Friday, 13 August 2010

The sheep

There's still a sheep covering most of the spare floor space in my studio.

I washed it - I think - weekend before last, and what with having a lot of wet, rainy weather and a damp house I still keep finding damp spots in it. So on the floor it sits, and every day I check it and turn bits over in the hope they'll dry. But yesterday, I finally got on to the carding bit.

My drum carder is an Ashford, with a fine set of teeth. Perfect for this kind of wool. I've been pre-selecting the wool and choosing the softest, whitest parts of the fleece to card for the first batch. I run the wool twice through the carder. In the first pass, I break the fleece up into tiny locks with the staple intact and run them through it. It's important not to overload the carder or you end up with an uneven result. Then I doff the fleece and roll it into a rolag. You can see the metal doffer (like a lone metal poker) in the image below.
This gives me a long rectangle of carded fleece, which I break up again into thin pieces and run through the carder again. This breaks out a lot of uneveness in the fleece and gives me a nice smooth piece of fibre, with all of the individual hairs pointing in the same direction.

Four hours of this work resulted in this (pen for scale) :
12 nice, large rolags of fleece which have barely touched the whole fleece, but are enough to get me started. I'm pleased with how even this yarn is turning out. It's possible to get it quite fine, but I'm working towards a DK-weight 3-ply yarn (for strength, softness and longevity) so I'm not spinning as fine as I normally do.
I set to on the spinning in earnest last night, and hold hopes to have the first bobbin of yarn completed by the end of this weekend.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


I've had a bit of a fleece bonanza lately...although it's not like I need any more raw fleeces to add to my stash! I was at a steam fair a couple of weeks ago, and picked up a couple of alpaca fleeces from a couple who keep four alpaca as pets and had brought them along for the public to see. But they're going to have to go into the stash for the meantime, while I deal with the beauty above.

The fleece in the photo above came into my possession last week. I'll be spinning it, but it's not mine. It's from a sheep of unknown breed, and is one of several pet sheep that the owner keeps. The story goes that one of his neighbours had a daughter who would always ask to be taken to see his little boy, but what she really wanted to do was be taken to see the sheep. Many, many years later, his son and the neighbour's daughter have decided to marry. The sister of the bride is a friend-of-a-friend and asked me whether it would be possible to spin the fleece from one of the sheep in time to make something for them. How can you resist a story like that?

So: the first thing to do was clean and sort the fleece, and toss the lot in the bathtub with a pile of dishwashing detergent. I'm fortunate in that I have a huge old cast-iron bathtub, but even so the fleece filled it completely.
I can tell you, even a clean-looking fleece can hold a surprising amount of dirt! It took four rinses of water to get the water running relatively clear. The fleece then spent two days hanging around, wrapped in a sheet on top of the washing line, to dry. Compare. Before:
After (colour not true, this is beautifully white but it was a dark rainy morning when I took the photo):
It's a lovely soft fleece and I think I'm going to enjoy playing with it. I'm going to aim for a DKish weight, probably 3-ply yarn, and may play with it a bit as well. I'll post more about it as I go.

ps: I actually found a happy hour in which to WEAVE, a week or two ago! I'm hoping that free time to do so can become a bit of a habit again, after the reallyreallybusy period we've had this year eases a bit this week.