Monday, May 16, 2011

Introducing Poppy...

Poppy's locks: unwashed on the left
Ohhhhh, I've made a new friend.  Her name is Poppy and she's a Cormo sheep.  Laugh if you like, but this is one amazing breed of sheep!  I've wanted to try Cormo for a very long time and finally found a small covered fleece to try out.  Cormo is a very fine wool, rumored to be some of the whitest fleece available.  I begin to believe it as I washed it yesterday.  Here's a shot of an unwashed lock and a bit of a washed lock.

I've never had such blocky tips on covered wool.  Good, bad or otherwise I don't know yet.  What I do know is that the fleece washed clean very easily - and that surprised me, usually a very fine fleece is tough to de-grease.  This one washed clean in two washes and two rinses.  I could have kept rinsing but it was so white that I decided it was good enough.  Here's a larger clump of clean fleece.

Brilliant white and as soft as a cotton ball - no wait - softer than that.  I can hardly feel the fiber in my hands as I start to card on my fine toothed hand cards. Before the fiber purists aim their bazookas at me, I will say that the wool did very well in this preparation.  Most of what I read from others about Cormo is that nothing is acceptable but a combed, worsted preparation - yet I chose differently because I wanted to have a woolen preparation to spin for my first go at this. Very gently carded a couple of transfers across the cards and then I rolled off this rolag and started spinning from the end.

One interesting thing about this wool is that it nearly demands to be spun very fine.  So I chose my lightest spindle - which I've put aside for a while because I had trouble keeping it in motion on the wools I usually spin.  I have now found that spindle's true calling.  It spins fast and long with Cormo drafted to about sewing thread size.  This fiber is amazing to spin - drafts like a dream and it will go as fine as your courage allows.  It is nearly weightless - gives the impression of spinning the air itself.  I've done a lot of spinning and I have never experienced this before.  Spinning angora rabbit is the closest to this sensation I've ever encountered before this.  Spun up a little and shot this of the rolag and spindle with my bit of progress. 

Wound this on and was still amazed by the fineness and also by the relative strength of the singles.  I really hadn't expected that at all.  I was prepared for a very fragile single that I'd have to spin supported, much like cotton.  This one is spinning gloriously as high as my arm will reach, and the spindle keeps its speed much longer than I would have imagined.  As fleeces go, I doubt that I'd want very much of this unless it was covered.  Burrs and veg would be difficult to remove methinks, but I'd probably try it if the price was right on the fleece.  (After all, I made it through the Nasty Romney - I KNOW how to handle a trashy fleece! But I digress...)  Since this is somewhat rare, it tends to be rather costly.  This is going to be a fun exercise, but if I want economical fine spinning, I'll probably use the prepared Merino that is relatively inexpensive and far more commonly available to handspinners.  Merino comes in fabulous colors, blends of colors and blends of fibers and seems to be a very common type of wool for handspinners for these reasons.

Verdict: Cormo is indeed worth the price if you want the whitest wool possible and really have a penchant for (or contest to win) finely spun singles or laceweight yarns.  I'll enjoy working through this fleece, and by the end I'll either have decided I was absolutely crazy to try it or I'll be so enamored with it that I won't want anything else when I want to spin really fine singles and yarns.

I guess this would be called Poppy Love....


  1. Great post and I heartily agree with you!
    I recently bought 8 lbs of covered Cormo...4 lbs was the white pure Cormo and the other 4 was 2 colours of CormoX. The white is the finest wool I have ever used. I will definitely be using it for lace :-)

  2. Bet that emptied your bank account for a while! I'm enjoying the Cormo, but it is spendy stuff indeed...

  3. And here I thought "Nasty Romney" was a real name. I enjoy your cute and punny "Poppy Love" spin-off too.

    It was neat to see it in person.

  4. Thanks Sylvia! Always a pleasure to visit with you too!