Sunday, June 03, 2007

Shetland 1 - Fleece!

Shetland fleece! Or more accurately, fleece samples. Cathy sent me seven glorious Shetland fleece samples. If you have been reading her blog, then you know that she has acquired some gorgeous fleeces lately. I was so honored that she wanted to share some of it with me.

Shetland really came to my attention while I was working with my Bowmont fleece challenge sample. When I compared a small bit to it's two parent breeds, Merino and Shetland, I really had a hankering to work with Shetland next. Plus, through the blogosphere, I know several Shetland people: Tina T-P, Kathy L, and Sharon (did I miss anyone???) It is such a perfect next step for me.

This is not a totally new fiber for me as I have spun Shetland before, but it was roving. It was for my Rare Breed Sweater (which remains front and neck bandless.) In fact, here is the Shetland row right after I knitted it. All three sheep were spun from roving.

Rare Breed Sweater row of Shetland sheep.However, working with roving isn't the same thing as working with fleece. I enjoy spinning from roving, but it tends to feel impersonal. To its credit, it saves one the time and fuss of having to sort, wash, and prepare the fiber. But it only gives a spinner partial information. With roving I can discover the fiber length, which tells me how far apart to hold my hands as I spin. But other information is lost in processing. Was the fleece crimpy? Wavy? How many per inch? How did the color vary across the fleece? What were the tips like? Tender or sound? Discolored? How greasy was it? How much weight was lost during washing? Plus I lose the option of separating the finer portions from the coarser. With roving, it's all processed together.

Then there are the the qualities of smell and touch. Not all sheep smell the same! It is through smell and touch that I begin to bond with my future yarn. It is at this point, as I touch, examine, sort, and separate my fleece that it begins to speak to me. It begins to hint at what it might want to be.

So, I have been busy getting to know my samples. I have been saving some raw for my staple collection and have been washing the rest. Interspersed with weaving and whatever posts, I will be sharing my Shetland adventure with you over the days and weeks to come.


Robin said...

Love the sheep knitting and your weaving!! Just found your blog. See you're from western NC. I was at John C. Campbell a couple of weeks ago for a class. I live just over the NC/VA line north of Raleigh.

Leigh said...

Hi Robin! Nice to meet you. Your name link gave me a "Page Not Found" message. Actually I'm in just over the NC/SC state line below Asheville. Lucky you to get to go to John C. Campbell!

Sharon said...

I so totally relate to your desire to know the fleece and I do love the smell that goes with it. I've come to think of it as fragrance, but when I took the grandkids for a walk this weekend and we walked by the "boys", little Allie remarked that something was "stinky." It's not stinky Allie - it's the real deal and it's aroma. She'll come around. I cannot afford to acquire one more fleece - but your Bowmont is tantalizing - you siren, you.

Kathy L. said...

How wonderfully observant you are, Leigh! Everything you were mentioning is, indeed, very true. And yes, sheep, like people, all have a different odor - I was glad to see someone else notices that. :)
Wait until you really get into Shetland! There is a wide variety in fleeces as well as colors! You never get bored with it. But I do agree with you - sometimes commercially prepared rovings don't give you a real "feel" for a fleece or breed. I am spinning up some grey Shetland roving I bought (commercial stuff) and it is very different than the fleeces from my sheep. (BTW - What's your address? email me directly!)

Have a yarn-ball with the Shetland!