeland sheep in Australia are a beautiful example of the breed. A quick check in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook suggests that this breed can also be brown in other countries. But I am told that that only white are in Australia. Though sad for the handspinner, this is a by product of excellent breeding by Australian breeders who can claim no dark fibre. They are large framed and therefore a good dual purpose breed.