More than Micron: 5 Star NZ Romney Fleeces
We are now offering New Zealand Romney Rams fleeces we recently purchased from a producer in the South Island, NZ. The proud owner, Doughboy Romneys, calls these studs 5 Star fleeces, claiming when processed into a finished product it feels as soft as fine Merino. What does it mean to be a five star fleece? We have nearly 40 of them, each individually tested for Curvature, Coarse Edge, Standard Deviation and Micron. The program is called Woolmaster.
Wool curvature is displayed in the wool staple and relates to the space between each curve of the staple. While higher micron wools have less curvature, the Woolmaster approach uses the 60% rate of inheriting wool qualities to select for a 60 curvature number with a coarse edge less than 10. Finally a standard deviation less than 9 for 29 micron and coarser.
Medium microns (22-28) aim for 75 curve, less than 5 coarse edge and standard deviations to achieve a 5 star rating. Merino microns naturally have a high curve under 95 with a less than 3 coarse edge and standard deviation number. The fleeces we are offering raw are all above 70 for curvature.
The producer prides themselves on their Romney rams that they claim can adapt to diverse climates. Their fleeces aren’t as white in colors as we’d typically expect from New Zealand, as the South Island high country their hail from can be damp, but the staple is wonderfully long at 5-7 inches.
Given the weak market for higher micron types, finding a way to compete with Merino was why the Woolmaster program evolved. Much of the wool fiber science in the 1960’s — 1990’s when wool testing found its footing in the sale of raw wool. Both Australia and New Zealand have delved into the physical qualities of wool and turning the microscope on a fiber turned out to reveal a lot about why wool performed as a textile fiber. Scanning and testing each lot is an intensive process and we believe the clip we bought is one of the most tested lots anywhere. Doughboy producers continue to strive for higher and higher curvature hoping to change the narrative around Romney fleece as only good for rug yarn.
We imported their most recent clip, and are planning to offer scoured and carded versions of this product in the coming months. For now, intrigued folks may check out the raw fleece offering. While this was a departure from our typical practice of buying raw wool from as close to home as possible, we are hopeful that an introduction of this five star Romney to the US market can help us in shifting the narrative about the limited applications of the coarser breeds. We know folks in the fiber arts are the first to the table to try new and exciting things in the world of wool and we will be looking forward to feedback from customers as we launch these products at various stages of processing.