With her second post this evening, SARA DUNHAM is back with a post on how she approaches working with a fleece – in this case it is her Jacobs cross, Baaxter’s. This post was first published on her blog, Punkin’s Patch and many WOVEMBER thanks to her for allowing us to re-publish it here.
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. 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.
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.
Belly wool and a second cut off to the side.
Britch wool is found where their britches would be…if sheep wore pants. Sheep don’t wear pants 😉
Coarse “britch” wool on the left. I set a couple locks from the rest of his body on the right for comparison.
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.
Each year Sara partakes in a Yarnalong which you can read all about at her blog. This year she is illustrating the sheep to knitted item process with Baaxter’s fleece. You can follow his fleece to the wool mill to spinning and, mos recently, the casting on of the pattern in his yarn! Thanks so much to Sara once more for sharing these wonderful images and interesting post with us.
All content Sara Dunham, unless otherwise stated.