Good afternoon, all. It’s been a dreary few days here in Serenity Cove which is the perfect weather for spinning. This week I’m spinning up Amy’s fleece straight as it came off of her. Yes. I’m spinning a raw fleece. No combing, carding, or even flick carding. I did run the fleece through a hot water soak since it’s a 2015 fleece just to soften up the lanolin.
Why? Have you lost your mind?
No. There are valid reasons to spin a fleece in the grease. It makes a good warp thread, and the grease helps protect the yarn from the wear warp threads experience during the weaving process. It also increases the water shedding ability of a finished garment to leave lanolin in. It also cuts down on processing time. Imagine spinning up an entire fleece in a week. That’s actually my biggest motivation. It’s also a good challenge, and frankly, you’ll be a better spinner by the end.
But Fleeces are DIRTY!
Oh, I know all about dirty fleeces and what can be lurking in a fleece. That’s why this method is saved for the cleanest fleeces. If you can snag a coated fleece from a low lanolin breed, that’s perfect. If you can snag a low vegetable matter fleece that’s in good shape, it’s also a candidate. If you find a gorgeous fleece with high vm, get out the combs.
Our foremothers didn’t have luxury fleeces, roving, top, art batts, and all those trappings offered by the industry these days. If they were fortunate they had wheel, maybe combs or carders, and a family to tend. You’ll spin this style just like they did.
First, fluff out the butt end of a lock with your fingers. That’s the thicker cut side that probably looks less worn. Start it on your leader, and begin to draft. Try to draft from the butt ends. It goes better, and any damaged tips or vm will most likely end up on the floor instead of the yarn. Drafting on the fold works well, too. Just avoid drafting from the tip end. It’s really that simple. This is the drafting crucible as a spinner.
If you watch, I tend to draft back with my left hand and control twist with my right. This comes from spinning long draw for so long. Do what feels comfortable for you, and will give you a consistent spin. If you get into a bunch of nubs and narls, pick them out, and toss that bit of the fleece, and keep going.
I’ve spun it, now what?
When you get done you’ll have lanolin laced yarn, maybe even lanolin laced lace yarn. Wash it in hot water. I find a good tea kettle and a small basin are the best tools. Use a little blue Dawn if you must. Don’t let your water cool too much, or the grime will restick. I find three good near boiling soaks does the trick. Congratulations, you’ve spun that fleece. Welcome to the club.
This is the one time to be a total snob about fleece. I really enjoy long wool breeds and Jacob for this kind of spinning. You also can spin this way on a drop spindle as I learned in Bolivia. However, a spinning wheel is much easier. But for me, the biggest thing is how connected I become with the sheep and the process. I always feel more a part of the farm, the experience of the land and abundance when spinning straight from the fleece. In the end, I hope that connection finds you, too.
In all you do, craft no harm.