Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great Wool Fiasco

Earlier this year we sent a good bit of raw wool from our sheep to a processing mill to be washed, carded, dyed and spun. This was the first time we have done so, and it was a bit tricky to figure out exactly what to do with it. Now, I hate to make this post a complain-o-rama, but frankly, I am a bit disappointed with the result. Our sheep are shetland/cotswold crosses, so I thought it would be nice to have it spun fairly fine, and have some dyed in rich, autumnal colors with the idea of trying my hand at some Fair Isle knitting.

We sent it off on April 20, and a few days later got a call from the mill. What had not been clear on the order form was that, in order to spin, they require a 15 lb clean weight minimum per lot. Ours was in 5-10 lb lots. This seems a bit ridiculous, as that is just a whole lot of wool. Several sheep's worth. 15 pounds-think about how many sweaters that is! The trouble was, our fleeces were in four different natural colors: white, brown, black, and grey. So I asked the nice lady at the mill, who was very helpful, if we forgot about the dying, and just put the four colors in lots, if that would be enough to spin. It wasn't. So we settled on having rovings done, and went ahead with the dying.

They were running a little behind at the mill, and my anticipation grew. Yesterday I came in from the field to find these boxes on my front porch. So exciting!
Now, as I said, I had envisioned deep, vibrant colors for the knitting. We selected colors that would be appropriate for fall and winter, when woolen items are most appreciated. Hmmmm. At the upper left we have what was supposed to be "scarlet". This is something like watermelon or bubblegum. Definitely pink. It couldn't be pinker if it tried. Next to that is the "vermilion". What we picked was a lovely, rusty orangey red. This is wine. Not good wine, either. Less a robust cabernet and more like a watery pinot noir. Below that, we have "turquoise". Meh, not really. It was supposed to be pure white wool dyed this color, and for some reason they mixed in the grey, which just makes it sort of a murky blah blue. The "golden ochre" is sort of mustardy, it has grown on me, I rather like it.

Now the "violet". That I like. The natural colors are beautiful, too. I suppose we can experiment with overdying the others, but when you have paid good money to have it done right the first time (grrrrr)....

Now for the spinning. I am a knitter. I have tried spinning, but found it not to be my cup of tea. I have the old drop spindle out, though, and am giving it another whirl (so to speak). Maybe I can learn to love it. I suppose now a spinning wheel purchase is in order. We have a mountain of this stuff to work through! I will just set my mind to all the lovely knitted things it may become. It really does have a nice sheen to it, it's gorgeous wool.


KM said...

Beautiful! I agree that some of the colors could be tweaked, but just looking at those photos made me want to learn to spin and (re-learn) how to knit!

Billie Jane said...
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