Spinning A Yarn

I don’t hide my identity as a writer (or writer to be as I occasionally feel), but I do have a few secrets here still.  I do not only spin a figurative yarn, I occasionally have been known to spin literal yarn as well.

Most of my creative sharing here revolves around sewing, and even more specifically quilting.  I like sewing projects because they are, relatively speaking, quick to complete.  I cut pieces out and put them together like a puzzle.  I can always see exactly how long I have until I am done, and can even have a level of control over how quickly I finish.  If I want a quick quilt, I cut big pieces; if I want to make the project last, I cut smaller pieces.  Easy to control.

In another life, I was an obsessive knitter.  I may have had a short lived blog about knitting (and no, I will not tell which one, I don’t expect anyone to recognize it anyway), before realizing I simply didn’t have enough to fill the space. Even posting once a week, I felt like I was rushing through projects, simply to have something new to talk about.  I had lost the fun of the process, much like I quickly did with book reviewing.  There are some things that simply don’t fit everyone, and that’s okay by me.

While the sharing of my obsession didn’t stick, the knitting, and other yarn related activities did.  When we moved to Belgium, close to the beginning of winter, it seemed like a good idea to get back into my knitting ways and warm up my family.  Then, an even more brilliant idea occurred to me.  What if I get an entire fleece from a sheep out here, clean it and spin it myself, and then turn it into sweater.  I mean, what could be more of a Belgian knitting treasure than that?

I made a few calls, and found someone who knew someone, and managed to get a fleece.  Even better, I got it for FREE! 

The first problem came in when I realized how large a fleece is.  Do you remember the black sheep from the nursery rhyme?  Baa Baa Black Sheep, have you any wool?  I didn’t think too hard about that answer of, ‘three bags full.’  I didn’t end up with three bags, just two large, overstuffed bags.  I had no idea what to do with this stuff, and I had a lot of it. 

It ended up sitting in my garage for a year.

A month ago, my husband reminded me I do need to deal with this fleece before it is time for us to move.  A full, unwashed fleece might not travel well. 

When we started having a little sunshine, I pulled it out, and began the process of skirting the fleece.  Skirting, for those who are unaware, means laying it out, and pulling yucky stuff out of it.  Surprising as it may be, sheep are not clean animals.  They spend their time outside in mud, grass, and hay, don’t bath regularly, or use any form of toilet paper.  All of that outdoor stuff gets stuck in their wool, and some of it will not wash out easily. 

Now I was not able to meet the sheep who gave me my fleece, but I’m pretty sure his name was Steve, and he was a clean guy.  The other sheep may have had fecal matter in their fluff, but Steve was not okay with that.  Not only did he use toilet paper, but I’m pretty sure he even had a bidet in order to stay extra clean.  In spite of Steve’s great bathroom habits, he did enjoy his mud baths, which is why he still had a bit of brown stuff clinging to his wool coat.  Nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise.

I laid out Steve’s donation to my knitting habits and evaluated the mess, picking out what was not worth washing.

new 004

It might not look it here, but Steve was not real clean.  Check this out next to a portion of washed and carded or brushed pretty fleece.

new 005

You do not want to know the mess Steve left in my bathtub. 

It took me close to an hour to skirt the fleece I had out, and I still have another full bag of Steve to clean.  When I picked up Steve’s fleece, they told me I could easily get another free fleece the next year, and I am glad I did not take them up on this.  I like spinning, but cleaning the fleece is a lot of exhausting work, and it left my craft room smelling like a farm.  I am happy I tried this, but I don’t think I would want to do this regularly.

I still have a lot to do with Steve, and maybe sometime this winter I will be able to show you the Steve sweater.  Until then, wish me luck in cleaning my tub.

And for anyone getting and cleaning their own Fleece of Steve the Sheep, you can find the great tutorial I used, right here.  It’s a nice, easy to understand, simple process. 

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