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Spinning wool?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Does anyone here do this?  We'll be keeping Icelandic sheep, and part of our income will be from their wool, so this is a skill I'll need to learn at some point.  And I'll be doing it by hand, because we're not going to have any electricity.  Any tips on what I need to do/buy to get started?  Any good books or anything to learn technique?

post #2 of 19

Spinning is relatively simple to pick up, but it's helpful to have a class to get started.  Not only that, but usually they will offer you a discount if you by equipment at the time.  Fairs are a good place to meet other spinners.  I watched some recently at our county fair.

 

Preparing raw wool for spinning is the tedious part.  I have only done this from purchased fleeces.  It's a romantic notion to do this all from scratch, but it's real work.  Spinning the wool is relatively easy at that point.

 

I still have my wheel, but haven't spun in years due to kids.  Hoping to get it out this winter for one and all.  It is an Ashford wheel, one that came unfinished and unassemble.  I treated it with linseed oil only and it is beautiful.  Still can spin only irregular yarn.  Great!  But it's nice to have that yarn when you want it and avoid it when you don't.

 

 

post #3 of 19

Forgot to mention.... you can send raw fleeces to a company that will wash and prepare it according to your instruction.  Then all that's left for you is to spin it!

post #4 of 19

I spin wool and silk.  If you are going to be preparing fleeces yourself, you will also want to be looking for a drum carder to prepare it after washing and picking the wool.  I usually buy my fleece prepared, but sometimes get it from the local sheep farmer just washed but otherwise unprepared.  I think Icelandic sheep have a relatively long haired wool.  If that's the case, it will be easier to learn to spin on than something short (like, say, merino, which I still find tricky to spin sometimes). Also keep in mind that some sheep will have guard hairs that need to be picked out by hand, and that most sheep will be requiring shearing equipment (I'm toying with getting Shetlands right now because they shed naturally and can be rooed (wool pulled off) by hand rather than shorn.  I can't remember if Icelandics naturally shed.  Sheering is very tough work (I grew up with dairy goats and our family shared work with another farm that also had angora goats, shearing time was pretty rough, physical work).  You might want to enlist outside help at shearing time.  I agree with Sweet Silver that a class is a good place to start, and I also think that starting with a spindle instead of a wheel lets you start more cheaply and gives you a chance to get a feel for the wool.  Also, spindles are very portable.  I like SpinOff magazine (Interweave Press) for spinning technique.  They also have a website/forum that has useful info and links to technique books.  I also think that while your main goal may be hand spinning (and it's a wonderful goal) if you are looking at it from a profit stand point, you may have to consider time for money and whether sending the wool out to be spun, allowing you time for other parts of your farm, may be profitable.  Our local farmer produces some felted soaps and handspun yarn at home, but also sends out wool to be processed into yarn then woven into wool blankets.  Even though the processing costs her, people are willing to pay so much for the finished blankets that she makes more money this way.  The upfront cost would probably be too much for a new farm at first, but it's worth researching options for the long run.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

I hadn't even thought about sending it our for processing, so thanks for that idea.  This is all very new to me, and I'm just in the research stages.  Thankfully we have eight months before we move onto our land, and might not bring the sheep in until the year after - we'll see how things go setting everything up first.  I'll be looking into that magazine.  I didn't know such a thing existed.

 

Icelandics do shed, though the websites I've read on them recommend shearing them before they get to that point.  I'm not sure why, and none of them say.  At some point I'll be contacting a breeder of Icelandics and asking her some questions.  I know they have wool that can be separated into two different kinds of fiber, one much softer than that other.  Apparently their wool is especially good for felting, too.  Lucky for me, since felting is very popular right now.

 

At any rate, you've both given me some excellent Googling material, thanks!  If you (or anyone) have anything else to add, I'd love to hear it.

post #6 of 19

I found a few web pages about how to roo sheep in case you are wondering.  The last link is specifically about Icelandic sheep, and it does seem that hand plucking is a possibility for them.  When you have a double coated sheep like the Icelandic, rooeing can help you get just the softer fibers most people want in clothing (the longer ones are good for wool carpets, though) without having to separate the fibres, as the coarser sool stays on the sheep and the softer wool naturally separates.  Just some food for thought as you've got plenty of time in the planning stages.

post #7 of 19
post #8 of 19

This book is funny and wonderful:  Hit By a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend.  Not necessarily about sheep farming but centered on it.  It's a true story and a fabulous read if you can find the time.

post #9 of 19

Icelandics and Shetlands both will develop a natural break in their fleece- and  at that point, you are able to harvest the fleece through rooing it (sort of plucking it off).  It can be time consuming, but I never found it particularly annoying or difficult.  If you shear through mechanical methods, that is fine too, but you'll need to be aware of where this natural break is, or you will wind up with short fibers that effectively act like second cuts in your fleece.  Most will be carded out, but it's a PITA. 

 

With Icelandics, they have a dual fiber fleece. The long staple is more rough/coarse and is often used for more coarse work.  If you separate out the softer fleece beneath it, it's amazing for very soft yarn.  You can combine them, but some people find the longer staple fibers itchy in clothing. 

 

On the upside, these breeds are MUCH easier when it comes to lambing than some of the more modern breeds. 

post #10 of 19

you guys are cool.  i love this thread!

post #11 of 19

You may want to attend the http://skagit.wsu.edu/CountryLivingExpo/index.htm - 1 day of workshops, fiber, sheep, etc.  I went last year; all teachers were outstanding.  only $55 for the day if you register now.

post #12 of 19

I just wanted to comment on the comment that processing is the hard part. It doesnt have to be hard, when I was getting started the info on washing fleeces was intimidating...so I skipped it! I spin alot of my wool in the grease, just picking out grass/seeds and guard hairs if I want a soft yarn, and wash my yarn once its all plied and skeined up! In regards to a drum carder, very nice for super production, but I use hand cards when I want a woolen yarn. Most of the time I spin without carding, just hand picking tight clumps. Some fleeces are so loose that they require no carding or picking at all.

 

Good luck, happy spinning!!

post #13 of 19

This book looks great! Thanks...we have been exploring getting sheep, seems like a good read about the experience would enlighten us.....
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

This book is funny and wonderful:  Hit By a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend.  Not necessarily about sheep farming but centered on it.  It's a true story and a fabulous read if you can find the time.



 

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdmeitzner View Post

I just wanted to comment on the comment that processing is the hard part. It doesnt have to be hard, when I was getting started the info on washing fleeces was intimidating...so I skipped it! I spin alot of my wool in the grease, just picking out grass/seeds and guard hairs if I want a soft yarn, and wash my yarn once its all plied and skeined up! In regards to a drum carder, very nice for super production, but I use hand cards when I want a woolen yarn. Most of the time I spin without carding, just hand picking tight clumps. Some fleeces are so loose that they require no carding or picking at all.

 

Good luck, happy spinning!!



I would agree, once you get the hang of spinning.  Spinning in the wool can be tricky for the beginner.  Worth trying, though, depending on how clean the fleece is.  Some farmers put jackets on their sheep to keep clean.  A sheep around my neck of the woods would be a complete mess my the time shearing came around.  Washing is actually the easiest part.  A lot of the grime will come off just in warm water and preserve the nice lanolin.  The lanolin is nice to have in if you want to make something more water proof, but can make the spinning harder.  Of course, the lanolin hardens as the fleece ages and I have only spun with fleece from the store.  A fresh fleece might be easier.

 

post #15 of 19

Youtube was my best friend ever when learning to spin. The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning also has all of the info you will ever need! Including how to prepare flax and nettle fiber if you ever want to explore that! I went from making a quicky recycled material spindle and using commercially prepared roving, to wheel spinning and preparing( washing, hand carding etc) local wool straight from the farm, dyeing both with chemical and natural dyes... in about a year.Everything you need to know is on youtube.( Just start with a first step like how to scour a raw fleece and then see where that leads you!) Ravelry is also a great resource. I now spin all of my wool for knitting and it only has the slightest bit of variation ( costs sooo much less than the wool shop!)

post #16 of 19

Spinning of the wool is really a little bit tricky especially for the beginners. Farmers usually put jackets on their sheep to keep them clean. Washing is the easiest part whenever you look for such stuffs. The lanolin material are used to make the wool water proof and can make spinning harder.  Spinning wool can be used for the same purpose.

 

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post #17 of 19

Anyone have experience spinning other animal fur?  I have two very furry dogs who bolt coat twice a year (garbage bags full) I have heard of this being done, has anyone done this? Also thinking of growing flax for seeds and spinning

post #18 of 19

Just wanted to mention that you don't have to spin your wool before you sell it, you can sell it as wool roving... Where I am in Northern California its popular to see natural and or dyed wool roving for sale, and there seem to be more and more Fiber fairs/events/classes every year. Going to one of these event you can meet so many others in the fiber world and learn so much. 

When I learned how to spin I had a friend teach me on a drop spindle and after I mastered that moving to a spinning wheel was easy. I feel that I really got a "feel" of the wool using the drop spindle. 

There is also a web site https://www.ravelry.com/account/login that is packed full of info. 

 

And to answer the above posters question, Yes my friends spin other animal fur, even plants. 

post #19 of 19

Depending on the length and "stickiness" of the fibers, spinning different types of material might be more difficult. The shorter the length, the harder it can be to spin for beginners!

 

Also wanted to share that while spinning is SUPER fun, processing raw wool is pretty hard work. I bought a full fleece once and it was really tedious -- and I still didn't get it as clean as I wanted it to be. I was able to spin some nice yarn from it eventually though.


Not sure where you're located, but the Black Sheep Gathering and Oregon Flock and Fiber are both really fun events where you can meet lots of resources.

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