I Has A Fleece

Eshme fleece

Everyone, meet Eshme. She’s a light grey Shetland sheep, raised in Ontario at the hobby farm of a lady I know through the SCA, and now her year’s fleece-growth is mine!

I’ve been keeping this a secret for a few weeks now, and I just picked her up on Saturday*. I’m incredibly excited to have a fleece of my own to play with, but also horribly nervous I’m going to muck up this lovely wool!

Ah well, I’m nothing if not enthusiastic, and have jumped right in to this project just as I have with my spindlemaking. On Sunday I sorted the fleece, using a technique that would probably horrify real wool sorters everywhere. I took out as many articles & library-book chapters on fleece preparation as I could, assimilated their advice, and began pulling the thing apart!

First out was a charming smoke-grey patch on one of her shoulders (I’m hoping to preserve it as the most destinctive colour varation, spinning it up separately, and then make something stranded/Fair Isle-y with the smoke-grey and the natural cream/grey/white). Then I divided the rest of it into my “scientific” categories: ‘Head Wool’, ‘Shoulders’ (the best, apparently), ‘Spine’, ‘Upper Sides’, ‘Bum’, and ‘Edges’. These were re-rolled up and packaged into whatever I could find.
Eshme fleece - sorted

Last night I began washing some, beginning with wool that comes from “lesser” parts of the fleece. Some of it I packaged into mesh bags…
mesh bags

…another load I tried just loose.
loose in the tub

When I was little, after a bath my Mom would exclaim, “kid tea!” Looking at the fleece’s wash-water, I can only think, “eww, sheep tea!”
sheep tea - bathwater

It washed up pretty well, though, in my certainly inexpert opinion! Far, far whiter than I’d have thought, though there are other bits with more-grey strands throughout, and the white is actually more of an off-white or very light grey. But look at that lock formation, those tiny crimps!
washed lock

Anyone with advice, tips, or tricks on the best way to wash/prepare the finest parts of this fleece for quality spinning, please comment/email me with your words of wisdom!

Likewise, anyone with a line of cheap/accessble hand-carders or Viking combs, well, remember what I said about jumping right in? Yeah, I kind-of don’t have any fibre prep tools, and am mostly broke… help?

*Funny side-note: at the event on Saturday one of the tourney fighters asked me, “So, were you at the Indigo last night?” — turns out he works for the publisher, and was there, all suited up and looking businessy! Small world, eh?

8 Comments

Filed under fibre, SCA, spinning

8 responses to “I Has A Fleece

  1. Kelly

    Happy fleece-day to ewe
    Happy fleece-day to ewe…

    I can’t go on.

    That’s awesome. And I don’t think it’s really possible to f*** it up, given what I’ve done to mine, and what mine was in the first place, and how it’s still spinning and all… try dollar store cat brushes or hairpicks (you might like the hairpicks better, actually) and don’t start with the “best” bits until you get the hang of it all. That’s my poverty-driven two cents!

    PS wait’ll I tell you about my cheapie cotton top that I picked up to try…

  2. Howdy – I would get those sweater bags – cheapy ones from the Wal-Mart. I also use a laundry drain tub in the basement or a large tub with higher sides (I found the bath cooled off pretty quick). If you have a top load washer this works well too. I would load the bags – get the water as hot as possible (this may mean turning the hot water tank all the way up) and then put in a good measure of soap. I’ve used Dawn, Tide and Orvis with luck. Allow to soak for 15 minutes. Drain tub and refill – hot water again no soap- place bags back in. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Fill tub again use the soap and then do 2 soaks without soap. Hope this makes sense. You can email me for questions.

  3. Fiber SP

    You are living my dream of having your very own fleece. It will be fun to see if it turns into a nightmare… for my own selfish reasons I am not sure which way I want it to go ;)

  4. Em

    Mme. Purl: Thanks for the advice: sadly I’m in an apt. right now so the bathtub makes the most sense (it’s that or the kitchen sink), though fortunately they’ve got the waterheaters up so high I could boil lobster in the shower if I wasn’t careful! I got another pack of the smaller laundry bags (shown above), and will defintly try the soap-rinse-soap-rinse-rinse method (I got that right, right?).

    Fibre SP, I urge you to live the dream! Now appears to be fleece season, just go out and get one! Be selfish, and wish me the best of luck, ’cause you never know when I’ll be your swap-pal in the future ;)

    Kel, dollar-store pet brushes are had. I really want to try a metal pet comb, but haven’t found one yet. A hairpick hackle is definitely under consideration, as are a bunch of nails in some wood…

  5. I missed you at the booksigning, sorry I didn’t get to meet you, not sure why, with only 200? people there!! The yarncrawl was awesome, lotta fun, alot damage to credit cards.
    I’m curious as to how you make out with your wool, I’m currently stalking someone with sheep…

  6. What a wonderful fleece! I was looking at the list of people looking at my site, and popped over to see who linked to me, thanks!

    There are several good preparation articles on Spindle And Wheel, we have tried to cover the bases. If you haven’t checked them out,
    http://www.spindleandwheel.com/content/blogcategory/31/74/

    The Shetland wool is really forgiving, as long as you are gentle with it, and give it lots of picking/opening, it will come delightfully clean and be beautiful.

    It was really nice to get to know you! We hope you will visit us again. (cough, and sign up for one of the fiber frenzy swaps cough cough) LOL

  7. So, how did the free-fleece washing turn out? (By “Free-fleece” I mean the non bagged load). I’ve been debating about doing that in the canning pot. Although, that would probably be more difficult to get out. Huh? :)

    Oh! Now you can do your post on carding with dog brushes! (Unless you have already and I haven’t read it yet.)

  8. Hi Em, the fleece is looking great – keep up the good work. Hoping to see you at Cate’s open house in August – I will be bringing lots of fleeces – and some sheep for her. Contact me if you need info.

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