Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Must Be Christmas Somewhere

Just before shearing I was given an order for 20 ounces of Santa bearding curls.  I asked my customer if she could wait until I had fresh fleece to work with, and I was grateful for her patience.  Now that I've had a lull in lambing, I can seriously get after preparing her order.

First I pick a Cotswold fleece that I think will have long, relatively clean locks with good curl character.  I made some notes during shearing on the name tags about who was a good candidate for this.  I generally take from the back and shoulder area.  Farther down the sides of the sheep  I sometimes see the tips of the curls getting mangled from rubbing against the other animals.  Curls along the very backbone are in good shape but sometimes pretty trashy from chaff.

Raw Cotswold curls selected from a fleece.

I have to wash these in my big double sink, carefully, by hand.  This is almost a pound and will fit comfortably in the sink.  I use EccoScour to wash wool, and the wood-fired boiler that heats my shop and Andy's is also plumbed into the shop's hot water heater with a domestic coil so I get water about 180 degrees or better.  Scary hot, but great for greasy wool.

First soapy soak.

I do two soapy soaks and two clear-water soaks, then spin it out in the washing machine.

Damp curls starting to dry.

The wool is clean, but still has a lot of chaff and tiny bits of junk.  That will have to be dealt with when the wool is dry.

Drying curls with VM.

And after sorting and shaking the curls clean, I have 12.5 ounces done toward the 20 ounce order. 

More washing tomorrow if the sheep let me, and in fact, I just got a phone order from Idaho for another pound. I can practically hear Jingle Bells.

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