Ever heard of a Cornwall finish?
I had forgotten about this clever little Yankee trick for increasing the money made on selling their merino fleeces until I volunteered to give a little demonstration and talk to a group of 1st - 3rd graders at the local school last week.
The kids were studying Vermont history and the teachers thought spinning should be included. As I perused my old books for some fun facts and figures to give the kids, I came across an old handwritten note of mine...probably something my sister had shared with me at one point (she's full of interesting knowledge)...about the Cornwall Finish.
Cornwall is a town in Vermont in the heart of what was merino territory (yes, in the early 1800s Vermont raised some of the finest, award winning merino sheep in the world-we had 6 times as many sheep as people at one point!). Before sending the fleeces to market, the Vermont owner would rub a mix of linseed oil & burnt umber into the sheeps wool to mimmick lanolin (the natural grease of the sheep) . This increased the weight of the wool and since the wool was sold on a weight basis, these Yankee sheep peddlers got more for their fleeces! So that's what a Cornwall finish is!
It's a good thing to keep in mind as you buy your fleeces this spring. Not that anyone uses the Cornwall finish these days, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded as you make fleece purchases this spring that you are paying for the weight, so the cleaner the fleece (the better skirted it is, the less barnyard, etc) the better your buy is.
Happy spinning, Jen