Sugar Ridge Ranch
Jon, Charlotte & Vivian Stephenson

608-637-6474 (H) / 608-774-3151 (C)

All About Shropshires

A little About Shropshire Sheep...

The Shropshire sheep breed dates back to the mid 1800's. It originated in the Shropshire hills of England and has origins with the Southdown, Cotswold, Leicester & native black faced sheep of England. Considered a "dual purpose" breed; it has been used for meat production, as well as wool. Shropshires were once one of the most prominent breeds in the United States; stating they are a "farm flock favorite, with wool from the tips of the nose to the tips of the toes." Ironically, that statement led them to falling out of favor in the late 1930's as wool prices dropped & more people began to prefer an "open faced" breed of sheep. The shrops of the past had wool that sometimes covered the entire face. They were also a rather short, stout breed. Since the 1950's Shropshires have made drastic changes. Breeding for height, excellent carcasses & more open faces began to sweep the breed. This led to a large come back for shrops. Today, shropshire sheep are a popular animal both in the breeding stock categories, youth projects & for crossing with other terminal stock. However, on an international scale, Shropshires are considered a rare, heritage, type breed. The Livestock Conservancy currently lists shropshires on the "watch" list.

A few of the benefits of raising Shropshire Sheep include:

-Shropshires are a medium sized sheep that are known to be hardy & prolific. It is not uncommon to have lambing rates of 150-200%. They are also considered good mother's and easy lambers.

-Shrops are a popular youth animal. They are usually shown slick sheared and are one of the easier breeds for youngsters to handle.

-Shropshire sheep are very feed efficient with tremendous rates of gain.

-Many hand spinners like Shropshire wool, as it is a soft, yet sturdy wool that wears well & is relatively hard to come by. Shropshires have a down type fiber, that makes unique wool yarn.

-Carcasses of Shropshire sheep are lean, well muscled & make excellent market animals.

Shropshire Wool....Shropshire?  Wool?  

Typically considered a meat breed today, the shropshire sheep breed is indeed a dual purpose sheep.  It was once prized for it's lovely fiber, especially suited for wool yarn, but as wool prices dropped throughout the ages, people seemed to disregard this lovely asset. Such a shame!  Shropshire wool is simply a delight to with which to work and possess some very unique characteristics that make it a great fiber. We have paid particularly close attention to the wool quality of our sheep, so that they may continue to be utilized in a true dual purpose manner. Each year when selecting replacement lambs for our flock, we select lambs that will continue to breed high quality wool. Read on to learn all about shropshire wool...

Wool Classification: Down
Staple Length: 2-4 inches
Fleece Weight per Animal: 4-6 lbs
Yield Grade Average: 70%
Handle: Soft, yet Sturdy, Springy, resilient, great memory, loft & bulk

Old Blood Grade: 3/8 Blood
Numerical Count 60's to 54's
Micron 24-32.5

Shropshire wool is a down type fiber.  What exactly is a "down fiber"?

Shropshires originated from the English Down country, meaning low lying areas as opposed to the hill country.  Down fiber has a spiral crimp, unique to down breeds of sheep. This spiral crimp gives shropshire wool many of it's wonderful qualities.  The elasticity, spring & loft is unlike other types of wool.  The fiber also has great memory, meaning it does not crease or fold easily and gives beautiful stitch definition.  The wool has a soft handle with little luster, appearing more "matte" than some types of wool.

Can Shropshire fiber be felted?

Shropshire wool can be needle felted. In fact, it is excellent for felting dense, tight cores with little to no halo.

What about wet felting?

Shropshire wool is highly resistant to wet felting.  Being a down type fiber, it is naturally comparable to "super washed" wool.  In fact, some people claim they have washed & dried shropshire wool items in the washer & dryer & had little to no felting or shrinkage!  I haven't tried this myself, so I can't recommend this.

Why is the fiber "felt resistant?"

All hairs or fibers of animals are covered in tiny microscopic scales...picture a fish covered in scales.  When wool is felted the process of dunking in hot water causes the scales to open; like little umbrellas.  The swishing motion then causes all the little scales to stick together.  The more & more the fiber & water are agitated, the more it sticks together, have felt!  The scales on the fiber of shropshires are very few & spaced widely apart.  It is the closeness and the number of scales that determines the feltablity of the fiber.  Thus, shropshire fiber is naturally felt resistant.

What about Spinning / Yarn?

Shropshire sheep fiber is best spun into a medium to thin yarn. It has a soft, bouncy, unique handle with a spiral crimp.  It blends very nicely with long wool fiber to add even more resilience and some sheen to the yarn's appearance.  Pure shropshire wool yarn makes spectacular knitted and crocheted items. It is soft enough to be worn next to the skin, yet durable enough for sweaters or blankets as well.  The spectacular "felt resistance" nature of the shropshire wool yarn makes it especially great for socks, hats, mittens, scarfs and outerwear that may need more frequent washing. Although it is highly felt resistant, it is still recommended to wash items made of wool yarn in cold water by hand & lay flat to dry.

Can I dye my Shropshire fleece / Roving / Wool Yarn?

Yes! Shropshire fiber & Wool Yarn dye very well with great steadfastness. Metallic or organic dyes will adhere well to the fiber.  There is very little, if any kemp in shropshire yarns or rovings.  Hand dyed yarn or items make beautiful, one of kind work.  Let your artistic touch go wild!

Please enjoy browsing through our Country Store, we offer only 100% Shropshire Wool & Woolen Products produced from our flock in southwest Wisconsin.  All Natural Honey & Hive Products are also available.
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