Almost a month ago I bought some fleece on eBay. I wasn’t going to, but it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. It was advertised as Rambouillet, a Merino-type fleece. It looked pretty dirty in the picture but the scoured example was good and white. For $4 a pound plus shipping, it was priced about what I would expect for backyard sheep fleece. I send the check, the seller says he will ship when he gets it. Ok, fine.
Problem Number One: two weeks and no package, so I send an email. It is a holiday weekend, so I’m not concerned that I don’t get an immediate reply. Until five days later when there is still no package and no response. Second email.
The next day I get a reply. Problem Number Two: the seller forgot to send the package. Oopsie! He remembered to cash the check, however — four days after it was sent.
Finally I get the package. Problem Number Three: this is supposed to be Rambouillet, a fine wool closely related to Merino. I expect it to have tons of grease and a tiny crimp. It’s supposed to be a ram fleece, so I’m fully prepared for it to be stinky. What I get has far less grease than I expect. The crimp is vaguely like a fine wool, but not particularly so. And it’s hardly “very white,” as advertised, because most of the tips are stained yellow from dirt. At least it’s not stinky. I hunt around for the very cleanest part to wash, and that does come out white, but most of the rest is caked in dirt and washes to yellow stained tips.
Problem Number Four: this is the springiest, most Down breed feeling Rambouillet I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s not all that fine, being somewhere near a mediocre Corriedale. (The seller did say 60s count, which is about right even if it’s the very bottom of the range for the breed.) Even in the grease, which there isn’t very much of, it doesn’t have the blocky square-end staples I expect. I could see some of this in the seller’s photo, but it’s more than I expected and the whole fleece is the same way. It’s actually quite tippy. I’m hardly expecting the best quality fiber from a cheap backyard fleece, but I at least expect it to match the description.
I notice that my washed samples have not even made the attempt to felt despite less-than-careful handling. I comb a bit of fiber and lay it out in a small batt for a felting sample. Following my normal felting procedure, it’s quite stubborn in not felting and only eventually starts to hold together. It’s still very springy. I wash another sample in my felting solution, making a point of swishing and squeezing the cut end, where wool fleece starts to felt first. After several rounds of rough handling, there is only the faintest suggestion of felting at the cut end. I pull out a lock of raw Merino from the closet and try the same thing: it starts to felt immediately.
If you handed me a sample of this without comment, my first suggestion would be that it was a Dorset crossed with a fine wool like a Merino or Rambouillet. Not a pure fine wool by any means. I could tell from the photo that it wasn’t the nicest stuff, but it wasn’t expensive either. It’s fine for what I intend to use it for, although I’m not so thrilled about the dirty tips not washing out as promised. If the seller said it was a Rambouillet cross, I would have probably still bought it. But now I’m cranky about it because it clearly isn’t.
I haven’t left feedback for the seller yet but sent another email. I already don’t expect to leave a glowing comment because of the shipping problem, but the question of breed on top of it makes me even less happy. I haven’t bought fiber from eBay in a long time because I’d rather see it in person, but I thought this would be a good inexpensive fiber to experiment with. This is what you get when you deal with people you don’t know.