Monday, January 30, 2012

Tunis Fleece

Last week was party week here at my house.  My youngest turned 12 and we threw a little block party to celebrate.  As a result, I didn't have any time to play with my new Tunis fleece from Tri-Ply Fibers.  Today I plan to rectify that!

Tunis is interesting because it is not only a rare breed, but also the only true red breed of sheep.  They are born red or reddish brown and even though this color fades with maturity, their wool retains a red undertone.  I guess you could call it the sheep equivalent of a strawberry blond. 

The first Tunis came to America in 1799 as a gift from the ruler of Tunisia.  They became popular both for their meat and for their fleece.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had flocks of Tunis sheep.  Tunis are still popular today with more flocks on the east coast than out here in the west.  From my reading, they seem rather low maintenance to raise.  They thrive well even on unexceptional pasture land and they often produce twin lambs.  I've tried to select some of the highlights, but there is quite a lot of information on Tunis.  It's well worth a Google!

From a spinner's perspective, I like the feel.  This fleece ranges from 24-30 microns.  I would say that mine is on the high end of that, but it still has a softness to it.  I think it would be ideal for a warm pair of mittens or a nice winter beanie.  In most of the articles I've read, they have given Tunis a staple length of 4 to 6 inches.  Mine, raised in Queen Creek, AZ, has a significantly shorter staple.  I don't find this surprising.  It would be downright cruel in this climate to allow sheep to suffer under 6" of wool. 

I kind of like working with a shorter staple length and this wool has a very nice crimp.  I know it will draft easily and handle well.  So that's just a little bit about Tunis.  I have 2oz which I'll divide in half and then make into a 2ply yarn.  I'll probably spin a sport or DK weight so I can get some yardage out of my ounces.  I'm thinking that I'll devote my finished yarn to my 2012 Ornament Project since I'm making all of my ornaments in ecru.  Having said that, I feel compelled to add that I can tell this fleece would take dye like a dream.  It's very porous I think would achieve deep colors with little effort.  Perhaps I'll dye the next batch.


WonderWhyGal said...

I haven't spun Tunis yet...hmmm, maybe I should. Thanks for the info about the breed.

Jerry (Shearer/Fiber Artist) said...

Very nice explanation, couldn't have said it better. Time to go try mine!