I’ve been researching my family tree lately. It’s probably because I have successfully managed to spawn an heir, but I’ve found myself lately thinking more about my heritage or, more specifically, if there are any wrong ‘uns in my lineage. And whilst my tree has thrown up a great grandmother fined for breaking blackout curfews (whoops), a great great great grandfather who was fined for running his pub on a Sunday (double whoops) and a smattering of workhouses, pregnant brides (er… no comment) and a woman who married her way through a family (THAT one was fun figuring out!) my family history has been been… well… fairly sedate.
Still, the journey is its own reward. When you do genealogy you either want to find photos, scandal, detailed descriptions of how an ancestor went deady (don’t ask me, I don’t make up these rules), a connection to royalty or the modern royals (i.e. celebrities), or to see how far back you can go. It’s also nice to find that there are some links between your past and present, and in my case I discovered that branches of my tree go back to the Yorkshire town of Masham, and waddya know, the Masham sheep produces exactly the type of fibre that can be used for needle felting! Ok so it’s not quite ‘the prophecy has come to fruition’, but it’s strangely satisfying in its own way – like somehow my long-dead ancestors are reaching out to me from beyond the grave, their long spindly fingers grabbing, motioning to me, calling me back, pulling me into the dank and bone-deep cold of the tomb…
Sorry, I’ll stop there. I’m not Stephen King.
Flippity Felts Category – Super Soft
- Very light and soft with fine fibres that felt much easier than you’d think.
- Produces soft, luxurious felt.
- No guard hairs, and doesn’t shed whilst being worked.
- The fawn is quite grey-toned, and the natural range of colours complement more ‘rustic’ styles.
- Minimal ‘sheepy smell’.
- Very multi-purpose although not the best at using with an armature.
- Blends and cards well with other fibres.
About the Wool
Micron – 33.5-44
Staple length – 12-38
Handle – Soft / Semi-lustre
Available colours – white, fawn, mid-brown, black/brown, grey
A century-old breed that was made from the cross-breeding of a Teeswater ram and a Dalebred or Swaledale ewe, Masham sheep hail from the Yorkshire area of the U.K. Like many of the northern England breeds, the Masham sheep is a hardy breed – draw whatever conclusions you will from that fact. Breeders note that Masham ewes make excellent mothers and the breed as a whole is know for its longevity. They’re medium sized and their fleece seems somewhat dreadlocked as it grows.
As soon as you put your hands on this wool you can tell that this is something a little different. The fibres themselves feel particularly light, airy and soft, and the colour (of the fawn, at the very least) is gentle and understated.
Whilst being described as a fawn colour, it is more like a slightly tinted grey. There are no guard hairs and no vegetable matter, the colour distribution is even and natural and the fibres pull apart easily, with no shedding. There is a pleasant, light smell.
As seen in the above image, the fibres to have a tendency to cling together in the rope – this in itself isn’t a problem, nor is it difficult to rectify, and doesn’t create any specific problems for long hair/ fur.
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
The needle felts with a nice crunch, and straight away the fibre feels easy to work with. Much to my surprise, the ball forms quite easily – this is not what I expected when I started as the softness of the fibre makes it feel too delicate to be durable. Although at 3 minutes the ball is still quite lumpy, it is tucked in and is forming a good shape. The centre of the core feels very solid, the ball itself is quite neat, and there’s very little sticky-out fuzz. The surface texture of the ball itself is a little silky-soft.
3-5 Minutes, using a 36 gauge triangle needle
The ball is shaping up very nicely by this point. It’s forming a nice sphere (if a bit flat) and the outer layer is getting firmer. There are no creases or hole marks, no shedding, and the ball is losing its lumps.
5-10 Minutes, using a 38 gauge triangle needle
It’s all systems go from here, with very little in-depth analysis needed. Basically, at this stage the ball firms up quickly and takes its shape very rapidly. It’s a neat, soft ball with almost no fuzz, and it responds well to a triangle 38.
I really like this fibre. Yes, there are easier fibres to work with (although this is actually an excellent fibre), and many would argue that merino is softer (I’m in two minds on that one), but if you want a soft fibre that produces a soft felt AND is easy to use then this is what you’re looking for. I have an awful lot of core fibres – to the extent that I now only tend to buy sample sizes when reviewing core wools – but as soon as I tested this I had to order another 200gs. It was as though I had no control over myself. I’m blaming the spirits, oh they torment me so!!
It’s a good all-rounder, equally good at core creation, gradual layering, small parts, flat felt pieces and long hair/ fur (although armature wrapping is a challenge as it’s a bit too fine and flyaway). However, one thing I really love about this fibre is that it blends really well with other fibres. I have carded the fawn fibre into darker brown fibres to lighten them, and blended them with alpaca, merino, corriedale etc, and it is a really effective base for a soft, fuzzy, more natural animal colour, particularly good for things like wild rabbits or hares.
Would you create a whole model using this wool?
Yes, quite easily. If you look at this little donkey – it’s a bit of a cheat as I did blend some different fibres into the top colour (grey Masham isn’t that grey) but the core itself was made from Masham, it it really was a nice fibre to work with. I would definitely recommend giving it a go.