This page is intended as a general guide to the finest sheep breeds and their wool. The breeds have been carefully selected to include the best wool fibres for needle felting (in our opinion!) Our shop includes natural and dyed wool tops ready for felting from these breeds. At the bottom of the page is a general glossary of terms used to describe fleece and wool fibres.
The Shetland is classified as a primitive breed being one of our original sheep breeds. It is a small white or coloured sheep originating from the Shetland Islands and produces the finest wool of all indigenous British sheep breeds. The wool has a staple length of about 4 inches and is 29-31 micron (very fine). Shetland wool has a unique feel and is wonderful to work with. It felts easily and quickly and is one of our most popular fibres.
The Bluefaced Leicester is a specialist longwool sheep breed which evolved through a breeding programme near Hexham in the 1900's and is today one of the most popular rams for crossing in British sheep farming. It is a large sheep with a distinctive roman nose. The wool is the finest of any British sheep at 26 micron, with a good lustre and staple length of 4 to 6 inches. The wool of the Bluefaced Leicester is white or brown and beautifully soft. It felts well and the lustre and softness add character. Due to the fineness of the fibres, it is ideal for felting in fine detail but takes time to create a firm, dense 3-D structure.
The Merino is the ultimate wool sheep, producing the finest and most valuable wool in the world. The Merino originated in Spain but is now popular in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The majority of the Merino wool is 20 to 23 micron but it can be as fine as 16 micron. Staple length is typically 3 to 3.5 inches. Our white and dyed Merino wool tops are 21 micron which is a great compromise between softness and strength. It is ideal for fine detailed felting and 2-D felting. All our wool is sourced from non-mulesed sheep.
In addition to these, there are several other native and foreign sheep breeds with wool suitable for needle felting. In fact any fibre can be felted with varying degress of success but we particularly like:
Manx Loaghtan a primitive breed from the Isle of Man with a unique rich brown fleece (sun bleached where the fibre has been exposed). The fleece is medium fineness but felts well.
Gotland (pictured) a breed with originates from Sweden and has a gorgeous grey or silvery grey fleece. It is a dense, long fibre, lustrous fleece which is excellent for felt making
Corriedale a breed which originated in New Zealand. It has a heavy fleece of medium fineness, good lustre and long staple length which felts very well.
Wensleydale a longwool sheep with gorgeous white, black or grey lustrous ringlets (these are retained if the fleece is carefully washed and not combed/carded).
Cheviot a stocky hill breed with a good white fleece. The fibre is strong and of medium fineness and felts well.
Jacob a small primitive breed with gorgeous multi-coloured fleece. The wool is of medium length and fineness and felts very well.
Glossary of terms used to describe fleece and wool fibres:
A large flat sheet of washed, carded fleece. Perfect for use in felting.
The method of separating and straightening the wool fibres into a batt.
The natural folding and curling of each wool fibre.
Short, coarse, brittle fibres in the fleece.
Oily shine on the longwool fleeces.
The modern, metric measure of the fibre diameter. A micron is one thousandth of a millimetre. Therefore the lower the micron count, the finer the fibre.
A top that has been drawn out further, ready for spinning. Roving has the diameter of a pencil.
The natural length of wool fibres in the fleece.
Fleece that has been washed and carded and is the diameter of a thick rope (2 to 3 inches). This is perfect for use in felting.