Wednesday, 28 September 2011

On sheep

Once again my flat smells of sheep, for I have once again acquired vast quantities of raw fleece! This time it's three entire fleeces.

You see, one of the side effects of reenacting is that people tend to offer reenactors stuff that might be useful. Sometimes it's a box of buttons, or some fabric, or some scraps of leather. Other times, it's a gigantic bag full of Jacobs fleece. In this case, a distant relation of one of our members has a flock of Jacobs sheep and gave her this bag of sheepy goodness. At present I'm the only handspinner in our branch, so I get the fleeces. We are, however, plotting and scheming with a major long-term project, since I obviously need more of those in my life.

This friend, Cooking Friend, is a rather splendid embroideress. And Weaving Friend, of course, is quite brilliant at weaving. And I am a spinner. So, we are going to take this lovely fleece and between us turn it into a set of three hoods. I shall wash, prep and spin the fleece. Weaving Friend will weave it into cloth. Cooking Friend will sew and embroider the hoods. And when all of this is done, we shall enter our work into an Arts and Sciences competition. A&S requires documentation, so I shall be photoblogging the whole process with an eye to eventual process write-ups.

Today was nice and sunny, so I hauled the whole lot out into the garden for skirting and sorting. I wasn't initially sure how much fleece there was, or whether it had been skirted and/or washed. The bag itself weighed about 6kg. Contents included one solid chocolate fleece which I'm pretty sure is actually a cross, since Jacobs sheep are chocolate-and-white. This fleece was very coarse and may not be worth the trouble of spinning. There were also two entire Jacobs fleeces, both well-shorn but poorly rolled so the body shape was not intact. Distribution of chocolate fleece and white fleece was about 50/50 on both fleeces, and both colours had consistent crimp, staple length, and texture. It would seem that all three fleeces had already been skirted, since I found almost no dags. One of the Jacobs had dye markings in a small area. Probably washable, but I decided to chuck it rather than fight with it. It wasn't very much of the fleece. A fair amount of plant matter in all three, though it's chiefly straw and not brambly stuff.

I've separated out the white and chocolate sections of the Jacobs. Since I couldn't see the outline of the fleece I made no attempt at sorting it beyond that. Very little freckling, which is fabulous. At this point, I'm going to wash a couple of handfuls of both colours from both fleeces and spin up a sample. There's more grease than I was expecting, so we'll see how well they wash up. I'll also need to liaise with both of the ladies to see what the eventual plans are. I'll definitely keep some of the white separate for turning into dyed embroidery thread, but I'm not sure whether we want black-and-white hoods or something blended.

Weaving-wise, it'll be a 2-ply for certain. I'll need to get Weaving Friend to tell me the desired weight and the amounts needed. I'll probably spin it up into something semi-worsted. The staple's long enough for combing, but the finished fabric will be nicer if it's a bit fluffier.

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