Spring means shearing season.. shearing day at Feederbrook Farm (so much fun!!) and all the posts on Ravelry got me a little excited. I seem to have acquired a few more fleeces.
The first is a Black Welsh Mountain fleece, 3 lbs 1 oz of Mabli, from Desert Weyr. This breed wasn't even on my radar until I saw some black black yarn on Rav. Most "black" sheep fleece is really dark brown, with or without sunburnt tips. But these sheep have rich black fleece, and the particular one I received had been covered to prevent sunbleaching and dirt/veg.
I was a bit wary about working with Welsh Mountain fleece, as it can be a bit coarse and has kemp - short bits of hair in among the wool. However, it's proving to be enjoyable and rewarding to process. The staples of the fleece that I have are fairly short, about 2-3". It's clean, low grease, and washes up easily. After washing, I can sit on the deck and comb the kemp fibers out with a dog comb.. then later I can sit inside and comb the fleece up with my Valkyrie combs. And the sample I've washed, flicked, and combed so far is plenty soft enough for me. (But then, I like wooly wools. And I haven't gotten to the coarsest part of the fleece yet.) I'm loving it.
The second fleece is a touch over 1 lb from a Gulf Coast Native sheep named Chana. She's owned by Margrett of Running Moon Farm. The GCN is a fascinating rare breed that has adapted to living in the hot, muggy south United States. They have a very soft fleece with the most tiny crimp. One of the really cool things about the breed is that they have developed resistance to some gut parasites. Oh, and that they can live and produce spinnable fleece in Florida!
The staple length of Chana's fleece is 3-4", and is low grease. This is the first I've bought that hasn't been covered. That, combined with the fact that the fleece is quite fine, had me a bit scared about processing it. However, I happened to purchase a copy of Margaret Stove's Spinning for Lace at about the same time as I received this fleece, and now have the confidence to work with this fleece. I've washed up 2 test batches - the first, a cold soak overnight and then my normal washing (hot wash in Dawn, 2-3 rinses in water). This method left me with still dirty, jumbled tips, but the remaining dirt flicked out with combing. However! I then watched the above-mentioned video, and tried washing a batch using Margaret's method of lock by lock. This method was super-easy, resulted in lovely clean, open locks, and was actually much quicker.
Cold-soaked, normally washed fleece on left. Lock-by-lock washed fleece on right.
A small staple of the GCN fleece next to my dog comb. It's still hard to see, but look at that teeny tiny crimp!
The third fleece is actually only part of a fleece. I'm participating in a Pound Along (PAL) with some Ravelers on the Gleason's Fine Woolies forum. We're each using a pound of fleece from one of Joanna's lovely Bond sheep to process, spin, and knit into a shawl. The fun will be seeing all of the different results from the same fleece.
The Bond sheep is a much younger breed than the Black Welsh Mountain or the Gulf Coast Native. Unlike the former 2 breeds, which are used for both meat and fiber, the Bond sheep has been bred primarily for its fiber. The staple lengths on this one are 4-5", nice chunky staples, lovely uniform crimp, and soft luster. Drool-inducing. I washed up a few locks using the abovementioned lock-by-lock method, and they turned out beautiful. However, I think I will be washing them in batches (in tulle) when I do the rest. We'll see.
Part of the fun of getting these 3 very different fleeces has been the challenge of figuring out how best to scour and process each one. I'm still learning, and am hoping that I won't seriously mess up any of them. Thankfully, there is a ton of information freely available on the internet, and fleece happens to be more forgiving than not. I think we'll be okay.
Left to right, scoured locks of: Black Welsh Mountain, Gulf Coast Native, and Bond.