Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Princess and her fleece


This is Princess Poppy, she is a pedigree Wensleydale and was born last year.  Her fleece weighed about 2lbs. An adult Wensleydale's fleece can weigh about 4 kilos.

Her fleece is so lustrous and the locks are very beautiful.  My goal last week was to wash and card all her fleece so that it was ready for spinning and a project.  When embarking on using wool fleeces there a few things that I look for.  I test for breaks in the fleece.  What are breaks and why do they happen?  Breaks happen when sheep have had poor nutrition or more often it is caused by stress mainly during lambing.  The stress will cause the fleece locks to be weak and unfit for the purpose of spinning.  Depending on what you need from your flock meticulous management is everything. It is a sad day when all your fleeces cannot be used for spinning!  So, how do you test for breaks.  Grab a lock and hold it at both ends between for thumb and fore fingers not too near the ends and pull sharply a couple of times to see if it breaks.  It should make a nice pinging sound when you pull it sharply and it should not break in half.  This is what you want.  I  test a few locks from different areas of the fleece.

However, before touching or using any fleece I always make sure (this is important) that the shearing took place AFTER a minimum of three months of the fibre being treated for blowfly.  Many spinners do spin their yarn straight from the raw fleece but I prefer clean fleeces.

I always prepare the bath first and never put the fleece in a container and pour the water on the fleece.  I use  water that is hot enough for my hands to be comfortable in and add either hand wash soap for wool or silk or just a children's shampoo.  I push the wool down under the water and give it a 30 minute soak. I never agitate the fleece just push it under the water.  

I changed the water at least four times and always made sure that the temperature was more or less the same as the previous soak or it might have felted the fleece.  Each time I removed the fleece from the dirty water I grabbed a bit with both hands.  I placed one hand and underneath and another on top so that the friction of the water running through the fleece had no chance of felting and I squeezed the water out.  I did this every time.  Just a habit I picked up.   In the last couple of soaks I didn't add any shampoo or soap so that the fleece was rinsed when clean.  Often tips of locks have a little dirt left but I find that this is perfectly OK and will disappear when you card it.   I prefer to wash fleeces during the summer months and soak them in rainwater first to soften any mud and dirt.  I then use the water in the vegetable garden or for the plants.  Any bits of the fleece that I don't use I line my hanging baskets with.

This fleece was really lovely and my favourite to work with.  The locks are so curly and shiny. Maybe I am biased but they are beautiful and I often stopped carding to admire the different appearances of the fleece during the different stages of carding.  I did use a drum carder and I think that if I had used hand carders I would have picked the locks first and then carded it.  I put each batt through at least three or four times and is now ready for spinning.  I want to make something really special with this so I will be looking for inspiration and ideas.

I look forward to making up my mind and making a garment with this fleece.  When I do I shall up date you all.  Thank you for visiting the blog!


  1. Hi Rosa,

    Beautiful end result, that should be a wonderful wool to knit with. Spinning I sort of know, but can you post some pictures of carding the wool as I have no idea what that looks like?

  2. Thank you Idske. I'm going to try and add videos to the blog. My next challenge!

  3. Princess is so beautiful and her fleece looks amazing to work with. I look forward to seeing what your going to knit with your lovely wool.

  4. Thank you very much Simone. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome. I think a lovely shawl. I have been admiring yours over the past few months and I can wear it with anything. I think this time I won't dye the yarn but am tempted to add a border to the shawl which I might dye... Hmmm


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