The De-stashing continues

The De-stashing continues

De-stashing is going to be a permanent condition I fear.  While trying to purge unwanted and excess fleeces I found a lovely, soft lambswool with gorgeous crimp.  The colour is a slight dusty rose and the handle is so soft it’s nearly like cashmere.

Light rose lambs wool with rich crimp, but looks can be deceiving

This fleece had been washed and then stored in very good conditions.  It was not damaged in any way.  Once I started to process it I discovered a load of problems that made me question the wisdom of proceeding with processing the fleece for spinning.

The first problem was that it was a lambs fleece.  Amniotic fluid can damage the tips of the fleece and make them extremely brittle.  Ann McElroy told me that when she is birthing her lambs the fluid dries out her hands to the point they start cracking.  I don’t doubt her for a second.

The staple is very long, but those tips, so sad to learn how easily they snap off.

Tippy fleece when the length is this long is a fairly easy fix.  Just cut the tips off, and process as you would for any normal fleece, either use carders or combs.









However, there was another problem and it is much more daunting and that is scurf.  Scurf is sheep dandruff.  It is caused, usually, from mites, but I’m sure it has other causes.  I’m mostly interested in the results which are flakes of lanolin mixed with sloughed skin cells.  These harden and are extremely difficult to remove from the fleece.  Since this was a lamb fleece the little critter also played in the field and got into all sorts of mischief with bits of vegetation and dust.  I was two seconds away from throwing this in the trash or compost, but I gave it a deep comb, just to see what results I could get.

There are nebs in there, so I put it through the comb a second time and removed them.  The wastage was massive, nearly 50%.  This wastage is from cut tips, scurf, vegetable matter, dust, tiny bits of straw etc.  When I combed the wool I used a spray of water with hair conditioner mixed in to keep the stress on the wool to a minimum; it really helped.

This is residue from the first combing,

And this is residue from the second combing.

I freely admit the work involved in salvaging this fleece was NOT worth it.  I learned more than I ever wanted to know about sheep dandruff.  This is an exercise not to be repeated – ever!!

That said, the final result is rather lovely, nearly cashmere soft, grey lambs wool skeins.  The yield is an astonishing 12 skeins of gorgeous two ply, that I’m really pleased with.  Not at all sure what I’ll do with it, but someone will have a suggestion, I’m certain of that.



15 thoughts on “The De-stashing continues

  1. Oh wow, I’ve learned even more about fleeces, particularly about scurf, with this post and can definitely echo your….NEVER again comment.

    Coincidentally, two days ago, I finally made a decision….that I need to part company with my washed fleeces. I remember that was a mammoth undertaking in itself, with the skirting & separating etc, etc! Stored for a while now (in inside-out cotton pillow cases, labelled with each type of fleece) the sheer thought of combing & carding, which takes soooo long, seems much too daunting a task now. So your post is very timely & reaffirms my decision….thank you.

    Your spritzing with hair conditioner = ‘ah ha of course’, and has nestled into my little grey cells marked ‘useful info’!

    You must have been disappointed with the nearly 50% wastage, but the finished result looks gorgeous. From your description, I just wish I could scrunch my fingers into it. With such softness in mind I’d want to snuggle into it & have it envelope me!

    1. There are some fleeces that I’ll put the work into, but I’m getting to be of an age where these fleeces are becoming few and far between. This was a learning experience of the first order and reaffirmed my belief that sheep grow more wool, and don’t hesitate to be brutal in processing the fiber to optimize for your personal usage. The left over combings and clippings might indeed be “good for something” and that something is garden mulch!

  2. Your hard work with the fleece was not in vain – you have lots of gorgeous skeins, you’ve learnt a lot and you’ve de-stashed something.
    Sounds like a win/win!

    1. You’re absolutely right Lyn, this is hard won knowledge and that is often the best remembered. The yarn is magnificent and I’ll enjoy working with it.

  3. The results do look lovely, but you’ve confirmed my intention never to bother with raw fleece again! It just takes up too much felting time.
    Looking forward to seeing what you do with the yarn.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more, time is becoming a precious commodity and what I spend my time on now is going to be carefully measured. I did want to tackle this difficult fleece, just to say at some point that I did it (never going to do it again as a corollary, in case anyone ever asks).

  4. Thank you for sharing this information. I was given some valuable advice, from a knowledgeable shepherdess, I have always kept in the back of my mind. I can’t quote her exact words, but she warned me of being fleeced by fleeces. She showed me a first test, to rule out a fleece purchase. She said to always respect the person selling the fleece, and ask if they minded me performing a little tug on their fiber before I purchased it. She said if they objected, in anyway, walk away. She took her own fleece, I was looking at, and did this little tug test for me. She said a good fleece should take a tug with no affect. She said breakage, was indicative of problem with the fleece: older, improperly stored, or sickness. More importantly than her test, was her warning of sellers, that don’t know what they are selling.

    I’m mentioning this lady only to demonstrate my resulting actions. I have purchased a couple fleeces, but they were judged to be blue ribbon winners at the particular fiber show I attended. Then, I paid a vendor at the show, to wash and process the fleece into spin-able roving or yarn.
    Despite my best efforts to choose winning “judged” fleeces, the processing results were disappointing. I have since thrown my hands up in defeat. I have since, purchased undyed fiber from World of Wool in the UK, and dyed fiber from a supplier in Oregon, here in the states. It saves me lots of frustration.

    Your post shows me bravery! You had dedication to the fleece itself. I am so glad you have some lovely yarn to show for your effort. Your willingness to share your process, from start to finish and resulting examination, are why Felting and Fiber Studio is such a great resource.

    1. I agree with you about the importance of always doing a ‘break’ test on any fleece you purchase. You are so polite to ask permission; I don’t ask especially when I’m paying! It’s so discouraging to find a defective fleece in a labelled blue ribbon winner. What on earth are they graded on, do you have any idea? We are extremely fortunate to have a Wool Growers Co-op depot fairly close. They have an awesome sorting facility. But prices are so atrocious that many shepherd don’t take their fleeces in; they get mulched instead.

  5. The end results are beautiful but I agree that the process and time it took was not worth the effort. I no longer try to process fleece, it’s just too much time and work. I applaud your efforts!

  6. I agree, a fleece needs to be really special / I need to have an emotional attachment to it to make it worth cleaning and processing it myself. Is there anywhere near you that will wash and card fleeces for you? That said, your yarn looks gorgeous!

    1. Ohh…yeah, you now know all my naughty words! Some of them are real doozies too. But the wool is lovely and the combings have really benefited my garden so it was not a total waste.

  7. I’m a sucker for a good-looking fleece. Like you, I’ve dealt with a few lemons, but I always enjoy the whole raw-to-clean process, and since I bought worsted combs I particularly enjoy creating nests out of the locks.

    I get emotionally attached to the fleeces I get, for some weird reason. I can’t let them go without giving them a really good chance. I’m glad you gave this lamb’s fleece a go, because despite the 50% wastage, you got 12 lovely skeins! If they’re as soft as you say, why not knit a blanket with them? This way you can snuggle up on the sofa with your hard work and remember that some things are worth a second chance (and some aren’t, and both are ok!)

    1. You’re so right, I’m just complaining because I’m such a softy for a lovely fleece and feel like a goof when it turns out to be so much more work than anticipated. But the truth is all raw fleece prep is a lot of work and there is always a lot of wastage. I realize now that’s just the way it is. I’m working on one now – yeah I know what I said about never again, I lied – it’s from a meat sheep and the fleece is just lovely, but filthy, sigh. Here we go again.

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