Longwool sheep breeds are my favorite type of wool. I love the natural curls and selection of colors from white to grey, black and brown.
The very first fleece I purchased was a Cotswold. It was beautiful! The locks were about 8" long and very curly. I separated the locks and washed them in small bunches, paying attention to the tips to get them as clean as possible. I enjoyed every minute of working with that fleece.
After cleaning all the locks I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. They were so beautiful as they were, I didn't want to ruin their natural beauty.
I still have that problem with longwools:
What should I do with them?
First, let me tell you which breeds are longwool on the Shave 'em to Save 'em list of sheep: Teeswater, Cotswold, Lincoln, Leicester Longwool
All of these breeds originally came from Britain. The wool grows very fast, up to 12 inches a year, and most are shorn twice a year. Long wool tends to be coarser than other wool with micron counts from 24-45.
Leicester Longwool is 24-28 micron and is one of the softest but, I find the Teeswater to be very soft with fantastic curls.
I got this photo from Pinterest. It is a felted cowl.
Scouring long wool.
If you want to preserve the texture and lock structure there are a few things that need to be done. I will explain a few but, to learn all the tricks I suggest getting the book:
Camaj Fiber Art's Scouring and Fiber Prep Guide The Art of Washing Wool, Mohair & Alpaca Scour Wool Like a Boss
First is to separate the locks. Sometimes the locks can be cotted. Cotting is tangling and felting while on the sheep. This is one reason that the longwool breeds are rarely coated.
To separate the locks, find the tip and slowly pull the lock from the cut end where it is attached to another lock. Some fuzziness is created at the cut end when pulling apart the locks. This can be reduced while scouring.
I have found the best way to scour the locks is to place them in tulle envelopes. You can find tulle where cloth is sold. Thicker, stiff tulle works the best. I cut the tulle into pieces about 2 ft. square. Neatly place the locks in the tulle and fold the fabric over the locks sealing it along the side and ends. The tulle allows the water and scour to flow through the locks and keeps them from tangling together. Sometimes massaging the ends of the locks under water helps to remove heavy dirt.
It is best to comb the long locks due to their length or just flick the ends and spin from the lock. When spinning you need to keep your hands far enough apart while drafting. A low twist can be used and wonderful lace weight yarns can be spun. They create durable yarns with many uses. The curls in the locks can be emphasized for texture in making Art Yarns or they can be spun to a smooth yarn.
Longwools have a beautiful luster and take dye very well. The white wool will yield vibrant, bright colors and over-dyeing the silver or grey offer many possibilities.
Knitting to preserve the locks:
If you want to preserve the curly look of the locks you can use a technique called Reverse Thrum Knitting. Basically, the cut end of the lock is knitted in with a carrier yarn and the long locks hang naturally. Here is a video on YouTube you may want to watch.
Felting is another option with the longwools. From scarves to rugs can be made. By laying out the locks then covering the back with roving, adding some water, soap and agitation a beautiful item can be made. Tip: You can use raw wool for this technique. As you felt it the soap and water will clean the wool.
The group of longwools are fun to work with and the possibilities for using them are endless. Give them all a try to see which ones you prefer.