Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sheep To Sweater

The Easter-Fleece-Sweater

Last spring (2010) Evelyn visited The Kelly Clement farm and helped with the spring sheep shearing. One in particular ewe was named, Easter. Easter was pregnant at the time and gave birth that evening after being shorn.

Evelyn had the opportunity to purchase a "Fleece" and she choose Easter's fleece. A fleece is the entire product produced when you shear a sheep. It is almost certain that one of the sheep in this set of pictures is Easter, but we do not know which one. We think Kelly can tell us which one is Easter, click here for the pictures.

A couple of years before Evelyn learned how to spin wool into thread, and how to ply thread into yarn. Evelyn's additional expertise in weaving, knitting and sewing made this something that added a symmetry to her fiber arts skills.

The next step after shearing a sheep is to clean the fleece by picking out the impossible tangles and sticks and straw and discarding those bits (or saving the tangles for felt). During this process we see something on the back porch table that looks suspiciously like a sleeping yeti.

After cleaning, the fleece is washed, dried and the "Carding" process begins. This process involves taking bits of the fleece and drawing it across two wide paddles that have short steel bristles. This proces straightens the wool and produces a product called "Roving".

The roving is typically braided into great hanks and put aside to be spun into threads. The spinning process involves a machine that most folks are not aware of.

The "Spinning Wheel" (or wheel part of a spinning wheel) is just the part that creates the momentum. The actual bit that does the work is called "The Flyer" and it is responsible for twisting the roving into a thread and taking that thread up on a bobbin. The roving is fed into the flyer as the spinner keeps the wheel rotating which in turn spins the flyer. Evelyn powers her spinning wheel with foot pedels like an old pump organ.

Once you have at least two bobbins of thread you can ply them into a yarn by feeding them back into/through the flyer to create a twisted product called Yarn.

Once you have some bobbins of yarn you wrap the yarn on a stick like affair called a "Niddy-Noddy" that produces a hank of yarn that you would typically find in a yarn store. The niddy-noddy also measures the yarn so you know how many yards (you count as you wind it).

Before knitting with the yarn (or it is sometimes used right from the hank) you wind the yarn into a ball. This ball of yarn is something you can feed into a loom or knit into something wonderful.

In this case the, something wonderful, is "The Easter Fleece Sweater". The entire fleece went into this sweater with the exception of a bit left over that could be knitted into elbow patches for the sweater or perhaps even a hat.

Fig 1: Close Up

Fig 2: The Proud Wearer

The picture in Fig 2 is before the sweater was 'blocked' and that bulge in front, I am sure, is all part of the sweater and not due in any way to the shape of the fellow wearing it.

This sweater is not dyed any color at all other that the color of Easter. It has only been cleaned, washed, combed, washed again, spun into thread, plied into yarn, and finally knitted into this beautiful sweater.

The feel of this sweater is wonderful, it is very soft and warm. The washing was done with "18-in-1 Hemp Eucalyptus Pure-Castile Soap Made With Organic Oils" and gives the wool a wonderful smell of Eucalyptus. The Eucalyptus gives it a natural moth proofing since moths do not like the Eucalyptus odor.

[Added 11 FEB 2012] Here is a slide show of the pictures with some pictures of Easter the Sheep also: