Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wool processing workshop

A month ago we held a wool processing workshop here at the farm. Chris' stepmom had met a gal who is quite skilled at processing and spinning wool and she arranged to have her come to the farm for a day-long, hands-on demonstration. Gwen was younger than I had expected and full of enthusiasm for her craft. About a dozen people came down for the day.


It's a good thing that we are learning how to process fleeces, because we have quite a pile of wool from this year's shearing!


The first thing we learned was called "willowing" which is simply hitting the fleece with a wire rug beater or the equivalent to knock out much of the dirt and debris.


Next she showed us how to wash the fleece. We had a warm water wash and a cool rinse, and she demonstrated how careful you need to be to avoid felting the wool. She commented on how clean our fleeces are, which amazed me because they sure seemed dirty to me!




After washing the fleece is laid out on screens to dry and get a final picking over.



Then, with already washed fleece that she had brought with her, Gwen showed us how to card the wool. This was a very satisfying step in the process, although we were surprised at how much waste there is. The waste wool can be used for some things though, like quilt batting or even garden mulch.



Everyone tried their hand at carding and we all worked on making enough wool to practice spinning. The kids really liked this part.




Here is a rolag, which is the bit of wool you get after carding. At this point it is ready to spin.



Eliza really liked combing the wool.



Then after a wonderful pot-luck lunch it was time to spin! First we tried the drop spindle, which is pretty intuitive to use but not terribly easy. It's really a challenge to keep the spindle turning and get an even yarn. But we didn't do too badly for our first try!



Using the wheel was more satisfying when it actually worked, but was definitely a challenge. It's one of those things where three of your four limbs need to be doing something different at the same time, so much coordination is required. Gwen was very patient and helped each one of us give it a go. I'm definitely interested in learning more about how to use the wheel.




I'll bet you already guessed what Scotty's favorite part of the day was!



We had a wonderful time and we were thrilled to be able to give Gwen a venue for her workshop as well as an audience. She did a great job and we are looking forward to having her here again to show us how to dye the wool!

4 comments:

Danielle said...

Oooh, awesome—wish I could've been there. I want more details! I have three bags of fleece that I need to start processing.

What temp water did you use? What kind of care did you take not to felt the wool? You just floated it in the hot water right? For how long?

Gawd, I'm so needy, aren't I?

Twinville said...

What a great day! The instructor over at Good Fibrations promises me that she can teach me how to get coordinated enough to spin a pretty skein of yarn. We'll see. haha!
I'm looking forward to participating in the wool dying class. You've got alot of beautiful churro wool to process. How fun!

Twinville said...

What a great day! The instructor over at Good Fibrations promises me that she can teach me how to get coordinated enough to spin a pretty skein of yarn. We'll see. haha!
I'm looking forward to participating in the wool dying class. You've got alot of beautiful churro wool to process. How fun!

Jenny said...

Oh man, Danielle, I don't know! I remember that the water was 120 degrees for the wash but I can't remember how long. I think they were washed twice. She gave us a list of good books for this info and said that the best ones were by Paula Simmons. I'm sure that Maria (Chris' stepmom) remembers all of it. She's going to be the lead person on wool processing around here. Maybe you remember too, Lisa? All I can think about right now is chickens--we just processed the last of our CX birds. 22 of them tonight. I'm tired!