January 4, 2010

From sheared fleece to yarn in 3 steps

Alot of people ask me how I get yarn out of sheared sheep's fleece.
Here's a small glimpse into the process:

Step 1: Washing Fleece: after the sheep is sheared, the fleece needs to be washed to remove dirt, vm (vegetable matter), debris, and lanolin, the oily substance found in sheep's fleece (which is often used in lotions for its moisturizing qualities).  This needs to be done with very hot water and a gentle soap without too much agitation to prevent felting:

Step 2: Once washed and dried, it then needs to be carded (combed) to prepare the fiber for spinning.  think of it like brushing your hair, it removes knots, and makes it soft and fluffy, and aligns the fibers.  I used my antique madewell drumcarder to do this and ended up with 4 squishy batts:

Step 3: Then the batt can be separated into small, long strips called roving to use for spinning.  The spinner can choose to make the yarn a single ply (one strand), 2-ply (2 strands) or even 3 ply using the navajo plying technique.  Here is the 1 ply yarn I spun on my ashford traditional:

Once the yarn is spun, the spinner needs to wind it off into a skein. Then you need to set the twist, meaning a light washing to make sure the yarn stays twisted and to stablize it.  I do this in my sink with warm water and a little bit of gentle, biodegradable soap.  Then I gently squeeze the water out of it, and roll it up in a towel and step on it to remove as much water as I can.  It is then often "whacked"; meaning hit against a hard surface like a wall, rock, or bathtub to distribute the twist evenly (great therapy!) and hung to dry.  Once dried, it can be wound into a center pull ball and you are ready to crochet or knit it!

Not sure what I will make with this yarn, but I will be sure to share when I do!!!

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