Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Deb Robson: Primitive Breeds and Crossbreds workshop

For Spinners- the virtual Encyclopedia of Fibers
Deborah Robson
 This weekend, the spinners were delighted to have Deborah Robson conduct two workshops. On Saturday, Deb presented the historical information about primitive and improved breeds, shared samples and the insights of each with those gathered. On Sunday, she continued our fleece study in crossbreds/purebreds.
It was humbling to be with Deb, she is so low-key, a skilled spinner and yet so very knowledgeable about the breeds and her craft.

DAY One: What exactly is a primitive breed? An improved breed? Thus began the crux of the discussion with Deb, a consummate researcher leading the way, addressing the criteria used, the data available and the confusion in the labeling of each. We were fortunate to experience, that is to say, feel, card, comb and spin the fleece from some of these breeds. In my former life, I spent a great deal of time researching Native Peoples, so the Navajo Churro jumped off the page of her handout. Navajo weaving has long a passion for me, but I must admit I just took for granted the wool I used. I understand the native practices embedded in the process of weaving and the sacredness of the sheep providing its wool, but never considered the historical significant of the sheep. So much to learn.
Day one: sheep to sample
Deb also introduced a documentation system. As spinners, we attend workshops and guild meetings trying out different fleeces or fibers. Only to think later...oh, what was that fabulous fleece Greg loved during our British Breeds Study and simply not have a clue. Record-keeping, or the simple making notes, clear concise storing of information that YOU gleaned from an experience is crucial. Yes, it's homework...Ugh. It's like the S word, sampling, Double Ugh. However, both are important in developing your skills and your satisfaction in your craft. I know of many a tine I thought I could skip past either of these, only to attend the court of regrets in regal fashion.


Purebred sheep...NOTE the smiliarities 
Crossbred...NOTE the distinct visual differences

DAY: Two

Purebred sheep are bred to maintain a specific size, color, fleece type, behavior and adaptation to their environments.
Crossbred sheep are bred often to increase a specific quality desired, whether it's increased lamb production, changes in muscle mass for meat production or in fleeces for the commercial industry, or simply to facilitate adaptation to a new environment.


sample fleeces of the purebred and crossbred



We had the opportunity to spin each of the purebred fleece and then its crossbred, i.e, Coopworth, Dorset; then Coopworth-Dorset. There was a definite difference in the feel, texture, or color of some, but in other, those differences were less apparent. I have not had the opportunity to spin each of my samples, but my hands are itching to start and I think I'm praying for rain...no outdoor spring chores this week. 

Deb demonstrating Navejo Plying





This was a weekend well spent. Deb was able to run the gauntlet of the very experienced spinners to the very novice with an expertise I personally found thrilling. I am that novice with much to learn, but I believe we all took away something of importance.

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