Yesterday, I talked about some of the troubles I was having with the mill prepared Hog Island roving. My (hair-brained) solution: get a whole fleece. So, when Jay emailed to say it was shearing day, I high-tailed it to the Fingerlakes Woolen Mill, met the new lambs, scratched their wether, Butch, on his chin, and looked at some fleece.
Hog Island fleece are typically white (about 20% are black). I managed to get a gray fleece with sun-bleached tips (my partner was most excited about this as gray is his favorite color–though he would never admit that). The fleece came from Rue, a lovely lady sheep I also met in the pasture. I will admit that this whole visit-the-farm to buy a fleece thing is pretty great. Having purchased most of my fleece online, this was a sheep of a different color (har har).
Jay weighed the unskirted fleece, laid out a tarp, and we went to work picking off any undesirable parts. I must admit, this was quite an experience for me: I was finally, actually, almost knowledgeable enough to be doing the skirting. Almost. Jay took the lead and the fleece was quite clean, so I had little to worry about. Plus, I am a solo fleece prepper (I posted about my sorting and stacking tendencies earlier . . .), so, really, I couldn’t make many snap decisions about this fleece without spending some more organizational time with it.
My absolutely favorite part (though you may think me a very gross person) was when Jay’s dog Lizzie plopped herself down on the fleece and started eating the skirted bits of wool. Jay didn’t bat an eye and I just chuckled. The fleece was none the worse for wear, and we all–including Lizzie–had a great time getting elbow deep in lanolin.
Once I got the fleece back to my washing equipment, I began the sorting process. What I noticed most about this fleece was its inconsistency. The staple length varied from 1.5″ to 3″ and the crimp, while mostly disorganized, was also incredibly organized in a few places. Indeed, were I a wool classer (ha!), I would have thought that some parts of the fleece had a very low micron count, while others were somewhat course. This hand-feeling was directly correlated to the organization and number of crimps in each lock. So, I sorted by length and by hand and washed in lock batches, just as I have my other fleeces.
Largely because of my experience with the mill roving, I steered away from the large middle section of the fleece, in which the staple length was a consistent 2″–short, and I was worried about being able to spin it. I considered selling this half (and I’m working on that now).
However, once I got the first round of sorted locks washed and dried and carded, I realized that this fleece might be just fine. In fact, great! and pretty bouncy! So, I may go back to that section of 2″ fleece and have a go.
Here is the roving after one pass through the drum carder:
Here it is after a second pass:
I wish I could represent the amazing bounce of this fiber! I have yet to spin it up–that’s for next week–but I can just tell that this batt will spin up fine and won’t even require the long draw. I think the blog-verse was right about processing in small batches. I may keep the mill spun roving, but I am super impressed by the Fingerlakes’ Woolen Mill’s raw Hog Island fleece. Yes please!