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.

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Tour de Fleece

Sorry for the lack of post last week.  I had the pics ready but just forgot.  I got all caught up in prepping for TdF.

I overdid it on the fiber prep last week and combined with yard work over the weekend, managed to strain my wrist.  I’ve been in a brace most of this week in the hope that I’ll be better enough by tomorrow to spin a little. So I’ve been forced to find alternate things to do as I can’t knit or spin or prep so I’ve gotten sort of lost in a computer game.

So Tour de Fleece or TdF.  It’s three weeks of spinning in conjunction with the bike race Tour de France.  I’m with team RWLU or the Raw Wool Lovers Unite group on Ravelry. We’re a very laid back group.  We set our own goals (big or small) and cheer each other on.  The only requirement is that the fiber is from raw fleece.

My theme this year is variety.  In the past I’ve worked on one fleece for most of the tour and let me tell you, that gets tedious fast.  So this year I’ve prepped bits of every fleece I have.  8 different breeds, mostly combed but two have the waste from combing carded into rollags.

So here is the lineup:

 

The Hampshire is spindles only and everything else is for my wheel.  If I somehow run out, there is more Cormo and Hampshire to prep.

I think I’ll start with the Shetland/Corriedale lamb.  It’ll probably be the easiest to spin.  I have no firm plans for most of this.  It will get spun at whatever thickness feels right. Probably pretty thin as that’s what I tend to spin.

Sometime today I need to change the drive band on my wheel and oil it and than I’m ready to go.  I hope to post a couple of times a week to update my progress (and get in that Polwarth prep post I forgot about last week.)

Cormo Raw Fleece

 

Next up is a gorgeous Cormo fleece.  This one almost 6lbs.

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Some scoured locks.  Those dirty ends flick right out leaving me with lovely white fiber.

Combing in progress.  Same method as the last fleece.

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The nests I have done so far.  This should be enough for 2 singles to be plied into one skein.

The rest of the fleece needs a re-scour.  There’s just a bit too much lanolin left in it.  I can comb and probably spin it now in the summer heat without too many problems but come winter, it’s going to be a hassle.  It looks like I’ll have a decent day or two next week to scour so I’ll get this bagged up over the weekend and ready to scour.

Note to self:  Cormo has more lanolin than it appears and needs 2 soapy scours before rinsing.

Corriedale/Shetland Lamb Raw Fleece

I have fleeces!!!

I’m going to introduce them one at a time as I get to work on them this month.  I finished scouring the last bit today so the rest of the month is dedicated to fiber prep for these new fleeces plus one or two older ones.  TdF is coming up fast and I’ll need a lot of fiber prepped and ready to spin.

First up is a Corriedale/Shetland cross lamb.  Just shy of 2 lbs before scouring. These pics are of the fleece and locks before scouring.

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Here is an assortment of scoured locks.  Staple length is 5-6 inches.  There are a few locks with black/dark grey but most of the fleece is white to cream.

Combing in progress.  This fleece is so easy to prep.  I pull open the butt ends with my fingers.  Just sort of fluffing it a bit and getting any second cuts I may have missed.  Then I flick/brush the tips.  Next is loading the hackle and combing.  Look how fluffy it gets.  This is the longest fleece I’ve ever dealt with.  I really have to exaggerate my movements to get the comb free of the fibers before the next pass.  Last shot is pulling the fiber off of the hackle into roving.  I don’t bother with a diz.  I just draft the fiber until it’s even as I wind it onto my hand.

This fleece is a dream to prep.  Almost no VM.  The tips flick out with 2 or 3 swipes of the brush and it pulls off of the hackle easily.  I can work on this for hours at a time without aches and pains.

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These are all the nests I made today.  Aren’t they pretty?  I can’t wait to see how this spins up.

I highly recommend Bleating Heart Haven in New Holstein, WI.  I’m not sure if Cindy sells online but she got a lovely little shop on her farm and it’s well worth the trip if you can do it.

She flat out gave me some roving. She also has goats (mohair) and when I mentioned I’d never spun that she pulled down some mohair/coopsworth roving. Then later after she showed me the fleeces and I’d turned down some very short shetland lamb she pulled out a bump of roving made from a similar fleece and gave that to me.  Plus she gave me an amazing deal on the 2 fleeces I bought from her.

I asked to see the sheep and she let me (insisted, actually) feed her bottle lamb. Adorable but noisy little thing and not all that hungry (it was early for supper time).

Spinning goals

As I was finishing the last Brioche swatch today, it suddenly occurred to me that I really need to get back to spinning more.  My shepherdess shears in May and while that may seem like a long time from now, last year’s experience taught me that it goes faster than I’d like.

Before shearing in May, I’d like to

  1. Finish combing and spinning Patrick the CVM from 2016.  I’m pretty close to done on the combing but there is a lot of spinning left.  That was a huge fleece.
  2. Work on scouring/dyeing Violette the Corriedale from 2015.  There isn’t much left.  It’s actually re-scouring as I didn’t get all of the lanolin out the first time.  This is also a delicate fleece so I have to be careful with it.
  3. Comb and spin Violette the Corriedale from 2015.  I’ve got a few skeins done but there is quite a bit to go.  It’s slow going to comb because it’s so delicate (the sheep was sick that winter and died the following year.)  It’s amazingly soft wool and worth the extra effort.  I’ve not touched it since getting my fleeces in 2016.

Honestly, doing number 3 is a huge long shot.  But I’d at least like to get a start on it.

Other spinning/combing to be done at some point.

  1. Comb and spin the Hawaiian Merino from 2016.  I’ve got some of it combed and I’ve spun some of the waste.
  2. Comb and spin the Hampshire that’s all dyed and ready to go.  This is easy to comb and easy to spin.  I’m spinning it rough (or at least not worrying if it’s perfect).  It’s to be used in weaving.
  3. Spin the Teeswater/Romney cross from 2014.  All dyed up.  Needs to be finger teased and spun rough and plied with thread.  It’s also for weaving.
  4. Spin some of the “kits.”  Packs I put together of carded fibers, mostly from a 2015 soft mystery fleece that I dyed.

What I want to buy this year.

  1. Patrick the CVM’s 2017 fleece.  Or maybe just half of it.  It was almost 7 lbs after scouring and probably around 12 lbs before.  Or some other fine wool if she got any new sheep.
  2. 2 or 3 lbs of a long wool.  I’m not fussy on breed or color, other than light so I can dye it.  It’s for that rough spinning for weaving like the Teeswater/Romney cross.
  3. Maybe another Hawaiian Merino.  It’s really nice once it’s cleaned up.

I have to remind myself that a little backlog is good.  One of these years I’m not going to be able to afford new fleeces and I’ll be happy to have fiber in storage to spin.

I think I’ll declare February to be the month of spinning.  Not to say I won’t knit during that month, but my focus will be more on spinning and combing.

Combing Wool Locks

 

First, please excuse my messy desk in the background.  Second, this is the way I do it.  It’s not the only way and possibly not the best way.  But it works for me.

This is a CVM fleece.  It wasn’t coated but is remarkably clean.  I use a hackle and a comb but you could use two combs, if you have a way to secure one down to the table.

  1. Load the locks on the hackle.  I load butt ends onto the hackle.  If the tips are gunky or there is a lot of vm I’ll flick first.
  2.  Fully loaded.  Start with less and work your way up to an amount you are comfortable with.  Mist lightly with water to keep down static.
  3. Start combing.  Keep the comb perpendicular to the hackle.  It doesn’t matter if you go from left to right or vice versa.  You could even switch.  Start near the tips, moving closer to the hackle with each pass.  You won’t get all of the locks into the comb at first.  Pull the comb towards you, making sure that all the fiber that comes away is free from the rest on the hackle and sticking straight out from the comb before making another pass.  I often use my other hand to guide the locks onto the comb and to smooth them out before making another pass.  Be very careful.  Those tines are sharp.
  4. Most of the fiber is on the comb and what’s left is short and matted bits.  Discard this waste (or save it, but I’ll get to that later.)
  5. Now put the fiber back onto the hackle.  Keeping the comb perpendicular to the hackle, bring the fiber down onto the hackle.  Just the ends at first and work your way closer.
  6. You may need to repeat steps 3-5 depending on how it looks.  It should be smooth and without tangles.  Discard the waste from the comb.
  7.  Lift the fibers up off the bottom of the hackle a little.  This allows the fibers to pull off easier.
  8. Start at one side (it doesn’t matter which) and start pulling off the fiber.  Some people use a diz.  I used to , but no longer do.
  9. Work your way back and forth across the hackle until you’ve pulled off all the fiber that you can.
  10. You’ll have a long rope of fiber.  Start wrapping this rope around your hand.  Not too tight but not too loose either.
  11. I often draft the fiber a little here and there to even it out.
  12. When it’s all wrapped around your hand, pull your hand out, leaving you with a little nest of fiber.
  13. This is my waste pile.  I’m actually saving if from this fleece since it’s fairly clean and nice.  I’ll card it and make lumpy bumpy yarn.
  14. Box of nests.

To use, simply unroll the nest.  Start spinning from the outside, the last part that was wrapped around your hand.  For me it drafts easiest from this end.

Flicking Wool Locks

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I threw this together for someone on one of my Ravelry groups but I thought it would be good to share here.

This is my method of flicking locks. That’s just a dog brush (the kind that looks like a mini carder). Brush through the tip end several times until it’s all fluffy. Then do the same to the butt end. Twist the lock before you brush and hold it at the twist. It’s easier to brush against your leg but put a piece of leather or heavy cloth on your leg. Those tines are sharp. Once done, I comb but you can spin from it just as it is. Fluff it out a bit with your fingers and predraft it out a little if you want

I really only try to brush the ends, the last 1/2 inch or so, unless there is a lot of tiny vm in the lock.  Then I’ll brush all of it.  I don’t always flick.  If the tips are funky or there are second cuts, then I flick both ends.  Sometimes I’ll only flick the tips.  Even with in the same fleece I could flick both ends on one lock, just the tips on the next or not at all on another lock.  It just depends on the condition of the lock.