I glanced at the calendar yesterday and realized there are only about three weeks until Indie Knit & Spin! After the Autumn Fiber Event last weekend and a busy (not with fiber) September, my inventory is rather low. I have high expectations for this upcoming event, so there is a lot to do to get ready.
Carding 30-40 batts
Sorting and picking Corriedale/Border Leicester fleece
And then it’s nothing for three months! Maybe I’ll finally have a chance to paint the bathroom and practice wet felting and get all that custom yarn spun up. It’ll be a good time to hibernate and get stuff done.
Undyed locks will make their debut at Indie Knit & Spin! Here is the beautiful Corriedale/Border Leicester cross I found at Woolfest. It has lovely wave and a great staple length. After a wash and dry, I’ve been picking through it, separating the locks and pulling out VM. The locks fluff easily, so you could just pull them apart and spin them without further processing necessary.
Even though I know I have to keep buying fiber to dye and spin, it still gives me a nervous thrill when a 22 pound box of combed top shows up on my porch or a very large box containing nearly 30 lbs of fleeces arrives. The what-ifs start swirling around in my head. What if I can’t get rid of this? What if it doesn’t sell? What if it turns out to be crap? Most of the fiber I have purchased has been good, but occasionally I end up with something that is just unusable.
However, I am quite confident with the latest shipment of fleeces. It all started with a gorgeous Corriedale/Border Leicester/Lincoln X I purchased at New York Sheep & Wool last October. It was so glossy, thick, and soft. The locks had great definition and washed superbly. But the dyeing… oh, it was perfection! So vibrant and lustrous.
I had so much fun dyeing these locks that I knew I wanted more when they were gone. So I found the card that had been included with the fleece to get some contact info. I emailed the shepherdess and told her just how much I had enjoyed Rosita’s fleece. Then I found out she had Rosita’s daughter, Molly, and her granddaughter, Tootsi. Plus Joy, who is unrelated. But since I loved Rosita’s so much, I went ahead and got all four. I think I’ll send two to the mill and save two for locks. Also, I love that she sent me pictures from the farm! Even though I can’t say these are “local” sheep, they are from a small farm and working directly with the owner has been great. Makes it all the more special!
“Where do you get your fleeces?” It’s a question I am often asked after, “Do you have your own sheep?” And since the answer to that question is no, the next one is logical.
So where do they come from? Most often I pick them up when I’m at a fiber show. I always check out the fleece sale and/or competition if they have one. You just walk up and down between tables covered in fleeces. What more could you ask for? I got two gorgeous fleeces at the Rhinebeck sale last year. And since we aren’t going this year, I emailed both farms about having them shipped to me. Both said they would send samples of their current year’s fleeces. So, now I have found something I love and established a connection with a farm (in New York). One great thing about buying fleeces from a competition is that they are usually skirted and tend to be cleaner, since they are competing. A negative: sometimes the price per pound seems higher. My thought on that: I am getting something that is totally usable instead of paying for poop.
If nothing at the fleece sale speaks to me, I check out what the vendors have. Most fiber shows are attended by farmers/shepherds in addition to yarn shops, so it’s a good time to meet the people who work with the sheep. Last year at the Great Lakes Fiber Show I met Fred. He has a flock of Shetland sheep here in Ohio. I purchased Lily’s beautiful grey fleece and had it processed into roving. This year I returned to his booth, found out he remembered me, and bought two more fleeces. I got Lily’s again and Violet’s. Learning more about where the sheep come from makes it that much more special.
Under normal circumstances I always try to buy fleeces and fiber in person. However, there are times when I am running low and I need something now. That is when I turn to the internet. This winter/spring I bought a fleece through a Ravelry group called Fleece Market. It came from a farm in Iowa and had the most incredible crimp I’ve ever seen. And just a few weeks ago I bought three fleeces from a farm in Virginia, Digging Dog Farm. I had heard about them from Ashley Martineau, inquired, and ended up finding a source for really great fiber.
Sometimes you get crap. It happens. Maybe you didn’t dig deep enough into the bag before you bought it. You find it so full of vegetable matter that it would be impossible to clean, or it’s full of second cuts, or the quality of the fiber is just poor. Next look a little closer before you buy and you’ll start to figure out what you want in a fleece.
At Woolfest last weekend I picked up a total of three fleeces. Two were from the Farmpark fleece sale, one from a sheep that lives at the park and one from an employee of the park who keeps sheep. The other came from another vendor selling fleeces.
The Farmpark has an incredibly varied selection of breeds. I bought a 5 pound Finnsheep fleece for $5/lb. I was surprised how clean it was, but it had a lot of second cuts. While I had it laid out, I picked up the sides and shook it to help loosen the unwanted little pieces. I also picked many of them out by hand. Still not sure if I’m going to have this one processed or work on it myself.
The other fleece that came from the Farmpark sale actually isn’t a park animal. The sheep, Stewart, belongs to one of the park employees. She has a flock of Jacobs and brought her fleeces to sell. I’ve worked with Jacob a little, but never a whole fleece’s worth. Also, I don’t think I’ve encountered any quite as soft as this one. It was 3.5 lbs at $16. Not sure again whether I’ll get this processed. It’s rather small to start with, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t get much back.
The third fleece I bought is a Corriedale/Border Leicester cross from a farm in Ohio. I bought it Friday night from a vendor before the show started. It is a hefty 8.5 lbs and I didn’t quite realize how long the staple length was until I got it out to skirt. Wowzer! This is the longest staple I’ve ever worked with. Now I know why the fleece was so heavy… I kind of couldn’t help myself from washing some these locks. You know, just to see. I’ll be laying the out to dry when I’ve finished here. It’s just so substantial I can’t quite wrap my head around it!
If dyed locks are your thing, then head over to the shop right now and snatch these up before I take them to the show this weekend!
It’s a Corriedale/Lincoln/Border Leicester cross. They are so soft and shiny and wonderful. I want them all for myself! But they are going to A Knitter’s Fantasy with me and I don’t know how many will be back. So if you see something you like, get it now before it’s too late.
One of the Ravelry groups I am a member of is all about vending at fiber festivals. It’s been interesting discussing various issues with other dyers/spinners who 1) produce large quantities of product and 2) drag it around to events trying to convince people to buy it. One of the best threads dealt with bad experiences. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who has had rude people saying stupid things in my booth. There has also been discussions about displays (that’s how I heard about Woodland Marketing and those new shelves), payment methods, logos/branding, transportation/storage, and other things. One person asked about reskeining, and I found out I am in the minority when it comes to said task. I reskein all of my yarn after washing. Sometimes the strands stick together or they get tangled and disheveled. My mental state is just more calm if I reskein. However, I do not dye massive quantities of yarn for resale (or any at all), so I am working with just a few skeins at a time. I suppose if I was dealing with oodles of yarn, I might change my tune.
Just for kicks I took photos of my latest yarns to see if there was a noticeable difference before and after reskeining. I’m guessing that no one will be able to tell anything happened, and I suppose that’s ok with me. I know that the BFL singles yarn was massively stuck to itself before I sent it around the niddy noddy for a second time. Or that the Shropshire had shrunk a significant amount.
It’ll be my little secret. And my personal satisfaction.
This indiscriminate heap is actually a basketful of rolags. Admittedly, I am not very good at handcarding. Also, these rolags were stuffed in a bag and dragged around for a few weeks, not placed orderly in a box or basket. And I realize the color is not terribly inspiring. These are from a fleece I bought at the NYSW fleece sale. It’s a Corriedale/Lincoln/Border Leicester cross — so soft and shiny! If it still looks dull when I finish spinning it, I’ll just overdye it. You always have options.