All About The Cutest Sheep in the World: Swiss Valais Blacknose

For those of you who have been seeing my Instagram posts, I've been working with Valais Blacknose sheep (VBS) fiber a lot recently. I took a personal interest in the breed a year ago, and since then have processed several fleeces into yarn.

Some Brief History

The Valais Blacknose Sheep is a breed of sheep that originated in the Valais region of Switzerland. They are a hardy breed well adapted to the harsh mountain climate and raised for both their meat and wool. The breed dates back to the 1400s in Switzerland, but was only recognized officially as a separate breed in the 1960s. 

Valais Blacknose Sheep were exclusive to Switzerland until 2013, when the country began exporting to interested breeders in the British Isles. In the past few years, breed-up programs have begun in the United States, with several farms boasting purebred Valais Blacknose sheep within the past year. Davis Family Livestock was the first farm in the state of Colorado to produce a purebred Swiss Valais Blacknose ram. His name is Primo, and you might remember seeing him in several of my Instagram posts. If not, here's a photo: 

About the Wool

The VBS is not a well known breed in the United States, and not commonly used by fiber artists or textile professionals. (After all, the breed has only been in the US for a few years!) VBS wool is also not next-to-skin soft. The fibers have a micron count of 28-38, which falls into a medium/coarse category. However, there are many, many factors that determine how "soft" different breeds of sheep feel, not least of which is individual preference and sensitivity. 

The Valais Blacknose Sheep may not produce wool that can be turned into a cuddly sweater, but it excels in other areas. Their fiber is extremely hard wearing and durable. Rugs, blankets, and outerwear are examples of products where this fiber shines. I crocheted a bedside rug for myself with Valais fiber, and it's by far my favorite rug. Though I wouldn't wear a sweater made from VBS yarn next to my skin, I also don't consider the fiber to be terribly coarse. It's still fairly soft to the touch, and is delightful to handle. Purebred VBS wool has a beautiful shimmer when spun into yarn, and because the breed generally produces a mostly white fleece, the fiber can be easily dyed in any color. 

I recently had the privilege of spinning multiple skeins of Valais Blacknose yarn for Davis Family Livestock in Mead, CO which they took to the USA National Valais Blacknose Sheep show in Des Moines, IA the end of September. (To learn more about the show, you can visit their Facebook through this link.) Having yarn from heritage breeds available to the public is an easy way for people to become familiar with a new breed! As the interest in sustainable and slow fashion grows, more and more people want to know the provenance of their clothing. For wool, this usually means the specific breeds of sheep that provided the fiber, and the farms where they were raised. Working with Valais Blacknose Sheep fiber throughout the past year has allowed me to explore the history of this breed, and support Colorado agriculture in my very own Fibershed. 

I'm not done experimenting with Valais Blacknose Fiber, but I do have some new & exciting projects in the works for 2024. I look forward to sharing them with you and I'd also love to hear feedback about soap and fiber topics that you would be interested in hearing about this coming year!

Until next time,


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