Updated: Mar 4
DISCLAIMER: I am sharing with the world wide web what I have learned, used and what are my preferences when creating with wool. I, in no way condone nor abhor the use of man-made material for textiles.
Outside the city of Leeds, up high in the hills of North Yorkshire, England there is a shaggy creature worth a king´s ransom.
In the village of Masham there is a sheep breed, with thick long unkempt hair, but their daily bad hair day is valued for its lustre, sheen and lofty fiber.
Like most other ovine varieties, the Mashmam is known to be a cross breed first documented over 100 years ago with the Teeswater or Wensley ram, both long wool breeds, with a Dalesbred, or Swaledale ewe, both horned, shorthairs with a silky sheen. Interestingly, Masham do not have horns but have the long wool genetics in their strain from the ram and the fleece loftiness and lustre of the ewes. Named after the village of Masham where it all started. Perfection.
A domesticated animal, initially bred for mutton because of its lean caucus and medium build frame. The average weight is 75kg. (165 lbs.). Raised in the northern hills of Yorkshire, adapted to damp climates, they can survive with limited resources and are known as light feeders resulting in the desirable lean meat by culinary masters. The ewes have a longer life span on average to other breeds and have multiple births throughout their lifetime. The ewes have high mothering instincts and produce high quality milk for gourmet dairy products.
The fleece is white with some grey variation, few are tan and there are very little black. The fiber by itself is not soft.
Masham locks average 15 - 38cm, (6 - 15in.), long with a total blanket weight of 3 - 5 kilos, (6-10 lbs), annually, a surprisingly small amount for the size of the animal. The Raw fleece when processed is bright white with a shimmer. When dyed the results are rich while maintaining its natural sheen, similar to the Corriedale.
At first it may not seem as supple as expected compared to other high quality fleeces, but when sorted, combed and spun with a long draft, the result can be quite soft while maintaining its strength, with a halo added to the natural sheen, ideal for weaving or knitting outerwear. Most seasoned spinners will say a long draft is unnecessary because of the long fibre however it does soften the yarn when maintaining a a low count twist per inch.
There is a limited amount of fiber available commercially because of the small amount of fleece the sheep produce each year. At first sight one would assume there is a lot of wool but the long wool locks are not indicative of true quantities of fleece.
Masham is a highly demanded fiber by specialty markets for carpet making and upholstery because of its strength, durability, flexibility and the "true colour" dying results.
On its own, it is best suited for outerwear. It repels water and is a natural temperature regulator.
The long staples of the wool when blended with softer roving such as merino, alpaca or a mulberry silk the outcome is, perhaps, one of the softest blended yarns I have experimented with. Gaining yardage of yarn with a 60:40 ratio of softer wool and Masham when spinning with a long draft.
Masham roving felts very easily both in wet felting and needle felting.
In textile I have found Masham Bouclé yarn to be fun. Bouclé is the result of a loose plied tension forming curls in yarn giving lightness to fabric with an appearance of bulkiness, great for hats, scarves, textured cardigans or sweaters and hand woven tapestries when some texture and depth is needed in the work.
The homespun yarn does not have much spring to it, gauging will be consistent throughout when making fabric resulting in a bulkier garment with little to no stretch and will hold its shape with no ease in the fabric.
Caring for Masham wool garments and homeware...
It is a felts really quickly with little manipulation in warm water, quicker in a washing machine.
For homeware and outerwear/accessories:
Soak in cold water
Use Sulfate-Free Detergent
Very little agitation
Squeeze water from garment NEVER WRING THE GARMENT
It can be hung to dry if all water is squeezed from the garment.
I will continue working with this fiber in the coming months: blending, spinning, felting and dying to explore all possibilities of its uses for knitting and weaving.
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