Experiments in Raw Fleece – Sourcing The Goods

I’m nothing if not enthusiastic about something I really love, and I love spinning. Honestly, I can’t give you a good answer why I waited so long to get back into it, and I’m rather lamenting the lost time, but that’s OK. I’m back in it now, and I’ve been spinning fast and furiously, getting myself re-familiarized with the techniques.

But this is really what I want to talk about in this post. A whole lot of fleece.

A few weeks ago I was searching around, looking for some fleece from a local sheep farm. I’m not just interested in the whole spinning process – from prep to finished yarn – I’m also interested in finding local sources for my supplies. I’d to tell you that I’m incredibly high minded, and espouse a bunch of rhetoric about how that’s just better, but the fact of the matter is, I just like finding stuff as local to me as I can. I like being able to meet the folks that run it, I like ensuring the quality that I’m getting, and I like to save shipping costs as much as possible. There’s a whole big discussion to be had about local versus non-local, but maybe not on this blog (it’s a really big discussion, and as things so often are, there’s no simple answer for everything).

But I digress.

Raw Merino/Romney wool
So I started searching around, and my first find was a farm with a flock of Tunis sheep, but they had already sheared and sold all their wool, so that one was a bust (although they were very nice and told me to contact them in mid-February next year before shearing so I can get a fleece).

Then I happened upon an ad online, advertising wool from a Merino/Romney flock. I was a little worried that they had already sold off all their fleece, but I was in luck! Trickle Creek Farms, about six hours northwest of me, had a selection of Merino/Romney cross and Friesian fleeces still for sale.

And more in luck – they were heading my way soon and offered to meet up with me to grab some fleece from them.

Raw Friesian wool.
Fast forward to March 23rd, and I got to meet a lovely bunch of folks and acquired my full Merino/Romney fleece, and half a Friesian fleece. I knew I wanted the Merino/Romney for sure when I contacted them originally, but I was really pleased to see they had another breed I could try out as well. Everything I found online indicated that the wool is almost never used, since Friesians are primarily used for milk, but let me tell you, it feels quite soft (even still somewhat dirty and with all the lanolin still in). I’m really excited to see how it spins up.

The fleeces are really lovely – very clean (considering they haven’t been cleaned at all), and nice strong staples. The Merino/Romney is about 3″ and the Friesian is about 6″.

It’s still a bit too cold here to start processing outside, so I’m planning on doing a smaller batch of processing (think a few grams of each) just to get a feel for the wool and the process.

Did I mention I have no idea what I’m doing?

I hope to do the washing this week, so hopefully by next Sunday I’ll have a very small batch of washed fleece to show you, and if I’m feeling particularly industrious, maybe a small sample spun up.

Lessons Learned
    Start contacting farmers in later January or early February to get in on the fleece – shearing happens earlier than I thought
    Give every fleece a try – it might surprise you
Helpful This Week

As an aside, I plan on listing out these lessons & what has helped me this week at the end of these posts – just as a quick resource for anybody new to this whole process as well.

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