Monday, November 14, 2011

One Bag Full of Mystery

       I was recently gifted with a bag full of Mystery Fleece.  Better than six pounds of mystery.  On first glance I knew it was spin-able, with a long staple and lovely coloration.  The bag had no markings other than the engaging name, "Ravensdown", stamped on the outside.  I was told it had been stashed in an attic for unknown years but had originally come from New Zealand.  
      Please know that I do not recommend this method of obtaining wool.  It is risky business.  But I was intrigued, seduced even.  Still, I kept my head enough to remember to practice safe woolery. The bag has now been a few weeks in our shed in compliance with my rule that no unknown animal fiber enters my studio until it has passed inspection and received security (from bugs) clearance.
Unwashed and lovely

        I was curious and hoping to find out about the fleece's lineage.  I took a tiny sample to Maggie Casey, one of my spinning gurus, who thought that it was most likely a Romney fleece.  I told her it was not very greasy so I thought it might have been washed once, but that it seemed to have slightly felted in the bag over the years.  She wisely suggested I give it a good washing nonetheless.
      The fleece had hardly any VM, it had been professionally skirted, but there was enough evidence for me to conclude that what I thought was felting was just old grease that had stiffened. Yikes! Enlightening information though, being more evidence that it is a Romney fleece;  according to Deb Robson in The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, it is characteristic of Romney to have little grease.  Frankly, if I had initially known that it had never been washed, I would have probably also thought it a hopelessly old mess and tossed the entire bag.  Too late.  Now I have bonded with this fiber.   I decided to approach it as a reclamation/ experiment/ learning project.
       Being very, sometimes obsessively, concerned about wool eating critters, I was wary of this bag o'wool and before bringing it into the studio, I checked it out on the back porch with a hawk's eye.  I saw no evidence at all of wee buggies so it headed for a good, and definitely needed, HOT and SOAPY (ala Alden Amos' advice on questionable fiber), five round (ala Maggie Casey's washing directions) bath.  It cleaned beautifully and is drying now.  It came out un-felted, even with all the hot water and soap. Well done valiant wool saver!
        I borrowed a Louet drum carder from the Handweaver's Guild of Boulder, membership does have it's privileges, so I hope to be carding by Wednesday.   I'm unschooled in combing and really do like a lofty yarn, so while it may be more traditional to comb a long wool, carding alone is fine for me here. I have spinners coming on Sunday for a Spin In so that will be a good time to get rolling on the Romney.  
      On the back side of the bag there was one other marking. Could this have been the original price for this bag of New Zealand colored Romney?   My spinner's heart jumps with glee!
Also it's a real clue to the age of this wool that this beautiful fleece had such a small price. I've recently seen a very similar fleece priced at $7 a pound. Because of the demand in the past for exclusively white wool for the clothing industry, shepherds sometimes could not give away colored fleeces, even of this quality.  I very much like the idea of making use of this beautiful fiber, elderly though it may be.  It seems strong, not brittle, soft, and lustrous.  The carding and spinning will prove this pudding, I'd say.
          PS.  I couldn't stand it any longer.  I found some locks that had dried (I love living in Colorado, high and dry), teased them (well, they were teasing me...), carded a rolag and grabbed a favorite spindle.
Look at that shine!



  1. Yay! Your blog is showing up in my Ravelry Friend's Blogs list. Your Romney looks just like the New Zealand Romney with which I learned to spin.

    I'm looking forward to spinning with you on Sunday.

  2. Cheryl, that's gorgeous! Can't wait to see how it winds up.

  3. I'm anxious to get it on the wheel and give it a real go. And Lynn, if it's good enough to be similar to the first fiber spun by an award winner like you, then there might be a good chance I'll get something knit-able.