Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When Life Gives You Wool...

…Make Yarn! A co-worker who lives in Southeastern Minnesota has these three sheep, and last winter she offered me the wool when it came time to shear them. It’s been years and years since I’ve handled raw wool, and then I only played with it a little bit. In fact, it made me realize that it’s been five years since I’ve even done any spinning! Too long, that’s for sure.

The sheep were sheared in May, and suddenly I had several sacks of raw wool to deal with. I called another friend for help, as she used to raise sheep and could at least give me some advice on skirting, and preparation, etc.

We spent a lovely spring evening skirting through the first two bags of wool, removing burrs and manure tags, sticks and straw. I have since skirted one more bag, and have three left to do.

This leaves me with a large pile of nice creamy wool, and that wonderful fresh sheep smell. There’s nothing like it! The sheep turned out to be a Corriedale cross, and since this is their first shearing this is truly “virgin wool”. Most of it is in very good condition, but the one bag I sorted through on my own was full of second cuts (short clippings). It almost made me cry, because it was such lovely clean wool, but chopped to bits. I did save a pillowcase full, and will see if I can use it for stuffing. The next step in the process will be washing the wool, but I’m saving that to do all at once. I’m planning on sending the washed wool to Blackberry Ridge in Mt. Horeb to be carded into roving. The big question is, should I dye some first, before it’s carded, or wait and try to make some hand-painted roving? I might try both, if there’s enough.

All this activity is reinforcing my recent revelation that good fiber craft can and should be very intensive. The past few years, I’ve done so many “quick and easy” projects. Portable, no-fuss projects. That’s ok, but it’s really satisfying to sink my teeth into a time-consuming, mind-challenging project that throws up challenges from start to finish. And I’m up for the challenge!

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