Merino is one of the most popular names in the woolen world and is often referred to as the “Royal Family” of the sheep world. Merino is one of the more commonly bred sheep and therefore has several types and strains that fall under the Merino heading.
The name Merino comes from Spain but was named after the Beni-Merines, a tribe from what is present day Morocco. The Spanish traded with the tribe for their rams and bred them with their own ewes and subsequently named the breed after the tribe.
A bit of our local NYS lore…
In 1801 Chancellor Robert R. Livingston was sent to France as part of the negotiations for the purchase New Orleans, while there he sent back many Merino sheep to his farm in Clermont, NY with instructions for them to be bred prolifically. By 1809 the Chancellor was selling his sheep to farms around the country and Merino was on its way in the United States.
Every year in April you can go to the Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Showcase in Germantown, New York. It’s a small but wonderful fiber related event which also happens to be the birth place and first festival of Into the Whirled.
2 - 5 inches
Merino can vary greatly because of its prolific breading and many sub categories, however, the majority of Merino is:
20-22 Microns (64s-70s)
11.5-25 Microns (60s-80s)
The majority of Merino offered by Into the Whirled is 64s.
Spain, although 75-80% of Merino now comes from Australia
Lighter pigments strike well allowing for a broad color spectrum on this naturally bright white (which can also be found with darker natural colors) fleece.
Merino has a natural elasticity and durability while being incredibly soft, making Merino the ideal fiber for shawls and next to skin projects, especially when blended with silks.
While being a very popular fiber Merino in NOT ideal for beginning spinners due to its being such a short staple length and fine fiber. Merino can easily slip through the fingers of a novice spinner creating inconsistencies in the yarn. However for those more experienced spinners Merino is a wonderful fiber and wants to be spun fine.
There are many different and exotic types of silk out there, each one having unique qualities. However, here at Into the Whirled, you will find two types; Bombyx and Tussah. Please note that if a product contains silk, it will be clearly marked on the label.
Bombyx is a cultivated silk, also known as Mulberry silk; it is recognized for its intense luster, fineness and strength. A very fine silk, Bombyx has a wonderful stark white color that takes dye well and stands out in blends through its sheen. The majority of cultivated silk on the market today is Bombyx silk, therefore most silken products you find are Bombyx silk. Into the Whirled only uses Bombyx silk in our 50/50 blends.
Tussah silk, also known as Peace silk, is the most popular of all the wild silk types. Although a very fine silk in its own right it is a coarser fiber than Bombyx making it easier to spin. Tussah silk is recognizable by its signature honey to beige coloring and because of this takes dye in a unique fashion adding an incredible depth to the color when blended with wool of any type. Tussah silk is slightly more durable than Bombyx making it ideal for that baby project. Into the Whirled uses Tussah silk in the majority of our blends.
Superwash is a term describing a treatment to the wool where the scales on each fiber strand are smoothed. The idea behind the process is to create a wool product that will not shrink or felt when washed. The principal is that if the scales on each individual fiber strand are altered, then they will no longer be able to cling on to one another in a way that normally would result in the fiber felting.
Although the process makes it more difficult to felt fiber or yarn it is still possible. With repeated high temperature washings it is possible to see sign of felting and pilling in your finished projects. This is why I always recommend hand washing in cold water and laying flat to dry as the preferred method of woolen care. Please note that if a product is Superwash, it will be clearly marked on the label.