As you know, our annual Shearing Party was held a couple of weeks ago. The party is always a good time, but the main purpose of it is to shear our flocks of Cormo and Colored sheep (plus a handful of Angora goats.)
Now that we have all that glorious fleece off the animals and bagged up, it can start the process of becoming yarn, which will then become wonderful knitted garments made by you.
Here’s what happens next:
On May 2nd or 3rd, we will be dropping hundreds and hundreds of pounds of fleece off with our favorite American woolen mill at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. We always try to have the flocks shorn before MDS&W because I prefer handing the fleeces off personally to the people who will be milling over putting it in a box and shipping it to them. In additional to saving us around $1000 in shipping charges, passing the fleeces directly to the people who will be processing it gives me more confidence that our order will be handled properly. There are a lot of details that must be passed to the mill and I am always more confident that they know what my expectations are when I can check all the boxes right in front of them and discuss my order personally.
After the fleece reaches the mill, it will be scoured to remove all the dirt, vegetable matter and lanolin. Believe it our not, half the weight is usually lost in the washing process! It’s always a little disappointing to get the post-wash weight, even though I know what to expect.
The clean fleeces will then take their place in the line to be combed and spun. Our white fleeces and colored fleeces are processed separately, both from each other and from all the other wool coming in from other farms and ranches. (We only want yarn made from our own fleeces, naturally.) The white wool is generally processed fairly quickly, with a turn around time of three our four months. The colored wool takes a bit longer, as the mill has to shut down the equipment and clean everything before processing colored wool, and repeat the procedure afterwards.
Once the wool has been washed, carded, spun and hanked it is shipped back to us for dyeing and shipping out to you. As you can see, there are many steps in the process to making yarn, and for a good part of that process, everything is out of our hands. That can be really frustrating for a control freak like myself, but I’ve learned to work with people I trust and check in with them frequently.
And while we’re waiting for our yarn to return, we can distract ourselves with LAMBING SEASON! Lots and lots of lambos should start arriving in just a couple of weeks. More on this let this week.