Sunday, October 30, 2011

Choice of Wool

The choice of wool for this particular project was based upon three things, research, availability and my ability to easily spin the quantities that I would need for this project.

Wool was very plentiful in Anglo Saxon England, it is identified as the main fibre in clothing in almost half of all textiles in the 5-7th century period in which I am researching (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:61). Sheep also seem to have been roughly 50-60% of all domesticated animals kept by the Anglo Saxon people in this early period (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:10)

Exactly what sort of sheep were being used during this period is not known. What is known is the colour of the sheep and the staple length of the wool. The varieties of colour include black, brown, grey, roan and white wool (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:12). The type of fleece was what is known today as a generalised medium wool. 
Colours of wool available during the 5th - 6th Century in Anglo Saxon England

Although it can be very difficult to examine pigmentation in wool from Archaeological remains there are many examples of pigmented wool from the Anglo Saxon period. By far the most common pigmentation is due to the colour of the wool itself rather than from a dye process (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:10).

The wool that I decided to use for this project is a Corriedale Fleece. Corriedale is a modern sheep which have a medium fine wool which is roughly similar to the medium wool that would have been available during the Anglo Saxon period it is also readily available in Australia and easy to spin. The Corriedale fleece would be very different from an Anglo Saxon fleece in that it is a modern high yield wool ( In contrast sheep during the Anglo Saxon period would have been bread for milking, fleece and meat. Sheep during the 5th- 6th Centuries they would have been small and may have gone though a moult rather than being sheared although this is uncertain as sheep shearing and sheep needing sheering may well have been introduced with the Roman's (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:15).

Not only does Corriedale fleece give a similar fibre to that used during the early Anglo Saxon period it is also readily available in Australia and can be purchased in a variety of natural pigments based on the colour of the sheep. Those pigments are similar to the known pigments available during the 5th to 6th Centuries in Anglo Saxon Britain. For example brown, roan, white, grey and black.

The fleece I selected is a dark brown. This was a common colour during the Anglo Saxon period and easily available now. I selected it because it is a nice colour that is easily obtainable and will not stain and show dirt like a white wool would. The fleece that I am using was purchased from Petlins Spinning and Weaving Supplies I bought this fleece already carded which significantly reduced the time it would take me to prepare the fibre for spinning. I made this decision for two reasons, speed and also because if I bought a random fleece that needed carding I would not be able to get a consistent fleece. By buying the fleece carded and ready to spin I was buying a product Petlins has readily available during the year so if I needed to get more fleece at any stage I would be able to match the fleece that I already had.

The dark brown carded medium fleece I am using for this project.

In contrast about fortnight after I bought the wool from Petlins I found a whole fleece in a roan/brown in my garage. It is also a medium fleece but unfortunately I would be totally unable to match it. So if I used that fleece for my project and did not have enough the difference between that and another fleece would be distinct.
Unexpected Roan fleece found lurking in my garage, after I had started spinning. 

Walton Roger, P. 2007 'Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England: AD 450-700'. council for British Archaeology, York, UK.

Corriedale 2011. (Accessed 31/10/2011)

Petlins Spinning and Weaving Supplies Rhodes, Australia

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