Monday, February 27, 2012

Icelandic fleece, or, entering the world of tog and thel

I recently received an order of two raw Icelandic fleeces. One is white/oatmeal in color and the other is a brown/red.

Icelandic sheep are a bit unique in that they produce two types of wool in one fleece. Usually if a sheep produces both long and short fibers, the longer ones will be kemp or guard hair, which is structurally different from wool. The Icelandic breed of sheep produces both long and short fibers, but they are both wool.

The longer fibers are called tog, and the shorter fibers are called thel.The two fibers can be separtated fairly easily by pulling the longer fibers out while keeping hold of the shorter ones. Traditionally the children were set to this task.

The long tog fibers make an excellent warp yarn when spun, and the short, cushy, warm thel fibers make wonderful yarn for sweaters and the like. 

Viking combs were designed for this fiber, and I wish I had some, but I have four-pitch wool combs, which won't work well with this fiber. Anyway, I washed a bit of both of my fleeces and this morning I set about separating the tog from the thel of the red/brown fleece.

The picture below shows the piece of fleece at the top, and some which has been separated below it. The short, warm thel is on the bottom left, and the longer tog is on the bottom right (click on any of the pictures to see them closer):

Again, a piece of whole fleece:

And the same piece separated into thel (left), and tog (right):

I have a couple of dog combs which I used to in place of Viking combs to comb out both types of the wool, separately. I then carded the short thel wool with hand cards and made two rolags, and I pulled the tog off of the combs into a short piece of roving. They are picutred below, the two rolags of short, cushy thel are on the top, and the tog roving is on the bottom. You can easily see the difference between the two types of wool produced from this one fleece. Both are soft to the touch:

I have a lot more to process, this was just a little test of how to go about handling Icelandic wool, it's my first time. You can also skip separating the fibers and card everything together and spin it. I'll try doing it that way, too. Apparently the longer tog stays toward the center of the yarn and the softer thel migrages to the outside. I can't wait to spin it separated and all carded together.


Scott or Scotty said...

looks like a very warm wool, I bet that is why my Norwegian sweater is so soft, warm, wicks and comfy to wear

ICQB said...

Hi Scott or Scotty!

Yes, it's supposed to be very warm. My Dad had an Icelandic sweater and he could only wear it on the coldest of days, or he would be too hot.