Monthly Archives: September 2020

Daily Drama 90 – A Whole Lotta Wool

Daily Drama 90 – A Whole Lotta Wool

The transition from capybara to sheep has been fascinating, to say the least. Dobby was a shy, peaceful grazing creature compared to the two rambunctious and gregarious eating machines currently devouring my so-called garden. The crazy sheep have become neighborhood treasures in these difficult times, and I am thankful that they so eagerly greet visitors and bring joy to their new friends.

I didn’t think the fur would be such a big deal. Dobby had such sparse fur, hairs, really. Wool is a BFD, as it turns out.

Thing is, I collected Dobby’s formidable hairs, one by one, for their novelty. Charlie and Hamish have to get sheared. Some Shetland sheep shed, (Wow, say that fast three times!) but not these bad boys. I did end up with all this gorgeous fleece! Such a deal! Then what? I know nothing about fiber arts, though I have had a spinning wheel decorating my living room for a decade. My adorable little loom hangs nearby on the wall as a display. How does one get from sheep to shawl?

I read up on wool processing. “You will need to wash the wool, but the shepherd will have skirted it for you.” I am the shepherd. Skirting means picking the nastiness out of their fleeces. Well, okay, then. That red bucket is full of, um, stuff. Meanwhile, the real live Charlie & Hamish went on with their lives, wreaking havoc.

Meanwhile, the Jewelry Factory has become the Wool Processing Facility. The fragrant wool sat in bags down there while I read half a dozen conflicting blog posts about how to wash wool. The more I read, the more scared I became. I finally created a spreadsheet to sort it all out, rolled up my sleeves and filled the bathtub.

Meanwhile, the first bag dried nicely. There were still some twigs and seeds, but the greasy lanolin was gone. Gaining confidence, I decided to wash the remaining four bags two at a time. The process was so time-consuming I set aside two entire distraction-free evenings. My days are too hectic to take on this kind of activity. Unfortunately, I discovered that two bags doesn’t allow enough soaking space. Agitating the wet fleece will ruin it, turn it into a block of felt, so you are dependent upon the soak to clean it. Charlie seems to have more lanolin content, as well. After I examined his dry-ish fleece, I saw flecks of lanolin throughout, especially where the fleece was bunched in the bag. But I had already washed the final two “Hamish.” His had flecks of lanolin, too. I took a deep breath and spent one more long evening, rewashing and rinsing the four bags individually.

I thought I would be able to card it at this point, but this is fairly gnarly fleece. It isn’t the debris so much as the matting. The locks are tangled and need to be pulled apart before I can card them and create roving to spin from. That’s when I discovered the picker. A truly evil contraption, without it my fleece is useless. This video mentions tetanus shots several times, but I bought a picker, anyway.

Half an hour later, I have a small container full of fluffy wool, ready to card. It’s a fraction of the fleeces that still decorate my spare room.

The deadly picker eagerly overlooks four of the five fleecy victims.

The next step will be carding. Most people are familiar with this task. If I’m serious about spinning yarn that is consistent enough to knit with, I’ve got to card all of this once I get it all picked. I thought about buying an electric carder, but the price tag was a shocker. Even the hand carders were expensive. I also bought a cheap dog brush, but it is a miniature and coarse version of these nice carders I bought on Etsy. I can loan the dog brush out to curious or masochistic neighbors who want to play with Charlie and Hamish’s wool.

My carders are factory “seconds,” and they were still expensive. They’re about ten times bigger than the cheap dog brush.

How much fleece do I really have? Enough to knit a cap? Weave a scarf? Try my hand at felting? Spool knitting? I have no idea. I’ll get back to you.

So much fleece! I will never be able to use it all. And more will come next year!

Remember that red bucket full of pickings? The gross stuff? I recently read about another washing method I’m dying to try, but it’s truly disgusting. No soap, you just soak the filthy fleece in cold water for a few days. The sweat (She has a fancy Swedish word for it- suint) and grunge in the wool washes it. They recommend doing this outdoors, as it is quite fragrant. It doesn’t take the lanolin out, but some people like to spin with the oils left in. I’ll let you know how that works out. Otherwise, it becomes fertilizer, the default use for the nasty bits.