Manx Loaghtan

OK, I’m struggling to pronounce the name of this fibre.  I mean, really struggling.

Oh, Manx I can manage all right.  I like to think words of one syllable are still within my capabilities (unless it’s an Irish word, in which case all bets are off).  But ‘Loaghtan’?  What… how… how do I even start with that one.  My natural inclination, rightly or wrongly, is to break it down into a phonetic structure that follows the rules of English pronunciation but… ‘Low’g-tan’?  Isn’t he from Star Trek?  Logatan? Lowagtan?  Lofftan?  Is the ‘g’ silent?  Is the ‘h’?  HELP ME SOMEBODY, IT HURTS!

I appreciate that I’m an ignorant peasant in this respect – this is a word derived from the Manx, so I shouldn’t be applying English phonic rules to it.  Still, old habits and all that, and you have to remember that until 3.36pm today I was fairly sure the Isle of Man was off the south coast of England so, y’know.  Every day’s a school day.

Wikipedia’s no help either.  Sure, they have word pronunciation guides, for all the good they are.  Thank you for including random cyrillic letters in your pronunciation guides, Wiki, that doesn’t complicate matters at all.

Sadly, I have precedence for not being able to speak like a real human adult.  My beloved still hasn’t allowed me to forget how I pronounced ‘apropos’ until I was 33.  Weeeell, in my defence I was applying English rules to a French word – that was never going to end well.  Ah-pruh-po.  NOT, apparently, ap-pro-poss, as in that well known saying ‘apropos of muffin’ (according to my autocorrect.)

Still, you shouldn’t let an inability to pronounce the name of the fibre stop you from purchasing this wool.  You just might want to avoid doing it over the phone, is all.

Quick Points

Flippity Felts Category – Super Soft
  • Very striking colour.
  • Luxurious to touch – feels like a high-end fibre.
  • Colour felts darker than the roving suggests it will, resulting in a fairly dark brown rather than fawn.
  • Very soft, wispy fibres mean it is slightly trickier to layer down as a top colour or as hair/animal fibre.
  • Very soft and pleasing to touch – feels like soft animal fur when left as hair.
  • Colour may fade over time.
  • Rare breed sheep so may be difficult to get hold of.
  • Slightly pricier than other core wools.

About the Wool

The Manx Loaghtan is a multi-horned sheep (usually 4 horns but ranging between 2 – 6) native to the Isle of Man.  Described as a primitive breed, it’s descended from the prehistoric short-tailed sheep of North West Europe and today is on the rare breeds list, although numbers have increased over the last 50 years from the handful on record in the 1950s.  Originally the sheep presented in a variety of colours – white, grey, black and fawn – but as the fawn was considered to be the most attractive and prized colour variation it was selectively bred for, to the extent that this is now the standard.

To learn more about the breed, you can visit the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders’ Group.

Micron – 30-31.5

Bradford Count – 46s – 54s

Staple Length – 6-12 cm

Handle – Very soft and silky

Available from Adelaide Walker – £2.60 per 100g or £1 for a 25g sample pack, + P&P

Available colours – Top Fawn

All images on this page show wool purchased from Adelaide Walker.

First Impressions

This is the first core wool I’ve used in a brown/ fawn colour, and it is a far richer brown than I initially thought it would be, and with a consistent distribution of colour (it’s not a block of colour but has a natural and even variety of shades within the fibres).  You also kinda get the impression from looking at pictures that it’s going to be coarse, but nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s very soft and airy – you can almost feel the air between the fibres giving it a lovely, puffy volume, and this lightness makes the fibres very easy to pull apart.

There isn’t a speck of vegetable matter in the fibres; nor is there any shedding, which is always good.  For such a natural fibre I was very surprised to find that there was no sheepy scent.

The starting sample of Manx Loaghtan
The starting sample of Manx Loaghtan

There is a lovely soft crimp to the fibres – it’s very fine but discernible and leaves the wool feeling very soft and rich.

The fibres are soft in both colour and texture
The fibres are soft in both colour and texture

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.

Manx ball test start
Manx Loaghtan – making a ball

0-3 minutes, using a 36 triangle needle

This wool is very easy to felt with, and this is apparent quite quickly.  It’s easy to get a good grip on the wool and it felts with a nice crunch.  Strange though it is to say this, but the ball turns well when you roll it into shape – it doesn’t snag or catch and leave fibres behind while you work.  On top of this there is a nice, smooth distribution of the colour throughout the fibre.

The centre of the ball gets solid quite quickly, and there are no needle holes or shedding of fibres.  However, by the 3-minute mark the ball isn’t very round; there are edges untucked on one side and it’s still quite loose.

Manx Loaghtan ball - 3 minutes
Manx Loaghtan ball – 3 minutes

3-5 minutes, using a 36 triangle needle

The ball in this stage feels light and springy, and while it’s shaping up it’s still not completely spherical.  As the ball firms up it starts to leave some holes and crease marks.  The outer layer is squidgy, but there is still good felting resistence against the needle as you work.

Manx Loaghtan ball - 5 minutes
Manx Loaghtan ball – 5 minutes

5-10 minutes, using a 38 triangle needle

Switching to the 38 triangle gives surprisingly good results even at this stage – the ball responds well to it and neatens up quickly.  I still feel that the ball would have been better if I’d used a 36 triangle for a bit longer as the end result was a ball that was a bit flat and squishy, but there was almost no fluff to the surface and very few hole marks, although there were some crease marks.

Manx Loaghtan ball - 10 minutes
Manx Loaghtan ball – 10 minutes

In Summary

This is a really nice wool, and I feel slightly more artistic for possessing it.  Maybe rare breed sheep makes hipsters out of all of us, but there is something special about using rare breed fibres.  This is definitely a wool I would consider purchasing again.

The wool is astoundingly soft and airy – possibly the softest wool I have in stock – but unusually for soft, fine fibres it’s actually very easy to work with.  It responds better to a 36 needle when being used as a core and the end result is a little squishier than most core wools I’ve used, but not enough to deter me from using it again.  The end result is neat and smooth, albeit with some crease marks, and the wool felts darker than initial appearances suggest, coming in at a pale chocolate rather than what I would consider as fawn.

As a side note, this fibre cards well with other fibres, although if you’re adding it to create a darker brown tone you should note that a little goes a long way and if you use too much it can overwhelm the other colours.

Would You Create a whole model using this wool?

I think it would be possible to create a model using this wool in its entirity, due to the fact it’s easy to hide fold and crease lines, and needle marks don’t show up.  The wool is also very soft and beautiful, although the end piece might have a slightly less firm feel in comparison to other models.  The fine softness of the fibre might also make this process slower going, but the end result would be something very special.  

 Please note that different clips may produce wool that differs from the description given above.  All wool reviews are based on the quality of the clip I am using at the time of review.

Some photographs have been edited to ensure images represent the wool as true-to-life as possible, as apparently the ability to take accurate pictures of wool is not one of my strengths.