This year Blossom [above centre] had her fleece sheared for the first time and it is deliciously soft. I knew it was going to good as I’ve touched her fleece pretty much every day since she was born. She loves a good chin tickle. Anyway, her fleece felt even softer once sheared so I decided that I wanted a garment for myself made from this fleece. Something snuggly to see me through winter in my workshop.
Sampling was required.
I already had a big queue of fleece to wash so I decided to sample Blossoms fleece completely raw.
After lightly skirting and removing any obvious vegetable matter, I took little handfuls and opened the locks [fluffed it up] with my fingers. I then used hand carders to create airy rolags.
The weather was very hot at the time, so this was quite an easy process. If you are going to try this process in cold weather, its worth putting the fleece somewhere warm for a few hours first. Cold lanolin does not make fluffing and carding very easy as its sticky.
The rolags were spun into singles using a long draw method and then plied. I was aiming for a DK weight finished yarn.
Woollen spun yarn [carded into rolags and spun long draw] is light, fluffy and airy. The resulting fabrics are squishing and warm. Worsted yarns on the other hand [combed and spun with a short forward draw] are smooth, dense and drapey.
The resulting yarn sample weighed 50.16g and was a pretty colour grey. [above left] This grey was dirt though, as Blossom is a white Shetland.
To get the yarn clean I filled a large stainless steel mixing bowl with very hot water with a little bit of fairy liquid in it. By hot, I mean too hot to put my bare hands in. If the water isn’t very hot, the lanolin will not dissolve, and the finished yarn will not be able to fluff up to its maximum due to the sticky lanolin. The yarn was placed in the bowl and left on the aga for an hour or so before carefully lifting the yarn out, draining the water and repeating the process. Leaving the bowl on the aga hot plate meant that the water didn’t cool down between rinses.
It took about five different soaks until the water was fairly clear. Then I did one last soak in hot water with no detergent.
The yarn was then squeezed of excess water and hung on the washing line to dry. I do not add weight to the yarn as it dries.
Once completely dry, I weighed the soft squishy yarn. [above right]
The original weight was 50.16g so that’s a loss of 12.65g.
That’s almost 25% weight loss in dirt, grit, sweat and lanolin.
If you are buying a raw fleece with a specific project in mind, that weight loss is worth considering from the outset. It’s also the reason why, if you send fleece to a mill to be spun, you should expect a considerable weight loss in the yarn returned to you.
I’m happy with my sample which measured at a plump DK / Aran weight. Blossom’s full fleece won’t be enough for the sweater I have planned so I’m going to add some of her mums fleece [as a separate yarn] to make a ‘mother and daughter’ sweater. #motheranddaughtersweater
As wool prices are so low this year, why not find your local sheep farm and spend £5 or £10 on a raw fleece? It will occupy you for hours and hours, cleaning, spinning, dyeing knitting [weaving, crochet etc.] then years and years of wear or use of the finished item. If that’s not value for money I don’t know what is! #supportbritishwool #localwool