Fiber Fusion Fiasco

This was a pretty crazy weekend.  I took Shaft’s fleece to Fiber Fusion for sale, and we took a peek around.  Compared to last year, Fiber Fusion had more vendors and appeared to be busier.  A lot of the people appeared pretty interested in buying and there was a shift in vendor makeup towards vendors that supplied equipment and finished/processed goods rather than “raw” fiber.

Having said that, there was also a massive increase in people offering raw fleeces for sale.  The increase was so great they set aside another building just for raw fleeces.

But then they didn’t really let anyone know how to get to it, or where it was, or how to submit a fleece for sale or judging (two separate desks).  So I and a bunch of other people put our raw fleeces out excitedly and hoped for a sale, but nobody knew our beautiful fleeces were there, so almost nothing sold.  The same fleeces I saw when I put mine out were still there at the end of the day on Sunday when I went to claim my unsold fleece. Alas.  Here’s hoping they’ll get the hang of things next year, this is still a new festival and working all the kinks out takes time.

As for the rest of the fleece, we broke down and got a dehumidifier so air drying would not take days on end.  It’s been quite effective and we are delighted with the results.  We set up in the garage, it is easiest to dry fleece there.

The sheep hacked the barn and ran amok when I lay all the fall fleeces out to air dry in the barn after shearing day.  So my project for the next few months is to shake all the hay out of the fleeces.  It looks pretty bad, as these pictures suggest, but it’s not really.  However, I’m not eager to do it again, so next  year all the fleeces go straight into mesh bags on shearing day.


Fleeces waiting to be air dried.




Air drying. This is a drying rack meant for “herb”, but we find it works great for wool instead.


The VM situation looks terrible, but most of that stuff comes out quickly when the locks are totally dry rather than slightly damp.


This drying rack holds a full mesh bag of fleece, which is about 2 fleeces’ worth of wool.


Bucky’s fleece survived the onslaught and is drying on a metal rack that is good for individual fleeces, but not as awesome as the “herbal” drying rack.


It hangs from a rafter. Very easy to set up and take down, just a wonderful find.


One last look at Bucky’s fall clip. It is soft and looks pretty good. Should wash up nicely for sale.

As you can see, we’re finally starting to formalize our processing so I can develop a routine and just always be preparing wool for sale or home use.  Also, I’m taking up knitting.  It’s a great way to use up the bulky, lumpy yarn I am likely to produce with my current newbie level of wool combing experience.

The actual sheep are doing ok and already have plenty of wool grown in for the winter.


“I used the crook!”

My husband said that the other day after separating the ram lambs out.  There’s a trick to it that I can’t recall right now because I’m still enjoying postpartum sleep deprivation, but he figured out how to hook the legs so that the sheep stands still and lets itself be led to a new paddock.  This was fabulous news, as it means more flexibility in managing the flock.

We are going to Fiber Fusion this weekend.  I’d hoped to put up at least three fleeces for sale, but will probably just see if I get a bite for Shaft’s fall clip.  I don’t think I can have his and Bucky’s spring fleeces (which, being lamb fleeces, are still plenty spinnable and worth putting up for sale as whole raw fleeces) ready in time, but we’ll see.  There were some challenges with the drying, as the spring fleece was sheared and a bit dense with winter growth, so it was thicker than the tuftlike rooed wool I collected from them in winter.  Plus they have a bunch of straw stuck in them, large pieces and easy to remove, but more than I remembered being there when I shoved them in a mesh bag for long-term storage.

The fiber sales plan is to put out what I can at the festival, see if it sells, and for the rest process them for sale as raw locks/fleeces and possibly roving.  I am getting steadily better at combing into top (considered a form of roving, which is aligned wool fibers ready for spinning), but I have yet to comb out enough to make more than a few feet of yarn.  And roving is generally sold by the ounce, which is at least a yard of yarn for one piece of roving.  My efforts at combing top yield fractions of an ounce per bundle.

That’s all right now, I am too tired to type more today.

Scenes from my first week combing out raw Icelandic fleece


What I started with, some rooed locks that have been washed and picked of most of the VM, but there was still a little left.

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Closeups of what I finished with.  Not sure if this is what I am supposed to end up with, but that’s why it’s a learning process.


This is the fluff left behind that is too short to do anything with but use as stuffing or kill mulch.  It looks like a higher loss rate than it is.



Wet wool woes

We’re going through some rainy times and not really enough hours of dryness to leave wool outside to dry.  So I am going to start the process of washing up the spring wool and drying it all indoors, which I was hoping wouldn’t be my only option starting this early, but them’s the breaks of living in the Maritime Northwest.

Hopefully by next week I can start the combing out and see what I get.  I might get some usable roving, which would be some beginner’s luck, but it’s possible since what I’m starting with is actually in great shape for spring wool.

We don’t have a hay problem, we have a “never let your rams roam if you want to spare yourself a lot of VM picking” problem.  Which we solved with the power of cattle panels.  Ugly but so great at containing rambly rams.

I was hoping to try out advertising raw fleeces, but the shearer sheared in strips and that’s not what people looking for raw fleeces specifically expect.  It’s not a big deal, but it’s something to keep in mind as we have more fleece and more animals.  Spring fleeces are chancy to sell as it is.  The ones we have look ok, but they do have the wool break’s new growth in them, so that will have to be separated out.  If the fleeces are all they appear to be, this will happen after a little soaking in plain water.  Otherwise I have a lot of felting fleece to experiment with.


Little Shaft is rooing too, it turns out.

He’s just rooing from the neck out, which is hard to keep clean, plus he loves bramble more, so it’s harder to pull usable wool from him.  I may just have to get the shearer down in March if possible, as soon after lambing as I can manage, to avoid wrecking the ewes’ fleeces, since they might start rooing sooner than expected too.

Icelandics, being a primitive breed, naturally shed in the spring (though on an individual basis this can be anywhere from January to June).  They can still be sheared, but the heavy shedding (rooing) leads to a wool break and if you mistime the shearing, you end up with a lanolin-gummy, felted mess instead of market-usable wool.

And if they roo easily and freely, you can just pull it all off and watch the new wool come in with no shearing required.  Although generally people like to shear just to be on the safe side since rooing cleanly is no guarantee.

I’m piling up what I pull off for now somewhere dry and warm, but this weekend I’ll start soaking the wool and preparing to work with it after it’s had the bits of hay and dirt and bramble removed.  We were going to do hand carding, but it looks like we’ll be using combs and (possibly) a drum carder instead.  Provided the weekend of soaking and cleaning goes ok, the next steps are to comb it up into roving or even go all the way to yarn.  Whatever I end up with, it will be lopi (both layers of the Icelandic’s two-layer wool blended together) as I am not experienced enough handling the wool to easily separate tog and thel (the two layers, thel being the soft under-layer and tog being the top layer).

Shaft’s wool, the few small tufts I pulled, is really really soft and rich in touch.  Even the pieces that are possibly beyond saving (we’ll see after a good day or two of soaking) have a good handle despite being full of bramble and hay bits.  Both rams have thel soft enough to make baby clothes with, it’s easily that soft, if I could separate it cleanly and get enough off both of them.  Which means they’ve been getting enough to eat and make the most of their excellent genetics.

Not quite how I was expecting to get some wool to work

This was what I came into the house with.

This was what I came into the house with.

This is what happened after some time in the warm, dry house.

This is what happened after some time in the warm, dry house.

Bucky is rooing like crazy, so we might not get to shear him after all, but instead end up with a giant pile of hanks that have to be turned into something higher-value or tossed in the old compost heap.

I’ll probably have more off him throughout the week.  It’s not as hay-full as I thought it would be, so there’s that.