You've come to the right place for your Babydoll Southdown fleece and wool needs.
If you're looking for a renewable, natural fiber with the following qualities:
- biodegradable, eco-friendly
- easy care, resists soiling
- flame resistant
- moisture absorbing by being able to wick away up to 30% of its own weight
- multi-season because it insulates and breathes
- resilient because it retains its shape, resists wrinkling and stretches
- water repellent products
browse my catalog of available products made from 100% Babydoll Southdown wool by clicking on the Shoppe button above. All aspects of the process from fiber to finished product are completed here on the farm with the exception of sending my scoured wool to a mill to be turned into roving.
Bergamascos' Babydoll Brigade is home to a flock ranging from fifteen to twenty-five sheep. The wool from the sheep is harvested annually using the process known as shearing. I have my sheep sheared by a professional shearer. Bill, my shearer, has been shearing for 42 years now as of 2016. He makes very few second cuts.The wool from the sheep is a hardened protein and does not contain any sensory structures. Wool is similar in its chemical composition to human hair and fingernails. Contrary to what some may think, the sheep does not "feel" any pain during shearing. When the wool is sheared it is similar to when humans have their hair cut or a have a manicure.
Once the sheep have been sheared and I have their fleeces, all of the processing to turn the fleece into batts and yarn and make handmade items is completed by me here on the farm with the exception of sending my scoured wool to a mill to be turned into roving, (quilts - my mother is a big contributor to these). My Shoppe contains a variety of items such fleece in all forms, yarn, dryer balls, baskets, knitted hats, scarves, socks, afghans, and more.
There are very few people allergic to wool. The chemical make-up of wool is similar to the chemical make-up of fingernails and hair. If you're not allergic to fingernails and hair, you're probably not allergic to wool. Your "allergy" is most likely the reaction to fiber with a micron count greater than 30. These fibers are structurally rigid enough to cause "poking" of the skin and elicit a response from the sensory receptors similar to an allergic reaction. Some people have more sensitive skin than others. Most Babydoll Southdowns have a micron count ranging from 23 to 29 inches which means the majority of people can wear it comfortably next to the skin.
Hip, hip, hooray for the Babydoll Southdown - a down breed!
Down breeds, such as the Babydoll Southdown, are a dual purpose sheep. In other words, they are used for both meat and wool although the wool aspect seems to be lost on many folks because the wool is not what they are used to with the longwools or the fine wools.
The true down breeds are called “Down” because they originated in England in the southwestern region and not because they have a downy undercoat.
The wool from the Babydoll, as well as the other down breeds, is generally lacking luster and the locks are not well defined. The crimp may not be as obvious as it is with other wool categories. There is plenty of crimp in each fiber though; however, it is spiral in nature not just kinked. This means the fibers are separate and don’t just nest next to each other. This feature traps air in the spaces making the wool highly insulating; thus very warm.
The spiral crimp of the down breeds also makes it resistant to felting, but not immune to felting. It can be needle felted but at the same time can be thought of as a natural superwash. It is perfect for socks and other items needing frequent washing. I wash my husband’s socks in hot water with a regular load of laundry in my front loading machine. I have never used a top loader so cannot personally say what the washed results would be. Once out of the laundry, I give them a gentle lengthwise tug to reshape them and let them air dry.
The fineness of the down breeds has a fairly broad range. Most fall into the middle range but several produce very fine soft fleeces. In 2014, I had twelve of my off-white sheep’s wool tested the average micron count was 25.9 with the lowest being 23.0 and the highest being 27.9. I also had five black sheep’s wool tested. The average micron count was 27.2 with the lowest being 26.0 and the highest being 30.4. In 2016, the average micron count was 27.6 with the lowest being 21.8 and the highest being 35.1.
In 2014, 2016, & 2018, I sent in samples of my sheep's fleece to be evaluated. If interested in seeing the results, visit each sheep's page which is a clickable link from The Flock page of the website. Then click on the image of the results, located in the bottom right corner, to see a larger, readable image of the results. Glossary of Abbreviations used in the reports.
It is a widely spread rumor, in my opinion, that the Babydoll’s wool is in the cashmere range. None of the sheep's fleeces I've had tested met the required not to exceed 19 microns and I do not think any of the other Babydoll breeders who've had their tested tested in the cashmere range either. According to Wikipedia...
In the United States, under the U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, as amended, (15 U. S. Code Section 68b(a)(6)), states that a wool or textile product may be labeled as containing cashmere only if: such wool product is the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibers produced by a cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger); the average diameter of the fiber of such wool product does not exceed 19 microns; and such wool product does not contain more than 3 percent (by weight) of cashmere fibers with average diameters that exceed 30 microns. The average fiber diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24 percent.
Preparation of the Babydoll wool, and other down breeds, will depend on the fiber length. Again, it is widely advertised the Babydolls staple length runs from 2.5 to 4”. I, personally, have found them to be shorter. When a sample is sent to a lab to be tested, the sample is sheared from the side of the sheep where the fleece is generally shorter. The longer wool seems to be on the neck area. Of course, this neck area also tends to be the area full of the most vegetable matter (VM). The average staple length of twelve of my off-whites was 1.42", the longest being 2.56" and the shortest being 0.91". The average staple length of five of my black Babydolls was 1.55", the longest being 1.97" and the shortest being 1.18". Most of the sheep I tested had fourteen months growth on them. In 2016, the average staple length of nineteen of my Babydolls was 2.34" for one year's growth.
Regardless, I've processed the fleeces of all of the above sheep, even the 0.94 inches staple length sheep, and handspun some very nice yarn and made very nice hand made products. I recently had a customer return some scoured fleece she bought from me because, I feel, she based her expectations of the Babydoll fleece on what is “put out there on the Internet”. I do state on my website, in more than one place, I have found the statistics to be incorrect based on my flock and the experience of other Babydoll owners.
Quoted from the customer's e-mail to me - “I have been a spinner and flock owner for 20+ years. I am very disappointed with the wool I received from you. I like the softness of the fleece. However, the staple length was said to be 2.5 to 4 inches in length. Whereas there are some pieces that are of that length there is much that must be second cuts...because it is VERY SHORT! This should have been skirted out. For the price I paid, I expected better. If this was my fleece, much of it would have been discarded or used for felting. My intention was to spin this fleece.”
[Note: I state on my website I have found the commonly stated staple lengths to not be true. They tend to be more in the 1.5 to 2.5 inches range. At least in the case of my flock and of other's Babydoll fleeces I've purchased.]
If one is used to working with longer staple length fibers, getting used to and making the Babydoll wool do what you want it to is going to take some practice. Please don't judge it simply on the staple length. I've since turned those "very short, second cuts" the above customer returned to me into gorgeous yarn. Some of the yarns I've spun from from my flock can be seen in the photo below.
If you’re looking for
some great wool for your fiber needs, check out my Shoppe
by using buttons found above. The
Babydoll is a dual-purpose breed and historically their wool was highly
prized. Their wool is unique. It has a short staple compared to the
more popular breeds' wool usually used for spinning. It is very
elastic, is extremely lofty, and doesn't wet felt as easily as other
wool. If one can get past their preconceived notions about the Babydoll
wool, they find it can be easy to spin. Because of the very dense
physical properties of the Babydoll Southdown wool, it produces a
product with a ton of cushion, bounce, elasticity, softness, and
durability. Although I am partial to my Babydoll breed - I only work
with their fiber, because the Babydoll fiber has more barbs
per inch than other wool types, it blends well with other fibers too.
me if you’re looking
for something you don’t see in the Shoppe
or if you're wanting a custom item made. I may be able to
fulfill your request.
Information above from my general knowledge of my breed and the American Sheep Industry Association