Monday, November 19, 2012

Hi-ho! Hi-ho! Off to the Mill I go!

yes, that's a black metal bed frame on the right...
This year's shearing was officially wrapped up on June 27th, but the fleeces sat around on my side porch for the duration of the Summer.  Embarrassing, really, but when one major job is finished around here, it seems there are three more urgently waiting.  This was something that I always meant to get back to.  And now that Winter is knocking at the door, we need to clean off the side porch and get it stacked with wood.

Each bag is one fleece (one sheep's worth).  Raw weight (which includes all the dirt and lanolin) is approximately 2-3 pounds per fleece.  Washing out the dirt lightens the fleece by a half pound.  And if I had to guess, I'd say one fleece will spin up into about 800 yards of two-ply, sweater weight yarn.

Since the weather was mild last week, I set up the skirting table outside and got to it.  My husband built me a large frame from 1x3s covered in mesh, similar to a screen door, that I can prop up on chairs (and bucket).  I lay a fleece on the screen and pick out all the bits of hay.  All the rubbish ends up on the ground.  I could make another whole sheep with all that rubbish!

Technically what I'm doing here is called "skirting."  Skirting is the process of removing the wool from around the entire outer edge.  This outer edge is the wool from the shoulders, belly and rump, and is typically the dirtiest.  After skirting through all those fleeces, I got a pretty good feel for the quality of my flock.   It became obvious which sheep had the longest fleece (Abner), which was starting to have a poorer quality fleece due to age (Knight and Mammy), and which one had the best coloring (Gretl's is gorgeous!).  Lambswool is the first fleece taken off a young sheep.  On our farm, sheep are sheared for the first time at one year of age.  These fleeces are very long and much softer than adult fleeces.

One positive side effect to having your hands buried in fleece all day is a good working in of lanolin (and dirt) which left my hands fairly soft.  The next step is taking all this to the mill to have it washed and carded so I can get some yarn spun.  The winter months are the perfect time to sit by the woodstove in the evenings, spinning and contemplating my next knitting project.  And I need to make a serious dent in all this wool because the next shearing is only six months away.  Hopefully we'll have the wood cleared off the porch by then so we can fill it up with wool again!


  1. Sounds like a never ending job. But so worth it to be able to make your own yarn.

  2. Sounds like a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. And being able to provide yarn for projects, what a blessing!

  3. Totally jealous of all that beautiful yarn-to-be. It sounds like a lot of work, but totally enjoyable work. Will you dye it at all? I look forward to see how it all turns out.

  4. Isn't it funny how the weather has accomodated for our procrastination this year? Have fun spinning!

  5. It is a never-ending job, but then, that's life on a farm! lol And yes, the procrastination this year has been much worse than normal!

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  7. Thank you for the insight to using your wool. When I was younger my family had a sheep station (now converted to cattle, still run by my brother) and the wool was baled up into huge bales for market, not the cute fluffy piles you have! Dad always scheduled shearing in the winter school holidays (June in Australia), to take advantage of a workforce of teenage children home from boarding school and I became extremely proficient in throwing fleece, skirting and sweeping the boards, called rouse-abouting. I never learnt to shear, mostly because I am small in statue and quite simply didn't have the strength, although I could crutch (take the wool from around the sheep's backside so the blowflies didn't get in there) lambs and weaners. And I completely agree with the lanolin, two weeks of shearing made my hands beautifully soft and my nails long. And I didn't do any housework in those days ;)

  8. That is a lot of wool (and lots of yarn to be made!) I wish I had more time for things like this. As it is right not the little bit of spinning I do is for my baskets which don't take a lot of yarn, which is why I can afford the luxury of washing and carding it myself, and spinning the yarn on a drop spindle.


Thanks for your thoughts! Come back to visit again soon!