Sunday, 12 July 2009

Local fleeces and... dog fibre?!

The fleece man rang! I'd started to think that the man I met outside my Mum's house during the Ulverston carnival (with two of his sheep on leads) wasn't going to call me but he did and I went round to rummage around in his garage a couple of days ago.

He had all sorts in there, Greyface Dartmoor (which has a HUGE fleece!), Jacob, North Ronaldsay, Herdwick, Shetland and Wensleydale, plus a couple of random mixtures. I had intended just to get the two Wensleydale fleeces but when he shook three lovely Shetland fleeces out of a sack (one brown, one black and one grey), I had to have them too!

It was nice and sunny when I got home so I spread the Wensleydales out on the grass and had a go at skirting them. Here are the mounds of skirted fleece in the sun...
Two Wensleydale fleeces

They're an interesting orangey-pink colour but unfortunately that's down to the fact that the sheep lived in a field where the soil is really rich in iron and the fleece is stained from the iron oxide.

This is the result of my first efforts washing some of the fleece...
Close up washed Wensleydale

I think it needs another dunking and a good old shake to get the bits of dirt out. Lovely curls though!

Before I got stuck into the fleece washing, I read up on cleaning raw fleece in the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning. This book was one of the first I ever bought on spinning and it blew my mind a bit at first because there's just far too much information for a newbie spinner to take in! Its more useful now that I've got a bit more of an idea about what I'm doing though and it had more information on cleaning raw fleece than any of my other books.

I particularly enjoyed 'wuzzing' the fleece to get out as much water as possible. Alden Amos suggests using a pair of old tights to 'wuzz' but I just bagged up some wet fleece in an old net curtain and then whirled it around my head in my Mum's back yard to spin out the water. Its good exercise!

No photos of the Shetland fleeces yet because I thought I should pace myself a bit with all the washing. I'm going to try and get everything cleaned this week though because I keep reading that raw fleece doesn't store well and should be washed asap!

My Mum received a sinister package from her friend this week and it turned out that it's actually for me...
The dog is bald

I'm hoping the dog isn't completely bald, although there can't be much left when I've got all this...
Bag of Spencer fur

I'm not sure what I'll make with it yet, or whether to spin or felt it. Its from a Schnauzer called Spencer and there have already been suggestions of a dog cape, or maybe a little dog tank top for him to wear in the winter. I'm thinking of weaving a little wallhanging of handspun Spencer yarn or knitting a glasses case, or a hat if there's enough (human hat or dog hat?). If I was feeling really adventurous I might have a go at needle-felting a tiny Schnauzer from one of the patterns in the Japanese Fleece Dog book that I'm sure I've seen in a local bookshop.

I'll keep you posted! :)

ETA: I've just discovered there's a Fleece Dog website!


  1. My, you're going to busy! I've yet to wash my fleeces so it was great to hear about the whuzzing! Will definitely be giving that a go!

    Good luck with the dog hair! Not sure I'd fancy it! I did know a lady who spun and knit herself an entire jumper from dog hair and it was really lovely -soft and fluffy - a bit like angora. Looking forward to seeing what you make! A hat for the dog sounds very cute! :)

  2. I'm not sure that I fancy spinning the dog hair much either (I get a bit freaked out just looking at the bag of hair!). I feel like I should give it a go now that Spencer's owners have gone to the trouble of sending me his hair though. I can't see myself making a habit of it! :)