Following the talk by Katherine Henry in April about the Australian Rare Breed Project (also on Facebook), the Guild began a special project to feature some of these breeds as part of the Guild’s 70th birthday celebrations in 2017. The Guild has decided to purchase the fleece of ten breeds, starting with Romney, Ryeland, Lincoln crossed with Hampshire Down, Perendale and Dorset Down.

Little did we know what we had unleashed. Dace Vare, the exuberant member heading up the Guild’s project, said, “The enthusiasm has been overwhelming. People started signing up for the project minutes after the initial email went out! Our spinners are really excited to be spinning fleece from breeds that are just names in a book to most of us.”

The Guild has offered the fleece project to our country network groups first, as they often miss out on things like this. The response was overwhelming and 69 people signed up, with the Newcastle group coming in top place with 17 participants! In the end the project has had to be capped at 100 participants as we simply can’t pack up and distribute any more than the 100kg of fleece that we have ordered already!

The logistics of the project are a bit overwhelming. Fortunately the Guild’s Spinning Study Group has come on board to help: preparing fibre notes for each fleece; outlining breed characteristics suggesting fibre preparation methods; showing spinning and dyeing techniques; and providing project suggestions. A work sheet will be available to record each participant’s spinning experience. There will also be a demonstration of spinning prior to each of the Guild’s monthly meetings along with show and tell for the yarns spun and projects completed. We are also hoping that the Study Group will be able to make a short film of the demonstration to put onto the Ravelry site for those who can’t attend the Guild meeting. Our country spinners will be able to send in photos to be posted on the Spinning Study Group Ravelry site, so we all get to see their work as well.

Spinners are invited to write a description of their experience of spinning the different breeds for future issues of the Guild News, to share their joy or any challenges encountered.

Romney fleece fresh from shearing.

Romney fleece fresh from shearing.

The first 50 kg of fleece will be weighed and parcelled up at the end of July, after the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show, where we will be obtaining some of our fleece. The second batch of five breeds will be sent out when shearing has finished later in the year.

The photo is of Romney fleece that is the first breed to be spun, supplied by Imperial Partners in South Australia. They very generously sent two of their show fleeces to help us celebrate our 70th anniversary. If you missed out on being part of this group but still want to participate, contact Imperial Partners, or other Romney breeders, if you would like to buy some Romney fleece and play along at home!


Read and view Katherine’s talk on the Rare Breed Project
Look for rare sheep breeders to find fibre
Heritage Sheep Australia