Falkland Islands wool

posted in: Sheep, Spinning, Wool | 7

I'm way behind on blog posts. I have several in the works. I just got back from The National Needlework Association trade show in Ohio (great conversations surrounded by super yarn, terrific tools, and so on). I have pictures. They're coming.

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Meanwhile, a couple of groups on Ravelry, the site for yarnaholics, have been wondering about Falklands wool. There's information in The Fleece and FIber Sourcebook, although not the full treatment because it's not a breed. (Not because it's not fascinating.) I responded, but might as well put the information here, where I can find it again, too. No pictures. No time. Plus this topic is a hard one to photograph on the spur of the moment. I have some Falklands top, but I don't have enough variety to illustrate the points I'll make.

Falklands wool is grown in the Falkland Islands. That's it. The name is a geographic indicator, not a breed designation—the indicator does tell you something about the wool, although what it tells you is a story with several parts.

The Falklands are located off the coast of South America. They are a U.K. overseas territory, and sheep raising has been by far the most significant economic activity, although fishing is being added to the mix. The shepherds are really serious about their wool, having had more markets for fiber than for meat, and they are creative in developing and maintaining its quality. They generally work with crosses to improve the productivity of their animals. Each shepherd's view and results are individual, although they definitely work together so the entire clip is of high quality. Because of the environment (challenging), they raise sturdy sheep and there are few pests to contend with, so pest-preventive measures that are necessary in many other parts of the world aren't required.

Defining what Falklands wool is, then, is a moving target. Thus the range of micron counts and qualities. It should be, regardless of those particulars, a very white, somewhat open, easy-spinning wool. SOME will be appropriate for use next to the skin. SOME will be better (and more durable) for making outerwear. If you find a source that you like, get more. Don't assume that Falklands wool you get elsewhere will be the same. Each mill run will be consistent, but from one to the next may not, especially if you put some years between your acquisitions.

Historically, according to Michael Ryder (not this one), the foundations of the Falklands flocks were built on Corriedales and Romneys. The Falkland Islanders have also brought in Polwarths (sometimes referred to in that part of the world as Ideals), and there are now experiments with infusing bloodlines from a couple of strains of Merino.

As you might gather from that information, the overall progression is toward finer wool. That's true for wool as a part of the global commodity market, not only in the Falklands. In the industrial sense (and for the bottom lines of medium to large producers), finer is definitely a better income-generating prospect.

For handmade textiles, that's not the case. Qualities of fiber other than diameter have great value to us. For example, we may gravitate toward luster, a variety of crimp patterns, different textures, and natural colors. (There are natural-colored sheep in the Falklands, but their wool is not incorporated into the commercially processed top that is generally available.)

When you come across the designation "Falklands wool," you can know it is a high-quality fiber that is almost certainly white.

I'm going to fail at not including a photo. I have fiber. I have a handspindle. Here's some Falkland Islands top:

Falkland_6132

This particular top remembers its Corriedale ancestors. Staple length is about 6.5 inches (16.5 cm). It has nice body, a bit of luster, and pleasant but not obsessive crimp. You could spin it a lot thicker than I did, and more loosely, too, and end up with a lovely yarn. This was just what I felt like spinning in the moment, plied back on itself, straight off the spindle.

(The ruler isn't bent. That's a distortion that happens with the camera.)

Falklands wool. Worth exploring, for sure.

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7 Responses

  1. L.M. Cunningham

    I bought a bag of Falklands top when I first started spinning: it was glorious stuff, lovely and soft.

    If memory serves, I used it for the foot portion of the knee-high entrelac socks I made, with the cuff portion being all the little skeins I spun up from my British wool sampler kit I bought at Little Barn my second MSWF.

    Don’t recall seeing much since though — I should probably keep an eye out…. 🙂

  2. L.M. Cunningham

    Mine probably was as well, now that I think about where it was purchased. 🙂

    (And I meant to thank you for the shout-out on the hockey Michael Ryder, even though he now plays for Boston and not my beloved Canadiens. I’ll be working on “the experiment” while I watch Game 7 tonight.)

  3. Deb Robson

    Linda, I thought you might be amused by the Michael Ryder connections. I discovered them long ago when I was looking for more publications by the wool-expert Michael Ryder.

  4. fae

    Thank you for taking the time to share. I’m eagerly awaiting my preordered copy of you book (from Barnes and Noble), and tidbits of information like this just make me hope it ships soon.

  5. Valerie

    Thanks for reminding me of yet another 2 lbs. of top in my stash. Bought mine from Rosemary at DHF when they were still shipping from the Falklands. (yikes, just looked and they quit shipping ’02!) My plan was to spin and knit my own Aran sweater.

    Must start spinning a little every day again….or will need a Rumplestitskin!

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