Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getting Ready for SOAR - the Sharlea is here!

It's the time of year that is busiest for me, getting all the yarn, fiber and tools ready for sale this fall at shows but this year is a bit different. I'll be vending at SOAR - the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat, an annual Spinning Conference, to my knowledge, the only one of its size in the world. SOAR's location shifts each year and this year it is on the East Coast, giving me the opportunity to show my fiber to the spinning world.

In preparation for SOAR as well as the other festivals I'll be at, I've been hunting all over the world for some really special spinning fibers. I've found a lovely variety of wonderful local domestic fleece that are currently at the mill being prepared into rovings, I have an amazing quantity of Quiviet that I'm having a hard time letting go of but the best of the best arrived just yesterday...

13.3 micron Sharlea merino, unwashed in its shipping package

In yesterday's post I reveived 2 of my 4 Sharlea fleece. Sharlea is a brand name that is used to identify Saxon Merino sheep that are raised according to a patented method. The sheep are cared for like pets in the US, housed, clothed, fed special feed and given human and humane contact. These sheep are healthier than there more traditional bretheren, living as much as 50% longer lives but all of the love and care that goes into raising them has only one purpose - their amazing fleece. Ranging from 12 to 15.5 microns, the ultra-fine Sharlea merino is clean, consistant in crimp and staple length and an amazing experience for the hand spinner.

Only a handful of Sharlea fleece are available for individual sale each year, the bulk of them are baled and auctioned off. The fiber generally ends up at fashion houses around the world where they process the wool and it is woven into luxurious fabric to be made into custom garments for high end customers (think $15,000 men's suits). To the best of my knowledge, there are no more Sharlea certified fleeces available until the Spring shearing begins but there is a reason that mine have just arrived...

Two of the fleeces I have purchased were held back to be shown at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show at Bendigo, AU this year. The heavier of the two won Reserve Champion in the Ultrafine Merino Class. I had to wait until after the show for my fleece to arrive - in fact, I didn't even know until after the show what micron count they would be and how heavy they were. They are both 13.3 microns and these two are very similar. I have two others, both a bit 'coarser', one at 13.9 microns and the other at 16 microns which puts it at Superfine rather than Ultrafine but still exhibiting the Sharlea Characteristics. The estimated yield of Sharlea is 75-82%, much higher than would normally be expected for a merino in part due to the great care used to keep these sheep clean and free of debris.

I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to offer this very special fiber to handspinners in the USA. The Sharlea will be packaged unwashed in 50 gm boxes and will be available in my festival booth this fall. You have to see and touch it to believe it so please stop by and see me at the shows.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have read that these sheep are individually penned for up to 4 years, in houses where they are denied access to outside. I'm not sure how humane this is. Have you seen where these sheep are housed? I don't want to support inhumane practices that we might not be aware of.