A sheep's fleece has taken over my front studio space this week. It was quite accidental and surprising as I've had this fleece for years. I can't even remember where this fleece came from. A family run farm either in Ontario or here in Quebec. After a number of offers through friends of friends, my brother finally gave me this bag full of fleece to play with some time after I got my wheel.
I've never quite worked up to digging into this fleece until now. Since this came from a farm where sheep are raised for food instead of wool, it's not the cleanest of fleeces. Combined with my understanding that fleeces from "meat sheep" are considered "garbage", I figured it wouldn't be worth the considerable effort it would take to clean this. Also, I don't have any proper wool scour. All these are reasons that this fleece became a "never never" project and it got put into a fibre bin for a few years.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I heard mention of PLY Magazine by some indie dyers/spinners on Twitter. I decided to try out an issue. Reading through, the Winter Woolen issue popped out at me. I've been trying to teach myself longdraw for the past few years, since I started playing with cotton.
Longdraw is supposed to be faster, but somehow my spinning hasn't really increased in speed much in the past few years. My spinning posture has been pretty awkward too. I'm not convinced that I've really gotten the hang of longdraw just yet. So I was quite excited to see that there was an entire issue devoted to the subject and ordered a copy to see how the magazine was.
After sitting around on my coffee table for a while, I finally took a look inside. I was quickly hooked and read this issue straight through cover to cover. My friends will know how rare this is for me to do with any kind of magazine. I will often buy some magazine, flip through, read some of it and then rant about how none of the articles are in-depth enough. This usually leads to someone suggesting that I stick to books.
But this issue was completely satisfying to me. So much good information! Lots of articles! New ideas! Knowledge from people who know more than me! After finishing reading through the issue, I feel much more confident in continuing my efforts to learn woolen drafting methods.
I was immediately inspired to drag out this fleece I've been storing for years based on the article about down breeds of sheep by Beth Smith. Basically the article refutes the idea that these are "garbage" fleeces not worth processing and suggests that the wool is well suited to making socks. Dense, warm, and even somehow "felt resistant".
So I dragged out this bundle of fibre, dumped it on my floor, and got to work preparing it to scour. I started by picking out vegetable matter and lightly fluffing the locks before scouring.
After scouring a few bundles, it's become apparent how fibre needs to be REALLY clean before getting wet. All the caked on mud bits stayed pretty much as they were after an overnight soak, scour and multiple rinses.
So my pre-scour preparations are now more thorough. I'm using my flick carder to open up each lock. So the fleece taking over my floor is slowly getting prepped for the next step.
It's unbelievable how soft and fluffy the washed fibre is. It's going to be so fun to play with!