Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fiber Fun

What do you think when you see this picture? Cute goats? What a mess? Well, I thought 'this looks like a project'. We were picking up milk at our local community farm, and visiting with the animals, when I saw a pen full of sheep fleece. I asked and was allowed to fill a few grocery bags. 
At home last night, I was scouring the ever omniscient internet for how to proceed. Step one: Wash. Actually, because we weren't dealing with a clean fleece, step one was to pick over the pieces, sort the good from the hopeless, and pick out as much hay and straw as we could.
 A spinner's dream? Not. But it was interesting and educational to pick through the piles of fleece pieces. Some clearly came from legs, the hair was much more coarse and they were impenetrably tangled with seeds, grass, and dirt. From my research I also learned that a fleece from a garden-variety sheep is worth less than the cost of a professional shearer. And if the shearing is done without prioritizing the production of the best fibers, you can end up with doubly cut parts, i.e. a lot of short fibers, useless for spinning. The farmers at our community farm were planning to compost those fleeces, so they were not kept clean at all, and were in bits and pieces.  In other words, we're not going to be knitting up a lace shawl anytime soon, but consider this a learning process. I figure the fun will be in the journey!
 I had good help with the sorting and washing! The rejects went into the garden as weed barrier under the mulch (only partially covered in the picture above).
After two washes in cold water and one in cold water with Dawn, looks much more promising already.... stay tuned while we turn to the hot washes and the finishing spin in the front loader's wool program (the internet tells me about 100 ways of washing fleece, and I have no idea what I'm doing, so I'm winging it following a combination of the methods I saw.)

Next up: carding (combing the fibers), spinning and dyeing. My 4yo middle daughter came up with the grand plan of dyeing the wool with food coloring. I promise it was her idea, but naturally, I'm all in! Meanwhile I have the husband convinced to turn me a drop spindle....  you'll hear more about this project for sure!

Shared at: Self Sufficient HomeAcre            The Self Sufficient HomeAcre


  1. What a fun project! My husband shears all our sheep and this year I had him save back one fleece for me to wash and play with... that was in February and it's still sitting in a bucket. haha. You've given me some inspiration to learn how to wash it! One step at a time, right?

    1. That's how I'm looking at it. As the fleece was free, I feel less pressure to do it 'right', just having fun and in the process realizing how hard it really would be to fully self-sustain.

  2. I love wool!
    A fun way to dye wool with kids is with kool aid :)