I thought I would go right back to the first steps of preparing a fleece for spinning. Last summer I was fortunate enough to get a lovely Jacob fleece from someone who owned a few pet sheep and was shearing for the first time. The first clip for a sheep is often the best as it has the lovely soft lamb wool and is also a little longer in its staple ( the length of each wool fibre). I always lay the fleece out on a tarpaulin on my lawn on a dry day. Wearing rubber gloves I pick off all mucky bits around the edges which were near the tail and hind legs. These can be added to the compost heap as they are excellent for adding nutrients back into the soil. Next I select the softest parts of the fleece, usually the parts on the chest and belly and put these aside. If it’s a nice clean fleece, not too weathered along the spine or tatty about the legs, I put all the fleece in together and as it’s carded and spun the varying qualities of wool from the different parts of the sheep are mixed up and blend.
I break the fleece into several bucket-sized portions and soak in warm soapy water alternately with clean warm water until the worst of the dirt has stopped coming out into the water. After a careful spin in a salad spinner ( high speed spinning will felt the wool) I lay the fleece to dry on a rack – my rack happens to be the top of my pet rabbit run seen here. After a day of sunshine the fleece is dry and ready for carding, a process I will cover in my next blog. Only then is it ready for spinning.