Fleece and an almost wordless Wednesday…

I’ve tried to do wordless Wednesday posts before, but I don’t seem to be able to shut up. Strange that. But despite the weather (hailstorms and thunder at the weekend; not that much better since) shearing time is almost come upon us, and this is a sort-of-wordless post celebrating the fact that I do love fleece:


This originally belonged to a Texel cross from a nearby farm – and I do love fleece but

Normally I get absurdly excited, though not quite to the point of suggesting that shearing feasts be reinstated. But this year I’m a bit flat, partly due to the ongoing health problems (good news: neurologist reckons it’s nothing neurologically serious and that the nerve fibres are not badly damaged; bad news: am still waiting for MRI scan without which we can do nothing and have to come off the painkillers in the meanwhile, ouch, my head), and partly due to the fact that I’m just not that good at fleece wrangling.

fleece 2

(A BFL cross from the same farm.)

Part of me enjoys it, and I certainly manage to make a terrible mess especially when Next Door’s Cat is also involved, which is always. But part of me – the rational part that is not soaking wet and reeking of wet wool – knows that I’m not much cop at it.

I can start with a beautiful fleece, albeit one which is liberally surrounded by a sheep-shitty skirt and decorated with raddle, and manage to reduce it to something that is not entirely – er – useable. Maybe 75% of it is, eventually, on a good day; maybe 50%, maybe less. Not good, though a much more experienced spinner than me once confessed that as she got older and more experienced she threw more and more of a fleece away. That’s because she’s discriminating, not because she’s rubbush at dealing with raw fleece, though.


(More Texel cross)

My new negativity (aka realism) is a shame, because I love the whole idea of controlling the means of production and having absurdly low wool miles to my knitting. But the steaming mounds of wet fleece everywhere, the buckets of mankyness consigned to the compost, the chaos for a whole day, the whole business of carding, etc, without adding lots of unintentional noils by over-processing? Nah. You can buy some lovely roving, quite reasonably, and without becoming over-acquainted with how well gorse spines can hide when the fleece’s original owner has been raised on the hill, foraging under bushes.

Plus, of course, I have got five washed fleeces ready for processing, plus one already processed… and that does make giving into sentiment much less likely. And the money I save on wool I can spend on plants. Though I do have one coloured fleece reserved since last year. It’s been growing up… oh dear.

And a postscript: my reserved fleece (oh, OK, its owner) was unfortunately one of the winter casualties. Sad – he was a ram lamb and had a lovely coloured fleece which he would have passed on when he worked his way up to being the Big Man – but also not so sad: it gets me off the hook. After all, I do HAVE ENOUGH FLEECE…


25 thoughts on “Fleece and an almost wordless Wednesday…

    1. kate Post author

      Isn’t it lovely? Didn’t look quite like that wandering around the field, ho ho… But it’s wonderful at that stage and even my terrible processing skills turning it into spinnable fibre shouldn’t remove all the lustre… hopefully…

    2. Fern

      I’m sorry to hear about your medical problems and I hope you are able to recover fully and quickly.

      Your pictures are lovely and I’m salivating. I myself am going through processing my first raw fleece. After I had gotten it home I noticed I wasn’t too discerning about which fleece I bought and its going to be more work than I had anticipated because of how much vm is in it. I guess there is a learning curve.

      1. kate Post author

        Those Texel crosses are very variable, but the best are gorgeous – Jason’s golden fleece (I expect Greek heroes, looking perhaps like a young Brad Pitt, any minute). You’re so right about the learning curve; I can watch experienced fleece-pickers and I’m still baffled. The vegetation is a pig, but (IMO) the worst is gorse. Brambles don’t seem to stick as much; straw sticks like hell but doesn’t harm you. Er, generally…

  1. ohdebs

    I still have a ton (well, 3) of Navajo Churro to process in the garage in skanky smelling bags. Not excited about it because it is not that soft. But it was free so I feel like I should process it anyway… *waits patiently for the alpaca fiber she ordered from Canada that will be ready for the drum carder*…

    I hope you get some good answers on your condition Kate! xo

    1. kate Post author

      I was given a really erghhhhhh free fleece early on. It worked well as compost, ;-). It’s the skankiness factor – that particular sheep had terrible dandruff and as it was a black fleece (Zwartbles) it really showed up. I had an eBay disaster too, with a Ouessant fleece from an animal that had clearly been a pet and lived in straw. Lots of straw…

      Never tried anything like Navajo Churro. Interesting… or it would be, if I wasn’t dealing with this ******* whiplash-like neck thing.

      1. ohdebs

        Well I thought it might be good for weaving as it is supposedly very strong. But I have yet to get up the energy to warp my little loom. And of course I would have to spin up enough to do more than a couple of the slots in the heddle. LOL.

        1. kate Post author

          Weaving takes sooooooo much more yarn, I think that’s very brave.How about weaving sticks or a peg loom? I saw a very effective rug made of lots og strips from weaving sticks sewn together – beautiful. And another friend had a bag…

  2. islandthreads

    being realistic is something we all have to face at times, I know nothing about washing, carding and spinning fleece, though I imagine it’s a lot of work, I love the shine and colour of the third fleece you show, I hope they get a move on with your MRI scan, mean while take care, Frances x

    1. kate Post author

      You’re right, Frances, we do. I keep trying to convince myself of that!

      I’m having to turn down work at present – perils of self-employment – so the scan should be soon as it’s therefore been marked up as urgent. Keep everything crossed!

  3. sarahbutters

    I am getting much more discerning, it’s been nearly 20 years now and I am finally managing to not get so carried away at this time of year. Tonight I kept my nerve and managed to turn down the white Wensleydale fleece that I had gone for as it wasn’t up to scratch and instead buy the most beautiful jet black Wensleydale for a fiver. I turned down two on Monday as well although next month I am committed to buying three. I belong to a group so am able to do swaps and sell fleece on which helps. Without going into the mohair and alpaca, I have six fleeces on the go from last year.. not bad in a two up two down, thankfully with a garage as big as one floor of the house!
    I have neck issues and find that the Alexander Technique works wonders it is so effective that I have no need for pain killers having been in a position in the past of finding walking from one end of our small market town to the other or driving 10 miles or sitting through a film at the cinema a feat of endurance.

    1. kate Post author

      It’s hard, isn’t it? I couldn’t have resisted a jet black Wensleydale either! I keep looking at the sheep in afield I go past regularly – they belong to the people I often get fleeces from – and find myself thinking ‘that one.. hmm, that one… or that one…’. But I must resist. I forgot the two rubbish fleeces I’ve got in the loft when I worked out how many I’ve got, destined to become cushion fillers.

      I’d wondered about the Alexander Technique, so that’s good to know, and we have a really good teacher round here too. Once we know for sure what’s actually going on it will make life – and treatment choices – so much easier. I’m going to start nagging about the scan if I don’t hear today.

      1. sarahbutters

        It might be worth having a chat with an Alexander teacher as you don’t necessarily need a diagnosis for it to be effective and it is a very gentle therapy in as much as there is no manipulation involved. The therapist is allowing the body to heal itself it is not prescriptive and there are no beliefs or theories attached. The other incredibly effective therapy is cranio sacral therapy. Getting off soapbox now!

        1. kate Post author

          No, feel free to stay on your soapbox! I’m going to have a word with the AT teacher and see what she thinks; I want to get on and just do something. Thanks for motivating me!

      2. Pia

        I spoke to a guy at a party last week who had tried Alexander for neck issues dating back to an accident in his youth. He said every time he came out after a session he needed to adjust his rear view mirror in the car because he’d gotten that much taller!

        1. kate Post author

          Right, that’s it, I’m definitely booking a session – as someone who is just 1.56m tall (thanks, my Breton heritage), I could do with a few extra centimetres!

        2. Pia

          I’m not taller and I don’t think I have Breton ancestors, but please let me know if it works! 😉

        3. kate Post author

          AT teacher away for a fortnight. Am condemned to spend another two weeks at just over 5’… (If I had £5 for every time someone had said ‘good things come in small parcels’ to me, I’d be able to afford new legs by now.)

        4. sarahbutters

          My son George used to call me his little mummy through having to look along the row of heads and then down in order to find me in the playground when he came out of school.
          You might enjoy Sarah Chatwin’s blog in the meantime, she can give you plenty to be going on with. The laying down practice is very good, I think she gives advice on how to get started.

  4. knitsofacto

    I do hope you get that scan soon, you seem to have been waiting for ages. Hubby had one recently after quite a short wait. (Good news: he does have a brain in there!) You must be so fed up with it all x

    1. kate Post author

      Am hoping my scan will show the same!! I’s be a lot less fed up IF I COULD ONLY KNIT AND SPIN. Oh, and work, mustn’t forget that.

      There’s not really been that much messing about, it’s just that I’ve fallen into a bit if a cross-disciplinary gap – neurology and ENT. But the neurologists have got the bit between their teeth now, which is fab (especially as neurology services round us are supplied by outreach from the world-class-and-then-some Walton Centre).

  5. Pia

    Crossing my fingers you get that neck back in business soon.

    I think the same about fleece. Why? when there is so much lovely top ready to go. Last year I thought, ok I’ll try it with these free, mucky Dorsets that I got. With straw. (I’m only now getting to carding and spinning because I was kinda hoping for a drumcarder in my future). It’s not nice yarn, definitely not for knitting, even if they had been shorn properly. So what have I done? Said yes I’ll take the fleeces this year too, from the same goddam sheepies. As well as 5 kg of Gotland lamb and ditto Wensleydale (first batch of which I managed to felt after reading they don’t).

    1. kate Post author

      Ha ha – resistance is futile! (Mind you, the Gotland – yum, yum…)

      Last year I ended up putting some round my beanpoles as fleece is supposed to deter slugs (it certainly deterred this spinner, which is why it ended up round bamboo canes instead of me). It didn’t. They just slimed over it.

      PS:I managed to felt an unfeltable Lleyn. You are not alone.


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