'These sheep, owned by the government of Finland, keep the meadows from turning to thickets' photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Hansenit
‘These sheep, owned by the government of Finland, keep the meadows from turning to thickets’ photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Hansenit

Continuing our EU tour, today we are in Finland exploring the fleece of the Finnsheep. In Finland the word for sheep is lammas and the word for wool is villa – the proximity of these words to the words explored yesterday from Estonia perhaps points to the closeness of these two countries facing one another across the Baltic sea. The following text is taken from a tome that Wovember highly recommends for wool-lovers everywhere: The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius:

Finnsheep

Also known as the Finnish Landrace, or just Finn for short, Finnsheep are an ancient Scandinavian breed, though there is little known about their early ancestry. However, they are known to be one of the most prolific sheep in the world. Litters can have as many as nine lambs born at a time, though three to four is more common.

Finns’ fleeces are light, averaging around 5 pounds (2.3kg) when cleaned, but their wool, often described as silky, is more sleek than fluffy. It has a nice amount of crimp that gives yarn spun from it a pleasing resilience, although it can’t be called springy, like wools with tighter crimp patterns are. Most Finn fiber that gets into general circulation is clear white, with a very slight warm cast to it – clean, but not eye-popping bright (some of us think this is a fine place to be on the color spectrum). Like many of the other Northern European Short-Tailed breeds, this one can produce a full array of colors, including blacks, grays, browns, fawn colours, and some spotted (or piebald) individuals.

Finnsheep with lamb - photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Anssi Koskinen
Finnsheep with lamb – photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Anssi Koskinen

However, in Finns the colors are far from common, especially in North America. Almost all Finns are single-coated, although their heritage means a double-coated fleece may show up now and then.

'Finnsheep ewes and lambs in Finland' - photo found in Wiki Commons and attributate to David Smith from Elimäki, Finland
‘Finnsheep ewes and lambs in Finland’ – photo found in Wiki Commons and attributate to David Smith from Elimäki, Finland

Knitters can find Finn and Finn-blend yarns fairly easily, and spinners can obtain prepared top and roving. For a transcendant experience, though, comb your own top from freshly shorn and washed Finn wool and spin your own. There’s not a lot of grease, so it’s easy to clean and prepare. Because of this wool’s propensity for felting, though, watch the water temperatures and don’t agitate it.

Knitting, crocheting and weaving

Finn is extremely versatile. It’s sturdy enough to wear well, and some is in a fineness range where it won’t be irritating when worn next to the skin; it’s an easy choice for sweaters, blankets, and other garments to snuggle into, although there are better selections for camisoles. The fiber’s body and luster make it a great choice for textures, like knit/purl patterns or woven laces, as well as for crisply defined colour patterns.

'Sheep in Pappilanvuori district, Jyväskylä' - photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Tiia Monto
‘Sheep in Pappilanvuori district, Jyväskylä’ – photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Tiia Monto

All text © Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson and taken from pp.159-60 of their highly recommended tome, The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook published 2011 through Storey press. Header image: ‘A Finnsheep ram in Finland’ photo found in Wiki Commons and attributable to Andrei Niemimäki from Turku, Finland.

Further links:

Piiku – a source for many Finnsheep products including yarn and carded fleece
FINNSHEEP – webpage of the Finnsheep Breeders’ Association
The International Finnsheep Registry
Ravelry – we found a surprising number of projects containing a percentage of Finnsheep wool

3 thoughts on “The Finnsheep of Finland

  1. There are 4 pounds of beautiful brown Finn wool currently lounging around, awaiting my spinning and knitting. Looking forward to this!!

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