SELECTING A FLEECE
You are eager to dive into the world of hand spinning wool from your sheep, or perhaps you want to purchase a fleece to satisfy your up and coming hobby. The first step is selecting a fleece. Below you will find some tips and information to keep in mind as you shop or select your fleece.
A Good Shearer is Worth His Weight in Gold!
Although it is a small investment for sheep owners, I believe that having a skilled and experienced shearer is worth the money. Not only do they expertly remove the fleece with minimal breaks in the wool, but they also put less stress, for less time on the sheep too. My sheerers can de-fleece one of my feistiest ewes in 3 minutes!
When selecting your fleece you are going to want to avoid fleeces with a lot of "second cuts". These are very short fibres that are made when shearers don't shear close enough to the skin the first time, and they go back and give the same section a second cut. The reason you don't want lots of second cuts is because the locks of wool will be too short to spin easily. Ideally you want a fleece that with locks that are at least 4" long. The length of a lock, in the wool world, is referred to as "staple length".
Before and After of Sheering
You also do not want to choose a fleece that is filled with vegetable matter (hay, straw, etc.), feces, and felted matts. The more filth in the fleece the more work for you and the more waste you will have.
You will see that this fleece is filled with straw, hay, little pieces of organic matter that will just be a lot more work to clean out before it can truly be usable.
As the old adage says, "You get what you pay for." So if you are getting a sheep's fleece for a deal that seems to good to be true, it probably is. People who grow their sheep for fibre generally know what their fleeces are worth and will not try to short change you by overpricing their products.
Keep in mind what your desired project is. With hundreds of different breeds of sheep comes hundreds of different types of wool. Doing your research into the type of fibre you want and which breed provides that for you is an important step.
For me, personally, I've always been a fan of icelandic lopapeysa knitting, and worked with professionally milled Icelandic yarn for years before we ever had our own homestead. So when it came time to choose a breed of sheep to raise, it was an easy choice for me.
Once you have your desired fleece in hand it's time to get it cleaned up!