Sunday, November 17, 2013

From Sheep to Shop...Yarn Shop!

I like to know things. Like everything about Egyptian/Greek/Roman mythology. Or the circus. Or what Beethoven was like as a person. I'm curious about an array of eclectic topics.

But I'm especially curious about how to *do* things. From the origin to the end. I like to make my own...everything. Pies from scratch. Paper for letter writing. My own tea blends. And yarn; oh, yes, yarn.

I love knitting. Perhaps you've noticed? An essential item for knitting is the yarn. I set out a couple years ago to make my own yarn. So my husband got me a spinning wheel, I ordered some wool roving from the internet, and I taught myself to spin. I am by *no means* an expert but I'm not bad. I learned to control my twists and ply my yarn. I learned to dye it and wind it. But I was nagged by one thought: I'm starting in the middle. I wanted to complete the process from shearing the sheep to knitting with the yarn I made. 

Unfortunately, I don't have any sheep. I was lucky enough that a friend of a friend allowed me to help shear once so I did get that far. My friend Ginger use to have sheep and she has helped me complete the process. Here's a couple pics of her and her sheep:

Sheep are deceptively adorable. I've learned that their fleece is infested with maggots, which the aspiring spinner must first clean from the fleece, along with other unmentionable disgustingness. Here are the sheep preparing to be shorn by Ginger and some friends:

Clearly this was a few years ago. The fleece we used for this project was not this old. Promise!

Here is the fleece after it's been shorn from its host. This is where we picked up the process, as I'd gotten the shearing part under my belt:

Next we picked the fleece clean using a process called skirting. Then we washed it with lukewarm water and Dawn dish soap to remove the greasy lanolin. Our hands were super soft afterward though! Here is a giant pile of washed wool, drying by the fireplace:

Next we have to further prepare the wool using a process called carding. Carding drums like Ginger's (pictured) are very useful! Otherwise we would have to do this by hand with two handheld carding paddles. Here's the carding process:

Just turn the crank handle and the two bristly drums brush the wool into uniform fibers:

Next we remove the wool from the drums in two ways. Either long roving strips like this: 

Or rolls that are called batts or batting:

Then it's ready to spin!

This is single ply at this stage. You can twist two, three, or four strands together, using the wheel, to ply the yarn. Next...the knitting!!! I'll post a photo of the boot cuffs I'm planning to make with this lovely yarn once they're finished.

It's so rewarding to learn a process from beginning to end. What do you like to learn about?

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