Saturday morning was my first meeting with the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. What fun! They couldn't have been more welcoming and I'm looking forward to participating in as many of their activities as I can. I took Thor, and was surprised to run into Judy, Thor's previous owner, at the meeting. He turned out to be a great icebreaker for me as I turned into my usual pathetic shy self when I walked through the door.
I went to the meeting intending to buy a Dorset fleece. One. Somehow I left with two. Or possibly three. Our guild has some link to Action K9 Sports in San Diego County. This is a school that features herding and agility training for dogs. (Yes, there are still plenty of sheep in this country and dogs are still the most effective herders.) They ordinarily have a day each spring when they invite people to watch them do their thing and a professional sheep-shearer takes care of the flock -- after which attendees can buy the raw fleeces. This year they were unable to get the sheep-shearer for the right day, so they sent a number of fleeces to our guild meeting. Well, little miss back-to-nature here decided that one fleece would probably not be enough, and bought two of them.
I was warned that since it was a warmish day, I would be smelling sheep all the way home. Happy to say that didn't happen. In fact, my drive was extremely pleasant both directions despite some traffic delays. I've recently discovered the the Spin Doctor podcast and have been listening to them in order (another exercise in self-discipline). I had several episodes on my iPad and plugged it into my car radio -so had the pleasure of listening to a few episodes along the way. Sasha is possibly even more OCD about fiber arts than I am so I feel like I'm listening to a kindred spirit (as well as an enabler).
Got home, and after pulling out the first fleece, it looks like there are either two more smallish fleeces or one humongous one. They were only $20 each, so I'll settle with the guild at the next meeting if it turns out to be two of them.
|This is what I consigned to the allegorical compost heap.|
Then you generally grade the fleece by staple length, coarseness of fiber, and cleanliness. The shoulders and flanks generally have the highest quality fibers. But to my untrained eyes, especially since I was not careful to unfold the fleece as one piece, I could not tell you what was from the shoulder and what came from the britch. It all looked pretty much the same to me. So it all went into two tubs of cold water without being sorted.
I'm guessing there are about three pounds of fleece in each tub. I GENTLY pushed the fleece down into the water. They say that Dorset is very forgiving and not as easily felted as other breeds, but I'm not taking any chances.
Next morning, I carefully lifted the fleece out of the water and set it on a screen to drain. I knew the raw fleece had been pretty dirty, but was still surprised by the appearance of the water. I also ran into some filth that I had not seen when sorting the day before. Guess I was a little too eager to get it into the water. More junk went into the trash barrel as a result.
|This is one of the tubs post-fleece.|
|And the fleece just removed from water.|
As I write this, the fleece is back soaking in tubs - awaiting the delivery of some Unicorn Power Scour. I've been hearing about this product for scouring wool for some time - most recently on the Spin Doctor podcast, and think I'll give it a try.
Saving the other fleece(s) for a group session I'm going to try to organize.
Sunday was a real treat. One of my fellow Inland Empire Handweavers Guild members was looking for people to help her demonstrate weaving and spinning at the annual Home School Fair at OCHS. I had no clue what it was about, but went along with my buddy Gail and took Bunny Watson (the Hansen mini-spinner) to keep me busy. As it turned out, the organizers put us together with another group of (mostly) spinners. Here is one of the things I love most about fiber arts. In most activities, when you put two separate groups together, you get instant rivalry. But for some reason, fiber artists tend to bond and share. Maybe it's cross-enrollment in many groups. Or perhaps it's because the fiber community has a number of traveling teachers so we aren't limited to thinking that WE have the only way. But whatever the reason, we joined ranks and had a delightful day.
The other group was called "No Idle Hands." All but one were in costume -- one in a civil war-era dress and bonnet, one in a Victorian smock, and the rest in Ren-Faire apparel. I gather their emphasis is on Victorian era crafts, but they also participate in SCA and historic reenactment activities. Most were spinning, but one was grinding wheat in a manually cranked grinder and making dough on site. One of them gave each of us a a beautiful beaded orifice hook she had made. Just in time since I've been using a big paper clip on Thor. We sat in the shade and chatted most of the day while we worked on our projects. And talked with loads of parents and children who were attending the fair. May have won a few converts over to the fiber arts this weekend.
Gail took one of her triangle looms and the moms at the Fair were sure interested. She weaves an awful lot faster than I do - got all this done in just a short time.
We had two other charming neighbors at the Fair...
These babies are only three weeks old and I may have spent more time watching them than I did actually spinning.
One more fiber-related activity in the works - for a later post. But I will hint now that I've been regretting having sold my Mountain Looms tabletop loom years ago.
P.S. - while writing this, I had a friend drop in to visit and he saw the photo of the two fleeces on my screen. He was concerned that I had participated in the killing of sheep for their fleeces. So I feel it important to tell any family or friends who happen to read this that no sheep were harmed in the acquisition of these fleeces. Most domestic sheep don't shed so they need to be sheared yearly to protect them from problems and potential death resulting from overgrown fleece. For those who want to know more, have a look at this.