Sunday, February 28, 2010

To Roo or not to roo

Raising livestock for any reason requires patience. Unfortunately, I've never been a very patient person and waiting for the "harvest" of wool is really getting difficult. They will be a year old next month. It is time for them to give up their first crop.

I have waited, however, for two reasons: 1. I don't want my babies to freeze and this winter has been unusually harsh. I don't think we will actually see temps in the 50s an 60s consistently until April. Then it will need to come off or the sheep will be too hot. 2. I don't have shears and scissors just won't quite do the job.

So, I've been waiting.

I looked out the window yesterday and saw a great hunk of hair hanging down off of Alice. My first thought was that something was wrong and she had been injured in some way and part of her was hanging with the hair. So, I went out to take a closer look.

It seems she has started to roo a little bit. I pulled about 4 ounces off of her. Unfortunately, the stuff that came loose was the matted, clotted, dirty stuff near her arm pits and stomach. It was very interesting to see in those spots where she really was rooing, how the tips of the new coat is just intermingled with the old coat by about a quarter inch. She has about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of new growth. And the new stuff under the old stuff where it did pull free, is lovely and white. I will probably never see her as clean again. I was a little afraid of pulling as I thought it would hurt her, but she just stood there quietly and let me yank on her.

Now I did learn that she is happier if I pull steadily and in the direction of the hair. But I still was nervous about hurting her. She let me know when I got to spot that was not loose yet. I did clip a little with a pair of Friskers... and kept the cut at the same level of the new growth just to see if it acted any differently. The cut end on her body does not curl the same as the rooed end. In the lock cut off, I don't really see much difference.

If she was to roo completely, she will look lovely and even all over with just a bit of curl in the new growth. But I'm not convinced that she will. Large swatches (particularly the parts of her fiber I really want) is still hanging on tight.

I honestly thought the fiber I collected off of her was too nasty to fool with as I knew there a lot of other lovely fluff on the rest of her just waiting. And it is the part that is normally skirted out due to tags and dirt. The length varies from 2 inches to 6 and the tips are stained still with the red of the Staunton area soil which is where she was born. I was very pleased to find very little vm in the fiber even though it is from the underside of her and should have been filled with the stuff.

Ken convinced me to wash it anyway and I set it in a colander in front of the heating vent to dry. While it still appeared to be hopelessly matted, when it was nice and dry, I worked with it on the hand cards a little and got some nice, very soft, grey and white rolags. The scratch factor is minimal.

I spun it up on a drop spindle and went with a little thicker weight than I normally do with Shetland. I also spun it as softly as I could. Then I wound it off onto the nostipine, made a 2 pull ball and plyed it back on itself. This very few yards was then knitted on US8 needles into a 3 inch swatch and came out to a very lovely worsted weight, worsted wool which is white flecked with bits of grey.

I'm really thinking sweater.

Jerry's fiber remains a mystery at this point. He's not showing any signs of rooing at all. Figures that Mr Hyperactive would be the one I will have to shear.

I can hardly wait to get my shears. I ordered some new ones yesterday.

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