There’s something about doing these wool reviews that’s making me regress back to my youth. Not the Boyzone obsession years – oh good God no, that would be terrible. Nor do I mean the time when I wore bindis and silver-glitter platform sandles (it was the 90s, we couldn’t help it.) Or the time I dressed the cat in a babygro and nearly lost my nose in the process. And definitely not the time I… no. i have to stop there. I grew up in the era before the internet and consider myself lucky that there’s no digital evidence of the dumb things this particular teenager did – let’s not rock that boat.
As a general rule I try hard not to think too deeply about the sort of person I was between the ages of 11 and 23. Actually, I’m going to extend this advice to everyone reading this review – whenever that little voice in your head pops up and starts saying ‘Hey, remember that time when you…’ just stick your fingers in your ears and shout ‘la la la la la!’ until people’s looks of surprise turn to looks of pity and you’re asked to get off the bus. You may not be able to catch the Number 43 to Walthamstow anymore but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night without stuffing your fist into your mouth and shuddering involuntarily.
The result of this rather effective solution (la la la la la!) is that my approach to my memories of my formative years is akin to a hummingbird looking for food – I flutter around my thoughts without landing anywhere until I’m sure that it’s safe.
But some memories still stick out. Book day at school, where you would order a book from the special mobile book store and their exciting catalogues, wait 5 months and then get a fresh, shiny new book handed to you in school. Or the encyclopedia collection my dad would buy me issue by issue from the local corner shop (The Joy of Knowledge – the best ones were the gemstone issues and the ones with anatomical drawings). Collecting Garbage Pail Kids cards with the tiny stick of gum that was made out of plywood, presumably. These were the days of anticipation and discovery. Maybe it’s the world we live in now, or maybe it’s just a side effect of growing up, but we’ve lost this, as a whole.
I didn’t think this side of me still existed. I’ve been an adult for… oooh, ‘this many’ years, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on this whole adulting* thing. I adult** pretty well. Last week, for example, I did some particularly fine adulting *** when a bee started crawling on my hand whilst I was in my son’s preschool and I had the wherewithal to not shriek and hurl a weaponised insect into a pile of toddlers.
I miss feeling the excitement of waiting for a new magazine in my collection.
And then came the new thrill of needle felting, and the realisation that not all wools are the same. Whenever I make a new wool order now I try to include someting new to me, and slowly I’m starting to feel that frisson of excitement again. Maybe, I think, this next wool will be a game changer or, if nothing else, something new and interesting to work with.
Jacob wool fits this bill. It’s amazing. I feel somwhat fickle, having a new favourite core every few months, but this wool should be known as the Usurper as it’s leapt into my personal favourites list already, and with very little effort.
Why? Well, on with the review!
*My apologies to all of those visiting this site who aren’t native English speakers, and who are now wondering if this is quite the right place to be brushing up on their English language skills. The irony is that I used to be an English teacher – please refrain from pointing out typos, I’m a rather delicate little snowflake.
** Again, very sorry.
*** Very, very sorry.
- Beautiful dark grey with subtle colour variation – perfects for creating natural animal fur or a marble effect
- Very versatile, with lots of possible applications
- Fast to felt with
- Easy to felt big or small pieces
- As well as being suitable as a core, also very well suited as a top colour or as fur (without the need for colour blending)
- If thinly applied over a darker top colour can create interesting effects
- Leaves no needle marks if used with a gauge 38-42 (and very few when using a 36 gauge needle)
- Very little shedding
- Harder to mark out fine detail on features such as faces or paws if using this wool alone
About the Wool
Considered an endangered breed in the USA but not in the UK, Jacob sheep are pretty little things with goat-like features and piebald fleeces (coloured fleeces with white patches) – usually black and white. They have a medium grade fleece and, unusually for other multi-horned British and European sheep, they have no outer coat. They also produce little lanolin. Jacobs typically have 4 horns (that’s two pointing up, two pointing down) but the horn count can range from 2 – 6. Whilst typically bred for meat and fleece, the breed is also used at times as a ‘lawn’ breed or ‘ornamental’ breed; they have even been used as guard animals. They are a hardy, low maintenence breed.
The origins of the Jacob sheep are unclear – they are thought to be descended from an ancient breed of sheep and there have been references made to piebald sheep throughout history, including refences to speckled and spotted sheep in the Book of Genesis (the name ‘Jacob’ for the breed is taken from this biblical reference). It is also thought that the Jacob might be descended from sheep introduced to Great Britain by the Vikings, but there’s little evidence to support this.
Click here to read more about the breed
Micron – 32-34
Staple Length – 8-15 cm
Handle – Soft / Medium
Available from John Arbon Textiles – £2 per 100g + P&P
Available colours – Light grey available through John Arbon Textiles – white and black also available elsewhere
All images on this page show wool purchased from John Arbon Textiles – therefore the particular colour I have used is the light grey.
The first thing that hits you about this wool is that it’s gorgeous. A dark natural grey with smooth shade variation, it looks lustrous and rich. It’s easy to think of dozens of uses for this wool aside from using it as a core – for starters it would make perfect fur for a grey animal such as a badger or raccoon.
There are some longer, thicker guard hairs scattered throughout this roving, which add to the natural look if that’s what you’re after, but can easily be removed if it isn’t. There was also no vegetable matter and, when the wool (la la la la la) was pulled apart into sections there was no shedding. There was a mild sheepy scent to the fibres, but nothing strong.
The fibres feel quite soft to touch but with an underlying coarseness – it’s immediately obvious that this will be suitable for needle felting. There is a gentle, soft crimp to the wool but ultimately it feels soft and even.
The Ball Test
The Ball Test is my comparison test between the different core wools to help determine suitability for purpose (i.e. dry needle felting), versatility and speed. I start off with approx. 10 inches of fibre and felt using a 36 gauge triangle needle for five minutes (recording my progress at both the 3 and 5 minute marks), then I spend another 5 minutes using a 38 gauge triangle, recording my results at the 10-minute mark. If I feel that the ball is still unfinished at this point I continue until it is completed to my standards – a tight, firm, even ball that is relatively smooth and as lump-free as possible.
0-3 Minutes, using a 36 gauge triangle needle
It’s immediately obvious that this wool is going to be very easy to work with. The wool wraps into a nice ball as you turn it and holds its position without a fight. It gets neat quite quickly and there is no shedding as you work. This is quite an intuitive wool and you don’t feel like you’re forcing it to do anything it doesn’t want to do.
This wool forms a sturdy, solid ball quite quickly – I can feel that the core is very solid, although as the ball progresses the outer layer becomes a little scruffy as it turns, and at the 3-minute mark there are still some loose, lumpy patches. However, there are almost no needle marks even at this early shaping stage.
3-5 Minutes, using a 36 gauge triangle needle
The ball suddenly starts shaping up very nicely at this point, and takes on a rounder, more even shape. The ball feels tight and firm in the centre; however, the outer layer still has quite a bit of ‘squish’ to it, and it still has a fluffy-ish surface, with some small lumps. Despite this, there is no shedding, and it feels like fast progress is being made.
5-10 Minutes, using a 38 gauge triangle needle (finished at 9 minutes)
Jacob seems to respond better to a 36 triangle needle at the earlier stages; as such moving on to a 38 triangle means suddenly there is less crunch. Despite this, I found that the ball shaped up very quickly at this point even though the wool resistence made it feel like not much was happening.
I was very pleased with the end result (the ball was finished at 9 minutes). It had a slightly fuzzy surface but one the whole was very neat, with a good shape. The ball was lightweight and firm with a very slightly squidgy feel to the surface when pressed, and there were no seams, fold marks or needle holes in the end result.
If you’re a needle felter you need this wool. It is an excellent all-rounder, capable of producing neat and attractive results at great speed, whether felting large pieces or smaller details. The wool is easy to handle and responds well to a wide range of needles, leaving a neat finish with no creases, holes or join marks. The only drawback to this wool is that it is difficult to ‘engrave’ fine details (such as smiles etc) unless it has been covered with a different fibre.
The wool is beautiful and the finished result feels very soft. It is also very versatile – as well as being a fantastix core it also makes an excellent top coat or hair for a human figure or long-coated animal. I’ve also found it creates a great effect when lightly layered over a more solid block of colour.
This would make a great starter wool for a novice, and an essential fibre for the more experienced felter.
Would you create a whole model using this wool?
I absolutely would (and already have!) This wool is too pretty to keep completely covered up, and the fact that it’s easy to obliterate needle marks and even easier to avoid crease or join marks means that it’s perfectly possible to use this as the only wool in the model.
Of course, most people are going to want to add at least some colour – there are few models that are created in one colour alone – and such is the case with my badger. The white was achieved using Exmoor Blueface core wool, with the black eyes and shadowing created using Zwartbles (review coming soon). All of these wools came from John Arbon Textiles, which is handy if you want to get all of your supplies in one place.
Reiterating the review above, I found it very easy to create this model using Jacob as the core as well as the top colour. The long fur of its body attached far quicker than I expected and has proven to be very sturdy and quite soft to stroke.