Breeding for Fiber
There are a variety of reasons to raise Babydoll Southdown Sheep but as a spinner, I am fascinated by their fiber. I was blessed to obtain a ewe in my foundation flock, named Beatrice, who possesses a longer staple length than the typical Southdown. So far she has always passed this trait along to her offspring. She produced a great ram lamb in 2015, Willoughby, who I am now incorporating into my breeding program with my other ewes. He is in the photo above - the dark-legged lamb on the left. His first five offspring have been born this Spring of 2016 and they all look just like Willoughby, including the popcorn-type spiral-crimped fiber, as I had hoped.
Babydoll Southdown wool is relatively soft and very crimpy resulting in an extremely springy and spongy spinning fiber. I call it the fiber with "Sproing." Yarns produced from this fiber are soft and firm and have excellent stretch and memory great for hats, mittens, socks, scarves, sweaters and shawls. Because it is so crimpy, it is great for needle felting and for blending with other fibers. I create a blend which is my particular favorite by mixing Babydoll wool with Alpaca fiber which I have dubbed my "Luxe" blend. I have fun dyeing it in a variety of colors and then list it for sale in my Etsy shop (saukedinfarm.etsy.com)
Babydoll wool also has the characteristic of being resistant to shrinkage, almost a natural "Superwash" (wool which has been commercially processed to resist shrinkage.) Therefore this wool is not recommended for wet felting.
I find that oftentimes sheep owners don't believe that Babydoll wool has any value. The biggest reason for this is it typically has a short staple length of two or even one inch and also that the extreme crimp of the individual fibers grabs onto and holds vegetable matter like hay and straw. By breeding for a fiber staple that is three inches or longer, I am able to have the fiber mill process it by combing (rather than carding) which removes every bit of vegetable matter and results in a lovely spinning fiber.