Follow the Fleece – Session One
The Follow the Fleece Project started because I had never sorted a fleece before. Whilst demonstrating the art of spinning at an open farm day at Burwash Manor Farm, I approached the shepherds who were demonstrating how to shear their sheep. I explained that I was looking to aquire a fleece for demonstartion purposes at a future event, to pass on the skills and knowledge required to process sheep fleece into wearable items. The gentleman I was talking to very kindly donated some fleeces to Creating Space, so that we share our knowledge with those wanting to learn.
Thanks to the shepherd’s generosity the Follow the Fleece Project was made real and at the next Creating Space gathering we sorted some of the fleeces we were given.
We began by unrolling the fleeces to see what we’d got. Usually when you buy a fleece for handspinning it will have already been skirted – the dirty and stained areas have to go and the trick is to be ruthless – it only takes one handful of inferior quality fibre to ruin a batch of fine fibre. The other thing we had to look out for were second cuts – where the shearer had gone over the same spot twice leaving the fibres shorter – these need to go too.
Next we looked over the fleece for areas where there had been particular wear – fleeces can vary dramatically from one side to the other, and removed any patches of fleece that looked damaged. We also pulled out kempy bits. Kempy fibres are a little like when human hair goes grey – their texture changes, becoming coarser and often they don’t take dye the same way as the rest of the fleece.
After we’d discarded all of the fleece that wasn’t suitable for any purpose we checked quality, fineness and staple length. Most fleeces are usable for something – coarser fibers are great for rugs and bags whereas fine fibers are better for cardigans, hats and shawls.
So that’s it for session one, next time we’ll be looking at washing fibre so that it can be be prepared for spinning.