The fleece is pure wool due to this unusual feature of the birthcoat of the lambs. The primary hair follicles, which in other breeds grow coarse fibres called kemp, in Wensleydales produce fine wool, giving a 100% wool fleece of very uniform diameter.
Mostly high quality, lustrous knitting wool and weaving yarn. Fleece of all shades is very popular with handspinners. It is combed, not carded, and spun "worsted", ( twisting parallel fibres), to retain the lustre. Some people incorporate the uncombed curling locks into their spinning. Our coloured fleeces come in a range of shades, from light grey through to black. The white wool dyes extremely well due to its uniformity and lack of kemp.
On the Sheep
It takes about 15 months for a lamb to grow a full fleece .They need to be kept in pasture devoid of thistles, thorn bushes, or any other debris which will inevitably finish up in their fleece.
Photographs showing sheep with their fleece to the ground are of yearlings (that is the previous year’s lambs) and are most likely to be ewes (often referred to as "hoggs in wool"). This is because we shear the rams in spring to grow a covering of fleece (which grows back in tight curls) to show as "shearlings". The ewes are often left to be shown "in full fleece" and are shorn later in summer. Their fleece will never grow back as long again, although we still get a good fleece from the sheep for many years.
Our main flock is sheared normally, but the shearlings we clip using hand shears. We tie them up tight on a halter, and clip downwards from the central parting. It is usual to leave a few inches of wool on the lower part of the body to give the sheep a square look when the fleece grows back.
Before shearing our sheep are dagged then dipped in water (containing a small amount of soap solution) to remove the winter's mud. After shearing we pick out any straw and other debris and skirt the fleece to remove any dirty or poor wool from the edges . All the shearling fleeces and good fleeces from older sheep are then packed separately in bags and the rest are tightly rolled for the Wool Board. The fleeces that we sell to handspinners are open and lustrous and in a variety of lovely colours. They range from 3kg - 9kg (6lbs - 20 lbs) and are free of dirt and kemp.