Felting Southdown Wool
I am starting a new series of blog posts focusing on needle felting with different types of wool. We raise Romney, Blue Faced Leicester and Wensleydale at Bear Creek but I thought it would be fun to try out many different breeds. I often get asked what my favorite wool to use for needle felting is. To be able to answer that as honestly as possible I need to try them all. 🙂 I have started on this adventure by purchasing a variety pack of wool from Woolgatherings on Etsy. I would love to try as many breeds as possible. Also, if you would like to felt along with me using these different breeds of wool I would love to see and share your pictures and thoughts. Felt along with me on Instagram @prairieshepherd and Facebook.
I didn’t know what breed to start with, so I stuck my hand in the bag of wool and decided to go with the one I grabbed first. I have to admit I didn’t know much about Southdown sheep up to this point. I learned quite a bit about the wool and sheep in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius. If you have ever been to a county or state fair in the US you will be familiar with Suffolk and Hampshire sheep. The Southdown is in the Down family of sheep with the Suffolk and Hampshire breeds. The Down wools have a shorter staple length of 2-4 inches generally. Down breeds have colored faces and legs and are primarily raised for meat. The Southdown is the breed from which all the other down breeds were developed. Today there are different types of Southdown sheep one is a the medium sized pictured here in this post. There is a much smaller type called Babydoll Southdown and there is also a Toy Southdown that is less than 24 inches tall. The Standard Southdown is raised mainly for meat and the smaller Babydoll and Toy Southdown’s are raised as pets and for their fiber. I think they are adorable sheep and are known for their affectionate dispositions. They resemble my Romney sheep in many ways. In fact I have been at art shows displaying pictures of my Romney’s when I am told that they look like Babydoll sheep.
Felting Southdown Wool
This was my first experience needle felting Southdown wool. I found the wool to be very springy to the touch, not extremely soft and not much luster. I liked the creamy/off white color of the wool.
I have chosen to felt a sculpture of the breed of sheep that I am using for each of these posts. The picture that I found for inspiration was found in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. I enjoyed felting with Southdown, it was easily grabbed by the felting needle and felted very quickly and solidly. It felted differently than Romney which I am used to. It wasn’t as forgiving as Romney in that it became more solid quickly not allowing for corrections and indentations. I realize I am used to Romney and that one could learn to know where the limits are with this wool over time. I wet felted the ears on this sheep and found that while it doesn’t wet felt as smoothly as Merino, it was smooth enough and felted enough to cut out the ears. The overall finished look of the sheep is smooth and solid which I like. Again, it could be user error here, but I wasn’t able to add the detail that I would have liked to the face because it was so solid. If I were to felt with Southdown again I would consider this and try to correct that issue. Overall it was a pleasant experience, felting with Southdown. If you are a needle felter and someone is offering to give you their Southdown wool, I would definitely take it off their hands. There are several listings on Etsy for Southdown roving, you might want to give it a try yourself. If you have used Southdown wool in your needle felting let me know what you think about felting with Southdown in the comment section below.
I am a spinner as well and had some of the wool left over, so I decided to spin it into yarn. It spun easily, not as smoothly and quickly as others I have used but it definitely was a pleasant experience for me. The yarn on the other hand feels course, not something I would want to knit into a sweater. Although I didn’t get a chance to dye any, I have read that Southdown dyes easily. We need to remember that every fleece of the same breed is different and I only used a 1 ounce piece of roving for this assessment.
The pictures of the Southdown sheep are used with permission from Wolfhanger Southdowns.
Look for more upcoming posts on felting with different breeds of wool.
Join the Facebook group: Felt Along with Teresa Perleberg where we felt together and share our experiences felting the different sheep breeds out of their own wool. Find out what breed we are working on right now.