The Fleeces and Warp Thread

In 2004, I was given the honor of being named Baronial Artisan for my Barony. The position is the Champion of the Arts & Sciences to the members of the Barony, and each Artisan has a duty to create an artifact for the barony.

My goal for my project was the creation of two floor‐length cloaks for Baronial regalia. The intent was to invite the members of the Barony to join me in spinning the weft for the cloaks, weave the cloth from the handspun weft (and commercially purchased warp), then construct the cloaks in as period a manner as possible.

The Fleeces and Warp Thread
I chose to spin the weft from the wool of East Friesian sheep. East Friesian sheep are a period breed, and are raised now as a milk sheep for cheese. Long been admired for their size and milk production, in 1530 East Friesians were mentioned in accounts in the Vatican Archives as larger than other sheep and able to raise up to 5 lambs. Their wool has been virtually ignored by modern spinners, since it is a medium texture (30‐37 micron count, 52‐54 Bradford count), with few unusual characteristics. It is excellent for outer wear, and while it is rarely marketed as a wool for spinners, fleeces aren’t that uncommon and can be reasonably priced. (Raffino, 2002)

An example of a typical lock of East Friesian wool. Look at the staple length and the nice crimping of the wool.

22/2 100% Scottish Shetland wool, buttercup yellow

The warp thread is commercially‐purchased 100% Scottish Shetland wool. The size of the purchased thread is 22/2, not very thin but not bulky. The color is buttercup yellow, a color easily achievable by dyeing with, for example, weld. (See Buchanan (1995, p 102‐103), Grierson (1986, p. 219‐221 and pl. 6) or particularly Rosetti (1969, p. 115) for color samples and recipes for the yellow possible with weld.) Woven with the white thread produced from the East Friesian wool, the resulting fabric is a very pleasant light yellow twill.

I purchased three fleeces of East Friesian wool as raw, unwashed fleece, via eBay. Obviously the original owner had not heeded Palladius’ advice in On Husbondrie:

(Palladius, 2000, Book 8, verse 13)

He certainly didn’t keep his ewes’ fields free from briars. All three fleeces were full of vegetable matter, with one in particular filled with large clumps of thistles. Even once washed, the wool still had a lot of dirt and vegetable matter included in it.

The Bibliography
Next, Fleece Preparation.

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