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FourCountryGals.com
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello y'all,

Please help me as I embark on the wonderful adventure to get you high quality Merino/Suffolk cross sheep.

Right now, I've got three bags (from 5 ewes and 1 ram) of recently shorn fleece (June 2007).

My questions... is it ok to work on them in pieces?

How much VM is too much?

How hard should I be able to shake them without having the fleece start to come apart?

How do I measure the staple? and the crimp?

Here's what I have to work with:

I'm working on a folding "craft table" and have a an old squirrel-cage fan housing 36" in diameter with 1/2" hardware cloth.

I've looked all over the Internet for some "step-by-step" instructions and I see pictures of people standing over their fleeces... but I never see pics of what they discard... can y'all be of assistance, please?

Once I get this stuff into a decent condition, I'll be asking for more help... like offering samples to folks for feedback.

We have plans to send to Texas A&M for micron testing once we know what we're doing.

Also, we understand we may have sheep that should be covered to produce the best possible fleece, and we're looking into that, too.

I'll be looking for your answers... in the meantime, I'll go start a page on m server with pics of what I've got so far.

Back in an hour or so with a link for you
 

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Fiber Arts forum Mod.
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Here is a link on skirting fleeces I found. I'm feeling too lazy to type out a bunch of stuff right now. Maybe later I can come back to answer some of your other questions. In the mean time Im sure others will have plenty of answers for you.

I haven't read it through but what I did read looked good.

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art19230.asp
 

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It sounds like you have some wonderful wool there.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by working it in pieces?

Most all fleeces have some VM in it, it's hard to feed hay and not get any, unless you can have them on pasture year round and don't have to feed hay. A feeder where they can't literally jump up in the feeder, which they always do, helps. I'll see if I can find a photo of one. Too much VM is when you take out a chunk of wool and
here's more VM than wool, lol!

I'm not sure what you mean about shaking them and having them come apart? Are you shaking it to put on the skirting table? The shorter stapled fleeces will come apart easier than the long wools.

I guess I'm not sure about this either -- "an old squirrel-cage fan housing 36" in diameter with 1/2" hardware cloth." Not sure what that is. Our skirting table is basically a frame with PVC pipe going across it so that you can put the fleece on the table and the short cuts and some of the VM can fall through.

You measure the staple after it's sheared. Don't pull the staple to measure it, just let it lay and measure that. Most people prefer a staple length of at least 3 inches or so.

The crimp can be tight, such as you probably have with the merino, to loose crimp which you get with Romney or something like that.

As far as skirting goes, that's just laying the fleece out on a surface (skirting table works the best) and removing tags or wool that is heavily soiled with manure, usually just around the tail area and around the edges of the fleece, removoing any short belly, face and leg wool, and removing any wool that is heavily contaminated with VM or burrs or manure and shaking out any second cuts (those short little pieces) that you can get out. Just shake the fleece a bit and they'll fall out. Spinners just don't like second cuts. If you shake them out, they'll be much happier with your fleece.

Really, all you can do though is to do your best to have a clean pasture, free from burrs, feed your sheep so they get as little VM as possible over themselves, start with a good shearing job and after sheared, remove the obviously bad parts of the fleece.

I can't wait to see your pictures and learn your progress! And, keep asking questions, that's how we've all learned. If you have any neighbors who have sheep, ask them if you can come help with the shearing. It's a great way to learn and people always appreciate the help.

Here's a couple feeders that work well. A friend has the six-sided feeder and her sheep have the cleanest fleece I've ever seen.
http://www.cps.gov.on.ca/english/sh4000/sh4625.htm
http://www.cps.gov.on.ca/english/sh4000/sh4611.htm
 

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FourCountryGals.com
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149 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thanks much for that link... it helps quite a bit.

Here's a link to a "quickie" page that shows what I've got.

http://dhaenterprises.com/skirtingfleece.html

I really appreciate y'all's help. My "sheep mentor" never did any of this as she didn't really market her wool. Not sure why... but around here, everyone is pretty down on Merinos. The co-op won't take anything but white... and you don't get paid for a very long time.

Also, I'm very new to this area, and am finding that while folks are quite friendly... you really have to hunt them down to pick their brains. Also, we're not Mormon, so don't have a "ready-made" network, if you know what I mean.
 

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woolgathering
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pictures are still loading im on dial up

ok they do look pretty dirty, but if you are feeding hay that is what you get

i found shearing while they are on pasture only made for easier cleaning, but as we are having to feed already those who get sheared this fall will be fairly dirty

i tend to skirt as i shear as i hand shear, removing all the dung tags and badly felted knoted bits

i also wash the lock instead of whole pieces, it come out cleaner for me that way

by washing in the lock i mean i remove it in sections and separate out the indivdual locks holding the shorn end dip in hot soapy water and rub the lock end, then let it all rest in the hot as can be stood water with lots of dish soap or wool shampoo. DO NOT AGITATE it will felt. You may be able to move it a little bit if you are careful. it sits in each wash 10 -20 min and moved to the next pan that is ready for it( dont run water directly on it). dont let water cool down or the lanolin will redeposit and will never come out. the shorn end will felt if you rub it so dont. most of the vm will come out in the wash esp if it is loose like what it looks like in your pics. some times it takes 3 washes and 3 rinses.

let dry on towels, change them so no mildew, i usually do this under cieling fan to speed it up.

the longer locks i comb

the shorter stuff i card

both processes remove quite a bit of vm

i would recomend the book HANDS ON SPINNING, by lee raven. i got mine on ebay

there are great sites on the web that show how to wash in the machine..
 

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FourCountryGals.com
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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks jerzeygurl,

These sheep were all pen-raised on hay/alfalfa and were shorn professionally with electric clippers. It was all I could do to keep up with the shearer as he completed each sheep.

They're not the tamest animals on our farm, although I'm working on that.

I gather that it is perfectly acceptable then to separate individual fleeces into smaller, more manageable pieces to work the dirt and VM out of them.

At this point, I'm hoping to not to wash but to sell as skirted, greasy fleece with some VM... looking for balance of price vs labor here.

In the future, I may venture into a wee bit of processing. That depends upon the market.

I'll look into that book... at this point I need to learn all I can.
 

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Nohoa Homestead
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5,398 Posts
therealshari said:
Hello y'all,

Please help me as I embark on the wonderful adventure to get you high quality Merino/Suffolk cross sheep.
That is quite a combination. What does it feel like? Can you use it against the skin?

I have experienced Rambouillet/Dorset and it was more like Rambouillet, but Suffolk can be itchy. I'd be interested in a sample if you don't mind. I'll pay postage.

Donsgal
 

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FourCountryGals.com
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149 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Donsgal,

Now, you know you're on someone elses "list" and are supposed to be at the bottom of mine... (just joking).

Hold on and I'll get some more pictures up of some of the cleaner stuff... maybe you'd prefer that. I should have enough to go around.
 

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Fiber Arts forum Mod.
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I looked a the link you provided. Pretty color, I like colored fleeces. That first one had a LOT of VM but that doesn't mean it is impossible to be used. I can't really tell about the other fleeces. In my experience which is limited. If you have the sheep in with other animals taller than them they get lots of VM and grain on their backs and in their fleeces in general. If you can feed them on the ground that is best instead of over head hay racks. Straw for bedding is easier to get out than hay. If you can't control these things you should coat the sheep. You will more than double your money if you coat the fleeces, thats my guess.

Make sure your shearer is only using one pass when shearing. If he aims for a clean, to the skin sheep he may be making more than one pass to remove the fleece. This is where the second cuts come in and to a hand spinner second cuts are really frustrating to have to deal with.

By all means you can separate out smaller pieces of the fleece to make it easier to work on.

When you skirt just pull off the hunks that are questionable or bad. They make great compost.

I'm interested also in what this cross will be like. Will it be resistant to felting? How soft will it be? How greasy? Merino is known for being really, really greasy.

Can't wait to see more pictures :dance:
 

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Nohoa Homestead
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therealshari said:
Thanks much for that link... it helps quite a bit.

Here's a link to a "quickie" page that shows what I've got.

http://dhaenterprises.com/skirtingfleece.html

I really appreciate y'all's help. My "sheep mentor" never did any of this as she didn't really market her wool. Not sure why... but around here, everyone is pretty down on Merinos. The co-op won't take anything but white... and you don't get paid for a very long time.

Also, I'm very new to this area, and am finding that while folks are quite friendly... you really have to hunt them down to pick their brains. Also, we're not Mormon, so don't have a "ready-made" network, if you know what I mean.
That is going to be more VM than most hand spinners are going to want to deal with. Have you considered sending them out to a mill and selling roving instead of fleece? Even so, the VM is still going to be an issue, even for a processing mill. Covering them is a good idea.

I would keep the fleeces together if you work on them in pieces (do not mix up the pieces), because some people do not want to mix fleeces due to minute differences in texture or color.

BTW most shearers, coops, etc, won't take naturally colored wool because it is harder to market. That is not unusual. I can always get a killer deal on naturally colored (especially black) wool. If you can possibly sell fleeces yourself you are way ahead of the game, but if you are planning on marketing to handspinners you are going to have to get as close to perfect as you can vis a vis VM.

Gosh, I can't imagine that people don't LOVE Merino. It is the best wool in the universe. I would think that you could always find a handspinning market for it (especially white).

donsgal
 

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Your fan cover looks like it'll work well to get the small VM out. Here's a picture and instructions for a skirting table like the one we and everyone else around here uses. My DH made it for me. You can buy them but they're about $400. They're really easy to make.

Skirting table -- http://www.gfwsheep.com/pastfarm/wint.00-01/news12.html

This kind of table also helps get rid of the second cuts and bigger pieces of VM cause they fall out through the table. Then, you can sweep them up and from under the table and use that for mulch.

BTW, that whole website has great information about wool.
 

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winding down
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therealshari said:
Donsgal,

Now, you know you're on someone elses "list" and are supposed to be at the bottom of mine... (just joking). .
Yeah, keep that girl at bay! :frypan:

That really is a lot of VM in there, but this is only one shearing, and you're looking at making changes that affect years to come. I'd also love to see what the texture is like, but I'm not the best judge of fiber types...others on here are much better than I am. :(

Meg
 

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FourCountryGals.com
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149 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Hello y'all,

Sorry I didn't get back to everyone yesterday. We're in the middle of our 2 or 3 week monsoon season. That means daily afternoon and evening thunderstorms. We lose "a clear view" of our southern sky for the Internet satellite.

I'll get a few more pics up today including one of the total bags (I've been sorting out as I go).

At this point, if you want a sample send me a PM.

Now, because I'm asking you to provide me feedback (that means actually do something with the wool other than look at it), I'll pay the postage. The samples will be 1/2 pound (I know you can't make anything with it).

If you want more than 1/2 pound, then I'll ask you to pay the postage... fair enough?

What I will ship will be primarily the cleanest stuff I can sort out. After all, I'm wanting to build on next year.

Once y'all can tell me how you feel about the staple and crimp, and how well it washes up, then we can decide what to do with the less than optimal fleece.

I may not be around this afternoon as we're under flash flood watch and will most likely get knocked off the satellite.

Back with more pics on my link page shortly.
 

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Gee, no one thought of me when they saw all that VM? I am the 2007 VM Queen, ya know :Bawling:.

Seriously, all (so far) the raw fleece I've gotten this year has been heavy VM - of course, I didn't pay much per pound (for obvious reasons) but the wool itself was nice otherwise, so wasn't too awfully displeased - just frustrated as all get-out at times!

My pointers:

*If you have the option, cover your woolies!

*Do not airdrop hay or other edibles on top of your sheep. I feel sure that's how so much gets so deep into the fleece.

*Reassure your sheep that they will indeed eat tomorrow and thus there is no need to store food away for later in their fleece.

*Be ruthless when skirting. No handspinner wants to deal with unexpected 'goodies' that smell suspiciously of barnyard sweepings. Oh, and burdock burrs = evil.

*If the wool is otherwise high quality, there are always buyers (*ahem, raises hand*)

Sorry, every time I read the OP, I think "baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? Yessir, yessir, 3 bags full." :shrug:
 

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FourCountryGals.com
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Discussion Starter #16
FalconDance,

Thanks for the excellent advice.

Believe me, I'm getting many very good lessons here, as I'm actually attempting to clean this fleece of a lot of the VM.

Next year's fleece crop WILL be in far better condition, as we're committed to quality as long as there is a market. Remember, our "mentors" here are not interested in marketing to niche markets, so they've never really taken much care of their wool.

I've just posted what will probably be the last picture updates until I actually take pictures of what will be sent as samples. I apologize for not reducing the density of the pictures.

For those of you who want samples, I will get to work on them tomorrow. We're expecting serious storms here, and my "skirting" area is not well protected. (I do store things in a well protected area, though).

If you want a particular sample (from the ram, the matriarch, or the Polypay), please be sure to let me know. The other fleeces (yesterday's pictures) are all from yearling ewes, daughters of the matriarch, bred to a Suffolk ram (not Algernon).

If you want "history" of this flock, be sure to check out my blog at Shari's Gone Country and go into the archives... roundup time was in March.
 

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FourCountryGals.com
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Discussion Starter #17
As of last night, I have five requests for samples. I have now separated those and will be taking pictures of them, getting them boxed, and shipped tomorrow. That is, if Bev is able to get boxes while she's in St. George today.

If there are other's of you who would like to participate in this evaluation, please be sure to send me your name and mailing address, as well as any special request... like wanting to try the ram's wool, or the older ewe, or the Polypay.
 

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Nohoa Homestead
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FalconDance said:
*If the wool is otherwise high quality, there are always buyers (*ahem, raises hand*)
Also raises hand, waves it back an forth while jumping up and down going "ew--ew---ew--ew--ew" (which is *not* the same as ewwwwwwww, but it didn't look right when I spelled it oo-oo-oo).

donsgal
 

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Nohoa Homestead
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FalconDance said:
Would that be a :bouncy:, donsgal? :D
That would be it exactly! :bouncy: :bouncy:

donsgal
 
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