Thursday, July 5, 2012

Drowning Wookies

Brian: "Mom, why does it look like you are drowning a wookie in the downstairs bathtub?"

After I picked myself up off the floor... Well, let's start at the beginning.

At my now-former job, I had a co-worker who had chickens.  So I got eggs.  And we got to talking, and it came about that he had sheep.  Four sheep, pets.  Oh, when you shear them, could I buy a fleece?  Or two?  And this conversation went on for several months.  There were two black sheep, one reddish sheep, and a gray sheep.

One day he brought in a small bag of fleece that the sheep had shed around the barn.  I got around to washing it, carding it (oooh! bought some hand cards!), spinning it, and taking the resultant 3gr of yarn back into work.  He thought that was pretty cool.

#PicFrame adventures in raw fiber

And then after many months, the sheep were sheared, and I ended up with all four fleeces (!)  Right off the sheep, so I've now moved as far down the fiber food chain as is possible without raising the sheep myself.

Four fleeces, right from the sheep. First step is skirting them.

First, the fleeces had to be skirted and washed.  Skirting is where you cut off all the undesirable stuff around the edges (don't ask), and pick out all the short bits of fleece.  I will say the gray sheep was the pigpen of the bunch.

The gray fleece done. At least this step.

Washing.  Hmm.  Consulting the internets, it seemed that I should have kept my top-loader washer.  Oh well, there's always the bathtub.  Bought some big mesh laundry bags, and put half a fleece in each.  Soaked the fleece without soap for awhile.  That is a lot of dirt.  Then two soaks/rinses with liquid dish soap.  The dirt from the gray fleece seemed endless.  Hence the drowning wookie comment.

Gray fleece getting initial soaking w/o soap

Now, how to dry it?  Turns out, we have a big screen from the just-replaced screen door - lay that over a couple of chairs outside, and it makes an expedient drying rack.

Drying fleece - repurposing a screen door

Three fleeces down, one more to wash and dry.  Then lots of flicking, picking out grass, and on to carding.  I will likely cut off the bleached/stained fleece first.  Stay tuned.

black fleece, skirted


angela said...

Wow Lynne-

That's amazing. I can't wait to see what you'll knit from it!

Janice in GA said...

Ah, the joys (?) of working with fleeces!

Any idea what kind of sheep they are?

lynnef said...

"Shetland-something". Scott wasn't sure.

It will be a good long time before I knit anything. I decided today that the detergent I was using wasn't getting it clean enough (still smelled a lot like wet sheep), did more research, and used regular clothes detergent and borax. Bingo. Now need to give the first three another dunk. Good thing the weather is hot and dry.