The Portuguese Merino Sheep has its roots going back 400 plus years to the original Spanish Merino Stock. Even though the breed is called Portuguese Merino, it’s merino with a little “m”. The micron count on the wool is just under 25 microns. The wool is relatively short at 2” to 2.5” depending on the clip. What makes the wool so interesting is its elasticity. The top has incredible body which produces a yarn with the same characteristic.
The wool is produced into top at a plant in Portugal. I’ve been told that their equipment might not be the newest—the term “vintage” comes to mind. So the top may not the prettiest and there is a little more vegetable matter in it than what we normally like to see. But it just adds to the unique character of the wool.
The genetics on this breed is very interesting. As mentioned earlier, the breed has some of the same genetic markers as the original Spanish Merino but there is no doubt that the Portuguese existed on a parallel track with the Spanish as long as 500 years ago. In the early 20th century, the French Mutton Merino was crossed with the Portuguese to improve early maturity of lambs. The French Mutton Merino was established in Rambouillet, France to improve the meat characteristics of the many merino breeds. The foundation stock of the French Mutton Merino and the Rambouillet sheep is, of course, the Spanish Merino.
This wool is very fun and easy to work with in dyeing, spinning, felting and knitting. We decided on a felting project for our Portuguese. The wool quickly absorbed the vibrant colors and could have easily been spun (did not felt in the dying process). However, we decided that our office could use a few more colorful coffee coasters!
Head over to our Facebook page and feel free to post pictures of your favorite Portuguese Merino project!