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I have a raw fleece. Now what?

A work friend gave me an interesting gift a few months back.  A raw fleece.  She has a friend who raises Dorsets and was around when Billy the lamb was being sheared.  She collected the fleece and thought I would like it.  That she thought of me totally made my day.  I've never had a fleece before.  

Now I've got this fleece at home and I have no idea what to do with it. I googled and, well, my stuff looks like a very dirty bag of stuffing, not a flat coat removed from a sheep.  So much for those skirting instructions.

So I crack open a beer and take the fleece outside.  It's got a lot of VM (vegetable matter) on it and it's pretty dirty.  I get to work and start separating the really bad stuff from the rest.  

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I intend to send it to a processor for washing and carding into something I can spin or if it's not suitable for that, then wool batting for a pillow or a quilt (I don't quilt, but I can learn, or give it to someone who does).  With that in mind, how clean does it have to be?  It doesn't appear to have been skirted or if it was, this was a happy dirty lamb.

I worked on it for a bit and here's what I have:

What I started with:

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What I plan to keep for processing:

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What I plan to compost:

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There's lots more to pick through.  Am I doing this right?  Being too picky?  Not picky enough? Wasting my time?

Let me know.  I'm planning to drop it at the Royal Winter Fair next weekend and am happy to talk with the processors, but also don't want to seem totally clueless.

Comments

The person I know who knows most about this is Alison at http://www.yarnscape.co.uk/blog/
She hasn't blogged much lately, but if you scroll back a bit you will find her doing all sorts of fleece-related stuff.
Good luck with it!

sounds exactly like my thoughts on dealing with raw fleece. I have not had the processor tell me that I don't know what I'm doing and she processes my fleece so ....

At this point I err on the side of being too picky. Maybe.

Cracking a beer is absolutely the first step to picking through a fleece.

Music is good, too.

Now I risk being a buzzkill, but please make sure your tetanus is up to date.

you can send it to Wellington or the like as is. They'll take care of the washing, carding, and dyeing if you want.

Dorset fleeces are very white, strong, and average five to nine pounds. Some processors have minimum weight requirements. The "keep" pile can be washed, carded and processed into batts, roving, combed top, dyed and spun into yarn -- your choice, really. Some processors will even offfer to knit up your fleece into socks without too much trouble.

If you know how to spin, I don't believe it's worth spending the money to process just one fleece. Processing a single fleece is totally doable and fun. The yarn can be knit up to make wonderful outerwear. But if you insist on giving it to a processor, I would suggest having it processed either into pencil roving that you can spin at a later time or processed into dk weight yarn (1000 yards per lb.) that they can also dye for you and skein up.

Good luck with all this, and enjoy your Molson.

The really nice thing about Wellington Fibres is that they WILL process just one fleece. If your time is really in short supply and you'd rather spin than wash and card fleece, getting it processed is money well spent as long as the fleece seems worth spinning to you. Sometimes free fleeces are great....sometimes not so much.

My only advice is to pick out as much VM as possible. Processing will not get rid of this...I find it much easier to do in the fleece stage. Donna will be able to advise you on the quality of your fleece so don't be intimidated. Just go and enjoy the Royal....and bid on another fleece at the Auction. It's great fun!!!

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