Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yarn Along - From Sheep To Sweater

I've had some questions about fleece skirting and what comes after that. The one fleece I know I'm going to keep for myself this year is Baaxter's. I always keep the first shear from my bottle lambs because that's the fleece I held on my lap.  The fleece I know by heart :-).  I think it will be fun to chronicle it from start to finish.  

So we watched Baaxter grow up (well, he's actually still growing for probably another year) and get his first big boy hair cut.  His fleece was then wrapped up in a sheet, tagged and added to the pile (:-o).  Sheets make great storage "bags" because they are easy to use (just tie up the four corners) and breathable.  Plastic bags can be problematic sometimes.


I love untying fleece bags and taking that first peek.


Everything's so smooth and orderly (you hope) and ready to unroll/unfold/untwist whatever it takes to get it laid out like it just came off the sheep.  The easiest way I've found to do that is to locate the back legs (the wool is usually longer and coarser, so easy to spot) and work forward to the neck.


I think the boys are very handsome with their crew cuts, but I sure miss their cute fuzzy snuggly warm wool. They on the other hand are not missing it one bit.  We've had several really hot days already :-(.

After I have it laid out I start working my way around the outside, pulling off anything I don't want in my yarn.  Obviously anything super dirty and gross gets tossed.  VM (vegetable matter - hay, straw, sticks...) get picked out.  Belly wool or short wool or hair from around the face and legs gets pulled off, second cuts, coarse britch wool...toss it.

Side note:  If you find any prickly burrs, don't try to pull them out.  Not only will you hurt yourself but they can also break apart and then you'd have lots of tiny burrs instead of one big fat one. When you wash your fleece, the burrs slide right out.  Don't worry about them until then.  That being said, I wouldn't want to buy a fleece full of burrs, but a few wouldn't bother me.


Hard to see in this picture, but this is short wool from around the front legs and also full of VM. Tossed.


The only white hairs I'm aware of on Baby B. are on his face, so this must have been a pass up along his cheek.  That face wool is too short, but most important, any time you see loose hairs, quickly pick them out before they contaminate the rest of the fleece.  Hair is prickly even if it's from B's cute X.


Belly wool and a second cut off to the side.


Coarse britch wool on the left.  I set a couple locks from the rest of his body on the right for comparison.  Britch wool is found where their britches would be...if sheep wore pants.  Sheep don't wear pants ;-).  

Sometimes the britch wool is very different - like Baaxter's - and I separate it out.  Sometimes it's not really that different and wouldn't really detract from the rest of the fleece and I leave it in. Baaxter's fleece is short(ish), soft(ish) and nearly black.  I don't want to add in some long, silver, heavy/thick "hair".  The birds can use it for nest construction :-).


Second cuts - a big controversy among handspinners.  Second cuts happen when the shearer makes a pass along, say, Baaxter's fat tummy, notices that he or she left a strip of wool a little longer than the rest and they go back and make a second pass over it.  

I don't worry about second cuts as long as they are just super short like these.  I wouldn't want a shearer to leave an inch of wool in spots and then go back over it.  That 1" second cut would still shake out like the short ones, but your beautiful fleece is going to be short that inch.  

The other reason I personally don't worry much about second cuts is that I want my sheep to look pretty ;-).  If you don't make that second pass over the sheep, there are no second cuts.  However, if don't make that second pass...your sheep can look a bit funny, all lumpy and bumpy.  Baaxter needs to look good for his pictures :-).


And here he is, ready to head to the wash room.  Next week!  Any questions?

Joining in with Ginny.  I don't have a book to share this week :-/.



34 comments:

Fiona said...

Do you make Garden sheep tea from the wool around the butt....my Mother took the wool that had a bit of manure in it when he sheared or she trimmed them there in summer. This "dirty" wool then went into a bucket to soak clean, the water was used for fertilizer in potted plants.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Always fun to see the fleeces especially this one, it will be fun to see you continue the process:)

Susan said...

This is such a good idea! I am gearing up for the shearing of my 'herd' of three - I have vowed to keep up, so I am going to put this tutorial to good use - plus, I learn better with pictures!

Tracey ~ Clover said...

I feel it must be so thrilling to take a sweater all the way from it's beginning to the end product. Thank you for sharing this, I may never own sheep, but I sure would love to and I want to be prepared. :)

karen said...

I am coming to appreciate what goes into the wool that I knit with through your blog. I find it fascinating and you have an awesome job :)

Sheepmom said...

Excellent post! Save a few locks once they are washed to compare to the finished yarn. I'll be curious to see what the sun faded lock tips contribute to the overall color when it's spun up!

thecrazysheeplady said...

I haven't, but that's a great idea!

thecrazysheeplady said...

Yes, I am very lucky :-).

thecrazysheeplady said...

Good idea. It really is different as soon as you wash. That's why I still have not washed Daniel's beautiful fleece from last year. I'm still enjoying looking at "raw" :-).

Janice Grinyer said...

OMG IM A WOOL HOARDER...reading this post made me fret on the wool pieces that dont add up to 'snuff that you take out LOL I know it can be recycled for birds nests, but what other uses are there for those that dont make the cut???? Do you use it as stuffing for outdoor kitty beds? WHERE DOES IT GO??? I swear I will never look at a skein again in the store in the same way "ELITE SKEIN"...xoxo

Donna said...

Thank you for sharing this. I'm anxious to see your process from start to finish!

thecrazysheeplady said...

All sorts of wools get used for all sorts of things. No need to fret. If I have a handful, it goes out to the birds building nests. If there's a bigger chunk, I may set it aside for a coarser/tougher skein of yarn that would be good for rug warp. The "bad" wool on a fine wool sheep is still nicer than a lot of fleeces, so that could go for socks or hard wearing mittens. Really junky wool that's too short to spin (like off a commercial flock) can be used for tennis balls, wool blankets and comforters, house insulation... :-D

jsoxford.net said...

This is so fascinating! I've never even touched fleece before, and I just want to dig my hands into this. I can't wait to see the rest of the journey here. :)

Alice said...

Gorgeous baby locks! Be sure to save some for his baby book!!! You have such a sharp eye for what wool needs to be kept and what's for the birds!!!
Love the tutorial!

Melody Walker said...

Great information! Just out of curiosity, how much yarn can you get from a fleece?

MarmePurl said...

Clever!

MarmePurl said...

So....you have my boy's fleece from last year AND this year??

MarmePurl said...

A refresher course. Perfect.

LannieK said...

Amazing post! Thanks for taking the time to share this process with us. I think it is just amazing :-) B's fleece is just gorgeous! Can wait to see how you decide how to spin and ply it. This whole thing - sheep to garment - Is just so special!

YarnKettle said...

What a great post. I love to see fleeces almost as much as I love to see sheep. Feel free to post more fleece pictures, they are almost as entertaining as cookie party videos.

Michelle said...

This process is very interesting to me. Looking forward to seeing this whole thing through and seeing how this wool turns out. I already love the color(s).

thecrazysheeplady said...

Yes. I will probably keep last years, but I could be talked into parting with this year's if going to a good home :-).

thecrazysheeplady said...

Well, that depends on a few things.

1. This fleece is Baaxter's lamb shear, so he's not full grown yet so there is not quite as much wool there as there will be next spring. I haven't weighed it yet, but I will try to remember to do that before I wash it. Don't let me forget!

2. Different breeds of sheep grow more wool than others. Even though Baaxter and Spud are pretty close to the same size, I'd have to guess Spud's fleece is significantly heavier.

3. Yarn yardage is also a good question. How many yards of yarn you can get depends not only on how much wool is there to start with but also how thick or thin you spin the yarn. Thinner yarn will give you more yardage per pound than a thicker spun yarn.

thecrazysheeplady said...

It's nice to see Baaxter lying quietly on a skirting table rather than jumping all over me, too! ;-D

Cheryl said...

Thank you for sharing with us! It's so interesting. Are the short cuts good for needle felting? The bleached tips contrast so much with Baaxter's undercoat. Is it worth it to trim them if someone wants pure black yarn? Or is it not noticeable in the end? I imagine it would be too troublesome to do so, and you would lose length. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the process! Thanks again!

Melody Walker said...

I'm excited to see how much you get from Baaxter's! Thank you for sharing this information, awesome!

sophy0075 said...

My roses and citrus always appreciate the first rinse water from a fleece. As for Baaxter's VM - there's so little VM. I've had fleece that have worn a quarter of the pollen tassels from a live oak tree. Big mess!

thecrazysheeplady said...

Baaxter grew 6 lbs of wool! That's the before washing weight. I'll weigh it again (I hope I remember :-o) after it's washed and then again after it's processed.

thecrazysheeplady said...

I think I'm going to either trim them off or use the teasing board to pull them off (the tips) after it's washed. It turns into a really pretty very dark brown if you leave them on, but I think I'm going to take off at least a bit of it to keep it black(er).

Susan Mckee-Nugent said...

My computer 'died' and my son-in-law just resurrected it after 2 1/2 days so this was a treat to come upon. Thanks, now to deal with the 300+ emails staring me in the face............

Judy said...

What a great post! Thanks for walking us through your sorting process.

Shirley said...

Interesting- and I can't wait to see what you decide to make out of this fleece.

Melody Walker said...

Hahaha! Awesomeness, as my daughter would say! :-D

Lucy Bowen said...

How interesting, I really have little idea what goes into processing a fleece. I am looking forward to the next instalment!

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