Valentine’s Day found Awana and I doing one of our favorite things – visiting a local farm to buy wool –
I was under the impression that the sale would involve last year’s fleeces in order to clean out the barns for the new shearing, but most of the fleeces were fresh off the sheep, Bide-a-Wee having sheared the week before. The weather here in Oregon has been crazy mild – we’ve already got Spring flowers blooming and the trees are leafing out.
There are few things in life I like more than a freshly-shorn sheep’s fleece!
I met Karen from Bide-a-Wee Farm many years ago, in a muddy field outside Scio, Oregon, back when there were actually sheep at the Lamb & Wool Show. Up to that point I had not spun any Jacob wool and only one Navajo-Churro fleece, which was hairy and horrible and colored my opinion of NC fleece for a couple of years.
That year I bought three small Jacob fleeces and one shockingly soft Navajo-Churro. All four fleeces were amazingly soft and I enjoyed every minute working with them. Whenever someone asks me about Jacob or Navajo-Churro fleece I direct them to Bide-a-Wee Farm.
This year we bought three Jacob fleeces and one Jacob/Border Leicester cross fleece. All are multi-colored and soft, soft, soft!
Awana introduced me to Brandy of Whistlestop Shetlands a couple of years ago. I had bought several of her fleeces over the years but never met her in person.We bought six Shetland fleeces, four white, one shades of gray and one as black as sheep’s wool can possibly be –
“What,” you may ask, “are you going to do with all that wool?” Good question! This time we had a plan. Not that we don’t usually have a plan, but THIS time we had a Real Plan – to purchase enough fine wool from shepherds we know to combine with alpaca we already had to make large enough batches to take to our local mill for blending and carding into sliver for spinning.
We took about 25 pounds of wool to the Snow Peak Fiber Mill here in Lebanon back in September. The wool was nice, Romney and Romney crosses mostly, but it wasn’t fine wool and it was dirty, so dirty we feared Kathy wouldn’t take it unless we washed it first, but she said it was fine (for the record, it was dirty, not poopy – we skirted very well 🙂 ) and would be ready in a couple of months.
A couple of months went by and the call finally came in. Three huge boxes of the most fabulous sliver, one a lovely cream color and the other two the medium gray I love so much.
We’ve been spinning it up a bit at a time, loving every minute and decided we were never going to be able to process all the alpaca fleece laying around and the search for the perfect blend-able wool began. It’s not as easy as it sounds because the wool has to have similar staple length and crimp as the alpaca, and we wanted to match colors as much as possible so as not to end up with a muddy brown that nobody likes.
Most of the blends will be about 50/50 wool & alpaca, but one batch will have silk added and one very special batch will be mostly alpaca with only a bit of wool and bamboo. The black fleece is from a male called Blackjack and it is a True Black and it’s mine, all mine!
Updates as events unfold…
UPDATE: Finally tally for this shipment to the mill is 41.5 pounds! Pictures when it comes back in a month or two. We can’t wait to get spinning!