Maybe it’s because my spinning teacher didn’t bring merino or BFL when she tought us, or maybe it’s because I’m just contrary but I have found myself uniterested in those most popular of sheeps. It could be that my good friends have icelandic sheep and I now have icelandic sheep (thanks guys!) that I find myself on a mission to find all those sheeps that don’t have the amazing PR as merino and BFL. My mission, as I accept it (and since it’s MY mission i can change it any way I see fit) is to locate, procure, and spin fleeces of different sheep breeds and blog about it here. The entire process from wash to spin. I will detail here how I found the fleece, how much it cost me, how much fleece I got for the money, the quality of the fleece pre-washing, and how it spun up after being washed and carded. Maybe there have been people out there that have done this already but I haven’t seen it.
My first fleece is Tarhgee that I bought easily enough off Ebay. Tarhgee sheep are a realatively new breed originating in the late 20th century. They can trace their gentics back through Rambouillet, Corriedale, and Lincoln sheep which gives you a good medium weight super fluffy wool. This also gives you a large hearty sheep weighing in at about 200 pounds. Yup, a LARGE sheep. I would have to say that this fleece when cleaned was fairly soft (think of it as knitting with Manos which I believe almost everyone has). It is soft in some lights, tough and scritchy in others. It is a perfect pairing of a next to the skin wool that won’t pill and die the first time you wear a knitted garment.
My first impression right out of the box was that this wool looked fairly ordinary. Then I washed it, and I washed it (because sheep are dirty dirty bastards!) and when the final rince was done I popped it into the washer for a spin cycle (can I tell you that I would be lost if I hadn’t happeend upon using the spin cycle on woolens? This works amazing for sweaters too. I have a front load so I don’t have to worry about anything getting tangled around a center post in my washer.) to get all the water out. As soon as I pulled the wool to put on my drying rack I could see that it had transformed. No longer did I have dirty greesy clumps of sheep but now I had large fluffy wonderful poofs of white wool.
I have to admit. This is the very first time that I had ever washed a fleece, that I have ever carded a fleece, or produced any sort of spinning material by myself. I have learned some things that I am going to share with you right now.
1. Dawn soap is the best invention ever. It cleans your dishes, it cleans penguins that get caught in oil spills, once when my cat Special Ed jumped into a pallet of oil paints my husband was using and got a face full of paint thinner the emergency vet recomended that we wash him in DAWN, and now it does amazing fantastic things to getting dirty wool clean.
2. $20 got me 8 pounds of wool. That might not sound like a lot when you buying it or even when it comes to your house in a cute little box, but let me correct you, 8 pounds is a lot. Go weigh your favorite handknit sweater, go on, I’ll wait……Yeah, now you see right? now you understand that your hand knit sweater is like a POUND and you’ve now got 8 pounds of fiber. It’s fantastic and overwhelming all at once. Remember this when you purchase wool and fleeces. Different sheep are different sizes and fleeces will not all be the same size.
3. Hand carders are incredibly sharp. Try as you might you WILL scrape the shit out of your knuckles at least once.
4. Carding is dirty work and best done outside unless you like to vacumme A LOT.
5. If you have a dog they will try to eat the wool even if they have never gone after your yarn. I don’t know why either but Tank thinks that these little woolen fluffs are fantastic.
I spun this yarn a little more lofty and the fiber just came to life. Spriny, bouncy, soft and rugged tarhgee is just beautiful fiber.
Softness: Soft as Manos yarn, rugged, springy, bouncy and lovely. This is fiber that makes you feel good to wear, you won’t have to worry about it pilling right away.
Amount of wool per fleece: 6 to 8 pounds of solid fleece
Type of Yarn Produced: 2 ply heavy worsted weight.
Perfect Projects: Hats, mittens, sweaters, even socks. This wool is rugged and feels great on. Absolutely love it. If you are a fan of tweed this would be a wonderful tweed substitute.