Rare Navajo Sheep for
Spinning and Weaving
Gypsy is back! With a
flock of Navajo sheep, given to her as a gift she
has been a very busy lady. But we welcome her back, and are thrilled to
see her latest article, as I know a lot of you are too.
Just as some background to the article below. The Navajo-Churro sheep,
as it is formally known, is a
rare American breed of sheep; descendants of the Iberian sheep from
Spain centuries ago. There are very few of them in the USA, around 6000
sheep, and Gypsy is one of the lucky ones with her new flock as it is
the Churro yarn that is considered the best yarn for weaving and much
There are 2 kinds of Navajo Churro wool, Biil, the soft under coat that
is not crimped so much like spinning a cotton ball and the traditional
wool that is left in tact. Both wools are very different from
spinning the British type of wool. The Navajo-Churro sheep wool has
been traditionally used for weaving rugs and wall hangings, rather than
However, there is also what Gypsy calls the "Agency Special", that is a
sheep that is pure Churro for all recorded purposes, but somewhere, and
it could have been back in the Kit Carson days, it was bred to a
government ram, always a British breed with grease and crimp, so you
have this one odd sheep that looks Churro, but has no guard hairs and
has crimp and grease and this is the wool that is very soft! Gypsy is
lucky enough to have one of these in her small flock of 15 at present.
So, here is here article on her new babies, her Navajo-Churro sheep!
It has been a very long
time since my last entry. There is actually a
good excuse for this. My life, as most lives do, has gone though a lot
of changes in the past year or so.
I met a wonderful man, who is more than supportive of my "live off the
land" lifestyle. So much so that he bought a flock of Navajo-Churro
sheep as a gift last year.
Neither of us had every owned sheep before, let alone rare
Navajo sheep! I don't spin, I don't knit, what was he thinking?
He won't even eat lamb! We had talked about doing something on the farm
together neither of us had done before, so when he saw an advert in the
local paper placed by an older woman who could no longer care for the
flock, he called and she was just 20 minutes away.
The Navajo sheep were in horrible condition. They had not been sheared
years; some their whole lives. I made calls to every shearer I could
find well before the sheep came home. No one would return my calls. No
one wanted to shear sheep that badly off in over 125
degrees during the worst heat wave on Iowa's records.
One man, an old friend and a talented sheep man did come to my call.
God bless Rocky Anderson! He sheared 15 of the worst clotted Navajo
can imagine in that heat, on August 4th, 2012. All the wool
had to be dumped. I didn't care. I didn't know what to do with it
Dave and I got everything they needed, the loose minerals, the protein
tubs, the calcium, and turned them out onto our drought ridden pasture.
There they stayed all winter. No hay, nothing but what mother nature
had left from months of no rain. It may have killed normal sheep, but
not the hardy Navajo sheep. There
was in my defense 30 acres of hay ground that had gone unmowed for 15
That November the older woman called and wanted to know if we wanted
the llama that went with them. We did!
In December she called and said she had bags and bags of wool, did I
want it? Ha! No... I don't spin, I don't knit, I'm not Suzy homemaker.
She talked me into it and soon I had bought my first carders and a
Navajo spindle for $30.00 Why spend any real money on this stuff if I
don't know if I will even do it?
There was washed wool, some rovings, some just nasty stuff. Llama,
angora rabbit, Angora goat, you name it, it was in there. I got to
experience so many different fibers and learned in stages since the
was in stages. I started with some that only needed to be carded and
spun. Thank goodness for YouTube!
My first yarn was what we will call "art yarn" very... do I dare say
"rustic"? It was thin and fat and a mess. 11 balls of yarn later I was
spinning like a pro.
Then came our own shearing day again. Rocky showed me how to bag and
pack the fleeces and keep them clean. This helped as the wool I had
gotten from the old woman was a mess. My own wool was clean and
wonderful. It needed very little picking to remove the hay and debris.
It was nothing to wash and prepare. Yes! Now, I was in love with fiber!
3 year old Navajo-Churro Sheep Cup Cake and her 2 Lambs
All the little lambs that needed to be docked,
castrated, tagged and vaccinated were a lot of work.
We had a series of bottle lambs from March to May. I was getting no
sleep and was totally grouchy all the time. One bottle lamb can suck
down a month of your life when it lives with you 24 hours a day. The
house was dirty, laundry was piling up and dinner was being served at
midnight, or later. If it wasn't the bottle lamb it was up waiting for
lambs to arrive.
I was there for every birth, but one. I only had to assist on two. One
had a front leg turned back and his brother was breech. The other were
just big lambs. I'm sure she would have had them eventually but why
make her go through that? I added a bit of pressure and helped out. We
had one with a bad bag, so that accounted for 2 of the bottle lambs.
One Churro ewe is just crazy and I didn't want the lambs to be nuts so
pulled them from the ewe. The other was a first time lamber who dropped
the lamb in the middle of the pasture and just kept going. Not bad for
sheep with unknown histories.
Between the skirting, picking, carding, spinning and daily care of the
Navajo sheep, it's been busy around here.
I have given up having a garden this year. There are no eggs hatching
in the incubators, everything is at a dead stop except for the sheep.
Some days I hate it, every day I know this is exactly where I'm
supposed to be in life. I don't know where it will take me but I do
know this is a new journey, with new lessons and at almost 50yrs old,
there are still fantastic adventures on the horizon.
Little Nicky our Navajo-Churro ram at 1 years old.
By Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger
Navajo-Churro Wool For Sale
those of you who are into spinning and weaving and looking for the best
yarn for weaving, then you have come to the right place. Churro wool is
well sought out by artisan weavers and crafts people. However, it is
always in short supply because there are so few of this sheep breed
From next year, after the shearing season, Churro wool will be
available to you from Gypsy through this website. If you would like to
put onto our waiting list, please contact us though our Contact Us page, and we
will add you to the list.
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