New Zealand Halfbred - a spinner's notes

lock of halfbred fleece

This is a registered sheep breed that was originally developed in the 19th century by crossing one or other of the English longwools such as Romney or English Leicester with the Merino. New Zealand Halfbreds are mainly farmed in the foothills of the South Island high country, and currently make up about 4% of the national flock.

(New Zealand Halfbred must not be confused with "crossbred" which is a term used in the New Zealand wool industry to describe long stapled lustre wools in the range of 30 to 40+ microns irrespective of breed or cross.)

Staples are often chunky with a well defined and regular crimp right to the tip. It is classed as a fine wool and has medium bulk. Because of its parentage there is likely to be some variation between fleeces.

  • Fibre diameter: 25 - 31 microns. This puts the New Zealand Halfbred between Polwarth and Corriedale in fineness.
  • Staple length: 75 - 110 mm.
  • Fleece weight: 4 - 5 kg.
  • Uses: Apparel, both in weaving and in knitting yarns. Excellent where soft durability is required. Great for general purpose felting, and also for blending with other fibres of like staple length.

The good staple length gives ease of preparation by any means, particularly worsted and semi-worsted, and the medium bulk of most fleeces gives us a nice round yarn.

Over the years I have spun and knitted, felted and yes, even woven many, many kilos of New Zealand Halfbred, and have rarely been disappointed in the result. Admittedly a few fleeces have not felted when I have wanted them to (because of a higher than usual bulk), but they have been put aside to spin and knit into lofty light sweaters that wear particularly well. Quality Halfbred sliver is also easily available.

Remember that New Zealand Halfbred is a fine waxy fleece type so will need a good scour (wash) in very hot water.

© Pat Old 2002

coloured flock against a mountain backdrop Spring time twin lambs fleeces displayed at the 2004 World Congress
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