82lbs of Icelandic Fleece

Sorry I’ve been so quiet.  I’ve been steadily working away on the white Shetland, preparing for TdF.  I’m almost finished with it.  Most of it is in nests.


My TdF goal is to spin everyday, be it 5 minutes, an hour or more, depending on time and energy available.

Time and energy might be in short supply.  I’ve had a craigslist ad looking for raw fleece up for months.  On Friday I got a response.  On Sunday I had 20 Icelandic fleeces delivered for $6 per fleece or $120 total.  For comparison I spent $100 on 4 Shetland fleeces (a total of 10lbs) earlier this year.  The grand total of those 20 Icelandic fleeces is 82+lbs.  That is a lot of fleece.

Part of the agreement is sending the farmer feedback.  They’re new to sheep (just over a year) and haven’t been focused on fleece.

On to the pics.  Icelandics are sheared twice a year, fall and spring, so I have 2 fleeces from each of 10 sheep, 5 of which are lamb fleeces.

Click on a pic to see a bigger image.

I’ve started preparing Sugar’s adult fleece for scouring.  I need to scour all of these before they are allowed in the house.  Right now they’re taking up quite a bit of my husband’s workshop in the tiny garage. So this is what I will be doing for the foreseeable future, except holidays and probably weekends and rainy days.  So managing 5 minutes of spinning a day might just be an amazing achievement.


Raw Shetland Fleece #3 and #4

Black Shetland

This one is so matted and I think it’s double coated but shortish, 3-5 inches. So many second cuts but not the shearer’s fault. With all the matting I’m sure it was difficult enough just to avoid cutting the sheep. And somehow it’s even filthier than the white. 3 soaks in and the water is nearly as dark as the first (which was nearly coffee dark).

Another Black Shetland.  This one is named Panda.

This was really an afterthought. I’d said I’d buy 10 lbs but the other three only came to 9 lbs. Tossed this one in because it was closest to 1 lb. I trashed at least 1/3 of it for being too short and the rest isn’t much longer, mostly about 2 inches, some longer bits. Looked longer but there was about 1 inch of rise at the bottom.


Here’s a pic of a few nests that I combed of the unnamed black Shetland.  It is double coated.  I cannot flick/brush as I normally would.  All I’m left with is the coarser wool if I do that.  So I just lashed the locks onto the comb, pulled out the longest coarse hairs and combed.  Turns out fairly soft.  I’ve not spun any of it yet.  It’s a bit of work since these locks are not great.  I finger tease it as much as I can but there’s still matting and second cuts resulting in nepps in the nests and still a lot of VM.

I’ve started work on the longest locks from fleeces #1 and #2. I’m essentially brushing them, first from tip to middle and then from butt to middle.  There are problems.  The tips pull off, often 2 or 3 inches or more.  They get tossed in a bin to see what I can salvage of them later (ignore the locks on the right side of that bin.  They are coarser locks that will be dealt with later.)  Sometimes an inch (or 2 or 3) pull off of the butt end.  The locks that remain long after all the pulling and brushing go in the right side bin.  The rest goes in the left side bin.

Later I will take the left side bin, lash them onto my hackle and immediately pull it off into nests.  No need to comb, they are all aligned and neat as is.  I will just grab handfuls from the right side bin and spin as it is, perhaps just a little pre-drafting first.


Raw Shetland Fleece #2


I’m taking a break from scouring today.  Too windy and chilly.  This is the second white Shetland raw fleece.  Same sheep, different year.

This is most of the first fleece, sorted into long, medium and everything else.  I will be combining the two fleeces so the piles will grow.

I plan to just flick/brush the long and medium locks and spin from the lock.  Combing locks that long is a bit of a pain.

Shetland Raw Fleece #1


The weather is finally starting to cooperate.  Tomorrow looks good to scour so I spent today sorting and bagging fleece.

This may be two year’s growth. About half the fleece is 12+ inches long. But I would expect a break if it was two years worth and there isn’t one. There are matted places and omg, all the tiny vm it can possibly hold.

It’s filthy as well.  I think I changed the cold soak water 5 or 6 times and it’s still pretty murky.

But underneath all the mess there is some pretty nice fiber.

I bagged up two loads (which is a comfortable amount to do in a day without working too hard) and soaked them.  And then bagged up 3 more loads since I was having…well it’s not exactly fun…but when I stopped for the day I realized that I was simply happy.  Sore, but happy.  Not extravagantly happy, just plain happy.  It’s a good place to be.  Having my hands in fleece makes me happy, even if it’s filthy fleece.  It’s really hard to explain.

Shetland Raw Fleece

I made the trip to the Shetland farm yesterday.  It went pretty well.  Got a tour of the place.  Goats (not fiber breeds), sheep, pigs, chickens and donkeys.  She has quite a few more sheep than I thought, 40 or more.  Peanuts are the bribe of choice there and the goats are greedy about them.  My husband had cashews in his pocket and one of the goats stuck it’s nose right on the pocket as if to say “What have you got in your pocket?  I wants it.”  After making sure it was ok, he fed a few to a couple of goats who then decided he was their kind of guy.

The sheep were more shy, except for Edith who is the oldest of the flock at 10 years old.  She wanted all the peanuts from everyone and was not shy about jumping up on you to demand more.  Good thing Shetlands are small.  I just treated her the same as a dog jumping on me.  I pushed her off and told her no.  Hooves hurt a bit more than dog paws tho.  The husband got it right in the groin by her, thankfully not too hard.

Then it was time to look at the fiber.  I’d already noticed that the fiber on the sheep didn’t look the greatest.  Lots of VM, plus she shears late and these being Shetlands, most had already started to roo (shed).  The fiber was in clumps, not full fleeces and matting was an issue, plus the vm and those little prickly balls that stick to everything (I call them thistles, but they’re not actually thistles.)  Still I can deal with all of that.  I picked out my fleeces, 4 lbs of black in two different fleeces and 6 lbs of white/cream from the same animal but 2 different years.

When I got home, I rebagged into pillowcases, just taking out samples from each fleece, which I scoured later that evening.

This is Yankee.  Washed on the left.  Flicked on the right. Some shockingly long locks in places.  I’d have sworn they were two years of growth and that there would be a break in the middle but nope, one strong lock all the way through, except for those yellow tips which came off in the flicking. Some places of seriously heavy VM.  Some matting in all the locks but mostly not too bad. But the loss ratio turned out to be pretty high.  4 grams of usable fiber to 8 grams of waste and that doesn’t really include the VM, which got flicked into the garbage can.

Next up are the blacks.  The darker one didn’t have a name on the bag.  The other is Panda.  These are very different in feel and structure than the white.  The left side locks had major matting but pulled apart fairly well.  Same waste ratio as the white.  The right side top chunk turned out to be almost totally unusable.  The matting was terrible.  I was hoping it would be better with the cute curls on the top.  The other chunk was a bit better but still had a lot of matting.  This one had 2 grams usable, 10 grams waste.

I paid $10/lb for this fiber and that was a mistake on my part.  This is $5/lb fiber at best.  The blacks are worth even less (possibly should have been free).  I can only hope that I just picked bad bits for my samples and the rest will be better.  I didn’t investigate enough on site and to be honest, my natural shyness makes it hard for me to put myself forward and say “This is really bad stuff and I’m not paying $10/lb.” as I should have.

On the other hand, if I had bought fleece online, I’d have probably spent $10/lb plus had to pay shipping.  I’d have gotten less fiber, although better quality.  It probably comes out even in the end.

After I get a chance to go through the rest of the fiber, I’ll probably send an email of observations and suggestions for improvement.  I do know she wants to have a self-sustaining farm and having good fiber to sell is part of that.  As it is now, I’m probably the only person who’d buy this stuff (aside from a group on Facebook who specialize in filthy fleeces.)  She did have some processed into yarn at a mill a couple of years ago.  Maybe that’s where all the good stuff went.  Still, from what I saw that was still on the sheep, there’s not a lot of good stuff.

Now I wait for the weather to improve.  It’s not bad now, mostly in the 50’s but I need 60’s to wash (so my washtubs aren’t too cold and cool the water too quickly).  I’m also not setup yet.  Need to get my sorting table out and rig up some sort of shade for me to work under.  Heck, we just unburied the washtubs last night.  It’s only in the last few days that we’ve had true signs that spring is here.  2 weeks ago we had a nasty snowstorm.

I spindle spun the usable fiber.  I need to ply and finish them and do all sorts of measurements before, after and inbetween.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  I like to let singles rest for at least a day before plying.

Progress and postponement

The good news is that my neck has healed enough for me to knit. I do need to be careful and I can’t knit as much as I’d like in a day but I’m knitting!  Or I was.  I finished the second blue-purple octagon today but I won’t start the third and last one until Monday.  I overdid it a bit today and can use the rest.

I’ve also been spinning a little.  I had some Cormo combed before this rash of neck strains/back injuries and I think it’s enough for a skein.  So that’s what I’m spinning.  It’s coming along nicely, even if my old wheel is being a bit finicky. I think she needs a spa day this summer.

I’m considering just flicking locks for the next skein and spinning straight from the locks, skipping combing.  I have to flick them anyway before combing.  Spinning from the lock would save time and work.

The fleece farm visit was postponed again.  This time they had something come up at the last minute (literally, the email was sent just before 5 am last Sunday).  We’ll try again this Sunday.

A bit of an update

Neck strains are the worst.  I’m past the stage of it hurting constantly but it still hurts if I move in certain ways.  I’ve been doing back stretches every evening and neck stretches whenever I catch the heat being on.  I sit in front of a heat vent and let my back and neck get nice and warm before stretching.  I’ve noticed that my neck hurts less if it’s warm.

I’m still unable to do much of anything but I’m beginning to wonder if some of this pain is psychological.  Yesterday afternoon, after not really hurting all day, I thought about doing some seam ripping on some clothes I need to alter.  I picked up something to inspect a seam, thought that if I was careful and only picked at it for a minute of two at a time, then I should be able to do it.  My neck immediately started hurting.

I’m also being very careful about how I sit.  I have a bad habit of slouching and hunching my shoulders so now as soon as I realize I’m doing either (or both) I correct my posture.  I wonder if in my efforts not to do “bad things” that I’m doing different “bad things”.

This Sunday is the trip to the Shetland farm.  I had to postpone it for a week because of a nasty snow storm last weekend.  I’m starting to get excited.  I’m making mental lists of what to bring and going over possible problems and what I should be looking for.  This is the first time I’m buying from what I suspect is not a spinner and therefore not a spinner’s flock.  Before, I could trust the shepherd to point out flaws and give me info about the breed, etc.  This time, I’m the one with the knowledge and I need to do all the tests and judgments.  I’m nervous and excited and all sorts of things.

I plan to bring my scale, in case she doesn’t have one, as I don’t trust my ability to guess weights.  I’m bringing my box of old pillowcases.  I know the fleeces have been vacuum sealed but don’t know much more.  They’ll go in the pillow cases once I get them home in any case.  It’s not warm enough to wash (although the forecast is promising to start warming – 50’s next week!) so the fleeces will live in the garage until I can wash them (unwashed fleeces are not allowed in the house – husband’s rule).  I want to suspend them from the ceiling via rope over a rafter to deter possible rodents.  Pillowcases will be easier to tie to the rope to plus will avoid condensation in the changing temps.  Plus it’s more pleasant to walk face first into cloth rather than plastic (in case of someone not paying attention while in the garage.)

Today I think I’m going to try spinning.  I’ve done a bit and it doesn’t seem to bother my neck.  I have some Cormo combed.  I’m not sure it’s enough to fill the bobbin but maybe by the time I’ve spun it, I’ll be able to comb more.