As you might have gathered from my last post, I’ve started processing fleece. I’d heard spinners wax poetic about the wonder of spinning wool you’d processed yourself: So lofty! So easy to spin! It’s like eating prime steak after a steady diet of hamburger! (I think that last one was Judith MacKenzie.) My curiosity was piqued. I like steak; I like getting heavily into the minutia of making things; how could I not like this?
Let me tell you, those spinners did not lie. Now, I didn’t start with that Shetland fleece. That baby is so fine and silky, I didn’t want to muck it up in my newbie enthusiasm. Oh, no. I started with some raw Tunis fleece from the Catawampus Farm Etsy shop. Tunis is less fine, and less inclined to felt, and so should be more forgiving of any ham-fistedness that might occur along the way. Plus, I could buy in small amounts, so I wouldn’t be stuck with, say, 9 pounds of raw fleece in a fibre I might not like.
I started with 10 oz. of unwashed locks that looked like this:
I carefully arranged some of them in some mesh produce bags, basted the bags shut so the wool wouldn’t move around, and scoured it:
which gave me lovely tufts of cushy wool locks. Which I then spun all of before taking a photo. Oops.
This fleece carded beautifully. I couldn’t have asked for better newbie material: it was so easy to work with that I took it on my first spinning demonstration, and managed to card and spin an entire bobbin through mild stage fright and multiple conversations with complete strangers. (By stage fright, I mean the lurking suspicion that Someone Who Knows would come up and denounce me: “YOU!” they’d say, pointing and trembling with outrage, “You have no business demonstrating this! You’re doing it all wrong! Get out of my sight.” Of course, that never happened. Actually, it was kind of fun.)
With surprisingly little effort on my part, that fleece turned into these:
which knit up like this:
I loved the cabled yarn the best, but alas, had already started the singles before I discovered the major flaw in my approach. The 3-ply is pretty sweet, though:
So far, there’s about 240 yards/220m of creamy, very sproingy 3-ply that’s not against-the-neck soft, but softer than I expected for the breed. Indeed, the yarn is so sproingy that I’m not entirely sure about the yardage, despite careful efforts not to stretch the yarn while re-skeining. And yes, spinning freshly prepared wool is definitely worth the work. It’s a whole ‘nother world, my friends, and I’m so hooked that I’m eyeing the stash of handpainted top with a mind to card it all. There should be enough Tunis to make one more skein like this, which will make some really cushy socks. I’m thinking indigo blue socks with cream toes and heels, and cream stripes on the cuffs. I mean, once you’re this deep into the process, you might as well start dyeing, right? Of course right.
For the full-on fleece geeks out there who haven’t gotten into processing raw wool yet, here are a couple of things I’ve learned so far: 1. Lingerie bags are all well and good, but mesh produce bags work well, too, and are many times cheaper. I found those bags at Gourmet Seed. 2. Arranging the locks neatly and basting them into the bags makes for some nice fibre, but is a bit precious and takes a stupid amount of time, especially since I’m carding the wool, not combing it, so it’s not vital to keep the lock formation intact. I can see being that fussy with fine fibres for lace, if you’ve got all the time in the world and mere ounces to process. I don’t have that kind of patience. For fleece without much dirt or vegetable matter, I’ve started packaging the locks in a piece of old bedsheet as shown in the Yarn Harlot’s post on fleece washing, and scouring them in that bin above — I’m not brave enough to put wool on the stove. I’m on to a somewhat dirtier fleece, which I’ve put into the produce bags rather willy-nilly; it seems to have worked well, though I haven’t spun that wool yet. I’ll report back when I’ve spun some of it up.