Showing Fleeces

Every year during the summer months, a large number of agricultural shows are held across the UK. These shows are the perfect opportunity not only to show off your Wensleydales, but to show off their fleeces in dedicated fleece classes. We hope that this guide will be of use to you if you are interested in entering your Wensleydale wool into fleece classes, but don’t know where to start

Fleece competitions are usually broken down into several classes, with white Wensleydale fleeces being entered into Lustre or Longwool classes and black Wensleydale fleeces generally being entered into the Naturally Coloured section. Some shows may even have specific Wensleydale fleece classes

When choosing which fleece to exhibit, there are a number of factors to consider. Fleeces should be clean but not washed, as to retain the natural lanolin. As a rule, shearling fleeces are the top pick as they have the longest staple and the sheep hasn’t had the stress of lambing or raising a lamb, which can cause wool break. Fleeces should also be “even”, in that they should have the same diameter of curl from front to back. Heavily felted/matted and soiled wool should be pulled away and discarded and bits of vegetable matter such as straw and hay carefully removed. Artificial colouring from purl and bloom dips is not permitted 

To roll the fleece, it is best to start by first laying it out on a large table with the cut side down and the fleece facing upwards. Ensure that the fleece is not stretched out, before folding the sides to meet the middle so that there are no straggly ends sticking out. Start from the tail, proceed to roll the fleece towards the neck, keeping it as tight in the roll as you can. Once you have almost reached the end, you need to twist the neck end to form a loose rope. Whilst keeping the “rope roll” tight, gently tuck it into the “fleece roll”. This should be central and not to the side, as it will make the roll appear lopsided. Be careful not to over twist the rope roll when tucking into the fleece. You may like to use an old sheet or pillowcase to wrap your fleece in once it is finished, to prevent any damage and stop any dirt from getting onto the fleece during transportation to the show

Depending on the size of the show, fleeces may need to be staged the day before the show commences, or on the day but certainly before 8.30 am. Spend time placing and arranging the fleece in the box, first impressions count! The wool tent will be closed to the public and competitors whilst judging is undertaken. Judges of fleece competitions, particularly the larger multi day shows, are generally Wool Board Inspectors- alternatively the judge can often be the same one that judges the Wool on the Hoof classes at the show

All judges will use a similar approach to placing and selecting their champion fleece, for Wool Board judges they use a score card, scoring out of a maximum of 100 across five areas with 20 points allocated per area:

Style of Wool – Possessing the most desirable wool properties of the breed including its handle and character. Deductions are made for excessive kemp and grey fibres not typical of the breed

Uniformity – The desired uniformity of length and quality throughout the fleece. Deductions for inconsistency in length and width of staple

Soundness – The strength of staple. Locks should be strong throughout and free from breaks. Deductions for weak or tender staple

Colour – Trueness of colour for fleece breed with deductions for discolouration

Presentation – Clean and correctly rolled. Deductions for poorly rolled fleeces or fleeces that are contaminated with vegetable matter, straw or that have excessive marking

Once the judging has finished, head back to the wool tent to see how you have done! Hopefully you will have done well, a good Wensleydale fleece is hard to beat! If you have not done as well as you had hoped, take the time to look at the other entries – study the score cards, particularly the supreme and reserve champions, to understand what has made these fleeces stand out in the judges assessment in comparison to your own. If the judge is still available, ask for feedback on your fleece, it definitely is the best way of learning for next time!

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