Curls…lustrous gray Gotland curls…that’s what spinners and felters are so eager to get hold of. Though I raise my own Gotland sheep, I too have ventured beyond my own flock in search of these silver ringlets. “One can never have enough,” I tell my husband when he asks why a box of raw fleece arrives in the mail.
raw wool – an unwashed fleece that has just been shorn off the sheep.
I have been purchasing raw fleeces from other shepherds for about 12 years now. Through the years, I have grown to appreciate those shepherds who thoroughly skirt a fleece before placing a selling price on it. Only top quality, well skirted fleeces should command a high price. I have been disappointed to pay a high price for a fleece to find that it is full of short second cuts and harsh breech wool. When selling to a customer, I want to be sure that they are only getting high quality wool as it represents my farm and my goals. I am often asked what is the best way to sort through fleeces. So here are a few tips on the proper way to skirt a fleece before shipping it to the mill or customer.
skirt a fleece – the process of going through a fleece and removing all the unusable bits and pieces.
- First, you need to know the anatomy of your fleece! Within one fleece, you will find different grades or quality of wool, which are used for different purposes. The simple diagram labels the different parts of your fleece. Once you are familiar with what you are looking at, begin sorting through each fleece, carefully removing all of the undesirable wool.
- Use a skirting table to sort through your fleeces. A table with an open mesh works best, as it allows short cuts of wool and manure tags to fall through. We built our own skirting table out of wood and woven wire fencing which I lay over top of saw horses. The woven wire should not be any larger than 1 x 2 inches.
- Remove the belly and leg wool first. I remove this right on the shearing floor. As soon as the last lock of wool falls from the shearer’s blades, I remove the belly and leg wool from the shearing floor. It goes in the “discard” bag. My shearer will shear this first and scoot it in my direction to collect it up while she finishes shearing.
- Remove all breech wool in the leg area. The breech wool is more coarse than the rest of the fleece. The picture below shows breech wool and beautiful locks of wool from the same sheep. I use breech wool for rug yarn.
- Remove all clumps of manure or manure tags. Remove vegetation matter like hay and wood shavings.
- Shake the fleece to let any short cuts of wool fall to the ground. I scoop up my short cuts and use them in felting projects.
- Remove any heavily discolored wool or brittle wool, and wool heavily contaminated with hay.
- You are now left with the beautiful locks of wool, ready for the mill or your customer! I roll each fleece, put it in a clear plastic bag and label it with the name of the sheep it came from. I also weigh the fleece, and record this information below the name of the sheep.
With a little time and attention, you will quickly find people scrambling to purchase your fleeces year after year.
Gotland lamb fleece from VT Grand View Farm.
Diagram from informaworld.com.
She gave her daddy a boomerang for Christmas, a photograph of herself with a little smirky smile taped to the front of it. “Sorry,” she said as he opened his gift. After being away for 4 1/2 years, seeking knowledge and seeing a different part of the world, she came back – the boomerang child. She wants to experience Vermont farm life one more time-a full year of snow, mud, and sugaring – lambs, sheep, [read more…]
All that I do as a shepherd is part of an interconnected community of individuals, from sheep shearers, to veterinarians, to mills, to hay farmers, to local feed stores, and to knitters and fiber artists. Our lives are all woven together through my flock of sheep. This felted vest represents that woven community and our relationships, one to another.
I felted this vest, using merino and our own Gotland wool. Those grey curls of [read more…]
Beneath the blanket of snow that covers our farm, lush pastures rest and wait.
Winter provides one the longest stretches of time when our pastures can rest before another grazing season begins. Rotational grazing is an important component in our sustainable farm practices. Each summer and fall, we utilize rotational grazing. We subdivide each of our fields into smaller paddocks, allowing the sheep to graze in one area while other areas rest. The [read more…]
With 2016 drawing to a close, I thought I would take a peek at which posts you gravitated to the most in 2016. So here they are:
Top Shepherding Posts
Waiting for Spring
How Can Sheep Survive Bitter Cold Weather-with Vermont winters, our flock must withstand snow, ice, and sometimes subzero weather. Here I shared the unique qualities that allow sheep to adapt to such extreme conditions.
The Challenge of Keeping Two Breeds of [read more…]
Eating habits and personality traits seem to go hand in hand when it comes to sheep. Here are four distinctly different eating habits, and the personalities that go with them, in my flock of Gotland sheep.
Social eaters enjoy the company of family and friends while eating. Food is essential to bonding and social interactions. Social eaters put the needs of others before their own, always being sure to make room for their friends.
Last year, I gave you three gift ideas for the shepherd in your life. I thought I would add to that list for those of you still doing your holiday shopping. So here goes:
Lamb Cam – During lambing season, we do round the clock barn checks to see if new lambs have arrived or if laboring moms are doing well. It is so hard to leave the warmth of the bed to walk out [read more…]
Are you looking for a unique gift for someone special this holiday season? Here are some special gifts from our farm to you. Simply click on the title of the item and you will be directed to our online shop.
Handwoven Gotland Wool Blanket made with our Gotland yarn by a local Vermont textile artist.
Handwoven Gotland Wool Blanket Handwoven Gotland Wool Blanket Handwoven Gotland Wool Blanket
Gotland Curls Pillow hand felted by Kim [read more…]
Winter seems to have settled in on our Vermont farm, and it is the season for restoration, reflection, and knitting. After spending 8 months caring for new lambs, teaching fiber art students and serving overnight visitors to the farm, I look forward to winter. I love the short days and long nights. It is the time for hot tea, fires in the stove, reading, and knitting needles in hand.
I began this season [read more…]
The Gotland ewes have enjoyed some freedom from the paddock behind the barn. With the mild temperatures and lack of snow, they have been staying up on the hill behind the house. This snowy morning, they woke to a dusting of snow on their backs. The weather forecast was for snow all day, so we brought them down by the barn for breakfast and to give them the option of seeking shelter in our run [read more…]