Sunday, 2 December 2012

Spinning with friends & rescued fleeces

First Saturday of every month the Travelling Spinners meet somewhere in Northumberland.  Yesterday we ventured south of the Tyne (just!) and met at Bede's World in Jarrow.  We were in a lovely room and happy to demonstrate and chat about wool and spinning to any of the Bede's World visitors.

During the morning we met some of the staff and heard that the fleece from the sheep on the Bede's World farm was just being stored........ now this is exciting news to spinners.  The sheep on the farm have been chosen to be similar to those the Anglo Saxons would have had and include Shetland and Shetland X Manx Loaghtan.

Needless to say we were all ready to put our shoes on (some spinners prefer to spin wearing socks or soft soled shoes) and find the fleeces but they were brought to us instead.

Great excitement as we looked through the bag.  As is usual with fleeces that have been shorn for the welfare of the sheep, with no plans for using the fleece, there was a lot of VM (vegetable matter), dirty bits from the rear end of the sheep and some of the fleeces were so badly matted/felted that they've have made rugs with little further processing needed.

But not all!

Here you can see one of the fleeces hanging over the table and the fleece is starting to pull apart under its own weight.  This is the 'lace curtain' effect and its what spinners are looking for.  The locks of fibre are not matted at all and will separate very easily.

Yes, the wool is definitely a dirty shade of white, but it's been keeping a sheep warm and dry for a whole year and it will wash clean.
This is a closer view of the fleece where you can see the dirty grey tips of the locks and the beautifully clean, unmatted butt ends of the locks.

The butt end is where the fleece has been shorn from the sheep.  These sheep had been shorn with hand shears rather than electric clippers and as you can see from the lack of 2nd cuts, shorn very well indeed.

Three of the fleeces were like this, one being an incredibly fine shearling that was snatched up straight away by one of my friends.  It's amazing how quickly a spinner can move when a 'special' fleece has been spotted ;-)

The result was that the 3 nice fleeces all went to appreciative homes and appropriate donations were made to Bede's World.

More importantly though we introduced the Bede's World staff to Jon, an ex-plant biologist who has used his knowledge to dye wool using plant material, and has the expertise to be able to dye wool from the Bede's World sheep using plants that would have been used by Anglo Saxons.  Hopefully next year Bede's World may be able to give visitors the opportunity to buy some wool products and fully use their fleeces.

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