Monday, 1 November 2010

Rhinebeck Aftermath: The Washing of the Fleeces

The bobbins on the spinning wheel have been bare lately as I've been busily washing fleeces after my annual Rhinebeck binge. Dirty fleeces tend to attract moths and moths are my mortal enemy. Even though I store my fleeces sealed up in spacebags, these can spring leaks and I'm super-paranoid about anything that might lure moths in the general direction of my stash.

My compadre over at A Dropped Stitch took this picture moments after we got out of the fleece sale. Fleece sales always reminds me of those bargain wedding-dress sales they have in the city where brides-to-be line up for hours, dash in, grab what they can and then spend the rest of the day bargaining and exchanging with other crazed shoppers to get what they want. Um, except we are fighting over dirty greasy sheep clippings. Anyway...I've seen these things get nasty with people fighting over who got there hands on one first. Getting there early, grabbing what you can and then making sure it's exactly what you want is an intense way to start your day. I found a clear table in the back of the room in good light where I could take the fleeces completely out of the bag for a better look.

Here's what I ended up going home with:

This is Fred, a 4lb dark brown Rambouillet fleece.

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His fleece has very tight crimp. The staple length looks short, but if you pull on the ends of a lock, it stretches out to 3 inches. It's very soft. Rambouillets are French Merinos, but the American version has been outcrossed quite a bit to make a hardier sheep.

Here is Mable, a dark brown (almost black) Corriedale:

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It's a 5lb fleece, but I split it with someone else, so I have 2.5 lbs of it. Corriedales are a cross between Lincoln, English Leicester and Merino sheep. It's got the crimp and density from merino, but the long staple and luster from the longwool.

I know I have sworn up and down that I would never buy a merino fleece to process myself. There's so much commercial merino available that's perfectly wonderful to spin. Well, seeing a moorit colored fleece on the table changed my tune really quickly.

Stash to sell

This is Muriel. She wore a blanket and despite being a super-greasy lanolin-laden merino, she washed up nicely with barely any dirt to worry about. She has a really long 4" staple length. Washing was very tricky as merino wants to felt up when you look at it sideways, but I'm so happy with the results. I can't wait to spin this.

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It is also a rather enormous fleece. Merinos are no slouches when it comes to production, and her fleece was well over 8 pounds. This took several batches of washes, and it was so dense it took almost a week to dry completely. The fleece is so crimpy and soft, I forgive her.

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It's the most work I've ever had to put into a fleece.

I think I'll be kept busy for a while.


  1. i've never wanted a fleece before seeing Fred. and Muriel. beautiful!!!

  2. I am slowly coming around to the idea of fleece processing...

  3. Sara,

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    Space Savers community correspondent