Polwarth Sheep - Spinning and Fibre Study

Polwarth Sheep - Spinning and Fibre Study


Last week during my sheep breed spinning and fibre study I explored Polwarth which is not a new fibre to me as I featured Polwarth as a yarn in one of our monthly breed exploration yarn clubs a few years ago, but I have never spun it before and was excited to do so.


Some History

Polwarth sheep are a dual breed, highly prized for both their wool and meat. They are crossbred from Merino ewes and Merino/Lincoln Rams, developed in the mid-1800s in Victoria, Australia. The history is fascinating and it has now become a popular breed in quite a few countries including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada.

The Polwarth was first developed in 1880 by the Richard Dennis family in the town of Polwarth, Victoria, Australia. The breed was created by crossbreeding the Merino sheep, known for its fine wool, and the Lincoln sheep, which has a heavy body and high-quality meat and was better suited to the Australian conditions. Today, Polwarth sheep are considered to be one of the finest wool breeds in the world. A medium-sized breed with a heavy, broad body for meat and a fine wool, which is dense, lustrous, and has a well-defined crimp. They are docile in nature which makes them an easy breed to handle. 

Tarndwarncoort, a historic farming property located in Birregurra, Victoria, has been owned by the Dennis family since the 1840s and has a long history of developing and breeding high-quality Polwarth sheep. They are known for their dedication to preserving the breed and promoting sustainable farming practices. If you haven't seen the interview on Fruity Knitting Episode 29 with Tom Dennis I would highly recommend it. During this study I rewatched this episode and loved it all over again.


Fibre Details

Polwarth wool - The fibre I had to spin was a combed top preparation of 21-24 micron and with a staple length of approximately 8 cm. The colour is a lovely clean white although coloured wool is now also available. It is considered a fine wool in the fibre source guides and has lovely, very fine crimp even in the prepared top.  


Study Notes

With each fibre in my study this year I am trying to spin and ply in various ways to explore how the fibre reacts in both a woollen spun and a worsted spun yarn and in both 2 plies and 3 plies.

My spinning styles are short forward draft, long backward draft and spinning from the fold. The 2 ply samples are plied using the Andean plying method off my hand and the 3 ply samples are a traditional ply from 3 separate bobbins. With all the practice I am getting my long backwards draft is improving although it still has a way to go.

Of the samples made my favourite was the very finely spun traditional 3 ply lace weight 16 wpi yarn and I think it would make a really beautiful shawl. This 3 ply had a lovely defined roundness to it, a light halo and the Polwarth yarn blooms once soaked. It also has a lovely elasticity to the finished yarn stretching out from 10cm to 12 or 12.5cm easily.  

Spun as a woollen spun yarn in fingering or DK weight it would make up into a gorgeous sweater that could be worn close to the skin without the itch factor, would be lofty and warm with a light halo to the finished project and would spring back into shape beautifully once washed.  

The 2 ply samples have a lovely rustic, but not too rustic, look about them, most likely due to the lovely light fuzzy halo and how the yarns bloom once soaked.  


Dyeing The Yarn

I didn't get to dye my spun sample this week but having dyed Polwarth yarn before I can confidently say that it is a lovely yarn for dyers to add to their regular yarn bases. It accepts colour really easily and can be dyed to lovely deep shades.


I really enjoyed spinning the Polwarth fibre and it will be a regular on my wheel in the future. I would love to spin a fingering weight 3 ply and knit a really simple sweater from it to allow the fibre characteristics to shine through.

Next week I am spinning Rambouilette, another fine wool fibre.


Header image credit - Sheep Breeders Association of Australia all other images are original.
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