If someone a few years ago suggest that instead of buying yarn, I would buy a wool fleece, wash it, card or comb it into rovings or tops, spin it and then dye it, I think I’ve gone insane. Perhaps I have (my hubby things so), because I find processing wool to be an exciting endeavor. I love to smell the odor of the farm animal, to gaze upon the crimp of the wool, to fondle the soft billowing fiber, and to get the satisfaction of being a part of a fiber transformation.
So far, I have processed a few alpaca and wool fleeces and enjoy every minute of it. I get to know the individual animals, the farmers, and the farm. My head is swamp with possibilities such as breeds of sheep, cards or combs, ratios for blending with different fibers, spinning worsed or woolen, fiber thickness, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Processing fiber at home costs more money than buying prepared tops/rovings or yarn, so I don’t do this for the money. A top of the line greasy fleece such as Cormo or Merino can cost $15/pound. Subtract 40% for lanolin and another 20% for waste, that fleece can cost $30/pound. This doesn’t include hot water and processing time and equipment. Nevertheless, I get to touch fiber, and stare into the crimp and expend my creative energy.
The photo above is from a half a fleece (about 4 pounds) of a ram that I bought from Gleason’s Fine Woolies Ranch from a sheep named Virgil. He is half Bond and half Corriedale in various shades of silver. The locks are about 4-inch long and medium soft. Perfect for socks!
Processing wool requires patience and gentle handling! Patience is requires to get the water boiling hot, to process small batches at a time, and wait…wait.., for the dirt and lanolin to be release while keeping your temptation at bay. It also helps if you nose is attracted to the pungent odor of the farm, and it also helps to do something else to keep your hands off the pot.
I combed out the wool using my Alvin Ramer combs, and blended it 30% silk into a bat.
Then spun worsted on my Matchless wheel on a super high speed whorl.
Then wind the singles into bobbins and ply it
This is sport weight, 3-ply, perfect for socks
And finally, a dye bath…