Saturday, February 26, 2011

From Sheep to Yarn, On a Shoestring

Our sheep were shorn in late October. I had visions of skirting fleeces all winter long. But, it got too cold to sit more than 3 feet from the only heat source in the whole house. Even at three feet, I am usually sporting two layers (or more) from neck to toe and sitting underneath a blanket or two, often wearing gloves or fingerless mittens (sometimes both) if I'm knitting or crocheting. Otherwise my hands are tucked under my thighs, under the blanket to keep warm!
Besides that issue (which I hope will be resolved by next winter), I lost motivation to get all the fleeces skirted as I have not been able to get a spinning wheel yet. I figured I had two options: #1-have 7 un-skirted fleeces sitting in pillowcases in the cedar chest upstairs, waiting for warmer days to be dealt with; or #2-suffer the cold, skirt and wash all the fleeces, and have them sitting in pillowcases in the cedar chest waiting to be carded and spun! I went with option #1!
I did manage to get three of the seven fleeces skirted before it got miserably cold. However, I got frustrated with having even 3 skirted fleeces just sitting there and nothing I could do with them. I kept trying to come up with some way I could get some of my wool spun. I even considered sending it off to a mill to have it all done for me...but I really wanted to process my first fleeces from the sheep to the yarn myself by hand. Besides, sending it to the mill would be very expensive.
I have been searching the internet most of the winter for ideas. I've been asking friends for ideas. I've been racking my brain for ideas. Then, one day, I got an idea! I had seen some fleece combs on the internet and thought they looked an awful lot like my dog combs! And I remembered I had a spindle I had bought years ago, but never really learned to use properly, and I was sure I still had it. It had to be packed away in a box from our last move. So, I decided I would first hunt down that spindle. I mean, what would be the point of washing and preparing a fleece if I no longer actually had the spindle? Then I would just have a skirted, washed and dried fleece sitting in a bag in get the picture! Of course, it wasn't where I first thought it would be...but it WAS in the last place I looked!
Well, once I found the spindle, I had to do a little adjustment to it (it needed a hook), and then I washed up some fleece from Zinnia (the ewe I lost right after shearing to an attempted escape-gone-bad).

The fleece took forever to dry in this cold, but I took the time to watch some videos on You Tube about using a drop spindle. And, finally, I had some nice locks to comb. Here is a video of me combing some fleece.

Here's a bundle of combed fleece.

Here I am, using my newly-modified drop spindle. Okay, yes, Greg took three videos of me using it, but I was biting my tongue in every single one, so they didn't make it into my blog!

And here is my first product...a very nubbly "novelty" yarn.

It may not work well for socks, but I have big plans for this yarn!


  1. Awesome Brenda!! That is what my first yarn looked like on my spindle. Just keep practicing. Once you get the hang of it with the spindle,then when you get a spinning wheel the learning curve is much easier (atleast it was for me). I was going to try and get all my fall (and last spring) fleeces washed before I started shearing this spring, but it looks like I did not make it. Still have four fleeces to wash.
    I sure hope you get your heating figured out before next winter. Winter is my only time to really take time with all my fiber stuff.

  2. Brenda, The yarn looks awesome! I am drooling over the fleece!! It looks very nice!! I think you did a great job!:)

  3. Awesome job! It looks great! There is alot to be said for perseverance! So glad for you. I hope your heat gets squared away by next winter. Meanwhile at least Spring is on the way (though you'd never know it by me just got clobbered with 20 inches in Skaneateles)!

  4. Spring is just around the is easier to process our wool when the weather is nice. I think your hand spun yarn looks very nice.

  5. Thanks, Ladies. I hope to get better and better. It might help if I took an actual class! But I'll keep practicing!

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