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Fibre Focus - The Jacob Sheep
We start our 'Fibre Focus' series with the handsome Jacob breed, which has a long and interesting history, starting in biblical times!
According to the Old Testament Book of Genesis Jacob, the second son of Isaac and Rebecca, angered his older brother so was sent to live with his uncle Laban where he fell in love with his cousin Rachel. In order to obtain permission to marry her, Jacob had to work as an unpaid shepherd for 14 years.
Laban subsequently promised Jacob he could establish his own flock of sheep with all the spotted and speckled sheep from his flock if he stayed. Jacob created his flock and became very wealthy but then was told by God to return to his homeland, which he did with his wives, children and sheep.
Along the journey Jacob's son Joseph was sold by his brothers to traders and eventually ended up in Egypt, eventually becoming governor. Many years later Jacob was reunited with Joseph travelling from Palestine to Egypt.
Over the following thousands of years, the descendants of Jacob's sheep travelled to Spain via North Africa and Morocco.
Coming to England
In the 17th and 18th Century Jacob sheep were imported from Spain by the British landed gentry and the oldest known flock - imported in the 1750s - still graze at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire. The English loved the Jacob with their spotted fleeces and distinctive horns, making them ideal as ornamental sheep to graze alongside deer in parklands surrounding castles and stately homes.
However by the end of the First World War many of the flocks had disappeared and by the mid part of the 20th Century few Jacob sheep remained. But some dedicated breeders were determined to preserve the breed and so formed the Jacob Sheep Society in 1969 with 96 members and 2700 registered sheep.
The first president of the Society was the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire of Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. In its early days, the breed was registered as a Minority Breed. Today, the Society has more than 850 members and around 2000 sheep are registered each year in the flock book. In 1974 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was formed and reported that the breed was 'the success story of recent years' with over 5000 registered sheep in the flock book; 'the progress of the Jacob in the last two or three years provides a blueprint for the conservation and development of other rare breeds' it added.
The breed yields a fairly soft fleece of good quality demi-lustre wool which is excellent for spinning and weaving. The unique colour of the wool makes every garment or woven item individual.
The fleece of a Jacob is light, soft, springy and open with little lanolin and varies in crimp and fineness. Jacobs are shorn once a year, usually in the spring and the medium-fine wool is sought after by handspinners if it is free of kemp (brittle wool that does not accept dye and also minimises the value and quality of wool).
When preparing Jacob fleece for spinning and during spinning itself, the colours of the fleece can be separated or blended to produce a yarn of various shades ranging from nearly all white to grey to nearly all black.
World of Wool Jacob
We offer Jacob in both natural tops and batts. All Jacob wool from us holds the British Wool trademark.
- Made from selected Jacob fleeces
- 33-35 micron
- Average length of 85-95mm
- Available in white, black and grey
- 33-35 micron
- Each batt is approx 40cm x 150cm
- Approx 2-4cm thick
- Ideal for needle felting
- Available in white, black and grey.
Posted23rd April 2015
HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Rheged Centre near Penrith, attending a reception of upland farmers, wool campaigners, chefs and children of farming families - all connected to the iconic Lakeland breed of sheep, The Herdwick.
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