The spinning guild I belong to organized part of the Escondido Wool Festival a couple of weeks ago. This is a by-product of a sheep herding dog training facility. They are only interested in training the dogs but they need sheep to herd so we get the benefit of raw fleece.
The flock is a special breed of "Dorset" sheep. One of the characteristics of this down based breed is that it does not felt. This makes this fiber ideal for socks.
All these new terms I'm getting to learn. Skirting is basically picking out the poop & dreadlocks etc. out of fleece that was sheared off a sheep. The beginning of a wool sweater.
It all starts with the bah bah sheep.
First the sheep get a hair cut. Then we have this pile of dirty wool that gets rolled up and bagged. BTW I am the proud owner of one of those bags, it is waiting for me in the special yarn cave where I store all this good stuff.
The raw fleece is spread out and you start picking. Oh it smells real nice like a barn, sort of gives you that being down in the farm kind of feeling.
After all the dirty undesirable bits are picked out about 1/4 of the fleece is put in very hot water and dish washing detergent. Most people tout Down but I think Palmolive dishwashing detergent cuts grease better. Just my own opinion. There must be a reason for touting Down by most but I am the sort who likes to test it for myself.
Fill up the bucket with very hot water add a 1/4 of a cup of dishwashing detergent gently, you do not want suds, and add your fleece. You will need some sort of tool to shove all the fleece in there because the water is ouch hot.
After a half hour a lot of rinsing takes place. More hot water NO soap but rinse rinse rinse and you have white fleece. Take the screen off your window and lay all the wool to dry in the California Sun. I was very surprised how fast it was drying.
There are more new words here, comb, drum carding, roving, spinning woolen, singles or plying etc. After you do all that work you may get this 5 ply wool. Below is Pamela's harvest of one sheep's fleece spun 5 ply, enough for a sweater maybe. I'll have to ask her how much in yardage it was and in weight.
Now only the knitting is left to do. All I can say is I have a new found respect for the prices we can buy ready made yarn for. Hours and hours of back breaking work.
I still have my raw fleece and am not sure if I will do this but it's fascinating. My friend Molly told me that I could just send my bag of fleece to Morro Fleece Works and for a slight charge they will do all this cleaning and send back roving ready to spin. Hmm.... decisions, decisions....