Diane Falck on Processing Wool…

Recalling Deb Robson’s lovely notes on washing wool in her kitchen, and Linda Scurr’s words on handspinning 100 skeins of yarn from raw fleece, we are back in the world of processing wool domestically for this morning’s post. For this we are joined by Diane Falck, whose little Ouessant sheep we have already met with their beautiful, coloured fleeces! This is one of an ongoing series of posts that Diane publishes on The Spinning Shepherd blog, which celebrate the whole sheep to sweater process. So far in Processing Wool we have heard about carding, and we have heard about combing. Today Diane will tell us about using a flicker brush!

September 2, 2012 – Sheep to Sweater Sunday n° 115 : ” Working with a Short Staple Length “

As a Spinning-Shepherd, I am very aware of the close relationship that exists between raw wool and the sheep that produces that wool.

The shepherd will tell you that each and every ewe and ram has his or her own personality. At the same time, the spinner will assure you that every fleece is different. To a certain extent, every fleece is the reflection of the sheep that produced it : when preparing and spinning wool, a wise Spinning Shepherd can learn and understand so much about his or her sheep.

As a spinner, when working with a fleece, a special link is created with the sheep that produced the wool, particularly if you actually “know” the sheep in question. Also, when the spinner “knows” a sheep, he or she feels obliged to make the very most out of the fleece that has been so generously offered.

One must keep in mind that every fleece is different and quite often a particular fleece can present a real challenge for the spinner. Sometimes these woolly challenges end in disaster : despite all the efforts of the spinner, a fleece is considered to be “impossible” and will end up on the compost pile. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often. Usually, an experienced and determined spinner can make the most out of any fleece, even a fleece that is not perfect.

For one whole year now, I’ve been eagerly waiting for the fleece from a beautiful little Ouessant ewe from Hervé Vaillant’s flock. Having already seen this ewe a number of different times, I feel as though I “know” her quite well, even though I’ve never worked with her fleece before. One must say that it is a fleece of unusual beauty …

… even so, there is a problem with this fleece …

… these beautiful locks of wool are actually quite short. They are barely 2 inches long. We can see just how short these locks really are when they are placed beside a lock of wool from Agnella des Lutins du Montana.

I cannot comb this fleece, as combing requires a staple length of close to 3 inches.

That being said, I want to get rid of any second cuts, vegetable matter and other bits of dirt and debris that is still in the fleece after washing. Additionally, I would like to spin a worsted (or at very least, a semi-worsted) yarn. In other words, this is not a job for hand cards !

To prepare this fiber for spinning, I’ve decided to use a flicker brush. My flicker brush is from the Howard Brush Company. Of course, I will have to prepare this fleece one lock of wool at a time. But the results are really worth the effort.

You need to hold the lock between your thumb and fingers, then untangle and open up the other end of the lock with the flicker brush. Then you will need to turn around the lock to brush the other end.

Locks : After & Before § Mèches : Après & Avant

And what a lovely surprise !
By prepping the fiber with a flicker brush,
the locks seem to have found a “correct” staple length.

I’m not at all disappointed !
This is truly a gorgeous fleece : a rare little treasure !

… to be continued …

All words and content © Diane Falck, and originally published here on the Spinning Shepherd Blog as part of the ‘Sheep to Sweater Sunday‘ series

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This entry was posted by Felicity Ford.

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