Bubbles is a Zwartbles breed of sheep and she lives at Deen City Farm. You can visit her and several other Zwartbles sheep there.
Zwartbles sheep are very tame and gentle. They were originally bred in the Netherlands and were brought to the UK in the 1990’s
The sheep are mainly used for their milk rather than their wool.
The name Zwartbles means “Black with a white blaze”
All Zwartbles sheep have patches of white or a strip of white down their faces, white socks on their back legs and sometimes a flash of white fleece on the front of their chests and the tip of their tail.
The fleece is very springy and is black in colour, although the sun may bleach it to dark brown.
Most sheep have fleece that grows all year round and this is shorn (cut off) by shearers who are specially trained to do this. This doesn’t hurt the sheep and is just like you or I having a hair cut.
The cut fleece has to be skirted (remove the really dirty bits and short hairs), and scoured (washed) to get any dirt out.
Then it is carded (brushed) or combed to untangle each fibre.
This carded fleece can be spun on a spinning wheel into yarn that might be woven into fabric or used for knitting.
Here is a lock of Bubbles’ fleece from when she was shorn in 2020. You can see how the individual fibres are very springy
The fleece then needs to be combed or carded to untangle the fibres. Once it is carded, it looks like this:
Now it can be spun, so that we can use it to make something else.
Spinning the Fleece
Spinning the fleece using a spinning wheel like this twists the fibres together into yarn called a single. The more singles that are plied (twisted together), the stronger the yarn.
Here’s an example of Bubbles’ fleece spun into a two-ply yarn:
Here’s an example of Bubbles’ fleece spun into a three-ply yarn:
Here’s what Bubbles’ Fleece looks like when it’s been knitted into a square:
And here’s what Bubbles’ fleece looks like when knitted into a toy sheep!
British Wool animal welfare resources and videos
Ashford spinning wheels