Wool, lots of it!

A friend has a friend who has a sheep farm.  Do you know where this is leading?  The sheep are meat sheep, and they normally shear the sheep and throw away the wool.   Doesn’t that seem like a crime?  Well, I was asked if I would like the wool, and how could I say no?  I was thinking I would get a small bag that I would try my hand at washing and carding to spin.  Not knowing what the breed of sheep were, I happily accepted the offer of wool.  It was delivered to me at the Magnolia Party, they took me to their car to show me 2 huge black contractors bags full of wool!  At least 10# each!!!  That is a lot of wool, if you need a comparison, just think how much your favorite sweater weighs.  The wool was lambswool, a cross of Suffolk/Hamsphire (Black wool- natural color cross).

Hampshire Lambs:

Plus Suffolk lambs:

When I read about it in my favorite fiber book, The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, they said that while not often available to hand spinners, it spins up as good outerwear, soft yet durable, often overlooked as a good fleece for handspinners.  These breeds are in the Down classification (from Down area of southern England, nothing to do with soft under down of a duck).  The staple length is short, 2-4 inches

I wish that I had taken a photo of the bags of wool, one white, the other black with white.  I very quickly realized 2 things, one that I could never hand process all of this wool, and secondly that the strong sheep farm smell was more than I wanted to put up with for a long time in my house, especially as it was very warm that week.  So, the day after coming back from a trip to Michigan to visit my Mom, I drove with a friend to the Illinois Wool & Fiber Mill in Belvidere, about a 90 minute drive each way.  We dropped off the bags and got a tour of the mill, the machinery was custom-made for them:

First the drying racks after the wool has been washed:

Then to carding:

And to processing into roving (the owner Jane is in the blue shirt):

And, you can’t leave a fiber mill without a little sheep time!

Now, I have a 6 month wait before they are caught up on their backlog.  Plenty of time to figure out what to do with all of this wool.