A few months ago, a fleece from a sheep named Gracie came to live with us. Gracie is a CVM/Romney, and she is so dark brown and soft…ooh, I really can’t describe. When Tom saw the fleece sample, his mouth opened and the words, “that’s my sweater,” came out. So. Gracie came home.
Designing a sweater for a guy is not really simple. Not if the guy wants to actually wear the sweater. Not if you want the guy to actually love the sweater you design for him. So, it took some doing. I’ve been through all the books. We talked about necks and ribbings, shoulders and textures. Ad infinitum. A woman in one of my Ravelry groups sent me an old Knitter’s magazine with an Elizabeth Zimmerman sweater. Good thought. But, no. However, there were elements of the “right” sweater there, and in another sweater in that old magazine.
The Swatch, the Needles, the Sweater Pattern, and the Cartoon
I had already spun a 20 yd sample of 12wpi 2-ply, thinking that would be about the right weight and spring for a sweater. And as soon as I had a chart for the allover design, I knitted a swatch. It’s fairly hard to see here, but…
The Successful Swatch
So, with 4 1/2 lbs of Gracie in the box, I set about deciding how best to wash her. I usually do a cold scour, but there has been so much talk about the Fermented Suint Method (FSM), that I decided to try that. In FSM, a fleece is soaked in room temperature water for a week. Just left to stew in its own juices. The water gets brown, opaque, practically flocculates, a slick of weird stuff forms on the top, oh…and it stinks. Does that make you want to try it? After that week, the fleece gets rinsed…I shot it with a hose…until the water runs clear. Guess what? The fleece comes out soft, locks intact, just swell! And it doesn’t stink. The best part is, or the most fun part, or the most really hard to get over part…is that that nasty dirty looking water is then reused, for more fleece. Yes. Just drop another fleece in…and in two days…that fleece is clean. Potassium salts from the suint do the trick. VM is loosened up, barnyard gunk drops out, pasty ends open up. It’s the closest thing to magic you will ever see in fleece washing land. The best part is…there is no soap, no stress about felting…no worries.
Gracie in the Tub – FSM Style
After the successful washing of Gracie, I started the process of carding. Carding and pulling roving.
Here’s a bit of the roving I’ve been pulling. We played a dance in Tampa the other night, and I carded and pulled for a couple of hours during the drive between Gainesville and the Rhapsody Ballroom. When we got to the dance, I showed a woman my little project. She rubbed her cheek against it, and proclaimed, “feels like cashmere.” Enough said.
Navajo Churro, Cold Soaked for 6 Days
The Raw Wool Lovers, Unite group on Ravelry has been having a Fleece Study. Alice, aka shortsheepshepherd, has coordinated the purchase and distribution of a whole pile of fleeces…a variety of breeds. Last month, we received our first “installment” of 4 samples.
Fleece #1 Navajo Churro, was soaked for 6 days in a tub of cold water. I drained it and sprayed down the fleece when I got an algae bloom. The fiber is fairly coarse, but after the weeklong soak, it’s very clean, with a bit of grease…that, for me, is good for spinning.
Navajo Churro Locks, Ready to Card
I pulled off some clean locks from the pile of fluff. This stuff is long! I did card a small batt and it’s just lovely.
For the record, this fleece came from breeder Golden Ridge Farm in Vesuvius, Virginia.