The Icelandic sheep produces a premium fleece. The fleece is dual coated, with a
fine, soft undercoat called thel and a longer, coarser outer coat called tog. The tog
fiber with a spinning count of 56-60 and a micron count of 27-30, grows to a length of
6-8" in six months. It is lustrous, strong, water- and wear-resistant, and sheds off
the rain and weather. Thel is the soft downy undercoat, with a spinning count of
64-70 and a micron count of 19-22, growing to a length of 2-4". The thel provides the
loft for the outer coat and insulation for the sheep. Tog grows from the primary hair
follicles and the thel from the secondary follicles. Tog is a true wool, and is not a
kemp or guard hair. The combination of the two fibers on the sheep gives superb
protection from the cold and wet.
Icelandic fleeces are open and low in lanolin. The weight loss when washed is
significantly less than many other breeds.
The average adult yearly fleece total weighs 4-7 lbs. Producers often shear their
Icelandics twice a year. This is due, in part, to the fact that Icelandics have a natural
wool break in late winter for the rams, and in spring for the pregnant or lactating
ewes. Shearing at or around the time of the natural break is recommended to remove
the "old" coat before the "new" coat grows in. The sheep are sheared again in the fall
to harvest the fleeces before the animals go on hay for the winter. These fall-shorn
fleeces are very soft and clean and can bring a premium price per pound.
The two coats can be separated by hand for special projects, or they may be
processed together. The traditional lopi is a lightly spun blend of tog and thel. Thel is
very soft and downy, with an irregular crimp and can be used for baby garments, and
for the fine shawls in the style of the Wedding Shawl. The tog is similar to mohair;
wavy or corkscrewed rather than crimped and is wonderful in worsted spinning.
The versatility of the wool, the ease of spinning and the wide variation of tones and
colors are a true delight to handspinners, and put Icelandic wool into the exotic or
premium category. It is also known as one of the best fleeces for felting, which is
fast gaining popularity in the craft community.
(Thanks to ISBONA for allowing it's members to reproduce this information on their
I have some nice raw fleeces of
various interesting colors, ready
for your spinning or felting
pleasure. For information about
available colors and prices, email me