Monday, July 16, 2012

YAY, Another fleece carded

I've been trying to have a meaningful relationship with my Patrick Green Super Card here, but it's been challenging with working and other things on my agenda this summer.  This morning, I finally finished carding another of my stash of shetland fleeces.  It's been a long process trying to work on the fleeces that I've had stashed in my basement and there is still work to be done.  A couple of weeks ago, my dear hubby picked two of the fleeces for me so that I could card and not worry about having to do the picking as well.

For those not familiar with the wool processing process, here is a quick overview.  Sometimes I send my fleeces to be processed by a woolen mill, and I get the finished wool back as long "snakes" of roving, ready for the spinning wheel.  But when I have small fleeces, the woolen mill can't process them, or when I'm poor, I opt not to pay the $8.00 or more per pound to have the work done for me.  My personal favorite woolen mills are "Gurdy Run" outside of Harrisburg, PA, and McClellan's Frankenmuth Woolen Mill in Frankenmuth, MI.  I really like the way each mill processed the wool, but the fleeces I'm working on are too small to send to them.  But I digress.  Here's the "by hand" process: 

When I buy a fleece from a sheep and wool show or a shepherd, it's dirty and greasy, so it needs to be carefully washed in hot water and dawn soap (the best thing I've found) to get rid of most of the natural lanolin.  This is a time consuming process since the wool will felt if it isn't handled properly. Then the fleece is dried on a screen either on my back deck or when the weather isn't great, in my living room.  After that, it is picked which means that the locks are separated in some way.  I have a picker which is a scary thing that has incredibly sharp points that pull the locks apart, but some people do this step by hand.  I wear a welding apron and welding gloves when I do this because the points of the picker are scary dangerous.  I keep the picker locked with a padlock and key when I'm not using it.  The picker has been living in my dining room with my carder but it will need to go back to the basement prior to school. 

Then after the fleece is picked and looks like the fiber next to the carder, After picking out the small ends and pieces of hay and brambles by hand, I run it through the carder which will line up the fibers in a pretty straight line, open up the locks, and basically produce a "batt" which I then take off the carder drum and roll in a tube so that I can spin from it later.  The carder also gets rid of a lot of barnyard matter like straw and grass that has gotten stuck in the fleece.  The bag to the right is made up of batts from the fleece that I just finished. 

I have three more Shetland fleeces under the table ready to pick and card.  Shetland sheep are fairly small with the largest fleece being around four pounds, all the way down to two pounds.  It's been taking me a couple of weeks per fleece to process them and get them ready to go to the basement to wait for winter when I will hopefully have time away from my school work to start spinning them.  I have the three shetland fleeces you see here ready to pick and card, plus one that is already picked to card.  I also have a number of other fleeces and portions of fleeces ready to pick and card, but my goal this summer was to get all of the Shetlands ready to spin so I'll forgive myself if I don't get everything I have finished.  The ones remaining are tan and brown, beautiful colors indeed.  Then i have to begin to work up the Corriedale, Rominov, Finn/Romney, and CVM fleeces I have already washed that are ready to be processed, as well as the colored wools I dyed a number of years ago that also need to be picked and carded.  I think that the CVM and Finn will probably be sent to the woolen mill to do, they're huge fleeces.

Somehow I think I'm not going to get it all done prior to going back to school August 13th.  I've been knitting too, but the biggest thing that has cut into my time working on the wool has been work.  Still, I'm happy to have a job, and to have some time at work to knit. :)  That's what getting the wool ready is really about, using it to knit beautiful things!

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