I’m so new to so many things when it comes to spinning. One book I’ve found to be an essential asset in my spinning toolkit, however, is The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius.
Why? Because it is packed with useful information about breeed-specific wools. Technical information, yes, but also breed histories. Stories that walk you through the bloodline of breeds that have survived for centuries in some cases (the Jacob line is is one such bloodline). It is easy to overlook these stories and just spin the wool, but I think they really enrich the spinning experience. My Jacob Grey Top isn’t just a brilliant wool from a distant island. It’s a breed with a past that is pretty fascinating. How amazing! How inspiring!
From a quick foray into this text, I’ve learned a couple neat tidbits. Jacob sheep have been bred in England for centuries, but they may have originated in the Middle East and had a brief stay in Spain before making their way to England. Named for a character out of the book of Genesis but not necessarily related to his flock of sheep, Jacob sheep are known for their unique coats — often multicolored — and crazy horns — they can have 2, 4, or 6.
While hand-spinners prize Jacob fleeces for their multicolored individualism and the joy of playing with those amazing spots of color, commercially processed fiber is often less wildly variant in color — but still amazingly beautiful in a more subtle fashion, as you can see by my own Jacob Grey Top from the Canterbury Prize Wool Group from Louet.
If you look closely and keep in mind that photos never relate the true beauty at work here, you can see the variation in color — from brown to white to grey to even more hues of brown. These subtle differences in color were sure to spin-up beautifully into a dark heathered natural colorway that would be tough for anyone to resist.
Although I tend to spin most of my yarns quite light, I’ve aimed for a slightly heavier yarn with this fiber — perhaps for a nice hat or hat & mitt set for the fall. I’ve opted to spin it into a worsted yarn (as opposed to woolen), partly because I’m not too skilled with woolen yet and partly because from my research I believe the stitch definition should be much better in a worsted yarn – we shall see about that soon enough!
By touch, the roving feels kind of like a softer version of Corriedale. In practice, it is fairly slick — there isn’t a lot of crimp to give you brakes here — but despite this fact I found it to be a really easy, comfortable, fun spin. I have read a lot of reviews stating that Jacob can be hard to handle, but I really didn’t have any trouble. Anyone with a fair amount of control of the wheel shouldn’t have any trouble managing it. In fact, the top drafts easily with minimal (if any) pre-drafting necessary — an aspect I really love. My spinning time is somewhat limited, so the fact that I can literally just take out my fiber and start spinning means a lot.
Because I was spinning slightly heavier singles, I had a bobbin full & half my singles done in no time.
And today I have one darn pretty skein of Grey Jacob yarn totaling about 145yds of 2-ply bulky weight yarn hanging out to dry. It is rustic, kind of like a handspun, 2-ply version of Rowan’s British Sheep Breeds Chunky Undyed — a beautiful heathered greyish-brown indeed!
Especially considering that the Louet North America price for this Grey Jacob Top is very reasonable, I am really impressed with the quality of this fiber. With a minimal amount of research on my part, I was able to have a thoroughly enjoyable spin that resulted in some gorgeous yarn. All in all, this adventure in spinning — my first Jacob — was exceptional.