Thursday, May 28, 2015

Finding a gem of a fleece

Today I have been working with a beautiful Icelandic fleece I got at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I didn't get it at the fleece sale - if there had been any Icelandic there, they were gone by the time I was looking for them. I bought mine at the Icelandic Breeders booth. There were several fleeces there and I looked at possibly all of them until I found one that really caught my eye.

The one that caught my eye wasn't as large as most of the others, and it cost less per pound than the others. It was white with small brown patches throughout, but what really caught my eye was that the thel (the softer part of the dual coat) looked exceptionally soft and wonderful. The woman I talked to, to ask about it happened to own the farm from which this fleece came. She explained that it cost less per pound than the others because it wasn't skirted. She sounded apologetic about this, but it didn't bother me. I had pawed through the bag and was satisfied that it wasn't exceptionally dirty - in fact I found it  a little hard to believe that it hadn't been skirted. When I said I would like to buy it she asked if I had seen that it was spotted, and I said yes. She seemed apologetic about that, too. I don't know why, because I came out of that booth thinking that I had gotten by far the best fleece of the bunch. And I still think that.

I've been separating tog (the longer, courser part of the dual coat) from thel  today and am looking forward to the day when I can spin the different fibers up. I am really wanting a loom now because I would dearly love to weave this up into a shawl or a small blanket, using the tog as warp and the thel as weft.

I have the contact information for the farm and when I am finished processing this fleece I want to contact the woman and let her know how special this fleece has been. For some reason, I don't think she realized what a gem this fleece was and I want to make sure she knows how much pleasure it's giving me to work with it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival 2015

I had a great time at the 2015 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival over the past weekend. I scored some really lovely fleeces, saw lots of sheep, bought lots of fiber and fiber-related things, took a class with the lovely Maggie Casey, got to be in the same room as said Maggie Casey and Judith MacKenzie at the same time, and watched part of the sheep-to-shawl competition.
 This is a gorgeous mutlti-colored Icelandic fleece that I got at the Icelandic Sheep Breeder's booth. It is just so lovely and I can't wait to start processing it:

This is a very lovely Romeldale x Rambouillet fleece I got. A note tucked in with the fleece said that the owner's sheep hadn't been coated this year because they were hired by Apple to graze under their solar panels to keep the grass shorn instead of using lawn mowers (the coats snag on the panels). It's so nice when a little information is included with the fleece:

I also got  a very lovely California Red fleece, and a very lovely Finn x BFL fleece. I'm excited about all of my fleeces this year and can't wait to see what types of yarns they will produce.

As I mentioned, I watched part of the sheep-to-shawl competition. It started at 8:00 AM with the shearing of the sheep and ended at about noon with the judging of the finished and washed shawls. The shawls were auctioned off after the completion. Here are some pictures of the teams, they all had themes, the most notable of which was the OZ team. In some of the pictures you can see the freshly-shorn fleeces that the teams are carding, spinning, and weaving into their shawls:

And last but not least, here is a picture of a little Barbados Blackbelly lamb. I love walking through the barns with the sheep pens, there are so many different breeds all in one place. The Barbados Blackbellies  were very distinctive and are prized for their lean and mild-tasting meat. They are a hair breed, meaning that they don't produce wool. Their hair is very stiff, almost like a bristle-brush - at least the mother of this little lamb felt like that when I petted her:

My California Red fleece actually has some Barbados Blackbelly in it! California Reds resulted in a cross of Tunis sheep and Barbados Blackbelly. I got a really nice fleece, I think it was the softest of the handful of California Reds there were to choose from. I'm looking forward to working with this wool - I love trying out new breeds and crosses that I haven't had a chance to work with before.

I am busy washing fleeces now, along with all of my other woolly and fiber pursuits.