Thursday, September 20, 2007


It was a really busy summer and fall. I don't know where the time went -- it always seems like I could use another week before the guys go back to school to do all the things we'd like to, and to see all the places we plan to go see. I really like not having a schedule during the summer, and now that things are back in full swing, I find myself wishing for a night off now and then.

But on to the fun stuff... one day in late June I found this on my front porch:

150 pounds of Dorset roving, processed by the fine folks at Frankenmuth Woolen Mills.

Where on Earth does one come by this much fleece? Connections... it's a small county, and everyone here is related to or knows everyone else and their business (makes road rage dicey at best -- especially when you drive an ancient Jeep that people tend to remember).

A's friend J's mom is a realtor. She happened to ask me one day if I'd be interested in some fleece, because she knew of someone who had sheep and was about to have them sheared, but didn't want the fleeces.

(pause for a moment to let that phrase sink in... didn't want the fleeces. evidently this is not that uncommon, sheep need to be sheared to keep them comfortable, etc... but still.)

So I called him up and had a nice conversation, and went by on shearing day. Nine fleeces, still warm, all bagged and ready to go. We deliberated for a while, and after he told me what he wanted for them, I doubled his asking price -- wanted to make sure he got at least what he'd paid to have them sheared.

Total price? $5 a fleece.

(pick up your jaw from the floor.)

So he mentions (now that he can see I am a shameless addict) that he has fleeces from the past 2-3 years in the shed. I arm-wrestle the spiders out of the way, and come up with 8 more bags of wool that are in decent shape.

Then, the coup de grace, he says, "Well, I have last year's up in the barn there, but it looks like your car will be full with these."

I eyeball the pile of bags, sigh heavily, and say, "When can I come back?"

Several days later I return, and cram 16 more bags of fleece into my groaning van. Then the fun started -- skirting and sorting raw Dorset until my back was screaming. Only a couple of the fleeces were unusable; breaks, too gooey or dirty, mice, bugs, etc. I kept back eight to process myself, but the rest went to MDS&W, and arrived on my doorstep in the four enormous boxes above.

And what became of some of the contents of those boxes?

Ahhh, yes.

I realized the other day that when we moved here and I was first learning to spin, four years ago now, that one of the things I most wanted to do was to spin color.

I think I made it.

A bit overplied, but I wanted to use it as sock yarn. It's still got a lot of sproing, and is reasonably soft. I'm very pleased with my first effort. 335 yards, 4 oz., hand dyed with acid dyes, colorway "Lonely Hearts Club". This spins up really nicely, drafts easily, but much of that is due to the fine preparation -- I do like Frankenmuth. I also dyed up some in a light blue/silver/yellow, and did some silk to match that I plan to ply with it, perhaps more as a wrapping around a bulky wool single.

And then there's Serenity:

Another local farm, with a sizable herd of mutt and rescued sheep. They invite us guild folks to their shearing every March, and encourage us to take what we want, because what we don't take goes into the big plastic bag to be made into "wool".

This is from a little guy that no one else wanted. The fleece is a beautiful dark brown with gray flecks, much like the hair of an aging African-American, just lovely. I washed and carded it myself, and it spun up like buttah into almost 700 yards of DK weight, sproingy loveliness. I have enough left, carded and waiting to be spun, to make a sweater, and was lucky enough to get this year's fleece too, which looks to be just as nice.

The whole Dorset affair was rather nerve wracking -- I knew I couldn't pass it up, but I also knew how much it was going to cost to have it processed (and it was a small fortune). But I also think that prayers get answered in the strangest ways. Though it was a scary process, and I did a lot of homework trying to decide if this would even make a decent yarn, I never once felt like I could not do it, more like I had to do it. Maybe we find our paths by not second guessing; when you tune in to that inner voice and listen to it, then no matter what you do, it becomes the right thing. A bit woo-woo, okay, but the old adage about following your heart is true. You gotta do what you love, and I do love me some dyeing and spinning. And weaving too, but that's for a later post.

At least, that's how I'm feeling about all this.

Peace out.