Friday, March 23, 2012

Fleece 3 of 7: Corriedale/Border Leicester x Romeldale

Remember how Forrest Gump was advised that life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get?  Well, his mama could've said the same thing about raw wool.  You really never know what you have until you wash it.  Case in point...

Next in the raw fleece pile was a 5.25 lb grey fleece that is a mix of Corriedale/Border Leicester crossed with a Romeldale.  This is one of four fleeces that I purchased a while ago from Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company.  This fleece is organic and predator-friendly, meaning that the ranch practices pasture management without chemicals and they do not kill native predators.  I want to support this kind of work, so it was very satisfying to purchase wool from them.

Back to the dining room to face another bag of fleece:

It was challenging to sort out this fleece, since it was in a bit of a tangle. I did the best I could, just diving into one section and seeing where it connected to the next area.  Compared to the pristine Corriedale fleece that I just dealt with, this fleece seemed rough by comparison.  Obviously, I was a bit spoiled by the last fleece, because this wool is really very good.  The main difference is that the Corriedale fleece was coated, while this sheep wasn't.  (Some shepherds "coat" their sheep, literally putting a canvas coat over the sheep to protect the wool.)

There was definitely VM in the fleece.  It wasn't excessive VM, but I could tell this wool came from an uncoated sheep.  The worst of the VM was concentrated in one area of the fleece, so I imagine that this sheep enjoyed lounging on his or her side.  The tips of the locks were a bit weathered, but again, not excessively.  More than anything, I was concerned about the color.  In the raw state, the wool looked more tan than grey, with a few areas of much lighter, cream-colored wool, and other areas with streaks of dark color. 

I plucked out a few representative staples:

And here are the exact same staples after being washed:

See Forrest?  You never know what you're going to get.  It was like scratching off a box on an instant lottery ticket and seeing you won the big prize.  I was very pleased to see the pretty grey wool that fluffed up so nicely when washed. 

Here's a close-up of one of the locks from the really VM-heavy side of the fleece, comparing it as raw and washed wool.  A lot of the big pieces of VM fell out during the washing process:

I have several bags of this wool soaking in water now, and the rest of the raw fleece has been put into vacuum-packed storage.  I'm really glad that I worked on the last two fleeces in this order, because the comparison & contrast between them was a good reminder to me to enjoy the process.  I had so much fun with that gorgeous Corriedale fleece, but in some ways, I've had even more fun with this crossbred fleece, because the change from raw to washed wool was so dramatic.


  1. I stumbled across your site because I was looking for information about vacuum storage of raw wool.

    I'm expecting a fleece shortly, and will need to wash it in at least four or five batches. I hate to store it unwashed because of the risk of critters enjoying it before I do. But it occurred to me that space-saver-type vacuum bags would not only store it more compactly, but reduce the likelihood of bugs. On the other hand, vac-sealed bags don't breathe.

    I'd be curious to know how long you have stored unwashed wool in vac bags, and whether you notice any difference in the quality of the wool thus stored.

    I see you are also in Minneapolis. I hope you've discovered Shepherd's Harvest!


    1. Hi! Sorry, I fell behind on this blog this month, so I only read your comment today.

      I've stored raw fiber in vac-sealed bags for several months with no adverse effect on the fiber. I did a lot of research about wool storage before committing to this method. The final vote of confidence using this method came from reading about Judith MacKenzie's wool storage methods. She is an expert whose opinion I trust.

      And I definitely am looking forward to Shepherd's Harvest!

      Take care,