June 12, 2024

From the Pastures: How wool is made

Seems like our pasture went from a dormant brown to lush green overnight. The spring rain was timed perfectly to spark the growth. The sheep took off running through the tall grass as soon as I opened the gate a week earlier than the usual May 1 opening day.

Most of the Shetland ewes have lambed now. Only two more left to lamb. Ram lambs are leading the ewe lambs as luck would have it this year. The color patterns are very interesting, considering the ram we used is solid black. One of the ram lambs is a nice dark brown color. I am considering keeping him as a wether as the dark brown fleece makes beautiful yarn.

Several of the lambs have spots this year. One is white with black spots and one is black with white spots. Interesting how they are opposite. All the sheep were sheared at the end of April. Seems the weatherman knows when the shearer is scheduled and changes the temperature from summer temperatures back to winter. I think it was the coldest day in April. Glad we were inside out of the wind.

We have been running a lot of different types of fiber in the mill. Many different breeds of sheep and some alpaca, also. Some of the dual breeds of sheep and even some meat breed sheep’s wool can be used for making yarn if the wool has a long enough staple length. Staple length is how long the fiber is when it is pulled apart. Measure from where it is pulled to where it starts to break. The requirement for our equipment is over three inches long.

Another consideration for processing wool is how clean it is. Washing will remove most of the dirt, but not big dirt clots on the ends of the wool. Also, shavings are almost impossible to remove. Processing does not remove all the hay, either. If the wool has sections with a lot of hay, remove these sections before sending for processing.

Removing the large dirt areas, second cuts and other unclean areas in the wool is called skirting. Skirting should be done before storing wool, also. When storing wool, be sure to let it air out and dry before stuffing into a bag. We have received moldy wool in the past.

Have a wonderful spring!

Jane Zeien

Jane Zeien

Belvidere, Ill.