The Teeswater Sheep

Teeswater Lamb Locks

The Teeswater is named for the River Tees where it was developed from longwools brought to Britain by the Romans. Being developed in a wet area, these sheep have a lovely open fleece, meaning if parted, you can see to their skin. Their locks are noted for the curl structure in which it twists one direction and then back the other way in an interesting wave. Exceptionally long Teeswater is coveted for tailspun items, though it is common to shear these sheep twice a year once mature for shorter fleeces.

Teeswater are primarily raised as a meat breed and are known for passing on their body size to their offspring in crosses. This and their wool characteristics has made them a useful in developing other breeds like the Wensleydale and Masham. In fact, the use as a primary breed sire for Masham helped save the Teeswater from extinction.

Micron Count30-36
Staple Length12-15″
Project Expectations-Wonderful lock structure for lockspun yarn or keeping them intact in other projects such as doll hair or weavings.
-Silky and soft with a beautiful luster despite micron measurement.
-Resistant to felting.
-Low twist yarns work out well with long-stapled fleeces.
-Capable of fine and draping yarn with clear stitch definition.
-Strong enough for some upholstery applications.
-Creates a lovely bloom in worsted spinning.

Teeswaters began with white faces, but were crossed with smaller hill sheep in the area and later developed their customary black wedges over their noses and their dark ears and legs, though their fleeces are to remain white to be accepted in any registries. In the early 1800s a man named Robert Bakewell traveled throughout Europe to study various farming practices before taking over his father’s farm. Influenced by ideas from Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin, he split the ewes and rams of the native sheep in the Leicestershire and Lincolnshire area. He found with careful breeding, he was able to select for specific traits in his animals. Naming his new breed the Dishley Leicesters after his farm, he became the originator of many breeding practices that developed improved sheep and to the idea of a breed association with registered animals. Teeswater were used in his breeding program with the Dishley sheep to develop the Wensleydale which quickly took popularity over the Teeswater. They remained relatively isolated and true to their original format, but numbers declined until nearly being wiped out. After WWII, their remaining numbers were recognized in a flock book and used to develop the Masham which led to their increase.

To this day, they are still critical in the U.S. and are on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s watchlist. The American Teeswater is the result of Upbreeding. Upbreeding is the practice by which imported semen or embryos are used with approved breeds to create crossbred progeny to eventually have a purebred sheep. For instance, the first offspring will be a 50/50 cross and that ewe will then be bred artificially again with the imported materials creating a 75/25 cross and so on until a purebred sheep percentage is reached. A sheep is considered a purebred Teeswater once it reaches a 96% purity. Various disease outbreaks in Europe have made this a difficult journey for the breeds to get established in the states through this program.

The Gulf Coast Native

Gulf Coast Native Lamb Fleece from Summer Fields Fibers

Gulf Coast Native are a landrace breed, meaning they developed with little intervention and adapted to the climate they were in through freely breeding. As a result, there is hardly any documentation to their origins. Speculation is abundant into which breeds they might hail from. The original Spanish Churra, Merino, Southdown, Rambouillet, Dorset, Cheviot, and Hampshire are all thought to have contributed to the Gulf Coast. They developed variable fleeces and a propensity to survive well in the hot and humid climates of the south eastern United States. Gulf Coast have excellent resistance to many diseases and afflictions including parasites and hoof rot and are really well known for this. In fact, it contributed heavily to their survival and ability to grow into providing a vast majority of the wool in the lower states up until WWII when sheep of other breeds were brought into the climate with the aid of modern worming and medicating. The breed has since taken a sharp decline into a critical conservation status with few remaining.

Micron Count26-32
Staple Length2.5-4″
Project Expectations-Variable fleeces suited to hand processing to take advantage of the individual characteristics
-Typically soft with pointed tips and a plush spring to the locks
-Most fleeces are wonderful for next-to-skin garments
-This breed will bloom post bath into a really plush yarn
-Absorbs dye like a champ
-Very crisp lock structure that shows definition in stitches
-Felts well
Gulf Coast Native Locks

Gulf Coast Native are also known by many names including Pineywoods Sheep, Louisiana Native, Florida Native, or Scrubs Sheep. For a time they were also known as Florida Cracker, but that has since been defined as its own breed. Prior to WWII, these sheep numbered in the hundreds of thousands and were let to roam free among the Piney woods and sugar cane fields to be rounded up twice a year for shearing and lamb marking and collection for meat processing. This wikipedia article talks about the ecosystems of the Piney woods so you can get an idea of the environment these sheep developed in right alongside the landrace Pineywoods Cattle, that are also endangered now, in the same era.

These sheep are typically white, but can come in brown and black colorations as well. They sport no wool on their faces, legs, and bellies which is an adaptation to their hot climate. Fleece is becoming more consistent as breeders now are focusing on preservation and improvement. We find these sheep to have excellent soft and springy wool that has a very air-trapping and plush characteristic to it.

The Corriedale and Bond Sheep

Larimar on Corriedale Combed Top from our Mineral Collection of February 2022

This sheep breed is known for growing a little bit of a range in fiber characteristics and a heavy, valuable fleece. It shows its longwool roots in growing a somewhat longer fiber, but the level of softness or definition in a fleece is variable. Lambs can come in the low 20s for Micron count, making them a lovely next-to-skin choice. Adults typically range a bit higher towards a medium feel wool. The commercial combed top we have had our hands on is definitely in the higher adult range, making it a lovely choice for more durable applications. We are so enamored with the natural colored and spotted fleeces you can find at some farms.

Micron Count25-31
Staple Length3-6″
Project Expectations-Though typically a medium wool, Corriedale can have a wide fiber variety.
-Longer stapled wool with a reliable crimp pattern.
-Corriedale is known to bloom post wash, it is recommended to spin thinner than you anticipate your final yarn to be.
-Durable fiber suited to most projects. Let your heart go wild with this one and your skin judge the level of it’s next-to-skin softness, but as a medium wool you might like a layer inbetween.
Natural Colored Corriedale Locks from Iron Water Ranch

Corriedale are a dual-purpose sheep breed developed for specific grazing land. Romney and Merino dominated New Zealand and Australia in the late 1800s, but were only suited to certain types of forage growth. James Little sought to develop a breed capable of thriving on the land in-between the types of forage Merino and Romney occupied. He crossed Lincoln Longwools and Leicesters with his Merino flocks and developed the Corriedale, named after his ranch. Bond sheep are closely related to the Corriedale, being comprised of the same breeds. The difference is that Thomas Bond selected for finer fleeces than Corriedale breeders did, creating a breed with its own distinct association. In 1914, the United States Department of Agriculture imported Corriedale sheep into the country. The breed is also very well established in South America and the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands are known particularly for their clear white wool, but anything labeled Falkland Wool comes from a variety of breeds with Corriedale among them. The other breeds that comprise the fiber are Merino, Polwarth, Romney, and Cheviot.