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 Sheep shearing
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robinstephanie
Permanent Resident

USA
1176 Posts

Posted - 02/13/2012 :  07:47:32 AM  Show Profile Send robinstephanie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
At Lambtown (in Dixon, CA, by San Francisco) last year I met a woman with a reputation for great fleece. She owns a sheep farm and invited me out to help with the shearing. As a thank you, helpers get first choice of available fleeces. We (dear man and I) go next weekend and I am over the moon. I decided to go, initially, because I was so curious about the process of shearing and what it's like on a working farm. But I'm also really interested in processing my own first fleece, even though I haven't any idea how to pick a good one. She has a good rep, like I said, so I'm guessing I can't go too wrong and can be guided by preference a good deal. I'll also aim for something small--seems crucial for a first fleece, so I don't get overwhelmed.

Any advice? Besides wear old clothes, bring snacks for everyone, and have great freaking time!?

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover

Shelia
Permanent Resident

USA
2345 Posts

Posted - 02/13/2012 :  08:14:03 AM  Show Profile  Visit Shelia's Homepage Send Shelia a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If she doesn't skirt fleeces during the shearing, make arrangements with the shepherd to have her show you how to skirt your fleece at a later date. Getting help on this the first time is invaluable, and help from the person who knows her sheep and their fleeces is even better.

You don't mention what breed of sheep they are, the size can vary a lot. Corriedales and Romneys are large sheep so have large fleeces, but if it's an Icelandic breeder none of the fleeces will be very big. If you can get a lamb or hogget fleece for your first one you will have a treat in store.

Shearing day is a lot of work, but hopefully there will be lots of help. As a newbie, if you can snag the sweeping job you'll get a really close view of the shearer and be able to hear any comments s/he may have which is very interesting. Have fun!

Shelia
www.breezyridgestudio.com
ravelry name - sheliaknits
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robinstephanie
Permanent Resident

USA
1176 Posts

Posted - 02/13/2012 :  11:41:07 PM  Show Profile Send robinstephanie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks, Shelia! She raises Cormo sheep; I'm not sure if those are large, small, or somewhere in between. We will be skirting on shearing day, so I'm expecting to learn a lot. Since she has such a good reputation I'm guessing she'll teach us how to skirt well. Does skirting change according according to the breed?

I'll aim for a lamb or hogget fleece, as you suggest, and see if I can wangle some time on the sweeping floor instead of just snipping off poo!

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
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Kade1301
Permanent Resident

France
1436 Posts

Posted - 02/14/2012 :  2:34:27 PM  Show Profile  Visit Kade1301's Homepage Send Kade1301 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd be careful about lamb fleece - depending on when the lambs were born, the wool may be rather short (actually, they probably won't now shear the lambs born this winter). A word about colour: Coloured wool is lovely, but seems to be a lot dirtier than white wool. I haven't found out yet whether that is because I don't see the dirt during skirting/sorting, thus more dirt ends up in the water, or whether my dark sheep do lie in dirtier patches (for camouflage? ;) ) than the white ones. So white wool might be easier to process at first. But don't let that stop you from taking a coloured one if it strikes your fancy!

The other thing is that Cormo is, I believe, not the easiest wool to work with (never have had any). A German spinner just wrote on another forum that she had an older, very greasy/dirty fleece, where the grease had hardened, and the fleece proved impossible to clean (she finally tried the washing machine and ruined the fleece). From that story I'd draw two conclusions: a) wash the fleece fairly quickly (definitely this spring/summer if weather does not permit it right now) b) be very carfully not to felt the fleece during washing. By the way, my secret weapon for impossibly greasy material is washing soda (for a maximum of 10 minutes, and very well rinsed out, with a bit of vinegar in one of the rinses). Washing soda has changed my wool washing life!

Another thing: Bringing snacks is always a good idea, but take something that will keep and that you can take home with you if it's not eaten. Because in Germany and France it's normal for the "bosses" to organize food for their helpers. When I help friends with shearing, there's a very generous lunch on the table! Don't know about American habits in that respect, though.

You will certainly learn a lot and have a great time - shearing is hard work but in good fun!

Have fun! Klara

http://www.lahottee.info
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EmEm
Warming Up

Ireland
87 Posts

Posted - 02/14/2012 :  10:18:45 PM  Show Profile Send EmEm a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm excited for you. I can't wait to hear about your weekend.
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robinstephanie
Permanent Resident

USA
1176 Posts

Posted - 02/23/2012 :  12:13:37 AM  Show Profile Send robinstephanie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well I am back and I had an absolutely superb time. I will try to keep it brief. For the first half of the day, my bf weighed, tracked, and stored, while I skirted. The shearer took off head, neck, and rump fleece, so we didn't have a particularly messy job. The shepherd and a friend of hers, both accomplished fiber junkies, worked the skirting table with me and taught me how to skirt and about various aspects of fiber. It was super interesting, and I think they enjoyed passing along their knowledge to someone so obviously interested (read that "obsessed").

At mid-day a crowd arrived, but I grabbed the primo spot, sweeping the shearing room floor, sweeping away unwanted fleece and second cuts, and generally getting totally into the zen of shearing. I got to feel a kicking sheep baby. I was up close and personal as Tim sheared the colored cormo sheep, and man oh man was it cool. They were beautiful. These heavy, silken soft, fragrant, warm, richly colored fleeces kept falling from the sheep and I just wanted to roll around in every single one of them. After I bought them all and ran away with them to my secret fleece lair, that is. Oh, they were pretty. So... I bought one!

It's beautiful. I want to name it. (Little sheep didn't have a name yet). It's a rich, chocolate brown with maple syrup highlights. I'm going to take a handful to stitches, to my spinning class, and talk to the teacher about the best way to handle it. I am. beyond. exited. It's actually only half of a lamb fleece, which is about what I wanted for a first fleece--nice and small. And the person who bought the other half is apparently a fleece judge, so I think I didn't go wrong in my selection.

Another most excellent part of the day was Joe, Border Collie and Suckup Extraordinaire. He had me at hello. I know Border Collies are famous for their gaze, but this little guy had a gaze of love and admiration and he was just certain I loved him back (me and everybody else in the world, that is). We had some very intimate conversations while I petted his silken head and he gazed straight up into my face. Uh-dorable. Almost not standable.

I have some great pics, but nowhere to put them online... I don't have a blog or a flickr or anything, so I'm not sure how to share these. Anybody have a good suggestion? I am so non-technological.

Thanks for your advice and interest, Shelia, Klara, and EmEm!

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
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Kade1301
Permanent Resident

France
1436 Posts

Posted - 02/23/2012 :  04:52:03 AM  Show Profile  Visit Kade1301's Homepage Send Kade1301 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the report, Robinsteph! I'm glad for you that all worked out so perfectly. The fleece does sound a real treat!

Happy spinning! Klara

http://www.lahottee.info
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La galloise
Chatty Knitter

France
161 Posts

Posted - 02/23/2012 :  08:08:39 AM  Show Profile Send La galloise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You sound totally hooked,so pleased you had so much fun.Enjoy your fleece
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Shelia
Permanent Resident

USA
2345 Posts

Posted - 02/23/2012 :  5:38:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit Shelia's Homepage Send Shelia a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sounds great, Robin. Just take it slowly and carefully with the washing and processing and you'll be in good shape. Cormo loves gentle handling.

Shelia
www.breezyridgestudio.com
ravelry name - sheliaknits
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EmEm
Warming Up

Ireland
87 Posts

Posted - 02/23/2012 :  8:58:16 PM  Show Profile Send EmEm a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I am soooooo glad you had such a good time. I cannot wait until I can do that too. Please let us know how your washing, processing and spinning goes. Congrats on picking a good 1st fleece.
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kthutch
New Pal

USA
2 Posts

Posted - 02/23/2012 :  9:46:24 PM  Show Profile Send kthutch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I love to work with Cormo. It may not be the softest and best for next to skin, but I think it spins beautifully with a wonderful loft and sheen. It's a great one to work with for a somewhat of a beginner spinner. Have fun. It's funny, but preparing a fleece is really quite a dirty and messy job, but I love it.
kthutch
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Clara
queen bee

USA
4398 Posts

Posted - 02/29/2012 :  1:47:11 PM  Show Profile  Visit Clara's Homepage Send Clara a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ahhhh, your experience sounds like pure bliss. I felt happy just reading it...

Clara
Your friendly Knitter's Review publisher
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calicokitty6
Seriously Hooked

USA
864 Posts

Posted - 02/29/2012 :  8:34:04 PM  Show Profile  Visit calicokitty6's Homepage Send calicokitty6 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It sounds like you had a great day!

As the others have said, be gentle with the washing. Use nice hot water and don't stir/move the fiber around too much.

A friend of mine has a sheep farm and I enjoy helping on Shearing Day. It takes about 4 of us, plus the shearer and her, to do everything. I couldn't do it last year, but, am hoping to do so this year if she needs me. She has down-sized her flock quite a bit. I think she had about 45 and now only has about 20. She "pays" each of us with a free fleece of our choice.

=^..^= Debbie http://calicokitty6.blogspot.com
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Luann
Permanent Resident

USA
2655 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2012 :  12:18:50 PM  Show Profile  Visit Luann's Homepage Send Luann a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you for sharing your day with us! It sounds wonderful and makes me think of spring on this chilly, sleeting New England day.

Luann

Knit and let knit!
http://www.luannocracy.blogspot.com
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hotzcatz
New Pal

22 Posts

Posted - 03/19/2012 :  3:29:13 PM  Show Profile  Visit hotzcatz's Homepage Send hotzcatz a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Photobucket is free and you can put your pictures there and then link them to here so we can see them.

Border collie stare (small picture):
direct link-

http://i649.photobucket.com/albums/uu219/hotzcatz/avatar7.jpg

There are several other options for inserting pictures which PhotoBucket supports, but this forum doesn't, but the "Direct Link" version is what gives the clickable link.

Have you started working with your new fleece yet?
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robinstephanie
Permanent Resident

USA
1176 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2012 :  09:29:21 AM  Show Profile Send robinstephanie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hotcatz, thank you for the photobucket idea. I've been thinking about getting these pics online lately, and perhaps I will try that.

I haven't started working with the new fleece yet, but I am going on an eight day work conference starting Thursday and there will be a lot of sitting around in the hotel room time, so I am going to wash a small bundle of fleece and take it with me to play with.

kthutch--I haven't handled a lot of Cormo, but this particular breeder is known for her soft fleeces and this hogget fleece is like butter. It's incredibly soft. I think I could make long underwear out of it and not go wrong. (:

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
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