Any spinner worth their salt will tell you never to accept just any old fleece that you're offered. There will be a good few spinners at your local guild who will tell you this. And quite a few very famous spinners who make this abundantly clear in their books and videos. But you know how we roll here at the school of hard knocks...
On Saturday evening a friend of a friend turned up here with the fleece of her nephews pet sheep stuffed in two horse feed sacks. All I can say is that it was a good thing it had been a stinking hot day, and I could turn the whole lot out in the back garden to take a good look at it all. And that the brown bin, for garden waist, was empty. I learnt that lesson about free, unidentified fleece the second I upended those sacks. Then I dashed inside for the camera so that you might learn the free fleece lesson without having to experience it first hand.
I took loads of photos. Partly because Barney, the dog, started behaving in the oddest way. He was having a fine old time burrowing into this great heap of fleece, and making a massive nest for himself. By the time I got him out of it, so I could get a better look at the state of things, he was so greasey I had to give him a bath. He was hilarious. You'd be able to appreciate how hilarious the dog was, and how horrendous the fleece was, had I remembered to put the memory card back in the camera after I last downloaded the photos on it. Huge blogger fail there then.
There were two problems. The most significant was that the fleece hadn't been skirted. Somebody had just pulled it apart and stuffed the whole lot in bags. Secondly, this was an indoors sheep. Sheep that sleep out in a field might have a muddy undercarriage, but their fleeces don't tend to be carrying about all the straw and debris off a barn floor.
There were a few redeeming features about this fleece too. I knew it was a Texel/Suffock cross, and suitable for more machine washing experiments. When I opened the bags they smelled greasey and sheepy, not manurey or damp. There were no hitchhikers in there either. And when I tested a few of the locks for strength, they all made that little ping noise that a nice strong fleece is supposed to make. The problem was that the good bits were all jumbled up with the bits that should have been ditched as soon as they came off the sheep.
In the end I decided to separate out a small heap of fleece that was obviously good, to use as a lesson the processing fleece. The rest got heaved into the bin. I washed the salvaged wool immediately. This is the section where I really kick myself over the photos that were never taken. When I started washing the fleece was the colour of sawdust. And after it was WHITE.
This afternoon I started carding the heap into rolags. You can see that there's still quite a lot of vege matter in there. It will be some time before you see any spinning.