A wool by any other name will still felt, right? True, but in my experience, Romney wool is the best for needle-felting. That’s why most of the Bear Creek kits contain Romney wool … and from our very own flock! But why is Romney better? Why do different sheep breeds produce different wools?
Without diving into an animal husbandry textbook, I can tell you that each breed was developed for a unique climate and economic needs. Beyond that, it comes down to genetics! Romney wool has long, semi-lustrous fibers that felt into a firm yet soft surface. It’s also super-durable..which is critical when you’re stabbing it a thousand times with a needle!
As I’ve shared before, our family first began our shepherding and needle-felting when my daughter Libbie requested a lamb. Before long, we had a small flock of Romney sheep. And while our flock grew, so did my felting knowledge until I finally launched my Needle Felting Academy — and I’m still learning all the time!
I initially experimented with Merino wool, which you’ll often find in needle-felting kits. However, I discovered that Merino wool is better suited for wet felting. For dry-felting, my preferred method, nothing beats Romney wool!
Also, Merino wool tends to stay “squishy.” It’s very soft and pliable, which is why it’s much loved for scarves and other cozy accessories. However, those fine fibers take MANY needle stabs to felt down, and even then, it remains spongy. You essentially must use an armature to give your project any structure. Meanwhile, you’re battling more flyaways than with your hairdo on a humid day!
I do prefer Merino if I want a soft texture, such as a fluffy coat on a sheep or bunny. It’s also great for wet felting that creates a smoother look.
But most of the time, I choose Romney because it’s coarse enough to felt tightly yet lustrous enough for a soft touch. It doesn’t hurt that we have an annual supply from our dozens of Romney sheep!
In fact, we’ve been cross-breeding our Romneys with other breeds known for their incredible fleece. Our flock also includes CVM and Corriedale sheep. As I continue to learn about wool and shepherding, I strive to make our fleece the absolute best for the fiber arts. Check out our new Romney/CVM yarn that knitters will adore.
Romney wool is also known for its moisture-wicking properties. That not only protects your projects from humidity but also makes Romney the best choice for felt coasters, insoles, and other useful products. Romney sheep come from English marshes, where they were bred to survive cold, wet winters. Thus, they’re quite resilient to the climate here in North Dakota.
So, if you’d like a wool that’s excellent for needle-felting, no matter your level, I recommend Romney! When you order from Bear Creek Felting, you get single-origin crafting supplies. Our sheep are all raised on our farm, and we do all processing and dyeing on-site with our friends at Dakota Fiber Mill.
We’re big on conservation, so we repurpose or recycle any scraps we can’t use for fiber arts or textiles. For example, spare wool often becomes cozy, moisture-wicking insoles or drink coasters. We also make cat toys. Everything else becomes compost or fertilizer! With 17% nitrogen content, wool sure does make your plants nice and green.
Want to experiment with various wool types in your projects? I’d love to hear your results! Stock on up on Romney wool in our shop. We’ve also got a curly wool grab bag for some additional fun textures. And of course, be sure to make your own felted sheep friend, inspired by our Romney sheep. (Here are some tips on storing your wool to protect it from pests. )