Every year, when I’m sitting out in the yard for days pulling the locks from a dirty, unwashed fleece I think of this fleece as a reminder of why I’m out there.
I got this fleece for my second year of raw fleeces. It was gorgeous. Ever so soft and a lovely pale grey to cream and huge. Quite a lot of VM and debris. My shepherdess told me that Violette had been sick the previous winter and she wasn’t coated because of that. That was fine. I don’t mind dealing with VM. I pulled it into chunks, stuffed them in mesh bags and scoured. And that was my big mistake.
I didn’t have enough experience at the time to know that sickness often causes a break in the wool. Or that pulling the locks lets a lot of the VM fall out. Or that this fleece was extra heavy on the lanolin (honestly, if my shepherdess didn’t insist that this was Corriedale, I’d have thought it was Merino because it’s softer than the Merino fleece I got last year and had just as much lanolin).
After scouring, this fleece sat for while. I had other fleeces I wanted to deal with first. When I finally got back to it, I started pulling the locks. That’s when I discovered the first problem. The but ends are matted. They can be pulled apart and then brushed out. It’s hard to tell now but I’m pretty sure there was a break 1/4 inch from the butt end. If I had pulled the locks before scouring I could have pulled off that 1/4 inch and saved myself tons of work now.
The next problem I noticed was that there was still a lot of lanolin. So I needed to re-scour. I decided to dye and scour at the same time, which worked but in the end I’ll have to overdye the spun yarn to even out the dye job.
This brings me to where I am now. 2 years later and I’m still dealing with this fleece. I have to pull apart the butt ends and flick/brush them and usually the tip ends as well to get out VM. I do this to each and every lock. Then load up my hackle and comb. It takes about 30 locks to load the hackle and 30-45 minutes to make one small nest. Flicking/brushing is quite a strain on my body so I can only do 2-3 nests a day. Which means that this fleece will take me a long time to process. I still have about 1/3 to re-scour (I’m waiting until the weather warms so I can do it outside where I can do more at one time and I won’t dye it.)
If I’d just taken the time to pull the locks and scour properly (or had the knowledge that I should do this) I wouldn’t have to work so hard on it now. Some may ask why I’m going to all this work. The sheep grow more. It’s because this fleece is so nice, once all the work is done. I’ve spun a few skeins and it’s gorgeous yarn and so very soft.