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What About the Other 1,399 Sheep Breeds?

Did you know there are around 1,400 sheep breeds? And that more than 50% of the world’s wool is Merino?

Tunis is one of the other 1,399 breeds. It nearly became extinct during America’s Civil War and currently is on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List — meaning it’s existence isn’t out of the woods yet. With its long history, Kelly’s Tunis yarn is a perfect choice for natural dyes — and for you to start exploring the wonderful world of wool.

This wool has a nice warmth to its color — more ivory or cream — which gives a brightness to yellows and oranges, and a softness to other colors. It’s fairly soft, but some might feel it’s a little scratchy for next-to-skin wear. Its chunky weight makes it perfect for quick, sturdy sweaters, hats, etc. It’s lofty and lightweight courtesy of being woolen spun. (This yarn was spun in Frankenmuth, MI). The sweater shown is Amy Christoffers’ Felix pullover with the gauge adjusted. See the Kelly’s Tunis product page for more pattern suggestions.

Kelly lives near Ann Arbor, MI, and the wool for this yarn came from her Tunis sheep, which were shorn by my brother, Kirk. Kelly no longer has these sheep, so this is a really special, limited-edition batch of yarn in so many ways.

The name Tunis describes the breed’s connections to foundation stock from Tunisia in North Africa. North African sheep, variously described as “fat tailed,” “broad tailed,” and “Barbary” sheep, were imported to the United States as a gift by the Bey of Tunis to George Washington in the late 1700s. They nearly became extinct during the Civil War. Visit The Livestock Conservancy website to learn more about this breed’s interesting history.