Saturday, June 19, 2010

Navajo Churra - Is it only good for rugs?

"What the heck is this dirty fleece doing in this garbage bag? Either throw it out or get on with it, for gads sake." This was followed by more muttering, sounds of stomping (of the four-hoof variety) and bags being thrown around the room. So ended my all of two minutes, peaceful chance of revival. Six days and nights of non-stop activity and Priscilla, Queen of the Fleece, had chosen this one and only moment of R & R to bellow out those words from the guest bedroom.  
Upon peeking into the bedroom, I saw that she was referring to the Navajo Churro i had picked up at my first Fibre Fair, where, I perhaps overly excited to see fleeces for sale in large green garbage bags. Whole fleeces. There was Romney, Shetland, and Navajo Churra which I had never seen before. I stuck my hand in the exotic Navajo Churro, piched, pulled and squeezed. It was soft and clean. I bought it without hestitating and then proudly dragged the bag around the room with me as I hunted for other fibre treasures. A sheep farmer spotted by Navajo and tossed her hair while declaring "That's only good for rugs." I sheepishly tried to hide it as she informed me of all the other fleeces that were good for a whole variety of other things. The implication being that Navajjo Churra was good for nothing...but rugs. And I had thought it soft. So much for my skills at checking out a fleece. 
And so it stayed in the guest bedroom in a, err, natural state. Now Priscilla, Queen of the Fleece, was demanding that I wash it. So I did. It still feels soft to me.  

Navajo Churro was brought over to the Americas by the Spanish and the Navajo quickly adopted it. They are hardy and produce a double coat; a long hairy outer coat and a soft downy inner coat. It washed easily in small batches as there is very little lanolin in the wool. I decided to experiment and pulled the long coarse hairs away from the soft downy wool. You can pull them apart or use a coarse comb I used a horse comb (see an earlier blog), separated them and ran them through the drum carder. The white is the long coarser hairs and the grey the soft downy wool. It still feel soft to me, but now I can get three different types of wool from the one fleece, a soft wool, a tough wiry coarse wool (good for warps and rugs) and a mixture which would be good for outer wear.
The fleece probably would have rotted away if Priscilla hadn't made me wash it. I should thank her. But I won't.

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