Sunday, July 10, 2011

Scalping Rastafarians in the Back Yard


A few weeks ago, I bought the fleece of a sheep named Ziggy. I thought it would be interesting to process the wool myself, and then spin it into a sweater.

I was prepared to wash out a lot of lanolin, but I had no idea how sweaty sheep are. There's even a special word for funky hardened sheep's sweat: suint (pronounced swint). Washing took quite a while, and I still haven't managed to brush out even half of this fleece. I've got the fleece hanging on a drying rack in the back yard, and it really looks bizarre and ghoulish.

Cleaning and brushing out this fleece has given me so much respect for our ancestors, and what they had to do in order to clothe themselves.

The prep takes a lot of time, but it's quite enjoyable. The wool is incredibly lovely, and I'm enjoying the tonal variation of this sheep's coat. I've been sorting the wool into three piles, greyer grey, browner grey, and palest silver. (I suspect that nobody is going to be able to tell the two darker colors apart.)

The length of the fiber, or staple is quite impressive. This sheep was a cross between a Lincoln sheep, and a Corriedale. If I understand correctly, Lincolns are an ancient breed of sheep that have existed in England since the Roman occupation. Renowned for glossy long fleece, Lincolns do not have a great reputation among spinners. In fact, some people have turned up their noses at this wool, and helpfully advise me that the yarn I'm making will be unwearable, and only suitable for rug-making.

I'm not so sure that I agree. First of all, I'm hardly a delicate flower. I rather like a good scratchy sweater. And secondly, this sheep's other parent was a Corriedale sheep, which are known for their soft, crimpy fleece.

I have the idea that I'll make a nice wooly sweater out of this wool, but at the rate I'm going, I'll be lucky if I spin enough yarn to make a pair of scratchy knickers.

I did knit up a sample of the first yarn I spun from this fleece. This is just a little swatch, knit up as a test. It fills my heart with glee, when I think that I created the wool that I could actually knit.

Thank you Ziggy. You sure have lovely locks.


Becky said...

Aw, Ziggy! Dude, I think *I* got all suinty after this camping trip this weekend.

ajt said...

I think tess told me once that now, when they wash sheep before fleecing, they put t-shirts on them to keep them clean. I love the mental image of a flock of sheep, all damp and wearing t-shirts, munching on clover on a hillside.

Martha said...

If you haven't already, you should take a peek at Yarn Harlot's blog where she separates her fleece into different tones, spins it and then knits a lovely shawl. Click here and then scroll down:

Keep in mind that fleece is *much* softer than the spun wool. The swatch you made looks great, but it does look itchy. Maybe you should think outerwear like a nice jacket or coat.

Angela :o) said...

It's going to be beautiful! And if it's scratchy, whatevah! That's why they make microfiber turtlenecks to wear beneath. Can't wait to see it finished.

PS Found you off a rav post in the feline group.

Love, Ang

Noreen said...

Your spinning efforts are looking great. Ziggy's swatch and the skein in your prior post. Learning to spin is a goal for me...someday.

Carolina said...

Ha! Scratchy knickers. Not a good idea but made me laugh!Or break into a suint.


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