Another bonus post here from Sara Dunham, this time focusing on the wondrous journey that real WOOL makes in its journey from sheep to textiles.
It all circles back to the sheep
I was set up in the livestock area at the 2013 Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival. The shearers were running ongoing demonstrations across the way and in between was a big table and I demonstrated skirting the freshly shorn fleeces. A local shepherd brought in two fleeces she’d saved from her flock’s recent shearing and wanted to know if anyone would take them and make her something.
We chatted for a bit. They were a Jacob/Texel cross so I of course wanted to have a look. Jacobs crossed with another breed tend to give you black lambs and her black fleeces were very pretty – a dark chocolate color and Texel feel. Texel is one of my favorite wools to spin. Yes, I said Texel ;-). Many of the commercial breeds are discounted by hand spinners and really shouldn’t be.
We agreed on a hand spun, woven throw.
I was very happy with the yarn I spun – 2000 yards of a soft woolen yarn spun from roving (not rolags, so probably technically not truly woolen spun) using a supported/modified long draw to give it a little extra loft. Not so soft and light though as to be fragile. I didn’t suffer a single broken warp thread.
I love weaving – the yarns, the tools, the click clack…
The throw turned out exactly how I’d envisioned. It’s light weight, soft, pretty and cozy warm.
There were still a few bits of hay chaff left in the yarn. I decided to leave them. They weren’t scratchy and I figured that the person this was made for threw all that hay to her sheep herself… I think it’s part of the blanket’s story. But it’s not ALL of the blanket’s story.
The day it was to be picked up ended up one of those days of dental woe that you really don’t want to hear about. My local dentist ended up referring me to a specialist in Lexington and they worked me in. I called the shepherd to say I’d just have to leave it inside the door for her as I had an emergency dental appointment scheduled at a dentist at Hamburg and was going to have to leave immediately to get there in time.
“That’s where I live. I could throw a rock at Hamburg! Can you bring it with you?” Of course!
So, now I’m sitting in a dentist chair (one of my least favorite places to be), not on my farm (one of my favorite places to be), in the “big city” (not one of my favorite places) at a mega huge shopping center (a place I avoid like the plague) and they’re telling me I’m going to have to hang out here for 4 1/2 hours before an (oh joy) emergency root canal.
It’s too far to go home and come back.
Okay, well, I’ll get some lunch and drop off the throw and then I guess I’ll run to the bookstore and try to amuse myself for while. I called Nancy (the shepherd) to let her know I was on the way and mentioned I had my camera with me in case she’d like me to take a picture of the throw with the sheep it came from. The throw is to be a Christmas gift for her mother.
“Oh great! They just got back. Kathy (of Lamb Camp fame) is here dropping them off (from being at her farm getting bred) and picking up a ram.” This is just not the sort of conversation you expect to be having with someone who “lives at Hamburg” (“the largest shopping and dining area in Central Kentucky”). And here I was, the country mouse, scared all alone in the big city, facing a horrid afternoon, finding myself five minutes away from a good friend, surrounded by sheep.
I didn’t really know what to expect. I only knew Nancy casually, but she raises a lot of Kathy’s bottle lambs… Let me just say, if I pull up to your house and you have a roll bale on your tennis court with two adorable donkeys and a group of old retired sheep chomping down? That throw has a good home :-D.
Two big galloofing happy guard dogs :-D.
The throw girls – we used the fleeces from the ones on the left and right. That’s their mother in the middle and for anyone who knows who Baaxter is, that’s his mother on the right :-).
Everyone checking it out. That sheep climbing up to get a better look just cracks me up :-D.
Look at that face on the right. “Bleck, colored wool. She should have used my white wool!”
“Don’t listen to her. I think it looks pretty.”
I love when a project comes together exactly the way I envision it. When it all comes out even better is truly magical. My husband says spinning is magic. I think it’s all magic, starting with the sheep themselves, the shepherds that care for them, the shepherds that all work together to care for each other and each other’s sheep, the shearers, the mills who process the wool, the artists who spin and knit and weave and how it all circles back to the sheep.
WOVEMBER says AMEN TO THAT.
All content © Sara Dunham and used with kind permission.