A Good Day For Skirting

Tess’ fleece

It was Jon’s suggestion that we skirt the sheep’s wool today.   I knew it would have been a good idea to do it the day we got them sheared, it was warm and the sun was shining, but I was so tired that day, from our recent move and couldn’t even think of doing it.

So this morning, even though it’s a cold, sunless, November Upstate NY day, I agreed with Jon that is was a good day for skirting. (my fingers are  numb and clumsy writing this )  I laid out an old rug over my drying rack and dumped the wool from the first bag (Suzy) onto it.  I’ve never skirted wool before, or even watched someone else do it, ( I only thought of checking it out on YouTube as I was finishing up the last fleece) but I was told to just remove everything from the wool that I didn’t  want in my yarn or roving.  And so I began.

And somehow it seemed the most natural thing in the world to be doing, like I had spent my life doing it.  The perfect task for an obsessive like me.  I loved the feel of the fiber and the coating of lanolin it left on my hands.  I went through it quickly, trusting my instincts for what to keep and what to throw out.  I’m sure I got some of it wrong, but I tend to be a learn as you go type of person.  Jon helped too, although he got sidetracked with taking pictures and doing farm chores.  But I kept at it, ignoring the cold, knowing there were only 3 more fleeces to go and soon I’d in front of a wood stove with a cup of tea warming my fingers.   As I tossed the dirty wool on the ground (wool with feces or burdock and hay stuck in it) the chickens came over to check it out.  I though of how much easier and how much less waste there would be next year because of the sheep suits that would cover the wool and keep it clean.

Lenore kept me company as I cleaned the wool

I marveled at how different each fleece was.  Tess’ soft and greyish,  Suzy’s long with lots of crimp(Liz the shearer had me listen as she held a clump of the wool between her fingers and snapped it so I could hear the sound of a tight crimp)  and Socks’ a short tight crimp.  Zelda’s wool was more of a challenge because it’s white and shows the dirt.  If I only kept the pure white there would be no wool at all, so again I just followed my instincts.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll take the wool to the Vermont Fiber Mill at Maple View Farm Alpacas in Brandon Vermont.  I’m going to have the process the fleeces separately so I’ll know which wool and roving comes from which sheep.  I should have it back some time in April.  I’ll have a better idea of how much yarn and roving will be available and how much it will cost when I drop it off a the Mill.  I already have a list of people who want some, so if you’re interested just let me know.  Or you can wait till April, when I have all the information.  I”ll be selling it all right here.

16 thoughts on “A Good Day For Skirting

  1. “Learn as you go” is good. The mill will also give you advice once they get your wool and look it over. In my experience, you’ll get more particular each time — my first time, each strand was so precious, and after the third shearing I realized how much wool sheep can grow in 6 months! It’s a wonderful thing, enjoy! Love that lanolin on my hands!

  2. What a great way way to spend a chilly November afternoon, says another obsessive. I always find that if I sort of trick myself into some long, seemingly never ending, repetitive task, I know I will be (inwardly) compelled to finish it perfectly. If I flag at some point, I just tell myself that it is only a whole string of these small easy moments, attached together.
    I am sometimes almost disappointd to be done! I find the impetus to start the hardest part.
    I wish I had need of some of this wool, just to feel it.
    All my over-the-years knitting attempts have fizzled out.
    Hugs to you both (if you are into those sorts of things 😉

  3. Fun!! I’m sure you did it just right Maria. I love how my hands feel after have them in lanolin, it’s wonderful.

  4. You and Jon were lots smarter than Roger and me when we skirted an entire Tunis fleece a year or so ago. We must have picked the hottest day of the summer to skirt! It was hot and smelly work, but after I washed the fleece (3 times) and then carded it, it was so worth the effort. Now I have a sack of Tunis to spin – along with my sacks of llama, alpaca, Romney and Corriedale! And, I hope to purchase some of your fleece when it’s ready, Maria.

  5. Maria if you ever want a lesson just ask. I have been skirting fleeces for over 10 years and would be more then happy to show you how. My sister lives in your area so it would also give me a chance to visit with her.

    Enjoy your fiber…

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