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Sheep to Shawl

Shearing

The sheep are happy to sit on their bottoms and give up their wooly fleeces which have become heavy and hot in the warming spring air. My goats, on the other hand, are rather squirmy, and need to be shorn twice a year because their hair grows about an inch a month and will matt right on them otherwise. Once removed these fleeces will need to be “skirted”, any matted or very dirty bits thrown right out.

After a good soak in hot soapy water, rinsed in cool water – and using a mild non-toxic soap (this water makes for great plant fertilizer); and given a thorough dry, the fleece is ready for carding.

Carding

Carding is the process of aligning the fibers in preparation for spinning. Hand carding is essentially using two little boards impregnated with many rows of little wire teeth to draw out the fibers, and then roll them into rolags which can be spun. There are also drum carders, combs, pickers and a variety of types of tools with longer and shorter nail-like teeth with which to align the fibers. Depending on the preparation of the wool fiber the approximately one inch diameter bands of wool, also called roving, can then be easily spun into yarn. It is in this carding process that one combines the different types of fibers for a blended yarn, wool and mohair, or alpaca, angora, camel, the list is seemingly endless.


Spinning

The process of spinning is a bit like patting your tummy and rubbing your head, but once you get the hang of it is a relaxing and meditative activity. There are many different kinds of spinning wheels, made all over the world, including individually handcrafted wheels, antique wheels that can be refurbished for current use, and production wheels by such companies as Ashford in New Zealand.

The spinning of the rolags, or roving, into yarn, is typically spun in one direction on the wheel for one ply. Then one takes two bobbins of the one-ply yarn and twists them together in the opposite direction onto a third bobbin in order to make a two-ply yarn.


Knitting

The knitting is the wonderful culmination of all that work into a lovely warm and functional creation to be worn and touched and even cuddle into while watching a movie on a cold winter evening.

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