I've been curious about Icelandic sheep and the dual coated fleece they sport. I have heard many comments concerning how it is processed as well as some confusion concerning how to prep it using combs as opposed to doing it by hand. I recently received some lovely Icelandic fiber from Judy L. Brown and thought I would use combs to prep the fiber and discover how to process Icelandic fleece from start to finish.
The Icelandic fleece is dual coated, meaning that it has a long outer coat called tog and a fine inner coat called thel. The tog, while coarser and longer certainly can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be processed into a thread, rug yarn or even used as fly-tying material.
The thel is much finer and quite lofty and open. It is similar to fine Merino fiber. the staple length is much shorter than the tog. It's around 2-3 inches, while the Tog is 4-6 inches. I spent a little time in the beginning separating it into locks and aligning them with the cut end up so I could easily load it on the comb with the cut end in and the tog out.
You can see how the thel end holds the loft and density while the tog is long and spindly at the end. Tog grows from the primary hair follicles and the thel from the secondary follicles.
I loaded the comb carefully without overloading it.
The tog. It's long and stringy. I tried pulling it and it easily separates from the body of the thel.
I started using the other comb to pull the tog from the thel. It's somewhat delicate so I started at the tips and pulled it away until there were no more visible strands of tog. The tog is a true wool although it bears some similarity to guard hair in a llama or alpaca.
This is the Tog after I processed it off of the comb. I could also load this on the comb and process it and diz it off as well after I finish with the thel.
The thel. It's very lofty and soft. It is an extremely versatile fiber. It's good for blending with other fibers as well as spinning alone and since it felts easily it as great for felting projects.
After removing the tog I began using the other comb to align and straighten the thel. I did about 3 runs passing it from one comb to the other until it looked clean, aligned and ready to diz off.
Next, I used a diz and dizzed the fiber off the comb.
I ended up with a beautiful top ready for spinning or felting or blending with other fibers. Admittedly it is a more time consuming process than single coated breeds, however the results is some very clean, lofty fiber that retains warms and resists weather.