Monday, May 3, 2010

New Fleeces or I'm Such a City Slicker!

I decided to purchase a fleece from Carolyn and Ricky Beasley of Heelside Farm in Four Oaks, NC. I've never purchased a fleece before and so of course had no idea of what to do once I bought one. I was given a fleece years ago from a local historic site, but it's still in a former kitty litter container with debris attached (I did wash it many times over). Carolyn hooked me up with Zeilinger Wool Company in Michigan and I have directions of where to send it to be processed into roving. Of course, going to buy one fleece is like going to a yarn store to buy one skein of yarn. They were all so tempting and soft. I decided on two, one from a yearling Border Leicester and one from a Border Leicester/Columbian cross. Carolyn noted "for future reference" that this sheep throws beautiful lambs. She also advised me to wash them first to try to remove as much lanolin as possible before sending it off. Lanolin is the oily substance that sheep produce to keep themselves as waterproof and dirt proof as possible. It doesn't help the carding machines, however, so on the way home, I toyed with the idea of how best to wash them. I had all intentions of packing them up the next morning and shipping them off. Ha!
First of all, wool doesn't just stick to itself, it hooks onto everything in its path. After bending over a galvanized tub with the first fleece for hours, I knew this time I needed a better approach. I considered buying a tarp and spreading it out on the ground, then using the hose. In hind sight, this may have been a better idea. I stopped at Wal Mart on the way home and purchased two $5.00 baby pools and a hand pump. They blew up pretty easily. I spread each fleece in a pool to keep them separate. Then I brought out the hose. The water browned up pretty fast and I realized I didn't have a way to drain it. Back to the garage to retrieve a large aluminum can waiting for the recycling bin. This worked pretty well, except it looked like I was wasting a lot of water. I also realized I'd be outside for a while. Back to the garage for a bucket to pour the water in. It didn't take long to fill the bucket which was then alternately poured on some sad hosta I had planted in the backyard. Hose, dip out water, carry bucket, water plants, etc., etc., until the first fleece seemed respectable enough to ship. Back into the house, because of course I hadn't thought to bring down my bottle of Eucalan. I lifted the fleece into a clean bucket, filled it once again with water and now with a squirt of Eucalan to soak and rinsed the pool.
When I started on the yearling fleece, it seemed too big for the pool. I divided it into halves and proceeded as before. There has to be a better way to do this, but if there is, I'm not aware of it.
Now to wait for the fleeces, now squeezed out and returned to the cleaned pools. Next day - they're still wet! The pools are not the best place to lay the fleeces out, but I was on my way out of town to visit my Mother so they sat. I hauled them into and out of the garage for two days in the pools - during the day, they sat outside in the air, back to the garage at night. One nice thing about them is that they'll fold up in your hands to carry.
Monday night - they're not dry yet! Okay, think. What else can I do? I don't have a large wire rack, which would be best to air dry them all around. It also looks like we're finally going to get some rain. I remembered two sweater dryers I had used for wool pieces before. I laid these out over an old sheet on our attic floor and spread the Cross fleece over both. I only had two, so I needed an alternate for the yearling fleece. I did discover that canteen gourds make good props for the ends. I had a couple of Rubbermaid lids nearby and slid them under the end of the sheet and spread the fleece over them. I had one stacking container with a slotted bottom, so part of the fleece went in here. The rest I did leave in the pool, but spread out thinly for now. We'll see how this works. I'd like to try for mailing these off this week. I've seen the finished product from Zeilinger's and can't wait to get these back. They do an excellent job.
So, if any of my readers have been in my situation and have better solutions, let's hear them. I'm all for creative ideas. I can foresee a trip to the hardware store soon for more ideas. And, if this has inspired you to start from the fleece and proceed through the entire sheep to shawl or sweater process, there will additional fleeces for sale soon at the 2nd Annual Carolina Fiberfest in Raleigh, NC May 21-23, 2010. Follow the link for location and directions:

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