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.

the last hurrah

Since I already have the photos ready for the January reopening of the Etsy shop, I decided to go ahead and do it. I know it was scheduled for Monday, but I am meeting with my accountant, and I had the time today, so here it is! My plan to create a de-stashing shop still stands, however I do not currently have any items to list there. In a few weeks when I have been able to rebuild my inventory, I will reevaluate the situation. For now, please feel free to browse the shop!


decisions as a dyer

As a regular reader of this blog would know, I enjoy taking trips down memory lane now and then. Having a Flickr account since October 2006 (hey – seven years this month!) gives me the chance to compare earlier work to my current work. I can see how much I’ve improved — or stagnated. I can see how much more — or less — productive I am now. Either way, it’s good to remind myself of my progress.

Today I am taking a look back at my early dyeing experiences. I am sure that I had started dyeing earlier than what is available via Flickr, but I hadn’t started documenting things yet. The first photo I have of dyed locks is this one from November 6, 2006. It was Lincoln wool. I had run them through the carder and decided it looked like a potential wig… so it went on my head!

Lincoln Beehive
The next two photos are from the following spring. The first from March 9, 2007 is combed top, just a domestic wool blend. When I first got into dyeing, I would buy a pound of domestic (super cheap!) and dye 2 ounces at a time to make it last longer. Now I am buying 22 pounds at a time. What a difference.  Those colors say lanaset to me, so at that point I was already getting past the Kool-aid/Wiltons phase and into wool dyes.

nugget of joy
This photo is from March 11, 2007. It’s the wool roving I received from a fiber processing mill that lost my original fleece. To this day I am not entirely sure what the breed was, but I think I still have some of it lying around. It wasn’t the greatest stuff, but it gave me a lot of experience dyeing.


Where was I going with this?

I think it’s safe to say I should be out of my “experimental” phase by now. Sure, it’s fun to try new things now and then. Different techniques, fibers, dyes, etc. One doesn’t want to get bored. However, I have been avoiding something that almost every dyer I know can do: repeated colors. I have always claimed that I take an “unscientific approach” and I don’t record any recipes. It ruins the artistic flow. And that is true, but also I am using it as an excuse to remain casual and detached, a way to avoid being purposeful. On one hand, having repeatable colors would make my life easier in many ways. On the other hand, it could be boring.

Why not do… BOTH!? Someone (Rich first and then my dad) suggested that I have two separate collections: those that are predictable, repeatable colors, and those that are special little moments in time that will never be seen again. I’m sure many dyers take this approach, but it makes a lot of sense. I can still have the fun of “come what may”, but those shoppers who want a sweater’s worth in one color can get it. We’ll see if I can pull it off!

This week is going to be full of dyeing. With Indie Knit & Spin coming up quick and a successful event behind me, I have a serious amount of restocking to do. Planned for this week:

  • Grey Romney roving
  • White Border Leicester/Coopworth roving
  • White Cotswold locks
  • White Border Leicester/Corriedale locks
  • White Falkland top
  • White Blue-faced Leicester top
  • White Colonial wool top

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

what’s new?

So… what’s been happening lately? I had to go through my inventory. After Woolfest, I knew that I’d have a lot of purchasing to do before the fall festival season started. The most important item I needed to restock was my fiber. I’ve only got a few bags of dyed locks left and not many batts. But the starting place for that is the raw fiber itself. I put in an order with Ashland Bay and ended up with three 22 pound bumps. One is Falkland, one is Blue-faced Leicester, and the other is their “Colonial” which is a Corriedale-type wool. The last I planned on using primarily for batt base wool. I started dyeing some of it this week.

dyed fiber

Oddly enough, just after I received the combed top from Ashland Bay, I also got word from the two processing mills where I had fleeces. First Ohio Valley Natural Fibers sent me an invoice. Two days later I got a call from Zeilinger’s that I had two fleeces ready for shipment from them. OVNF sent theirs Priority, so it showed up yesterday.

fresh roving

I’ve also got a new event on the schedule for next month. After being invited for several years and never having that weekend available, I am finally participating in the Grey to Green Festival at Wick Park in Youngstown, Ohio. If you are in the area on September 21, come by for a visit.

monday — dye day

On Monday I dyed 4 pounds of Romney roving. It’s great stuff from Per Ardua Farm in Paris, Ohio. Usually I split my pounds into quarters (4 ounces each) and dye them one at a time. It sounds time-consuming, but I have three or four pots going on the stove, sometimes I have a couple crockpots cooking, and occasionally I bake fiber in the oven. I believe each of these methods has a name, like hot pour and cold pour, but I just do what I do and don’t think much beyond that.

Lately I’ve been trying to dye in larger batches for those people who can’t think of anything to do with 2.75 ounces or apparently 4 ounces. So far I’ve gotten up to dyeing 8 ounces of the same thing. It’s easier to do it when I bake the fiber in a turkey roasting pan. I can get 8 ounces in at one time and the colors don’t swim around as much. Plus it’s a little more predictable. I’ve been trying to write down the recipes so I can use them again later. Each of the ones below I’ve already done. The blue/purple came out just the same. The one at the far end didn’t really duplicate well. I am curious to try it again!

I’ve been thinking about selling these in 8 ounces rather than splitting them in half. Would these be more appealing as a single large amount or split into two smaller amounts?

roving drying

shop update!

I’ve had some beautiful Romney roving in my stash since last summer, but I’m just now getting around to adding it to the shop. At this point I only have five braids left — it’s been quite popular! I wish I could spin it all myself, honestly. Generally I tend to maintain an ever-changing variety of breeds. However, I loved this fleece so much that I am trying to get it again this spring. How could I pass it up?

Embers. Handdyed Romney roving.
summer afternoon
Summer Afternoon. Handdyed Romney roving.
harvest moon
Harvest Moon. Handdyed Romney roving.
Fury. Handdyed Romney roving.
long lost love
Long Lost Love. Handdyed Romney roving.



Ok, so Rich and I watch COPS kind of a lot. He says it makes him feel better about himself. I enjoy the old ones where everyone wears eyeglasses the size of saucers and the moustaches are large and robust. Nothing quite compares to an episode of COPS from 1987. To be honest, even some of the newer ones look dreadfully out of date.

But whenever they pull someone over and discover drugs in their car, certain things sound familiar. “We’ve got baggies, white stuff, and a scale in the trunk. There’s definitely an intent to sell.”