As promised, this week’s farm blog covers the first part of the sheep-to-shawl process that our flock’s wool is currently experiencing!
In June, the sheep get sheared by a professional shearwool, and as you can see in the picture below, each sheep’s fleece stays all in one piece. After shearing, we spread out the fleeces for skirting and sorting — pulling out any chunks of wool that have lots of hay, poop, or other gross stuff, and discarding the coarse wool that grows around the belly, legs, and neck of the animal.
Next, the fleeces soak for several days in a big tub of cold water. This loosens dirt, manure, and suint (sheep sweat) from the wool fibers before the more intense washing begins.
To remove lanolin (the greasy substance in wool that helps keep sheep dry), the wool must next be washed in hot water with dish soap. It usually takes about five rinses to get the wool clean enough to spin!
Next time on the farm blog, find out what happens once the wool is clean… Since it’s still not anything resembling yarn!