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Wool Fibre Sizes

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Choosing your wool and other fibres
  1. Choosing wool and other fibres
     
  2. Sheep breeds sorted by fibre size
     
  3. Sheep breeds sorted by type
     
  4. Fibre from other animals - alpaca, goats, rabbits, yak
     
  5. Comparison of Microns & Bradford Count for wool fibre measurement

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First, you need to consider how you will use your wool. Rachel Brown, author of Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing, considers a coarse wool to be perfect for handspinning. She says “what is considered the best (or finest) wool in the industry is the worst for your purposes...  the only ones that will interest you (for most purposes, anyway) will be those classified as long-wool”. And the coarser the wool, the longer each fibre, which is also desirable for handspinning. A fine, soft wool is of course also suitable but it may be more difficult to spin.

In general, therefore, if you are a beginning hand-spinner, a coarse long-wool from the bottom of Table 1 may be more suitable. And if you are an expert and familiar with particular types of wool that work well for you, you can use the tables to choose other sheep breeds of a similar size or those which are a little larger or smaller than those you are familiar with.

There are 4 tables below;
Firstly, a table of wool fibre sizes sorted in order of size with the finest fibres at the top and the coarsest at the bottom, so as to be able to locate either similar fibres or the finest and coarsest fibres quickly.

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Secondly, the same table sorted on sheep breed so that you can find a particular sheep wool.

Thirdly, a short table of the fibre size for other fibre animals – alpaca, goats, rabbits, etc.
Bradford Count is not used for these and therefore only micron sizes are quoted.

And fourthly, a comparison of the metric micron measurement of fibre size and the imperial Bradford Count (also called the numerical count system or the ASTM standard grade etc) (much simplified from the tables presented by Melanie Barkley on the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences website and on similar standard tables). Micron and Bradford Count are defined in the Glossary.

There are, of course, many other factors in making the right choice but many handspinners prefer coloured sheep and long coarse wool, not short, fine, white wool. These tables provide the sizes and the British Coloured Sheep Breeders Association (BCSBA) website provides a guide to the availability of coloured wools, whichever your preference.

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Table 1. Fibre sizes for common sheep breeds sorted on size

Fibre

Microns

Bradford Count

Merino

18-24

80-60

Rambouillet

18-24

80-60

Icelandic

22-28 (55-65 outer)

70-46

Blue-faced Leicester

22-25

60-56

Southdown

23-29

60-54

Finnish Landrace

23-31

60-50

Shetland

20-33

60-50

Shropshire

24-33

60-48

Leicester Longwool

37-46

60-40

Ryeland

25-28

58-56

Corriedale

25-31

58-50

Clun Forest

25-33

58-48

Suffolk

25-33

58-48

Dorset

27-33

58-46

Hampshire

25-33

58-46

Black Welsh Mountain

28-35

56-48

Cheviot

27-33

56-48

Jacob

28-39

56-44

Manx Loghtan

27-33

54-46

Castlemilk Morrit

33-35

50-48

Oxford

30-34

50-46

Soay

 

50-44

Wensleydale

33-35

48-44

Romney

31-38

48-40

Border Leicester

30-38

46-40

Karakul

 

44-36

Scottish Blackface

 

44-36

Cotswold

36-40

40-36

Lincoln

36-40

40-36


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Table 2. Fibre sizes for common sheep breeds sorted on sheep breed

Fibre

Microns

Bradford Count

Black Welsh Mountain

28-35

56-48

Blue-faced Leicester

22-25

60-56

Border Leicester

30-38

46-40

Castlemilk Morrit

33-35

50-48

Cheviot

27-33

56-48

Clun Forest

 

58-48

Corriedale

25-31

58-50

Cotswold

36-40

40-36

Dorset

27-33

58-46

Finnish Landrace

23-31

60-50

Hampshire

25-33

58-46

Icelandic

22-28 (55-65 outer)

70-46

Jacob

28-39

56-44

Karakul

 

44-36

Leicester Longwool

37-46

60-40

Lincoln

36-40

40-36

Manx Loghtan

27-33

54-46

Merino

18-24

80-60

Oxford

30-34

50-46

Rambouillet

18-24

80-60

Romney

31-38

48-40

Ryeland

25-28

58-56

Scottish Blackface

 

44-36

Shetland

20-33

60-50

Shropshire

24-33

60-48

Soay

 

50-44

Southdown

23-29

60-54

Suffolk

25-33

58-48

Wensleydale

33-35

48-44


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Table 3. Fibre sizes for other fibre animals sorted on type

Fibre

Microns

Alpaca

20-41

Angora rabbit

10-18

Camel

15-22

Cashmere

14-16

Mohair

23-38

Possum

12-14

Qiviut

10-18

Vicuna

12

Yak down fibre

15-35


Back to the Other Fibre Animals page

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Table 4. Comparing 2 common methods of measuring thickness of wool fibre

Microns

Bradford Count

Under 17.7 = Fine

Finer than 80s

17.7-19.1

80s

19.1-20.6

70s

20.6-22.0

64s

22.1-23.5

62s

23.5-24.9

60s

25-26.4

58s

26.4-27.8

56s

27.9-29.3

54s

29.3-31

50s

31-32.7

48s

32.7-34.4

46s

34.4-36.2

44s

36.2-38.1

40s

38.1-40.2

36s

Over 40.2 = Coarse

Coarser than 36s

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Teresinha at Wild Fibres
Studio I-319, Scott House, The Custard Factory
Gibb Street, Birmingham B9 4DT, UK

Contact Teresinha for enquiries on
Tel:  +44 (0)7979 770865
email: info@wildfibres.co.uk

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Last updated on 31 January 2017
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