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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The long process of sheep to shawl

'Sheep the Shawl' that sounds so cool doesn't it? Much like the farm to table movement where people like to know their food comes from well cared for animals.
Fiber artist like me like to know their fiber comes from well cared for animals!

Processing raw wool into yarn and then crocheting is one of the few things I do in which I enjoy the process just as much as the end product. 
Even better is if I get to grow the wool on my own sheep!
It's a long process , so I better enjoy it! 
Picture above , My sheep Latte' is growing a gorgeous fleece!

Many times I enjoy the product I craft but not the entire process of crafting it!
 For example, I don't really like making jewelry but I love the product so I do it since it doesn't take to long.
 I love quilts but I hated the long, very long process of making them so I leave that to my mom and new daughter in law, who seems to have taken right up with all this creative process around her.

Producing a product from the raw fiber off the animal is more like a journey to me! A very interesting journey I never get tired of. 

I know many people that get into farming look to fiber as a way to make a profit.
A fiber business , with the right fiber animal, can be very profitable! 
The producer needs to understand the fiber and be prepared to make a big commitment to producing some great stuff though! Fiber artist are a picky bunch and raising fiber animal isn't the easiest way to go for most new farms.

Most sheep , cashmere goats, alpacas , llamas, yaks and camels only give 1 fiber harvest a year.
  A few breeds of sheep and angora goats can give two. Angora rabbits give around four.
A lot can go wrong in that year or six months waiting for that fiber to be ready!!
It's no small thing to grow an amazing fleece on a fiber animal!!
If fact I'm never sure what I think is harder....
Milking and care of a dairy animal or the care and growing of great fiber on an animal!
 Both take a lot of involvement, commitment and are no small expense!
I've not been very good at growing fiber animals on my farm so far. I've had some success but not as much as I would like! 
My humid climate here in the southeast and the brambles that line the pastures don't make it easy!
Then there's dirt, hay, wool eating pest,good fiber growing nutrition to take into consideration.
It's no wonder good fiber is expensive!

If you get past all that can go wrong and find yourself with some gorgeous fleece from your sheep then it has to be sheared with special blades and a powerful tool called a shearing machine..please don't try to use clippers 🙈🙈 I promise you they will not work!
If you're lucky maybe there will be a professional shearer in your area. Be prepared to help if needed though!

Once the fleece is off.. Shake it out, skirt it, shake it out and roll it up! Store it properly. Better like the smell of sheep because you're going to be covered in it!
I personally love that lanolin wool smell ❤️
Then it must be washed! Depending on how dirty it is I wash and soak a fleece 2 or 3 times.
Then spread out on a screen to dry for a day.
I love to watch the dirty wool transform into gorgeous clean fluff!

Now the real fun! 
If I dye the fiber, that's a day of color mess and drying on the screens.
Oh but it's so fun!!

Then prep for spinning! 
Picking and carding the wool!! Mixing with fun fibers like bamboo or silk!! 
A drum carder is best for this.

You can see how time consuming this is right? So far we have, A year growing it,
A day shearing and storing, a day washing and drying, maybe a day to dye and dry, a day to prepare and blend...
And then finally I'm ready to spin it into yarn!!!
There are so many options for yarn depending on the type of fiber you have! 
Fat and fluffy yarn.. Slick and smooth.. Or quirky art yarns!

After its spun then it needs to be plyed for balance and strenth.
Set over night.. Then unwind on the skein winder. 

I have yarn !! Finally!!!!
Now I soak the yarn in hot water and hang dry for a day to 'set'.
Then it's ready to whind into a ball!


after all this... It's ready for me to crochet into the final desired product!!  
Which can take me anywhere from 2 hours to 2 years depending on the project. 

Ofcourse with fiber the possibilities are so many..crocheting is probably my favorite thing to do with it right now but there's Felting, wet or needle!
Knitting , rug hooking, rug braiding and then there's weaving!
I do wish I liked weaving it's an amazing art!
I'm sure I'm leaving many things out that can be done and I just haven't discovered yet!

If you like crafting and learning there's a chance you will like some part of the fiber arts.
If you love animals and fiber then perhaps a fiber farm is in your future!

Just remember to try and enjoy the process as much as the end product because it can be a long one!!!

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