Sunday, April 15, 2012

From fiber sorting to pattern decisions

Tabbethia generously gave me three border leicester fleeces. I really had no idea what I was diving into! 

At the farm we skirt, sort and send the raw fiber to a mill that process it into rovings and yarns. I had no idea the amount of work that went into cleaning a fleece. 

One nice day in my mother front yard my husband, dog Layla and I skirted and hand picked through the three fleeces. 

Skirting is the process of removing the belly, leg, face, and head wool from the fleece and usually discarding it. I like to leave it out for the birds or you can also use it as mulch. During shearing most of the belly, face and head fiber will be removed by the shearer but its best to sort through your fleece. The neck is also an area that more then likely you will want to remove because it tends to contain a lot of vegetable matter. 

Sorting wool is really enjoyable to me and my hands! The lanolin which is a natural grease that comes from the sheep is a great moisturizer. Lanolin helps to protect the animals wool and skin against climate and the environment.

While skirting the fleece I discovered that Layla LOVES raw fleece too!

After cleaning the fleeces I saved a few parts that were too matted for yarn. Using wet felting and needle felting I made Layla her own sheep skin rug. I don't think she likes it as much as the smelly wool but it will have to do. I love the way it looks and would love to make a full size one for our living room floor in the future 

While upstate in Cambridge, NY at a fiber processing seminar, I stopped into an antique store. The gentlemen was so sweet and he was showing me everything wool related. He had old skein winders, factory bobbins, wheels and I left with a pair of hand carders. Up to that point I was using Layla's brush to comb the fiber and if you see the pictures of Layla, the brush was really small.

I went home and started carding away! I don't think I will ever get through the fleeces but I did manage to get enough to spin two skeins of two ply yarn using my spinning wheel. 

 I am still not sure what I will make with it, but my husband Nick keeps saying how he wants another scarf. I am thinking an over sized long cabled vest for myself :) 
After the whole process I have a new found respect for yarn! 


  1. It is a large task but one over time you will find many tricks to get you through and also you will find you become OCD about getting it just right. Enjoy the process and Layla has good taste..

  2. I really enjoy it even though it can be a bit tedious! I got some chicken wire and wood today to make a skirting table today so I’m excited about that!

  3. I love the picture of your dog burying himself in that fleece! I have some friends that would be very interested in a sheepskin rug for their babies to hang out on before they get too mobile. Would you mind sharing more about the process? I do needle and wet felt, so I'm also trying to figure it out in my head.

    1. Sure I will do a blog post about it. Great ready to use a lot of muscle grease!