We love a good fine wool and rare breed sheep. Romeldale fit both categories in addition to being an American breed. Romeldale were developed after a man named A.T. Spencer sought to improve his Rambouillet flock for staple length and the size of his market lambs. In 1915, at the Pan-American Exhibition, he purchased a number of New Zealand Marsh Romneys to cross with his flock. The resulting cross breed was developed over many years, selecting for wool and meat quality until the breed was well established in the 1940s and 50s. Much of the breed’s population resided at J.K. Sexton’s Stone Valley Ranch and the wool was highly prized. The flock’s entire beautiful white fiber clip was sold to Pendleton Woolen Mill.
|Project Expectations||-Beautiful white or naturally colored fine wool|
-Matte finish fiber, pair with something that has luster for interesting depth in a project
-Takes dye well and overdyeing a natural fleece can bring a lot of depth
-Tight crimp pattern leads to an elastic and lofty yarn
-Yarn will bloom in finishing stage
-Wonderful for next-to-skin items
So where does the name California Variegated Mutant, or CVM, fit in? During the 1960s, a neighboring shepherd by the name of Glen Eidman that was working on raising Romeldale with the Sexton’s ranch had two badger patterned sheep born. Thankfully the color drew his interest as anything but pure white fiber was frowned upon by large mill operations, often resulting in the culling of the animals from breeding programs. He worked towards developing the colored sheep further for handspinners and they resulted in the CVM. After much debate on if they classified as a new breed, CVM are now defined as a subset of the Romeldale breed that presents the badger markings. While there may be white or natural colored Romeldales, there are only colored badger patterned CVMs. Badger patterning is characterized by a dark head and belly with a white wedge on the face and a range of shades on the fleece.
CVM and Romeldale are now listed as a threatened status on the Livestock Conservancy since their popularity has declined. It is taking some time to build back up as a breed, though we have found beautiful handspinners fleeces easier to come by than others in the same conservancy category. Their large fleeces are a joy to see with their very fine crimp patterns and blocky, longer locks. They can feel both very soft and bouncy at the same time. The matte finish is of the fleece can lend itself to some interesting depth applications in art batts by blending with other fibers of various shine. This breed is definitely a favorite and we hope that it continues to gain traction.