Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles
Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Here are three bags of lovely fleece waiting to be washed. They are rolled up and stored temporarily in plastic bags, which are left open at the top so the wool can "breathe".
After trying several different ways, I've finally found a comfortable way to wash my fleeces nicely. I started with five gallon buckets and horse water buckets with small amounts of wool, until I was confident I could get all the lanolin out. That progressed to larger water containers and more wool. Then one day I found this great wash tub in a basement of an estate rummage sale for ten bucks. Sold!! I brought it home, scraped it clean, and spray painted it the color I had sitting around from another project. Then I painted the little sheep on it, just for fun! It works great! The double walls hold the heat of the water. The depth of the basins allows the fleece to open up in the water for greater cleaning ability of the soap. It works great and makes washing fleeces quite easy.
After washing, I lay the fleece out on a screen door to drip dry outside overnight. The screen door was made by dear hubby for the chicken coop, so the screen is actually hardware cloth, not screening like on your house windows. It is strong, and lets air move through. Perfect. (Dear hubby also made panels for his ducks, which swiftly became additional fleece drying racks, too! He doesn't mind, the ducks stick around and are a joy to have waddling about.) I was going to show you a picture of fleece drying, but I see the pictures are on our other computer, which crashed! I'll take more soon and post those.
Once the fleeces are nearly dry (overnight or so), I bring them either under our front porch roof to finish drying, or if it is freezing outside, I bring them into an upstairs spare room that is quite warm in cold weather, which dries the fleeces beautifully. When dry, the fleeces get "bagged" in sheets, tied off, labeled, and stored until I need them.
Here are pictures of dry fleeces. It is really hard to get nice pictures of fleece!
This fleece is so dreamy, that I can hardly resist just taking a handful and sitting down at my wheel with it.
This gray fleece was huge, and is yielding lots of beautiful yarn. Handspinning allows for all the colors to present themselves in the finished yarn. You get amazing depth and beauty in the colors as they twist into the yarn, giving you a unique and all natural product. No fading, no washing out!
I love washing shetland fleeces as they are less greasy than commercial sheep, and shrink less when washed. They present a world of beautiful natural colors, and are small enough to manage when washing. I get many skeins of yarn out of each fleece, but soon it is all spun up, and I get to spin another sheep's fleece. I once spun a commercial white fleece...I was so bored with it by the time I FINALLY got done spinning it! I seemed like it took forever. I was surprised at my feelings! Seems even though I try other fleeces (and they are nice, too), I can never wait to get back to shetland fleeces!