Friday, 26 September 2014

Gotland fleece Part I

I wanted a longwool that wasn't white and I did make enquiries about a Black Wensleydale fleece, which are rare to come by, but it was out of my league financially.  I settled on this Gotland fleece from P J Watts of Kingston Manor Farm, Canterbury, the same lady I bought the Romney fleece from.

When it arrived it weighed 1673g and I was really excited by the high lustre of the grey locks and it was really soft too.  Yes, it had sunburnt tips, a lot of fleece does and these break off during preparation, but what I wasn't expecting was what I discovered at the sheared end of the locks.

So, just what was at the sheared end of the locks?  A nice big scurf and lanolin encrusted "rise".  The "rise" is the name given to the part of the lock that indicates the end of last seasons growth and the start of the new seasons growth and this part of the lock is weak and normally breaks off.  You get this "rise" in every fleece but it is not usually this big and not usually this visually pronounced.  I think the breed of the sheep has a lot to do with it in this case.

I made a start on washing the fleece but was finding it really difficult to pull the individual locks away from the main fleece, this was because of this nasty matted rise as the white strip was pretty much felted.  I asked for advice from other spinners on a forum of what would be the best way to proceed with this problematical fleece and discovered that this particular breed of sheep needs to be sheared around January/February time, due to this breeds individual fleece growth season.  This fleece wasn't sheared until June 2014.  As you can see from these photos, this "rise" accounts for about 1/3 of the lock length and this has to be removed and binned.  The easiest way to proceed was to remove the rise, either by pulling it off if it will, or cutting if off if needs be, before washing the fleece.  I done a mixture of these methods.

After removing the "rise" from the majority of the fleece and washing it, my original 1673g was reduced to 960g.  When it came to the combing process, I started with the small amount of fleece that I had not already removed this rise from.  I loaded my comb lock by lock, as usual, making sure that the "rise" was at the back of the comb as I only want to be combing the good part of the fleece and leaving the rubbish at the back of the comb.  See the photos below of this loading process.

The photos in the top row below show what this same comb-full of locks looks like after one pass through.  The photos on the bottom row show the rise that had broken off during the combing process along with a bit of coarse fibres then what the rubbish looked like once I had removed it from the comb and before it went in the bin.

The photos below show the locks after their second comb through, with the last photo showing the rubbish produced this time.

I always do at least 3 full pass-through's of the combs on every fleece that I prepare.  A full pass-through is combing the locks from one comb to the other until all that is left is the rubbish on the comb that you are combing from, which is removed from that particular comb, swap combs from one hand to the other and go again for the next pass through.

As you can see by the end of the third pass through of the combs, there is not a lot of rubbish and from the last photo you can see that it is mostly the sunburnt tips that have now broken off.

I dizzed this off the combs, stopping about 3" short of the comb and pulling away so that all of the shortest fibres, 3" or less, were left on the comb.  The longest fibres which I had dizzed off were made into a nest and put in one bag and then I returned to the combs and dizzed off the shorter fibres into nests and these went into a different bag.  At the end of the combing process I was left with 239g of the shorter fibres and 461g of the longer fibres.

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