Wednesday, 9 January 2013

"Mule" fleece - The first fleece.

I saw a bargain on Ebay and thought I may as well give it a shot, it will give me a lot to practice on.  If the fleece is rubbish, I've not lost a lot, if the fleece is good and I mess up, I've not lost a lot and if the fleece is good and I do a decent enough job then I may just get some usable yarn.

So, my bargain?  5 "mule" ewe fleece, weighing around 12kg in total that had been stored together for a couple of years.  A "mule" ewe is the result of mating a Blue Faced Leicester ram with a hill breed ewe, such as a ewe from the Black Faced Mountain family, the Cheviot family, the Welsh Mountain family or the Clun Forest family.  In this case the ewe used to produce the mule is unknown.

None of the fleece had been skirted, so that had to be done and then I started working my way through all of the fleece, washing them one at a time.  Most were thick with lanolin and had a lot of "orange" stuff stuck in it.  I think that this was possibly some kind of sand, maybe building sand, and it all washed out very easily though and turned the water an orangey-red colour and left me with fairly white fleece.  They are not the softest of fleece, a little coarse in places, but I guess that's the hill sheep element showing through..

The First Fleece

The first fleece that I have chosen to tackle started out at 2.4kg before any washing or preparation.  After being washed and combed there is 1176g of clean combed top ready to be spun.  Its very bouncy and quite crisp and some of it is definitely on the coarser side of OK.  I tried to keep the coarsest fluff together so that it could be spun together and not "contaminate" the nicer fluff.  I got a lot of different skeins from this fleece over a long period of time between 23rd August 2012 and 9th January 2013, and I spun some as single ply, some as 2-ply, some as traditional 3-ply (3 singles spun together) and some as Navajo plied (3-ply using loops made and spun from a single ply).

Skeins A, B and I have been used up in small non-clothing items as they were the coarsest of all the skeins and not suitable for wearing due to the scratchiness of them.  All of the other skeins will eventually be used to make pretty shawls, either left in their natural colour or dyed.

Skein C was knitted into a pretty but simple kerchief/small shawl but due to the natural variations in colour of the yarn I was not happy with the end result, it looked dirty and unwashed, quite "yellowish" in places so I decided to try dyeing the finished item.  I dyed it using some Greener Shades dye and I am now happy with the finished kerchief.

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