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.

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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.

Fleece hunt part 2

So I’m now in contact with that place that may have Shetlands and they do have them.  I’m still not entirely sure that this will work out.  We’re having pricing issues.

She quoted a price of $1/ounce.  Too expensive for me.  I politely declined.  She replied that she’d found that price online but was open to negotiation and would match any price I found.  I sent back that I was hoping for $10/lb and mentioned several factors that affect pricing.  I didn’t mention that I could fairly easily find $5/lb if I went looking.  I’m waiting for a reply.  She did mention that she was having houseguests this weekend so may be too busy to reply until Monday.

I have the suspicion that she’s not a spinner.  Or at least has never sold or bought fleece.  That’s fine.  I have no problem with going out there and accessing her fleece and then setting a price.  But she’s going to have to be ok with that price possibly being low.

The fleeces in question have been in vacuum bags, stored for 1-2 years.  In theory, this is good.  There should not be bug problems.  On the other hand, just where have they been stored?  In a basement or climate controlled room?  That would be ideal.  Out in the barn or a shed?  That brings up a bunch of potential problems.  Lanolin melting and resettling in the heat of the summer is a major one.  While Shetlands are on the low end for lanolin, it’s much harder to removed resettled lanolin.  Condensation on the plastic bags causing felting is another.

I’m happy to give advice on how to improve her fleeces.  Coating to cut down on VM.  How and where to sell (online, the local market is nearly non-existant.)  Better storage practices, if that is an issue.  How to find a shearer if that is an issue.  Possibly shearing earlier if the shetland rise is an issue.

These are all things that can only be accessed in person and that an inexperienced shepherd, especially one that doesn’t spin, wouldn’t know.  I only know because I’ve done extensive research on sheep and fleeces.  I’m curious that way.

In any case, if this fall through and we can’t agree on price, then I’m done searching for local fleece.  I’ll buy online until such time as my husband feels comfortable extending his range.  Which is once we get a new car.  Which is not in the near term plans.

I’m tired of this yearly hunt.  I despise making phone calls and email is only slightly better. I’m always afraid of offending the other person when they are a stranger.  There’s no tone of voice to tell me if I’m going wrong.  I try to be always be polite but my polite and their polite might be different things.

So cross your fingers for me that this goes well.  Hopefully I’ll be able to show off some Shetland fleeces in a few weeks.  Even if I can’t wash for another month and half – too cold outside.

On the hunt for fleece

Once again I’m on the hunt for raw fleece.  Last year, I had communication issues with the shepherd I had been going to so had to hunt down a new source.  I had planned on going back to the new place again this year during an open house she hosts.  I went to her website to double check the date and discovered that she’d sold all her sheep last July.

Sigh.

This means I need a new source.  I am limited in how far from home I can go.  My chauffeur (my husband since I don’t drive) is only willing to drive so far.  I’ve been searching online on and off for more than a week.  I started with my state’s breeder association.  The problem is that several of the breeders in my range are breeding commercial or suffolk/hampshire/down breeds.  Perfectly good wool but too coarse for my tastes.  Others only have longwools (or at least only list longwools) which are also not to my taste.

So I’ve ranged out in my search.  I’ve tried looking for farms in my county, by town/village names, gone through many websites just looking for the location only to find it’s not in my range.  I finally found one, through a CSA website, that may have shetlands.  I emailed them, waited over a week now, and had no response.  I think sheep breeders come in two varieties – the ones that answer email promptly and the ones that touch their computer maybe twice a year.  My first shepherd was of the second variety and it seems this new one is the same.  Tomorrow I’m going to call them on the phone.  I expect I’ll have to leave a message and wait for a call back.

I’ve got some back up places.  Two are just outside my range and one is a fair distance away.  I’ve found more farther away but I’d only be able to talk my husband into driving to one of those if I absolutely cannot find anything closer.

As much as I’d prefer to buy local, I may end up having to buy online.  I’m just leery of it.  I like to get my hands in the wool and see what it feels like to me.  Someone can say it’s soft but my skin may disagree.  I also like to see what I am buying.  I know I can look at pictures but all too often those are staged to show the best parts.  I want to see it all.

If anyone knows of fine wool sheep in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, please let me know.

TdF 2017 final

I spun a few extra days and then plied for about a week to finish up all my TdF yarn.  It’s pretty impressive now that I see it all together and done.

 

  1. 144 yards of super bulky brown CVM
  2. 535 yards sportweight Polwarth
  3. 127 yards of sportweight Hampshire. Spindle spun but only half of it during TdF. I never got to the darker purple that’s in the pic.
  4. 527 yards of sportweight Merino. The carded waste in the pic got tossed. It was horrible when spun.
  5. 240 yards of sportweight Cormo. There’s a lot more of this fiber to spin. I just didn’t get any more than this prepped before TdF.
  6. 48 yards of super bulky Corriedale combing waste.
  7. 215 yards sportweight Corriedale, plus another 310 yards spun pre-TdF and plied during my massive plying session after TdF. I have more of this fiber already spun for a total of 1504 yards. And that’s not even half of this fleece.
  8. 642 yards of sportweight Shetland/Corriedale lamb.

 

 

 

 

The last 3 of Corriedale skeins were also solar dyed. They started out that paler purple and I tossed them in a big pickle jar with more purple dye and left it out in the sun for a day. Easiest dyeing I’ve ever done. When the jar was finally in the shade I brought it in, rinsed and finished the skeins. The dye did break and/or dye unevenly but I like it. These skeins are different than the rest so I may use them in different projects or maybe use the uneven skeins to spice up an edging on something made using the more uniform skeins. I have much to ponder about using this yarn.

I’m thinking of dyeing 3 skeins or the Shetland/Corriedale lamb teal and 1 skein brown (leaving the last skein to be dyed later for whichever color I may need more of) and knitting a Hap style shawl. I haven’t found a pattern I like so I’ll probably design it myself.

My wheel has been in use for all but two of 32 days straight and on those two days I spindle spun/plied. I hadn’t touched my knitting in two months until yesterday (because of prepping in the month before TdF).

It’s definitely time to knit.  And ponder what to do with all my new yarn.

Looking back over the list.  It seems that my default weight is sport, no matter how hard I try to get it thinner to make fingering weight.  I think it’s part me and part that my wheel just won’t let me go thinner.  I can’t adjust the uptake enough to go thinner.  Part of that is the warped wheel and part is that it’s double drive.  It’s a fine line between too much uptake to spin thinner and not enough tension on the band (which causes the wheel to throw the band off every 10 seconds and I’m not exaggerating.)

 

TdF Week 2+

I’ve been terrible at updating.  I think it’s because I post updates in my team thread for the group I’m riding with and then utterly forget to post here too.

 

Days 8 and 9

I wasn’t really thinking when I combed this and ended up with some light nests and many more darker nests. There wasn’t enough light to make a whole skein so I held a light and dark together and spun from both at the same time. This fiber is clumpy despite combing so I ended up spinning it quite thick. I think it may end up as bulky once plied. I have a few more light nests left and will continue holding them with a dark nest until the light nests run out and then I’ll finish the skein in dark. If I don’t like the end results of these two skeins I’ll dye them. Either brown to try to even things out or maybe red. I’ve dyed the dark brown red before and it turned out well.

Days 10 and 11

Combed Merino. This is as thin as my wheel would allow. I’m guessing at fingering weight once plied, maybe less. Depends on how much it poofs up after washing. It was actually pretty easy to spin. It wasn’t nearly as fussy as I was expecting.

Days 12 and 13

Dyed and combed Corriedale spun as thin as my wheel will allow. The pic of the singles is closest to the actual color. My camera doesn’t like purple.

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Day 14

Corriedale combing waste. Now that turned out much better. I spun two singles today, using up the fiber, and plied them on a spindle. They would not have fit on my wheel, both in thickness and length. I barely got it spun with the wheel. My wheel doesn’t like thick. Heck, it barely fit on one of my biggest spindles to ply.

I quite like the variety of shades of purple in the skein. It’s not washed yet so it may fluff up some. It’s definitely going to be bulky.

Days 15 and 16

And another single done. I estimate that I have enough fiber for one more or three total. That’s a respectable amount from a fairly small fleece.

Days 17 and 18

Second Polwarth single done. These will be plied back onto themselves to make 2 skeins. Not bad for 1lb of raw fiber. Probably will knit a small shawl with them – someday – after dyeing them a color yet to be determined.

And that gets me caught up.  Tomorrow it’s back to Merino. And then the CVM and then the Shetland/Corriedale lamb.  That should get me through the end of TdF. I might keep going and finish off the Merino and I think that is all of the fiber I have prepped (aside from the Romney/Teeswater for art yarn).

Then I’ll spend a few days plying and after that it’s prepping Cormo and Corriedale and maybe some knitting.  I don’t think I’ve knit in almost 2 months.  It’s been all fiber prep and spinning.