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Farm Working With Wool
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    2,375

    Working With Wool

    I've discovered I really like working with fleeces and ending up with yarn, lol. I started out just buying fiber ready to spin, from my daughter Mandie's friend. At $16 to $18. bucks per 4 oz braid that soon got expensive! So now were getting raw fleeces and skirting, washing, carding, dyeing and spinning it ourselves. I have to say I love the whole process, even though skirting is just a nice word for picking out poop balls and crud! lol.

    Finding fleeces is hard around here. Most of the local stuff is permanently spoken for by the same people every year. Sometimes we get lucky like we did this week and are just given a fleece off of a 4-H sheep/ pet. I'm completely addicted!!! Someone hurry and tell me how to find fleece before I run out again.

    Also, I'm ready to buy a wheel and need any advice you think might help. Daughter has a new Spinolution and its the smoothest I've tried yet. It treadles effortlessly.
    What wheels have y'all tried?

  2. #2
    I have gotten fleeces on eBay, and at fiber festivals as well as from family. There are several fiber forums that I belong to, and have gotten fiber from members as well. Also check Craig's List, and shearer's. While shearer's have no problem with white fleeces, colored fleeces are often treated as garbage, so they might be easier to get.

    I have seven wheels, mostly antique. I love my CPW, but it is also not a good beginners wheel. My Wee Peggy is a pretty good beginners wheel, and my Ashford Elizabeth was my first wheel. Because my default is fine yarn, my wheels reflect that inclination.

    If you haven't joined Ravelry yet, I would strongly recommend you do so. There are many, many enablers there, and lots of really good advice about wheels and fiber. And did I mention major, major enabling!

    Jacki
    McKenziefatwood.com
    JackiGossSpecial-Tees.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    Guys I'm sorry for posting this second post about spinning, I completely forgot I had already posted one not very long ago. Its sad to say this, but I think I've had another mini stroke sometime the last 6 months or so because I'm having some short term memory loss. If so this is my third mini in 12 years.
    I noticed around that time that some common written words looked odd to me.. like I'd lost their meanings. Anyway, if y'all want to nudge me if it happens again its fine with me. Just please understand I'm not doing this on purpose!! I've also been falling because my right foot and leg are not moving the same as the left side. I can't run the farm like this, large animals are dangerous for me now. That's why I'm so excited that I've fallen in love with working in wool. Something productive that I can be useful doing.
    Just a little explanation of why I'm not functioning at 100% these days.
    And lastly, my hubby bought me my wheel that I wanted so much! I finally decided on Spinolutions Echo wheel. It will work even with my right side weakness due to how the treadle functions. I got to try one today and was able to use it very well. When hubby saw how much easier it worked for me he ordered it and surprised me with the receipt! Now I just have to wait three weeks for delivery!!!
    Check out Spinolutions wheels, they're amazingly smooth!
    Last edited by Kathy in WV; 06-02-2017 at 11:45 PM. Reason: Typos

  4. #4
    Glad you found a wheel, I was going to recommend either a double treadle (even though I have five wheels I am thinking of getting one because of mobility issues) and/or an electric spinner. Which I was young and learned to spin in my late 20's I thought electric spinners were silly; at 60 with bad knees and ankle problems, I can see the attraction of a machine that lets you spin you own yarn without having to use your feet to pump it.

    I'm not quite at the stage where that's required but I can see the attraction; a lower cost version of an electric spinner may be to convert an old electric sewing machine; a number of the ladies in the North West Coast tribes do this (and I've seen pictures on line) because it was faster than spinning on wheels to get large amounts of yarn needed for the tourist trade.

    Also if your having trouble skirting fleeces (I can't bend down like that these days) have a family member (or yourself on a good day) just cut with a pair of large scissors all the way around the outside of the fleece (this is called dagging); especially cut off the really bad areas around the stomach and the anus (really rocky and poopy areas).

    Now just close your eyes, breath and throw all the cut off stuff away - yes you COULD spend hours trying to pick it out and clean it but unless things are desperate or their is another family member willing to do the task just pick through the GOOD portions of the fleeces (the area left after you cut the outside rim and stomach parts off). Shake for rocks, sort for bits of debris if the fleece is badly off then wash as usual either in the tub, sink or in a top loading washing machine that you can turn off (or on a very delicate cycle in mesh bags in a front loader).

    It is hard to throw out wool the first time you do this, but it is worth it especially if you have to store unwashed wool for awhile - you can just roll up the fleece you have left that no longer has filth on the edges to rot and put it away until you're up to dealing with it.

    Lots of mail order fleeces these days too, not as cheap as free but still cheaper than most yarn shop prepared spinning fibers.
    expatriate Californian living in rural Ireland with husband, dogs, horses. garden and many, many cats

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    "Now Just Close Your Eyes, Breath And Throw All The Cut Off Stuff Away "

    You must know I'm OCD! lol

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy in WV View Post
    "Now Just Close Your Eyes, Breath And Throw All The Cut Off Stuff Away "

    You must know I'm OCD! lol
    Yep it really is hard to do this the first time, there is a part of us that wants to "save" everything; but it really isn't worth "woolgathering" unless you have too (you probably know this, but the term comes from allowing the very poor to walk around sheep fencing and remove the bits of wool caught on the wires in order to make socks, hats and mittens).
    expatriate Californian living in rural Ireland with husband, dogs, horses. garden and many, many cats

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    Nope, I've never been told where woolgathering came from but it makes perfect sense. I'm getting ready here to wash a fleece for the first time ever and so afraid I'm going to mess up and felt it! Thankfully my daughter has a friend who owns a fiber shop and he's been giving us advice on how to do things. We were able to go observe how he processes his, and he showed us how to card and skirt and comb etc.. He was also dyeing that evening. A friend of mine introduced to a guy who raises sheep as a teacher for FFA kids and he said I can have his fleeces from spring shearing so pretty excited over free wool!!

  8. #8
    I got an old wringer washing machine for processing my fleeces. I am much happier using it instead of a top loader. If I have a very greasy fleece, I can soak longer, and, because it drains by gravity, the fleeces that are prone to felting are less likely to felt.

    Jacki
    McKenziefatwood.com
    JackiGossSpecial-Tees.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Northeast Colorado
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    Congratulations on becoming a fiber addict! I love spinning and the associated fibers arts that I had to start raising my own sheep. I have some fleece from this years shearing that I cant sell at full price because it wasn't covered during the year and contains VM and is pretty dirty. It does clean up beautifully though, into various shades of cream/white. If your interested in some, let me know. I'm selling it for 5.00/lb plus shipping. Its premium quality Merino. There are links in my sig to my farm FB page and web site in my sig below
    Do as thou will, lest ye harm none

    @FatTurkeyFarm on twitter

  10. #10
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    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    Broken Arrow, I'm interested! How many lbs do you have? We might want it all!

  11. #11
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    Northeast Colorado
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    I have three full fleeces waiting to be skirted, so I don't have a total at the moment. I'll get out and get started on that today and can let you know. Prob around 15-ish pounds or so.
    Do as thou will, lest ye harm none

    @FatTurkeyFarm on twitter

  12. #12
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    WV
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    OK, take your time, we have plenty to work with for now so there's no rush
    I'll let my daughter know how many lbs you estimate and set some money aside for it. I love merino!!!

  13. #13
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    Jun 2002
    Location
    Northeast Colorado
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    Glad your not in a hurry! I had my knee replaced a few weeks ago and I'm still not moving very fast LOL!
    Do as thou will, lest ye harm none

    @FatTurkeyFarm on twitter

  14. #14
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    WV
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    I need a knee replacement soon too but I'm still putting mine off. I wish you a speedy recovery!

  15. #15
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    Jun 2002
    Location
    Northeast Colorado
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    Thank you! This is my second one.
    Do as thou will, lest ye harm none

    @FatTurkeyFarm on twitter

  16. #16
    Wish I was closer - I've got a number of older fleeces but I may have to pitch some of them; farmers give them away because the wool board won't take colored fleeces but they also tend to be manky and not the best wool; and I just haven't had time for much spinning traveling with hubby the last year or so on his rotations.
    expatriate Californian living in rural Ireland with husband, dogs, horses. garden and many, many cats

  17. #17
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    WV
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    That would be awesome, but as you say we are pretty far apart!☺ I'd love to be in your shoes, living in Ireland and looking up all the cousins I never knew!

  18. #18
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    Jun 2002
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    Kathy, I have not forgotten you! Ive gotten slammed with a series of sick and needy animals this past two weeks.
    Do as thou will, lest ye harm none

    @FatTurkeyFarm on twitter

  19. #19
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    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    I was serious when I said no rush on it so no worries here. I got my wheel and a stash to work on that is already dyed. When you get to it we will still want it so just let me know, lol. Take care of your animals!

  20. #20
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    Dec 2001
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    Well, I just finished plying, soaking, and thwacking my first yarn! I'm so excited even though its not perfect or even great lol. I'm using all my first yarns to crochet a heavy winter shawl for running in and out to feed chickens etc. Can't be wasting wool and might not be too pretty but its going to be warm!

  21. #21
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    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    My first yarn ... It's a bit thick but hey its my first!
    Attached Images

  22. #22
    Much, much nicer than my first. Congratulations. You are now officially addicted.

  23. #23
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    Looks great!! That will make a fantastic shawl!
    Do as thou will, lest ye harm none

    @FatTurkeyFarm on twitter

  24. #24
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    Dec 2001
    Location
    WV
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    LC, so so addicted! How did I do without this in my life all these years? lol
    Broken,
    That's a nice heavy farm mix wool. I'm not even sure what all is in it but its tough stuff. It'll probably wear like iron (I hope)

  25. #25
    Join Date
    May 2001
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    CA
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    What a great first skein! I've got me 2 new knees that should last me until I die.

    I have reached my quota on fleece right now. I hand pick into locks and store in Home Depot Orange buckets so the bugs and varmints won't get them. I have a cedar closet for the fleece I have washed and are combed, or ready for combing.

    I have 4 wheels: a Kromski Minstrel, a Sonata, a Babe cotton wheel and an ancient electric spinner. There is no activity I love more than spinning and listening to ebooks or Bluegrass. I bought my looms so I could use the wool - lol. I bought most of my equipment at the Woolery https://woolery.com/ before I discovered the Facebook Groups and Ravelry http://www.ravelry.com/ forums : completely twisted and arbitrary spinning ; Fleece market; Beginning Spinning; Love to Dye; Fiber Prep; Spinners Market Place

    I have several friends who are shepherds. They raise Romney, Corriedale and Targhee/Lincoln (Judith River.) These are moderately coarse and not baby soft next to skin grist like Moreno.

    You can buy fleece on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/ or Facebook Groups: All Fiber Equipment For Sale; Fiber Tools and Equipment for Sale; Fiber Processing Equipment For Sale; Handweavers Yarn Dyeing; Raw Fleece for Sale; Fiber prep and beyond: A how to group. These forums have various was to make your own equipment out of cheaper materials.

    You can buy DVDs at Interweave https://www.interweave.com/store/spinning or sign up for online spinning classes at Craftsy https://www.craftsy.com/spinning. You may also have a spinning guild in your area. https://www.weavespindye.org/local-guilds

    youtube also has a ton of good videos on fiber prep and spinning. Blue Mountain Handcrafts https://www.youtube.com/user/bluemtnhandcrafts has some fun videos on fiber blending with combs. (Combs make a sliver for worsted spinning, cards and drum carders make rolags or batts for woolen long draw spinning. (I have yet to master that, but I use my yarn for weaving so worsted is best for that anyway) You can also make your own blending board out of a cutting board and carding cloth or dog combs.

    Have fun!
    "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." George Orwell

  26. #26
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    Dec 2001
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    WV
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    I loved reading your post! You know much more than do so far. My daughter got to start learning sooner than I did, even though it was a lifelong dream of mine. I definitely need to write down all the different places I haven't read or shopped at yet.☺

  27. #27
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    Hey, I've heard that you can use the "poopy" wool as compost or mulch in your garden. I don't know how long it would take to for the wool to degrade, but the sheep poop shouldn't hurt. I don't think it's "hot" like chicken manure is.

    From personal experience: Don't buy fiber (animal fiber) if it has little moths flying around. (At least don't buy it unless you're going to wash and process it *right away*.) I bought a bag full of lovely chocolate brown alpaca fiber, stored it in a bag for later processing. Two months later, went into my fiber storage room and found it filled with moths. :-( Lost almost 90% of my fiber and yarn that way. Expensive lesson...
    Treat each day as one of limitless potential and promise.

    The challenge in life is for HOPE to overcome that sense of fear. For GOOD to overcome evil.

  28. #28
    Oh, Deb!! That's AWFUL!! No, never buy ANYthing (food, bee supplies/woodenware or woolen fabric/yarn/fleece) that has moths anywhere around... because those creatures have an extremely short life cycle, and if they are anywhere near, you can be absolutely certain that they've laid eggs and are reproducing in your material or equipment even if you can't see it.

    I have lots of wonderful wool fabric and yarn in my upstairs sewing storage room (my machines and workspace are downstairs in our great room... by the time we got everything organized and stored away (finally!!) after we sold the dairy cows and hubby had his hip replacement, there really wasn't any room up there for my sewing machines! LOL!), and it's not stored in any special way... no cedar or mothballs. However, I've never (yet) had a problem with woolen moths... and I do check the most accessible fabric periodically. I need to be very careful about bringing in any fleeces or new material (my son is raising meat lambs, and I want to tan several of the hides) so I don't accidently introduce any into the house.

    The same goes for pantry moths... I've never had them, but we see them frequently in the cans where I store corn for the chickens. When I empty a can, I scrape it down thoroughly and dump everything from all the crevices, etc into the chicken pen for them to clean up. When I was seriously storing large quantities of grain as long term preps, I would fill the can with feed, then spread 1/2" of diatomaceous earth over the top, making sure the entire top was covered, without any spaces between the DE and the outer rim of the can. Then I'd put the lid on, and wrap a couple layers of good duct tape around the outside. Those cans never were infested or got the slightest hint of mold, either (I made sure the grain I was storing was very dry..the mill we use has gotten an earful from me a couple of times for bringing damn layer mash!)

    Obviously, you wouldn't want DE in your yarn or wool fabric, but it might not be a bad idea to thoroughly dust the OUTSIDES of whatever bags you are storing fleeces or raw fleece/roving/whatever in. Those rotten larvae can eat through plastic, including plastic of a much heavier gauge than you might think. A dear friend from Palm Beach, Florida (he calls it "the bug capital of the world") had an invasion of pantry moths, and they ate through a plastic TANG CONTAINER!

    Summerthyme

  29. #29
    (Looks like my post vanished, so I'll try again.)

    We have moths in the house, so I seal up all the wool. The finished spun stuff gets put into glass jars with a label - date, sheep breed, number of plys, est. length, and quality. I can use the junky out-of-spinning-practice broken yarns for embroidery or knitted-in contrasting accents, but I don't want to pull that out for socks or gloves.

    The Post Office today delivered several skeins of Upton 3-ply fingering weight wool. They went straight into Ziplock bags as soon as they were unwrapped. I dug out Nancy Bush's Folk Knitting in Estonia for the sock pattern, found the knitting needles, and the ball winder, and just need to get the umbrella swift out of the Connex box.

    Beautiful yarn. I ordered one skin in real indigo, intended for some Old Deefield crewl style blue-and-white embroidery I'd like to put on an 18th century inspired pocket. The colour is sublime. I wish I had about ten more skeins of it.

    Am finishing up a wrapper type "bed jacket" from the 18th century. Blue linen fashion fabric and beige cotton lining. I ordered the Smith&Larkin pattern in a size M. The jacket is a tiny bit snug at the shoulders. It is a nice piece, but I'll add some width and length the next time I make it. Despite the name, the bed jacket was worn in public at the time, a typical choice for farmers and servents, and the lack of fussy detail and simple structure make it suitable for physical labor. Don't want to start socks until that is completely finished.

    I've got 2 and 1/2 yards, 60" wide of charcoal wool fabric in my shopping cart for a skirt (again, 18th century - basic pleats with ties). That purchase probably won't happen until late this month, soonest. Given our unusually warm weather this *winter* it probably won't be worn for another year.

    Yes, junk raw wool makes fine compost. Back in IA, I would put the whole cut from my Shetland flock into the garden. The sheep weren't coated, and the land was all briers, basically destroying the wool. The plants thrived in it.
    Last edited by Faroe; 02-03-2018 at 05:45 PM.

  30. #30
    Etsy has a good selection of raw fleeces.

    At this point, I'm picky about what I spin, and only start with raw wool. Pre-made drum carded rovings are difficult for me to get good results with. I separate out the locks, and space them in rows on sheets of fine netting (The nylon kind they make tutus and costumes out of - about $1 per yard). The netting gets folded multiple times so the locks are contained in rows, and then I quickly hand stitch across to secure it. These are washed and dried as is, and there is no felting, so I can quickly pick out individual locks for combing. The locks remain stored sewn into the netting until ready for use. Just remember to label what has been washed, and what needs washing - prepped that way, it can be hard to see.

    There was a Pinterest post out there somewhere with a lady doing something similar, so by now I expect one could find numerous better descriptions and photos. The netting saves on time and frustration.

  31. #31
    Join Date
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    Thanks all!

    Summer and Faroe - Great ideas! Thank you for sharing them. I'll definitely have to try those ideas the next time I get a raw fleece. (I'd been thinking of double-bagging any new raw wool and then putting it into our deep freezer for awhile to see if that would kill off any moths and/or their eggs.)

    I don't have any unwashed fleeces right now. I do have a washed one that I still need to comb. Also, have quite a bit of yarn and some roving that needs to be spun.

    I'd love to have more raw wool - looking at the crimp is so neat! Also, thinking of the possibilities :-). So many fun projects that could be made!


    Faroe - That's a great idea! Especially keeping the lock structure in place. I'd been thinking of using a delicates washing bag, but hesitate to use our household washer.

    In the past, I've done hand-washing in the sink using metal strainers, blue Dawn dishwashing liquid and lots of white vinegar. Had to go buy heavy-duty blue rubber "Chemical" gloves, to be able to handle the wool in such hot water. (I tried using the thin yellow dish-washing gloves and ended up scalded both hands and wrists. NOT fun. The "Chemical" gloves, I got at Home Depot, and able to protect my hands much better from the heat.)
    Treat each day as one of limitless potential and promise.

    The challenge in life is for HOPE to overcome that sense of fear. For GOOD to overcome evil.

  32. #32
    I've gone big pots of water heated on the stove. One pot can heat while wool is soaking in another that is cooling. We have a big kitchen wood stove, so this can be done efficiently in the winter. (This winter hasn't been cold enough here to bother lighting it yet.)

    You can use long tongs to get the wool out if it is sewn up in the netting.

  33. #33
    My go to for scouring wool is an old wringer washer. I can fill and soak for as long as I choose, and it drains by gravity. Because I don't agitate, even fine wool doesn't felt. The tub is quite large, and I can soak more than one fleece by using bags to keep the fleeces separate.

    Jacki
    McKenziefatwood.com
    JackiGossSpecial-Tees.com

  34. #34
    So, since I didn't want to take the time to prepare wool and spin it, I recently purchased several skeins of yarn for socks. Ordered from a small New England business that sources wool from local farms, and uses plant dyes (the indigo blues are sublime). All good, and the yarn knit beautifully. Was on the site a few days ago looking for some more, and discovered a Pink Pussy hat. OK...so, not ordering from that outfit anymore.

    Was trying to find some other source for non-superwash, no nylon added sock yarn, and ran into a Knit British podcast channel. All good until SHE mentions the pink hats (that march was over a year ago - why is this coming up again?), and that "crack-pot" president she refuses to name. Identical voice to the lady I just ordered some British mohair blend sock yarn from last night. Ugh...Great selections on that site too.

    I really DON'T want to know what these people's political views are!

    Time to get the raw wool stash spun.
    Last edited by Faroe; 02-17-2018 at 10:40 AM.

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