A few weeks ago, I was greatly anticipating entering Kingdom Arts & Sciences in 2015 with my warp-weighted loom–something I had never seen anyone work with in An Tir. After the Kingdom event was over, I started eagerly looking at some of the entries that starting appearing on Facebook. I was a little discouraged to see an entry this year that included…yes, a warp-weighted loom. My first reaction was “dang it! I wanted to be first!” Then it was, “Now it’s going to look like I’m copying.” It was, admittedly, a little disheartening, but still left room for my own interpretation. The loom she used was for card weaving, not for fabric. I had a nice chat with my Foster Laurel (whose identity shall remain a mystery for now)…she has been a great sounding board when I have questions or get discouraged on my Artisan Journey (let’s not say Laurel Track…who the hell knows where this journey will end?). I relied on her greatly when I had a personal issue with another member, when I had frustrations with a judging panel, and yesterday, when I was stung by the surprise of someone else doing stuff with the loom that I thought only I was doing.
After she talked me down off the ledge, and I had a night to sleep on it, I realized that my journey and her journey may cross paths, but we are on different journeys. Hers was to do card weaving on a warp-weighted loom; and mine is to make a sheep to shawl project. I even have the wool!
Sprite was a Romney-Border Leicester cross and she grew some really nice long-staple locks. When cleaned, it’s just lovely, isn’t it?
However, before it got to this lovely, white color, the fibers had to be cleaned. This is the gross part. It’s full of burrs, grass, hay, and…yes…poop. Mostly the poop is just on the edges of the fleece–the belly and bum–but the rest of the fleece is oily and dirty. The oil is lanolin, which is the stuff they put into lotions and things, so working with this stuff will certainly keep your hands soft!
There are a few different techniques for washing fleece. Some say use screaming-hot water (140-160 degrees F) and lots of soap (a cup of dish soap per fleece). Others say lukewarm water and a couple ounces of soap are just fine. I tried a few different techniques to see what worked best with this fleece.
The thing to avoid is turning your fleece into felt. To make felt from wool you need three things: water, heat, and agitation. Swooshing the fibers around in screaming-hot water is the recipe for woolly disaster. Some fleeces will felt as soon as you grab the kettle…others will withstand all kinds of abuse without felting. The trick is to figure out what you can do without turning your lovely fleece into a nasty mess.
Heide has entrusted me with her amazing spinning wheel, which I will hopefully be able to figure out how to use. I got a very quick tutorial last weekend and hoped enough of it stuck to be able to make some fluffy stuff into string.