Polwarth - a spinner's notes

lock of polwarth fleece

The Polwarth breed was developed in Victoria, Australia in 1880. First cross Lincoln x Merino ewes were backcrossed to Merino rams to produce "comeback" progeny (3/4 Merino: 1/4 Lincoln) and then interbred to produce the Polwarth animals. They were first introduced into New Zealand in 1932.

They have become popular in areas previously considered too wet and cold for Merinos, and also to provide a dual meat / wool option. The fleece is bright and often almost chalky white, and is second only to Merino for fineness and softness. Staples are blocky with well defined and even, rounded crimp.

  • Fibre diameter: 23 - 26 microns.
  • Staple length: 75 - 110 mm.
  • Fleece weight: 4.0 - 6.0 kg.
  • Uses: High quality worsted fabrics, knitting yarns and apparels, baby clothing and fine fibre blends. Also excellent for felting.

For the spinner, Polwarth has become a popular fleece type, easier to prepare and spin than Merino, yet with a similar softness and handle.

I find Polwarth beautiful to spin, especially when prepared for a worsted type yarn which will enhance its brightness and give drapeability to the knitted or woven fabric. This will involve flick carding, or preparing on wool combs, an easy task with the length of staple available. The smooth worsted type yarn enhances stitch definition in patterned knitwear and gives a "classiness" to woven fabrics.

Being a waxy fleece type it will need a hot scour (wash) in preparation for spinning.

As I mentioned earlier, Polwarth is a good fleece choice, because of its length and fibre diameter, for fine fibre blends with the likes of angora rabbit, silk, baby alpaca (cria) and fine mohair. Remember though that for ease of spinning it is wise to blend fibres of similar length and diameter, the aim being to enhance the qualities of blend components.

Our coloured fleeces also give an added dimension to blending. Imagine black wool blended with rich tussah silk - the result being lustrous bronze luxury; black wool blended with white rabbit which shows a halo of white around the dark yarn; brown moorit blended with black baby alpaca, once again that lustrous beautiful bronze.

© Pat Old 2002

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