I’ve been processing raw fleece, the kind just fresh off the sheep. ? These pictures are ones only a spinner or weaver would really appreciate. Well, the process begins with pasture and feeding. If your sheep lies in straw, there will be lots of shit and straw and bits in the fleece. Have you noticed that wool is very curly stuff. Imagine the tangles you have without cream rinse in your hair? Some folks raise their sheep in grass and there’s nothing (debris) in the wool. Even better, keep your sheep in a coat. Then there’s little extraneous stuff at all. As you can imagine the price rises with each step of caution. Some fleece will sell upwards of $20 per pound. A finished spun ounce ready to knit or weave can cost around $8 and up. If you lose 50% of a fleece to waste, you are still ahead of the game. It’s all complicated in the processing. I won’t bore you. If you have read to this point, keep in mind that there is a lot of washing and that there is much that can go wrong to ruin an entire batch. Just skip ahead and use the end product.
In many ways it’s like photography. You can press the button and press “print” and you are all done. Don’t bother with the process. I started “cheap” and “on a severe budget.” Load your own film, develop your own film, and print your own images. Black and white, and later, color, it’s economical. Or you can look at it that you controlled your own process. The big driver for me was the $.
The fleece you see starts as locks. You know, Goldilocks. And it needs to be separated, cleaned, and washed. This stuff was a dream. It washed up pure white and fluffy as a cloud. Amazing stuff!! I’ve been washing a lot of fleece lately. It’s got a lot of lanolin. It’s got lots of “bits.” This stuff washed up like a dream. Lucky! Funny, it wasn’t that expensive to purchase. Lucky again! Trust me, we felted, and tossed out lots of other fleece. That’s built-in waste. When you get stuff this good and easy, it’s so tempting to turn to going the easy path. Nope, I’m still cleaning. No more film, no more darkroom, I’m processing fleece by hand. There’s satisfaction in it. If you read all the way to the end – congratulations, you know how to process a fleece. Otherwise, just go to the store and get your stuff off the rack. We do both now. Options are good.
What’s felt? Well you have probably felt felt. It’s a soft material. The definition is more like: take some raw wool and put it under pressure and rub; the fibers will lock and form a sheet of material. Or you may use a needle to lock the material into shapes. How about a giraffe, or a dragon, or a heron? Yup, she did all of that and more. It was enormous 9as in more then 15 feet in size) and she demurred on how long it took to do the giraffe. I’d have lost interest long before the neck ever got done. Hey, it’s art! My (felt) hat’s off to you.
In order to get yarn you start with a sheared fleece. The fleece is washed. It’s turned into roving. Then, it’s spun. After that you knit or weave. If you skip the spinning, you can felt. Felt? The would be pressing the fibers together until they form a sheet of fiber all on their own. Like art, this is the raw material for creating a myriad of things. I’m more interested in the process than in creating art. People like came to buy the raw materials. Sometimes it’s the journey more than the destination. It’s all here. If you know fiber – ie spin and weave or knit – then you recognized the various states I mention. Otherwise, enjoy the patterns and color.
Maryland Sheep and Wool – Festival. Say it and it’s an instant party. There was a huge crowd. The ominous weather forecast did nothing to lessen the attendance. Folks are a bit quirky. I don’t see knitting and sheep tattoos every day. Who spins in a dinosaur costume? Look closely. Bring your kids. The poor kid in the wagon was shivering. It’s a whole lot easier to carry your kid. There was no room to maneuver a stroller. Yes, it was that crowded.
I made these (heddles and the jig)! The jig was supposed to look more professional. This is the experiment – the jig made out of scrap before the final design is agreed upon. Heddles? Any weaver knows. They are made commercially. But we have an old barn loom. The request was for a handmade look. I’ve made/built the harnesses. Why not go ahead and make a jig for heddles too? Are you with me? No? Don’t fret. I have to tie the 8/2 cotton with (surgical) knots to create a hole/eye at the top, bottom, and middle. They need to be consistent. i.e. they need to be uniform. Damn! It ain’t easy. But yes! I started tying the heddles up and realized that my precision tying surgical knots gave me a distinct advantage. Don’t ask. I started. Then I was told there were four harnesses and that each harness required 200 heddles each. Maybe 400. But 200 for now. Per/each! Damn! I got myself into a load of work. Maybe I should make a nicer jig. Nah! No! That would change the eye holes. Yarggggh! Oh well! I’m back to work (OR). Remember that book? – Everything I learned in life, I learned in kinder garten. The very good news is that this operation can take days/weeks as opposed to an operation which is finished in the same calendar day. Oh yeah! I bet you have trouble even knowing what a heddle is? I’ve got about 750 to do as I write this post. Oh boy oh boy…
One shot. Grab shot. Street photography. There’s nothing pretty. It’s out of focus. I did not get another image. The woman modeling was clowning around up and down the aisle at the fair. She pirouetted as the dress maker shot video. Lighting was simply not up to getting a motion stopping image. But, the image was enough to catch my eye as I edited. Sometimes you miss by that much…or, you are just that close….
It’s “fiber.” That includes knitting and weaving. There are lots of knitters. There are fewer weavers and spinners. The two groups are pretty separate skills. So, it’s called fiber to get everyone to gather under one roof. Angora fiber can be spun straight from the rabbit. It’s fussy enough that the fiber is quite expensive. The sticks are scarf/shawl pins. If you need to ask, you don’t wear them. And, this takes me to the question of taxidermy. How do you stuff a trophy fish? It looks fake to me. That’s the trick I suppose. The plaque says it was a caught fish. It sure looks artificial. But then again, I’m no fisherman. Onward… to the next fiber fair. Hey! It’s been a while since I did a post with a fish. I guess this is not the case now. But…
Built them. Me. It was another simple (learning) project. Ha ha, you can’t even see the wood (mistakes). We have a lot of cones of yarn. Projects line up. You can never have enough “stash.” Just ask any weaver. I’ve been to a few estate sales. There were tons of cones on sale for pennies on the dollar. I would have to say that the cones move from home to home circulating from weaver to weaver. Sometimes things are made… Anyway, there is a lot of stuff and an excellent color palette. And I hope some product is forthcoming. Meanwhile it’s nice to see color in the room. Oh! The cords are all up out of the reach of the cats.
New! We took apart silk worm cocoons. Yeah! That’s an actual worm inside. Don’t ask. PETA will be all over me. I eat meat too. Steak! Ham! Chicken! I’m not against them. (Ambiguous?)
Okay, soak the cocoons and then wind the silk off. I watched the YouTube. And then we screwed it all up. What I know? Wet warm water. A single fiber has great pull apart strength. We started with a couple – three strands and got it up to six or so. It worked pretty well. It looks a mess but in a beautiful way. Now too wash and then process. It’s not over. More to come…
It beats me? This cloth was crafted with the little mountains. Oddly mesmerizing, I was amazed at the ingenuity. How’d they think of that? Brilliant!