If wool shrinks when you wash it, why don’t sheep get smaller when it rains?
Natural Colors – No Dye Necessary
Our Shetland sheep produce lovely naturally crimped wool that comes in a variety of 11 different natural colors. The colorings include: white, fawn, mioget, musket, moorit, dark brown, black, shaela, emsket, grey, and light grey. You can find several of these colors including moorit, dark brown, grey, fawn, and white in our small flock. We keep our ewes, rams, and yearlings to shear and we will also have some wethers this Spring because some of our ram lambs have proven to be nicely tempered and have nice coats.
Cleaned and Scoured
In our first year, we sold the majority of our wool raw and uncleaned. After shearing, we bagged the wool in breathable corn/yellow bean bags and stored them in a dry and well ventilated place. This year, we spent a week cleaning 7 fleeces to produce nicely cleaned and scoured wool that is ready for spinning or fiber work. The artistic talents that exist in the world of fiber art are mind blowing. The challenge was to clean the hay matter out of the fleeces as we currently do not use sheep blankets. However, we have found some great breathable sheep covers that we will be purchasing from Rocky Sheep to coat our sheep this Winter. We want to provide a high quality product and minimizing vegetable/hay matter contamination is a top priority.
The Cleaning Process – Our Method
Late this Spring we put out a feeler post about methods for cleaning raw wool on the Shetland sheep Facebook groups and found a method, involving some labor and time, that cleaned the wool of lanolin, dirt, and fecal matter. Lanolin is the natural oil that a sheep secretes from it’s sebaceous glands. If allowed to cool quickly after a wash the lanolin will appear as a waxy substance in the wool. The steps for cleaning are easy to follow:
- Find a large pot or a cooler that can hold at least 1 pound of wool.
- Fill the container about half full with freshly boiled water. We had two kettles and pots on all burners.
- Add several squirts of dawn dishsoap. Gently stir it in without making too much soap foam. Depending on the hardness of your water you may have to alter the amount of dishsoap used in this step.
- Gently immerse an amount of wool that fills the level of water in the container. Pick any large pieces of hay matter out of the wool before hand.
- Let the wool soak for 20 – 30. Repeat the process 2 more times.
- When straining the dirty water from the wool be careful not to over handle the wool as you do not want it to felt. Squeeze but do no wring.
- The fourth time through, you want to rinse the wool with hot water only.
- Using lingerie bags from your local dollar store, fill the bags with wool and run them through a spin cycle in your washer to remove excess water.
- Place the wool on racks (we use bread racks that were gifted to us) and allow the wool to dry naturally
- After the wool has dried, place it in bags and store in a dry and well-ventilated location.
We currently send our wool to Legacy Lane Fiber Mill in Sussex, NB, which is 4 hours South of us. It is the closest place to have our wool turned into roving and yarn. Once we receive the roving and yarn we sell it to potential customers and turn it into dryer balls, which have a growing market.
We currently have our cleaned/scoured wool priced at $20/lb but we will be moving the price up as we refine our craft and quality assurance. We are firm believers in keeping things affordable for the customer as well as the producer and a high price should reflect experience on the shepherds part and quality in the wool offered.
Although some of our surplus rams will inevitably end up going to table we always have ram lambs available as fiber pets for a reasonable price. Our Shetland sheep are predominantly for wool purposes but we will sell breeders from time to time. For more information, contact Justin at 1-506-685-0429 or you can comment below. We love answering questions and comments.