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Old 12-20-2010, 08:27 PM   #1
HSRCampbell
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Inlaws have sheep; wool gets thrown out. How hard to make yarn?
My in-laws have 5 sheep that they used to raise lambs from, but now are just sort of lawn fixtures on her back hill. There are 3 mostly white ones, a grey one and a black one. When they shear them, the wool just gets thrown into a pile somewhere to eventually degrade (the pile from 2 years ago is still visible).

The wool is so soft and warm when I pet the sheep (they are friendly creatures for the most part) that I have sort of this idea in my head to make something out of it.

If I ask for the wool (they will definitely say yes, I haven't asked because I haven't had anything to do with it), how hard is it to make it into something that I can knit?
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Old 12-20-2010, 09:52 PM   #2
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It's, in my opinion, a big process. Unless you own a spinning wheel, even if you wash, card, comb and get the wool ready for spinning, you won't be able to knit anything.

See if there is a place in your area that will do it for you. In know that we have a place here that will work it from start to finish, but I don't know how economical it is to do so.
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Old 12-21-2010, 10:40 AM   #3
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I did a quick Google of "wool processing Ca" and found


YOLO Wool Mill Woodland Ca. additional information on YOLO

You might give them a call or email and ask about the cost to have the wool processed.

You might also stop by one of the local fiber festivals, such as California Wool and Fiber Festival in Boonville to find out more about local processors. It may be possible to sell the fleece at a fiber festival so you could buy more yarn and goodies.
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Old 12-21-2010, 11:35 AM   #4
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You don't have to invest in a wheel to spin it once it's processed (good idea to have it done at a mill first). You can buy a drop spindle which is inexpensive and practice a bit with that first. Selling or trading the fleece for finished yarn is a good idea too.
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Old 01-12-2011, 05:39 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by HSRCampbell View Post
My in-laws have 5 sheep
You are so blessed to get the wool for free! How is it going? Have you carded any? Did the washing go ok? I guess I just want to know everything about it!
Have a great day.
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Old 03-20-2011, 03:10 AM   #6
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Nancy: Sent you a PM.

Suzeeq: Thanks, buying a spindle.

Cacunn: No need to call, they have prices listed on the website. However, I really want to try to do it before I give up and pay someone to do it. I have loads of time on my hands and it seems like it might be fun... no harm in trying, right?
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Old 03-20-2011, 02:41 PM   #7
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My Gramma in Oregon also owns sheep, and it's funny that you posted this. She too shears her sheep around May of every year. Since her sheep are more like pets than livestock, she just throws the fleece away, since it's too bulky to store (she says each sheep produces a 6 x 6x 6' cube). I'm going to visit her this summer, and she said that I can have the wool as long as I can transport it. I was thinking of spinning it there in Oregon to avoid having no room in my car on the drive back (Midwest Oregon to SoCal...about 1,000 miles), but I was also wondering what the entire processing procedure is like.

Now reading what everyone has posted, I might e-mail her and ask her if she's willing to let me find a buyer for the fleece, so that way we can get yarn when we go up (after I started knitting, I found out that my dear Grandmother was an avid and extremely talented knitter. She was raised on a farm, so I don't know what I expected lol)....we're planning on making some grandmother-granddaughter items while we're together, and she's going to teach me some new techniques.

Thanks for posting this! You got some of my questions answered as well!
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Old 03-21-2011, 09:30 AM   #8
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You might want to see if there is a spinning guild in the area. They may be willing to pay your in-law's/grandparents a fair but lower price for the wool and then resell it for a small profit to support the guild. You might also be able to include in the price of the wool some yarn spun by the guild for you. I would see this as a win, win ,win. Your in-law's/grandparents get some money for something they have been trowing away, the guild could get some wool for training new spinners of to make some money to support the guild, and you could get some home spun.
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Old 03-21-2011, 02:07 PM   #9
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As someone who recently decided to "go for it" and get some raw fleece, here is my take on the matter:

Is it a huge load of work? YES

Is it worth it if you just want some nice yarn? No

Is it a fun, interesting and creative passtime/hobby? Yes!

Fleece/wool doesn't become yarn overnight. There are many steps to the process and you will need to invest some money in carders, a drop spindle, maybe a DIY hackle, dyes, various other tools and equipment. You will be spending a lot of time with wool soaking in your sink/bucket/washing machine to get the lanolin out, which requires 2-3 washes then a couple rinses.

Then you have to pick it (pull it apart with your fingers so it's fluffy).

Then you have to card it.

Then you have to make it into roving.

Then you have to spin it.

Then you have to dye it.

Then you have to ply it.

(Not necessarily in that order, of course)

Then you buy silk and llama and get carried away making fancy yarns.

I think it's wonderful but it's not for everyone.
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Old 03-26-2011, 04:27 PM   #10
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Spinning is a LOT of work. But, it's also very rewarding when you finish making the yarn, then make something by knitting, crocheting, or weaving it.

When I first learned to spin, I got a very small amount of wool, washed it, let it dry, then carded it and spun it with a drop spindle. Next, I dyed it with Lime Kool-Aid. It was just a tiny amount of yarn, but I was able to knit a little coin purse with it. Now, I use it to hold my knitting business cards.

After that experience, I was "turned on" to spinning, so I bought a whole fleece (dirty) and set to work on preparing it. OH MY GAWD! It was awful.

Using a mesh laundry bag, I placed about a 4th of the fleece in it, and soaked it for 30 minutes in my washing machine in very hot water (no agitation, of course). After one wash, I carefully lifted the wool bag out of the machine and placed it in a laundry basket on the floor. I then drained out all the hot water, and was grossed out by all the gunk on the inside of my machine. I had to use about 8 paper towels to wipe it all off.

Then, I had to soak the same bag over again, because it was not clean yet. Once again, had to wipe out the lanolin and dirt with a paper towel when it came out of the machine. GROSS!

To make a long story short, I had to soak that one bag about FOUR times before it finally looked clean enough to use. It took almost a whole day, and I was exhausted. And I only got one quarter of my fleece clean. :(

I then laid out the fleece on an old bed sheet in my back yard, so it could dry in the sunshine. That was a lot of work also, shaking out the sheet, pouring the wool out of the bag, and spreading the wool all over the sheet. When it was dry, it took a while to pick it all up and put it back in the bag.

So, now I finally had a clean bag of wool. But, it wasn't ready to spin yet. It still had little bits of trash in it. Weeds, grass, burrs, seeds. All of those had to be picked out by hand. That took another whole day.

The next day, I was finally able to card the wool, so I could get it ready for spinning. So, I placed another old sheet on the floor of my living room, and sat there carding wool to make rolags. ALL DAY LONG.

The next day, I set up my wheel in the living room, and finally started spinning my wool. I had originally planned on dyeing it before spinning, but I was sick of the wool by then. I just wanted it to be OVER. So, I spun a little bit of it, then set the rest aside for another day.

I gave the rest of the dirty wool to a friend who does historical re-enacting. She was thrilled, and so was I. I will never buy a dirty fleece again.....EVER.

I still enjoy spinning, but I buy my wool at fiber fairs, already washed and prepared and dyed lovely colors. It's much more satisfying to me.
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