Ever since I started acquiring breed-specific wool, I have been coveting an Icelandic fleece. I find the primitive breeds intriguing: they are heartier and many have a dual/double coat; they can shed their fleeces and many can give birth without assistance. They basically seem less ‘bred’ and pampered and more tough and animal-like.
I was a bit nervous about working with an Icelandic fleece, though, because of the dual coat: a downy undercoat (thel) and coarser outercoat (tog). But the woman who sold me the fleece from her Icelandic ewe said that you can not only spin them together (for a Lopi style yarn), but that you can use a 2-drum carder to process the wool. Yes! No combs needed (I don’t own any at the moment) and no fussiness (like Merino). I like it when things aren’t too fussy.
So, I read up about the fleece preparation and learned a couple of things that turned out to be totally true: the longer wool staple length means more dirt trapped between the locks, but it also means that the bits and pieces shake out pretty easily.
I laid my fleece out on a sheet (same as usual) and the dirt was pretty amazing. You can see some of the dirty bits here–you can also see how brown the fleece is–turns out that was mostly dirt! Better out than in, I said. I saved some raw locks for comparison and started sorting.
Now, like many of you, I am a novice at sorting fleeces. I am starting to feel comfortable with the medium wool breeds–I feel like I can recognize parts of the fleece and identify the better areas and locks for the best spinning. But with a new breed-type, I was back at sea. It felt like it took my eyes and brain a while to adjust to the new “good” and find what I was looking for. Plus, this fleece needed a bit more aggressive skirting to get down to the best locks. All in all the process worked out and I got my fleece-sense for longer wool.
The washing process was the same as for the medium wool breeds (bin method), but this fleece did need two washing cycles with lots of Dawn–the water came out black and then brown before I decided it was OK to move on to the rinsing phase. It was the first time I was glad to be wearing a pair of very long, very rubberized gloves. Oh, and Icelandic fleeces will felt like crazy, if you are not careful, so I was sure to keep any agitation to a minimum. Low lanolin, but still, I used hot water.
The final product is terrific and I am looking forward to sending this baby through the drum carder and getting it spun up. The fleece weighed about 2 lbs when dirty, and did not produce a huge amount of wool for spinning, but I’m guessing a few hanks will be made . . . I just have to wait for my bobbins to be free.