WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY do I always think I’ll remember which fleece is which?! And why don’t I label them better?!

It’s tax season again, or at least approaching tax season. And this is the time when I review my inventory and see what’s what and where and so on. I’m opening bags and boxes, wondering, what is this and where did it come from? I buy fleeces from the same places each year and my taste is fairly consistent, so just looking at a bag full of curly locks isn’t going to help me figure out which sheep donated it. At this moment I am avoiding my next task by writing this blog post. I need to lay everything out to determine the following:

who has been washed
who has been washed and dyed
who has been sold
who is still sitting in purgatory waiting for attention

I’m quite sure that everything in my life is related in some way to avoidance. I clean the stove top when I am avoiding something. I write a blog post when I am avoiding digging through fleeces. I check Facebook (for the 1000th time that day) when I am avoiding number things in Quickbooks. At least I got the dishes washed already! Because I was avoiding the fleeces. Maybe I’ll go clean out my car.

processing a fleece pt. 2

Last week I finally got my fleeces boxed up and sent off to Michigan. It was an all day affair. First I had to get the fleeces packed into bags. Then I had to cram them into a box. However, I couldn’t find a box large enough for all three. Since I wanted to ship via UPS, I went to a mailing store intending to get a bigger box. They had one on hand and helped me get everything ready to go. It’s out of my hands now!

Rosita’s fleeces took the most work. I started by laying out a sheet in the living room upon which to spread them out. Next I went through the fiber to make sure I hadn’t left any pieces of paper behind, otherwise I would end up with confetti in my roving!


Next it was time to get it bagged up. I had a heavy duty plastic bag from a previous shipment of returned roving, so I crammed all the fiber into it. I tried to pack it down from the start, so I didn’t have as much squeezing to do later. It started out big:


But after sitting on the bag to compress the fiber and push out the air, it was much smaller! The other two fleeces were still in the grease and didn’t change as much in size after compression. The finished box weighed around 30 lbs with each bag weighing around 8 lbs each. I’m excited to get these back and spin them! Now for the waiting…


to process a fleece

In January Zeilinger Wool Company usually has a sale on fleece processing. This year you can get a 20% discount when you prepay. That may not seem like much, but every little bit helps, especially if you are shipping your fleeces to them. Every other time I have used their services, I’ve dropped my fiber off at their booth during a fiber festival. They weigh it, I pay, and then in a few months I get a box overflowing with beautiful, clean roving. However, I may not have the chance to see them this year if I don’t get to Maryland Sheep & Wool. And since I have a few fleeces that I’d like to be processed, I thought I’d take advantage of their sale.

The first step was to set out all of my fleeces and take an inventory. I had already done this in October, so I had a fairly good idea of what was in my stash. Slightly less than what is pictured below, since I washed and dyed at least one for the fall season.

Have things gotten out of hand? #wool #fleece # fiber #stash

At that time, I pulled out Rosita’s fleece from 2012 to get it in the bath. I selected it more because of its age rather having a specific purpose in mind for it. I really hate to have a dirty fleece sitting around for too long. The grease can stiffen, plus it attracts unwanted attention from predators. After the fleece was clean, I set it aside until I could decide what I wanted to do with it.

Where's Olive? #kitty #fiber #stash

With fiber processing on my mind, I pulled out all the fleeces again, this time taking note of their weights. Zeilinger’s has weight requirements for raw and washed fiber, otherwise the price per pound goes up. Minimum weight for raw is 7 lbs and 5 lbs for washed. I was feeling a bit discouraged, since many of the fleeces (raw) were 7 lbs or less. I knew by the time I washed them they would be far below the minimum and I’d have to pay $14/lb. Even though I had many fleeces to choose from, I didn’t want to combine different sheep. Then I realized I had two years of fleeces from Rosita. AND one was already clean! So I got 2013 Rosita into the washer last week. Now she’s all clean and ready to go. By combining those two, I should have no problem exceeding the 5 lb minimum.

Today I went back to the Zwool website and I reread their instructions. That’s when I noticed that only raw fiber had to be over 7 lbs. I have two more raw fleeces that are 8.6 and 7.6 lbs, so I think I will have them processed too. It costs $1 more per pound to have the mill wash for you. It saves me time and resources, and since I only have until the end of January to get the discount, I will hand that job off to them.


In all, I plan to send four fleeces out for processing. In return I will have three bags of roving. One from Rosita (two years worth), one from Tootsie, and one from Molly. I did get Tootsie’s fleece processed last year too and it came back beautiful. It’s such a lovely color that I am hesitant to dye it. These are all from the same farm in New York. I’ve been getting fleeces from her since 2011 when I first bought Rosita at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival. They are a Border Leicester/Corriedale cross.

and another box

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!

The flock in Schodack Landing, NY




friday’s question

This was supposed to be posted last week, but I had no internet connection for a few days. 

When I skirted my three new fleeces last week, I was reminded of something: I do not have a skirting table. It was a painful reminder, as I spread the fleeces out on the driveway and continually bent over as I walked around picking up unwanted bits of debris. It was also hot out there. Another significant negative: the unwanted items don’t just fall away from the fleece as you work through it. Rather, they stay stuck in with the good fiber. And if I had a skirting table, I could use it for drying washed fleeces too. So why don’t I have one? They are usually big and bulky. Plus it’s just one more thing Rich and I have to build. As of now, I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

In contrast to having need of something but not having the capability to obtain it, I now have a new piece of equipment that I did not feel was a necessity. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I just got a serious ball winder. Up until this point I’ve been using a nostepinne to wind every ball. I’m quite good at it, but sometimes I wish I had something quicker. I do have a plastic ball winder, but it is garbage, so I never use it. But I didn’t want to spend the money on a good one, so I just kept using my nostepinne. However, Rich decided it would be a worthwhile investment and made the decision on my behalf. Now I want to find reasons to use it.

Question: How long do you “make do” before you break down and buy the tools and equipment that are made for the job? Do you wait until you have need of something before buying it or do you buy a tool assuming you will use it eventually?