Jane Moran ( continued)
At that point, she started reading everything she could find about sheep breeds and signed up for a breed-specific class to learn more. From that beginning, she learned about The Livestock Conservancy’s (https://livestockconservancy.org) endangered sheep, and specific breeders and types of wool. The Livestock Conservancy’s goal is “To protect America’s endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction,” and includes over 150 breeds of donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Specific to sheep, two years ago The Livestock Conservancy started a Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em Challenge (https://rarewool.org), a campaign for the promotion of rare breed wools. Due to the rapid decline of the wool market in the 60’s and 70’s when synthetic fibers were introduced, most sheep today are raised for their meat. The fleece was thrown away or dumped in compost piles. Therefore, the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em program is an opportunity for the endangered sheep breeders to learn about the use of their wool in spinning or knitting, and the knitters can support these breeders and provide valuable insight to them to help them improve their wool quality and market practices. Milestones, prizes and an online community (Ravelry and Facebook) encourage fiber artists to use fiber from sheep breeds on the Conservation Priority List. Most type of endangered sheep are small and therefore their fleece is small, making the use of it even more challenging.
Jane signed up for the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em program but cannot tell you what kind of prizes you get when you complete five projects since she has just finished her fifth project. The projects she has made have ranged from hats to shopping bags (for an especially tough wool that was almost like twine). Each endangered sheep has a story behind it which includes: 1) American Tunis sheep (Watch) originally from Tunisia, brought to the US because England had a monopoly on wool. This breed was nearly wiped out during the Civil War when hungry armies demolished them. One single farmer managed to hide and save his herd of Tunis sheep allowing that breed to still exist. 2) Florida Cracker (Critically Endangered), one of the oldest sheep breeds in North America, believed to be brought over by Ponce de Leon in 1513 and abandoned in Florida, but the sheep survived. Now less than 200 Florida Cracker sheep exist. 3) Karakul (Threatened), another desert sheep, that felts so easily a fleece could be put on a horse and it molds to the horse’s shape making an excellent saddle blanket. 3) Jacob-American (Threatened), a small black and white sheep with up to six horns named after Jacob in the Old Testament because he bred spotted sheep. They even made a guest appearance in a Star Trek episode.
Jane’s words of advice to members of the GBKG: 1) Buy wool, all sorts of wool, all the time! Support the wool industry! 2) Join the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em program to help endangered sheep. Help sustain the dying art of working with a sheep fleece, whether you enjoy spinning, knitting or crocheting and help the breeders learn more about the wool on their sheep by making things with it.
-from the desk of GBKG Member Roving Reporter, Robin Sweeney