Smile ! Babydolls are here!

Cute babydoll lamb in a vintage car

How this week has flown at warp speed ! So many fibres blended and dyed, fibres prepped for the august clubs and new adventures on the horizon. No wonder I don’t get out ..at all ! Lol

At least there were no dramas, no hiccups, well, apart from the fact that my wattle allergy (yes, this is apparently a thing …who knew?!) is raging since the bright yellow flowers on the wattle tree are in full FULL bloom at the moment. Safe to say, even Covid will have no chance of entering my immune system since everything is absolutely, totally blocked off to all other foreign inflaming entities….lol how ironic, I should emigrate to a country which has the wattle as their national floral emblem 🤣 btw, I only knew I was allergic a few years after living here…and no, I’m not going anywhere else in case you were wondering. It’ll take a lot more than wattles! Lolol

There’s no better way to take your mind of things than…a new super cute sheep adventure : the Babydoll Southdown!

The Southdown is undoubtedly the oldest of the English down breeds and was the first recognised breed of British Sheep to be introduced into Australia.

Records show that Reverend Samuel Marsden imported Southdowns from England soon after his arrival to Australia in 1793. After 1950 the popularity of the Southdown started to decline and breeders took to developing a heavier and longer Southdown, larger in size, with longer necks, cleaner faces and less wool around the eyes and ears - a breed to suit the Australian market.

During the change from the small compact Southdown to the large modern Southdown, a few studs continued to breed with the small bloodlines and the type of Southdown we now call Babydoll survived. Finding favour among hobby farmers, vineyards and orchards with their docile temperaments and ease of handling, Babydolls were fast finding a place among sheep owners Australia wide.

Maturing between 45-62 cm in size these friendly sheep with their woolly face and legs, teddy bear smiles and adorable lambs are in great demand with eager buyers sometimes finding themselves on long waiting lists. It is estimated there are less than 350 purebred ASSBA registered Babydoll type ewes in Australia with most breeders eager to add to that number. Although they are now called Babydolls due to their similar size and look of the American Babydoll, there have been no imports from America. Often also referred to as Olde English Babydoll Sheep our Australian Babydolls do not contain any bloodlines of this American breed either.

Babydoll Southdown sheep are known for their docile dispositions. For this reason, they are often kept as pets, but they are also used in a variety of ways such as grass mowers and weed eaters in vineyards and orchards. They are small in stature and are easy to handle. Their small size and efficient metabolism requires less acreage per animal compared to other breeds of sheep: they are referred to as being “easy keepers.”

The baby dolls Fleece is fine, tight and dense with medium to medium-fine crimp that is soft and springy.  Most old-type Southdowns – by this we mean the off-white Babydoll Southdowns – are evaluated as having wool that is 1/2 to 3/8 blood.  1/2 blood translates to a 60 to 62-skein spin count and a fibre of 21 to 25 microns in diameter, with medium-fine crimp and a 2.5 to 3″ staple length.  3/8 blood translates to a 58-skein spin count and a fibre of 24.5 to 26.5 micron in diameter, with medium crimp and 2.5 to 3.5″ staple length.  Many of the black Babydoll Southdowns are 1/4 blood, which means that they have coarser fleece than the off-white Southdowns. They usually have a 27 to 31 micron count, medium-coarse crimp and 2.5 to 4″ staple length.  Typically the off-white wool is more valuable because it can be dyed any colour. The babydoll white tops I used as a base here are 21micron ! And combined with silk and Tencel the softness and close tops skin wear is amazing!

The typical Babydoll Southdown is an off-white color with muzzle and legs that is a shade from very light tan to brown to cinnamon to mousy gray. White and off-white are terms that are often used interchangeably – some people refer to these sheep as “white” while others refer to them as “off-white.” The colour of the muzzle and legs of an off-white sheep should be some shade from very light tan to brown to cinnamon to mousy gray. Mottled shades of these colours are accepted, but even Colours are preferred. The short coloured fleece and hair on the muzzle should ideally cover the entire muzzle and extend from the corners of the mouth to a rounded point between the eyes on the adult sheep. They seem to be wearing a permanent smile on their cute faces 😃

The Australian babydoll societies views on crossing a Southdown with a Babydoll are no longer in the best interest of the breeds. The Babydoll Southdown is an example of a breed that has now split into two separately called names, while still being essentially the taller and smaller versions of the original Southdown breed. The larger version of the breed is referred to as simply "Southdown," while the smaller version is known as the "Babydoll or Babydoll Southdown" to differentiate between the two sizes. Although once they were technically Southdown sheep, they have become recognized as separate breeds due to the significant size difference and now distinctly different characteristics.

Babydoll sheep are popular as "organic weeders." They are often used in vineyards as well as orchards because they don't hurt the tree trunks or shrubs and they fertilize the soil while they graze. In vineyards and orchards, they're usually too short to reach the grapes or fruit on the tree, so they keep their eating to unwanted weeds and overgrowth. Some vineyards also find that "the little sheep in the fields created a tremendous draw for workers and visitors and resulted in goodwill for the winery," according to the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

Babydoll ewes are good mothers, according to breeders, and often have twins and occasionally even triplets. They like to stay together and don't typically wander off and get lost. They thrive on companionship and like to stick together. You should never have just a single babydoll sheep.

Spinning this Babydoll blend is amazing and easy : it has been blended very well, so even if you consider yourself a beginner spinner, you will love to get your hands on this.

Southdown babydoll is a down like, springy “perfect for socks” fibre ! It is versatile, resilient, medium handling wool, that have dense blocky fleeces , almost rectangular staples that tend to hold together well. It is light, soft, and grippy; perfect for a modified half-backward/half-longdraw double drafting sort of technique that lets you spin super fast, and then squish out the air before wind-on (because socks have to wear well). Fast as well as woolen. Firm as well as worsted. The best of both worlds. Southdown is not over eager to felt so whatever you make may be machine washed (try a swatch first though!). I have combined it with another breed not so eager to felt either : Blue Faced Leicester!

There are new colourways as well! I am especially proud of the “flying monkeys” with a combination of pastel pretty pink, coral, deep gold, fresh mint and a dash of happy bright wizard of Oz green; and “Ankh Morpork” inspired by the amazing Sir Terry Pratchett’s mythical city of his Discworld novels.

Handdyed top with a background illustration of ankh Morpork figures pointing at the top enthusiastically

I am also extremely happy that for the first time in a long time I have been able to create a perfect absinthe green that is epic and just what I wanted the colourway  in “frozen lake”.
Every fibre base is different and takes all the dyes differently. That is exactly why I am so excited about Babydoll…it exceeds my expectations of dye uptake, brilliance  and being absolutely fabulous to handle.

Handdyed top in shades of absinthe and purple on a background of flower handmade paper

As usual, only a limited quantity available ! It took me a year to get enough fibre for this batch.

You can go here on the IxCHeL website to start shopping for your own babydoll : https://ixchel.com.au/products/babydoll-southdown

Wishing you all a fabulously fun weekend with loads of happy spinning and crafting !

big hugs

Charly


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