Tag Archives: wool

Spinning My Bounty

As you know I have sheep. Wooly sheep. This means in my case I have lots of wool. I was going to sell my Jacob wool…then I realized  my relationship with my ex wasn’t going to last and he wouldn’t let me have any of the Jacobs besides Khoresh…including the ram I bought, John. So I hoarded their wool. Then spring came and I had to shear my new sheep. Again, stuffed into feed bags and hoarded. Now lambing season is threatening, I’m eyeing my lambs fleeces and I’ve got 8 or 9 bags of wool in my attic already that I’ve barely touched. It just doesn’t seem right.

The fleeces all had the major nasties taken out (they’ve been “skirted” in technical terms)….but its all still dirty with lanolin on it. Unwashed stuff. And its not been carded, or brushed out, either. The bags are filled with a mix of emotion and time consumption along with wool. I finally ventured into my attic and started poking around the bags. I pulled out a lock from Ash’s fleece and it glistened with little beads of something wet. I ran a lock through my fingers. Beads of lanolin. Oil. Sheep oil. Interesting, I thought, that it actually beads up. Her locks grow black but the sun bleaches the tips to a milk chocolate brown. The tips are a little dry and crispy, lightly felted together, but suprisingly clean.

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I’ve heard of “spinning in the grease,” but never done it. I’ve always washed the wool then carded it (which i never liked my end result) then spun the wool. I’ve felt it comes out dry, but its how your “supposed to do it.” I’ve successfully made hand spun wool then a scarf or hat, but never gotten from sheep all the way to clothing. Well, I’ve got wool to spare so i might as well try spinning from a raw fleece “in the grease.”

My word. It spun much better than any of my carded wool. Once i figured out to take the dogs wire hair bush and brush the felted ends open it was like spinning small bits of roving. It also kept the brown spots together to give the yarn a little color variation. Amazingly my hands got a little greasy, but hand hardly any dirt to show. My job as a jeweler leaves my hands dry and by the time i finished spinning yesterday the cracks of dry skin on my finger tips were closing up. Chirstmas day i spent spinning a single thread then I chain plied it this morning resulting in about 210 feet of 3 ply yarn. Afterwards I washed it.

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Suddenly the bags of wool upstairs doesn’t seem so daunting. it will be interesting to compare how everyones fleece spins up. As for this stuff im already making more. what a nice sweater it would make.

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Shearing a Ram as a Small Woman

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I’ve been doubting myself. After last years fiasco shearing the ram I was afraid to try by myself again, so the poor ram has just been getting fluffier and fluffier.The girls i was able to hold with the stanchion, but me doing New Zealand style shearing (rolling the animal on the ground) with a giant pair of scissors and a spooky ram sounded like a great way to either land in the hospital to get some lamb in my freezer. Then I was reading a sheep forum and someone mentioned how they used to tie up the ram and shear them by themselves. “Well, why not?” I said to myself. Sure, I only weigh 115 lbs and the ram is probably more….but I’ve wrestled with him a few times and won, so maybe i have a chance.

With the help of a can of grain I lured the sheep in the “chute” then the ram realized, “Oh crap! Something bad is about to happen” and he got all spooked and hit behind Ash. I used the neighbor kid to stand behind me in a “none shall pass!” sort of way. Ash and Khoresh got all tangled up as he wanted to bolt forward but Ash wanted to push back giving me enough time to grab his horns (handles) and lift up his face while my helper put on the sheep halter. This is a thing I use once every 6 months and always forget how to put it on right. We eventually got it some semblance of “on” and I let go his horns.

And so began the rodeo. I had one end of the leash and he started bucking and jumping, spinning and shaking trying to get the halter off his face. Think a bucking bronco with horns. He yanked me good a few times then finally he gave up and got on his knees to pray to God. Really. He crawled on his knees as if in prostration to the lord on high to spare his life. He’ll be a good ram from now on. No more sneaking around the fence to reach the forbidden grass. He’ll stop trying to steal food from the others. Just let him live! So as Khoresh is flopping on the ground like a good time at a rivial I’m standing there rolling my eyes at the drama. All I want to do is SHEAR him, and hes saying his last rites. Finally he submits to his fate and comes with me and i tie him up to a post on the back of my house. Again, antics for a minute or two and he flops on the ground like hes dead.

What a doofus. I used the opportunity to tie his hind leg to the other post and now he has limited mobility! haha! Now, my dog was no help in this thing, but she still posed next to him like she was the one who bagged the ram when the camera came out. Don’t be fooled by the picture above: she was just there to watch the ram get his.

So I had the ram reasonably secure. He could move a little, but not too much. I started by opening up his fleece by his tail. a few blind snips and i was able to part a little wool. I snipped up the spine with the blades flat against the back  parting the wool as i went.  Sometimes I had to take a few extra swipes to get the wool to open up, but eventually I was able to part the wool. Once I had the fleece opened up I started cutting across his body in solid “blows” keeping my blades as flat against the curves as his body as i could.

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Once I got the good wool off his ribcage I pulled  the fleece off and rolled it up clean to clean, dirty to dirty.  I still had alot of junk wool on his hid legs and around his neck  that I had to then remove. on the legs i had to try many different angles with the blades to see what worked. It was also difficult because that is stretchy skin, and i had to get the fleece tight enough to cut without pulling skin into the way.  Once i had his sides clear I moved onto his belly.

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Finally I got to his belly wool. Surprisingly he was calm while i trimmed his belly. Infact, during the whole thing he was calm, even eating food for a while. Then he got bored and started complaining, but i think he appreciated it overall.

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4th sheared animal and its looking better! His body condition is also much better than the sheep last year.

Listen: if you want to shear, or NEED to shear, your sheep you can do it. Really, YOU can. I’ve done it the New Zealand style and I like it but it take practice to get you animal to stay put.  low tech and less wrestling you can just tie the animal up, or get a stanchion and hold them. Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it, because you can. Its just cutting someones hair. Lots of it.

I expected the whole endeavor to make him more afraid of me, but judging from the close ups I got of him this evening hes less afraid. But he knows I’m boss, so hes back to respecting me.

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Polly Plays a Lion

I finally got a milking stand!I decided to try it out by giving Polly a haircut.

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I started off  at the back, went down her back and peeled the layers away.

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Polly did fine except she was incensed anytime the food ran out in her bowl. After all i fed her I hope shes not sick tommorrow!

Oh but one thing about shearing on a milking stand…..You can’t reach the wool around the neck.

Roar!

Roar!

Oops.