I love handspinning fleece from my own sheepies! My favorite ewe, ‘Ele‘ele died several years ago. She was a Salish/Romney cross and looked black as coal. Her ears were so tiny that they could hardly even be seen, a characteristic of the Salish breed. I loved her dearly and cried buckets when she died of old age.
I’m knitting a blanket out of fleece I’ve spun and knitted from my own sheep. None of the yarn is dyed; it’s all natural colors. It’s been languishing in a basket because I hadn’t spun up much of ‘Ele‘ele’s fleece and hers was the last to be put into it. Actually I didn’t have a whole lot of it even carded yet. Julie had carded some of it for me when I was too swamped with work to do it. Yesterday I took my spinning wheel and ‘Ele‘ele’s carded fleece to Hawaiian Beanz, where I spun for about two hours.
This morning I decided to card more of ‘Ele‘ele’s fleece because I ran out of everything Julie had carded; I really want to get this blanket finished!
I have a fabulous Duncan 16″ electric drum carder that I purchased used about eight years ago. I adore it! Previously I’d just used hand cards, and while I really enjoy that process, it’s a whole lot slower than drumcarding.
Here is ‘Ele‘ele’s fleece before carding. The shearer came and sheared her, then I skirted (got all the pilau stuff torn off) and scoured (washed) it. Roy-chan had built me a wonderful dryer for my washed fleeces; it’s made of screen and with pulleys, I can lift it up to the ceiling of my laundry room. Shaka, yeah?
I put some of the fleece on the tray in front of the drums; notice the warning to keep hands and stuff away from the drum! The small drum on the bottom of the big drum is called the licker in. I love fiber names! Those pokey things are very, very sharp! They’re called teeth.
The licker in moves the fleece from the tray onto the teeth of the big drum, which will separate the jumbled fibers into ones that are wonderfully lined up and ready to spin.
See that brush up in the air? Dick Duncan patented it and when I start the machine, I put the brush down to help the fibers get lined up better. The brush also helps to get out vm (vegetable matter like straw and hay).
The carder is running, drawing the fibers into the drums. The licker in moves in the opposite direction of the large drum.
I let it run for awhile; then Nolemana, who wanted to make blueberry pancakes for breakfast (!), tells me that they’re ready. So we go out onto the deck and eat in the chilly air. Ricky and Poem graze peacefully below us.
I look out across the valley and see one of my favorite sights; a cloudy view except for the red barn across the valley.
I love how the sunlight lights up the barn while everything else is dark.
After we’re pau eating and cleaning up the kitchen, I go back to my carding. Here’s the carder working; I wish I could upload videos here. The brush is now down along the fiber and drum and helps to line up the fibers in the same direction.
I let it run for awhile.
See that hook? It’s called a doffing hook. I have lined it up with the metal strip on the drum, and with it, I’ll separate the fibers so I’ll have an end to work with.
The doffing hook works beautifully even though it’s not always easy to separate fibers that want to hold onto each other.
I’ve worked my way across the drum along the metal strip, lifting up the fleece as I go.
Next, I take a separate brush that Dick has made (it’s called a doffing brush), and brush the lower edge of the fleece (that’s against the drum) up and away from the teeth.
Here is the batt, all lifted up from the drum.
Now, because I really want to have a nice spinning batt, I put the batt through the carder again. First I split it lengthwise and put one length into the carder again.
See how nicely the fibers are lined up?
Oh, lemme turn on da flash. Then you can see it better. Remember how I said ‘Ele‘ele was a black sheep? Well, washed and carded, her fleece is really a dark gray. The flash makes the fleece look lighter than it really is though.
I’ve now run it through the carder again and am lifting it up from the teeth.
Beautiful. Just beautiful!
I run the batt through the carder several times until I’m satisfied with the result.
Remember what it used to look like?
Now it looks like this!
I cut a length of brown mailing paper and lay the batt down onto it.
Then I roll it all up; it’s now all ready for me to start spinning!
Here’s what I spun yesterday; this is pretty close to what color the yarn will look like in the blanket. Even though ‘Ele‘ele looked black in the pasture, her yarn will be more of a brown color.
Okay pau. Gotta get some work done so I can go out on the deck and spin for awhile! The sun just came out!
Oh wow! This is very cool. I’ve only used carding combs before, and they are labor intensive. I love the smell of undyed, “sheepy” wool. Does her wool still have lanolin in it?
So wonderful to have a blanket with a little of your best sheep friend in it! Nice memories.
Most of the lanolin is gone and since I set the twist in Eucalan wash, it now smells like that. I love the fragrance of sheepy yarn too!
I’m *gulp* going to be relearning how to spin on my old drop spindle. I haven’t tried it since becoming mostly chair-bound.
I ordered some really pretty batt from Rockpool Candy, that already is SUPPOSED to have slubs and bumps, figuring that will make my lumpy first efforts look ok, too.
I have really missed spinning.
We’re gonna need a bigger house.
I had no idea what raw wool had to go through in order to be usable. Thanks for the entertaining education!