Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Got Fleece?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled WIP Wednesday to bring you the following special report. WIP Wednesday will return next week at its regular time, unless I’ve still been spinning instead of knitting, and teaching knitting classes instead of knitting, and rolling in fleece instead of knitting, and, well you get the picture.

The nice UPS man brought me two big boxes. Two big boxes of fleeces. Almost 18 pounds of fleece. Does that seem like a lot? It seems like a lot to me.

Skylines Farm Fleeces

We’ve had a bit of sunny breezy weather this week, so I’ve aired out the fleeces (they were cooped up in a box for a week), and washed a handful of each fleece to sample. Here’s what I’ve got.

Rosalie, a Romney-Suffolk-Columbia ewe, half a fleece, 3.5 lbs

Skylines Farm Rosalie

Mostly pale soft grey, with some darker sections that I separated out. Medium crimp, long staple 4-5”, easy to spin.

Skylines Farm Rosalie - Staple


Shirley, a Romney-Montadale-Suffolk ewe, 6.5 lbs

Skylines Farm Shirley

Medium grey, and somewhat variegated – more of a pewter grey than Rosalie’s cloud grey. A little softer and finer than Rosalie, long staple 5”, medium crimp.

Skylines Farm Shirley - Staple


Beverly, a Romney-Montadale-Suffolk ewe, 6.25 lbs

Skylines Farm Beverly

Very dark brown/black with a slight chestnut cast and a little bit of silver shot through the fleece. Medium crimp, long staple 4-5”. Beverly is soft like Shirley, with a staple length more like Rosalie.

Skylines Farm Beverly - Staple


Carole, the mystery girl, a portion of a fleece, 1.5lbs

Skylines Farm Carole

This was a surprise addition to my order since Beverly was re-skirted just before shipping and the lost weight was made up with 1.5lbs of Carole’s fleece. I just completely forgot to ask until today what sort of sheep she is, but you’ll hear more about Carole in the future since this is very nice fiber. Variegated ranging from medium grey to very dark grey/dark brown. Medium crimp, long staple 5”, very soft.
ETA: Melissa emailed to let me know Carole is a Romney ewe lamb, and this is her first fleece!

Skylines Farm Carole - Staple

Carole has had a bath and is enjoying the afternoon out in the sun and breeze.

Skylines Farm Carole - Washed
Oh yeah, that white in the back, that’s the rest of 8oz of alpaca from North Star Alpacas, that’s had it’s bath and is out drying too


Now, for a minute, I need to sing the praises of SkyLines Farm and Thank Melissa again! Rhonna (enabler of the first order, even though she is all the way over in Norway) pointed me to SkyLines’ Handspinning Fleeces page where one can not only purchase prepared roving, but also reserve raw fleeces prior to the year’s shearing. Each fleece has a description, including last year’s weight, and photo, and is reserved by email and held with a PayPal deposit. The sheep are raised largely with organic practices, and a compassionate approach to predator management. The website has a wonderful description of their Great Pyrenees guard dogs. The farm’s philosophy certainly seems to inform all that they do, and these beautiful fleeces reflect it.

The fleeces have been well skirted, have very little VM and very few second cuts. The fleeces are not particularly greasy (some sheep breeds have a lot more lanolin), and not particularly dirty. So, the samples and Carole have been pretty easy to wash.

But, I’m leaning towards sending most of this out for washing and carding. See, I have a washer, a top-loader, but it is incapable of filling the tub with hot water to soak the fleece. It will fill a few inches with hot, then start pouring in warm, which just will not do for washing a raw fleece. I have already given Carole a wash, but had to resort to the bathtub after a first wash using the washer just didn’t get the job done.

I’ve also been playing with a new toy, a Strauch Petite Drum Carder, which was a belated birthday gift from the Hubs. Encourage your significant other to pursue an equipment-intensive hobby, and your reward will come when your own birthday rolls around. Still, I do not see myself carding pounds and pounds of fleece! So, I have some ideas on small batch processors, am leaning toward one who also uses organic methods on their own farm, but would love to hear in the comments if anyone has experience with a good mill.


Samples

Wow is this fiber easy to spin! I took a handful each of Rosalie, Shirley, and Beverly, washed it, carded it, and span it from the batts. The long staple of their Romney heritage, combined with a medium crimp and a smooth hand means each of these samples spun up very easily with a semi-worsted draw and fairly low twist. The fibers bloomed with a wash after spinning for a very light, lofty, bouncy yarn. I think these may be sweater yarns, rather than next-to-skin soft, but I want to sample a bit more to find the best way to spin each fleece, and to try spinning some laceweight.

Skylines Farm - Samples

For close-ups, click to go to Rosalie, Shirley, and Beverly.
Skylines Farm Rosalie - Sample
Rosalie

Skylines Farm Shirley - Sample
Shirley

Skylines Farm Beverly - Sample
Beverly


Meanwhile, I also managed to spin up a small 60yd skein of Bison down, another club fiber from Wooly Wonka. This was not easy to spin, and is certainly not my finest work, but boy oh boy is it soft! Light worsted weight 2-ply, 60yds, 0.8oz, wet finished to full it slightly.

Bison
Oh, give me a home...


And that’s why I haven’t been knitting.


Skylines Farm Carole - Fleece