Tag Archives: wool

Sheep Shearing in the UK

Standard

Following on from my previous post – the video of shearing a shetland sheep in USA – I thought I’d add a couple of my old photos of sheep shearing, taken about 30 years ago!  I can’t remember where I took them – somewhere in South Wales.

 

 

These are scans of the A6 sepia postcards I published of the original photos – which is why they aren’t very sharp.  The sheep were being sheared in a field, and they were penned to make it easier to do the shearing as quickly as possible.

I did a search for shearing in the UK, to get a bit more info on when shearing is done here, and found this useful piece, oddly enough, published under the name of Sheep Shearing in the UK by Indie Farmer.

 

 

These are a couple of colour photos from that site.

And this is the first part of the blog – written in July 2014

The sheep shearing season in the UK (roughly mid May to mid July) is pretty much finished now, so farmers will be pleased that one difficult and time consuming job is over for another year, and the sheep will be happy to have got rid of their thick fleeces in this hot weather.

Shearing requires both skill and a lot of hard, physical work in hot summer conditions.  Some farmers shear their own sheep but many, especially those with large flocks (anything over a few hundred sheep) hire specialist shearing gangs to do the work for them.  Shearing gangs typically have three to eight members, and travel the country going from farm to farm, shearing every day during the season.  It is a hard life but pay can be good, about £2 a sheep and a good shearer can shear 200 sheep per day.  When the UK shearing season is over, the shearing gangs often travel to other countries where the shearing season is at a different time of year, in what is known as ‘the shearing circuit’, travelling from the UK to Norway, the USA, the Falklands, New Zealand, Australia, and pretty much anywhere that you can find plenty of sheep!  It is a very tough, hard working and hard drinking lifestyle, but it’s a good way to see the world, have fun and make some money.

Wool used to be where the main profit was in sheep farming, with meat as a useful sideline.  Many of the great Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built using the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords still sits on a ceremonial Woolsack to represent the importance of wool to the economy in former times.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being a very minor sideline.

It’s always useful to know a bit more about where your wool comes from!  Especially for spinners who are carding and spinning the raw fleeces!

PS. PLUG!

wingham-carders-standard-pair_Fotor

pair of standard hand carders – 72 pt

I sell hand carders that can deal with raw fleeces and all types of wool fibres – and also are quite useful as brushes for sheep and other animals if you are tidying up your stock for Agricultural Shows.  The current listings can be found if you click on the links below.

Listed on julzcraftstore.com here

USE THE COUPON CODE  customer10%off  at the checkout to get 10% off your order.

Listed on etsy here

Listed on ebay here

Sheep Shearing Video

Standard

Just thought you might like to see how sheep are sheared – for those of you who’ve never seen it!  Shearing is done very fast, and doesn’t hurt the sheep, if it’s done by an expert – and the fleece is rolled up to be processed and, hopefully sold.

This video comes from a farm near Niagara Falls, New York, who actually specialise in Shetland Sheep.  Shetland Sheep are the smallest of the British sheep breeds. They are bred for their wool, which is very soft and fine, a delight for handspinners. Shetland Sheep are very hardy, and easy to care for. They are ideal for families with smallchildren, handspinners and breeders.

The original post can be found HERE.

 

Washing Wool – The Virginia Way! – from ‘Ten Good Sheep’

Standard
shearing the sheep

shearing the sheep

This is a really amusingly written TUTORIAL which I will be adding to the i/sheet page and can also be found on my pinterest wool board.

Even if you don’t have your own sheep, or have raw fleece to wash, you should find yourself laughing as you read this!  It was written in 2013 and I found it on the Ten Good Sheep website.  They are in Virginia (USA).

One note about the washing machine she is using – its the old fashioned top loader – that can be stopped and started at any point along the cycle – please don’t use your modern front loader like this, altho some of them do have short cool wash cycles with optional low spin speeds, and you might get away with it.  On the other hand, if you WANT to felt the wool ……….smile!  PS:  See the comments section – some more info there!

 

The Prelude (in conversation form):Part One…“Huh, I wish the shearer would hurry up and get here.  It rained yesterday and the sheep are cleaner than they’ve been in weeks.”Part Two…(nine months later)“Huh, I’m glad we took those shearing classes.  Let’s wait until after the next rain and then shear them as soon as they’re dry so the wool will be cleaner.”Part Three…(nine months even later)“Huh, wait a minute…rain is nothing more than a lot of cold water…hmmmmm.”
Ok…so we were slow learners.
You’ll want some infrastructure for your wool washing career to run smoothly.
We’re serious about washing wool!
You will need:
A wool washing table.
Our original table used rabbit wire for the top (about 1/4″ wire mesh).  The new table uses rat wire (1/2 inch wire mesh).  We recommend rabbit wire and we’ll be replacing the top of this table.  Note the handy hook for your hose…you need a hose too.  (Or if you’re really green and have a way to do it, collect rainwater.)
Also – note the concrete blocks used with the original table for wash stands.
If you’re going to wash a lot of wool, use these.  You’ll thank us later.Set your table up where a lot of water hitting the ground won’t matter.  Or…re-use the water for your garden, etc.  It’s yucky, but the plants won’t mind.  Depending on when you schedule your shearing you can use less water.
Let the rain do the first washing.
And you’ll need:
A wash tub (relatively heavy duty plastic – it’ll be holding a lot of water).And a dirty fleece.
This one is natural charcoal colored Romney.  Wait til you see it when we’re done.  Gorgeous!
And you’ll need:
Uh…gloves.  You need rubber gloves.  And maybe just a bit of white wine.
Ok…let’s get down to business.
Fill your wash tub about 2/3 full of cold water from your hose.The wooden board is under our tub because we don’t have the concrete block wash stands set up in the middle of the back yard.
As your wash tub is filling, unroll your fleece and take a good look.  If your fleece has not been skirted, do it now.  Tear away any belly, neck, britch and generally yucky stuff.  Don’t throw this away though.  Use it for long lasting weed barrier under mulch.Use the washing table as a trampoline for your remaining fleece.
All kinds of stuff will bounce out of there and through the wire while the fleece is still dry.  Give it a good hard couple of throws on the top of the table.
Depending on the size of your fleece, divide it into manageable sections.
We separated this one into 2 pieces.
Some of our own sheep have enormous fleeces and we divide them into thirds.  You can wash a substantial amount at one time, but don’t crowd it too much.  You’ll develop a feel for how much is a good amount.
Here is 1/2 of the sticky fleece (it’s been in storage for 2 years!).  It was well skirted before storage so everything is ok.  Don’t store unskirted fleeces.  You’ll be sorry.Into the cold water we go…
Push your wool down into the water gently until it’s saturated.
You can walk away from it for a while if you want to.  10 minutes or 10 hours…we’ve done both.
See?  Look at all of that dirt floating its way out of the fleece.
Now we’re going to work the wool.
Don’t be afraid to move it around…but you don’t need to be too aggressive about it either.
We want to let the wool swish through the water…so grasp it and bring it up…
and down.  You only need to do it a few times and very gently.
When the water is fully saturated with sheep dirt…
SWOOSH!
You’ll be amazed at the difference in your fleece already.
As a side note:
If you see bubbles on the ground at this point it’s because the fleece is holding sheep sweat
(aka – suint) and lanolin.  Since a lot of this is water soluble, combined with water this makes
(sort of, kind of) its own natural soap.  Hence the bubbles.  Sheep bubbles!
Gather it up…
and squeeze…then squeeze again.

ROUND 2
You can already see quite an improvement in your fleece, can’t you?Refill your wash tub and get ready for more of the same exercise.Let your fleece drape back into the water…no need to bunch it.Let it float for a bit and then a little more up, down, up, down.
Let the water swish through the fleece.There is a difference between allowing the wool to swish and agitating.  Don’t agitate…swish.
Notice the water…murky but not disgusting.  We’re making progress.
When you think that this round of water has done the best it can do…
SWOOSH!
And squeeze it like you really mean it.Now we have a fork in the road.  What did your second wash look like?  It could be enough.
But for this particular fleece we’re going for…
ROUND 3
If you’re doing another round, you know what to do by now.Refill your wash tub and lay in your squeezed out fleece.Let it sit…or not.  And then a little more up, down, up, down.  Light swishing gets the job done – and you don’t have to do it a lot.
Now, check out the clarity of the water still in the wash tub.  That works for us.Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.Our work outside is done and this fleece is well on the road to being clean.  Let’s go inside…
Now that the majority of gross dirt is out of your fleece, it won’t hurt your washer to give it a hot soak.  Yes, the wool is still damp from squeezing out the cold water.
No, it won’t instantly felt in the hot water.
And you’re going to be turning OFF the washer so NO AGITATION will be happening.
Right?  RIGHT???  More on this soon.
We’re using Orvus Paste, which is a livestock soap used by 4H kids on their show animals.  You can get it/order it from farm and garden supply stores, or check online.  It’s concentrated.  It comes in the white container on the right, but the label is long since gone.  We use about 1/3 of a cup for a full washer of water.In the past we have used Dawn (dishwashing liquid).  Think about it…it’s a concentrated degreaser.  You can use Dawn if you’d like.  We’d use about 1/3 of a cup of that too if that’s the soap we were using.
With your fleece OUTSIDE of the washer in a bucket or other container…
fill ‘er up and make it HOT.
When the washer is full put your Orvus or Dawn in.  Let the water agitate for a few seconds to incorporate the soap throughout the water.  Putting the soap in before the washer is full will make for too many bubbles.  They’ll be harder to rinse out.THEN:PAY ATTENTION!
TURN THE WASHER OFF!
Seriously.In all of our years of fleece washing we have ruined only 1/3 of a fleece.  It was one of Shackle’s.  And the washer was only accidentally agitating for about 5 seconds.  Don’t do that!
Now that your washer’s water looks like this and
YOU HAVE MADE SURE THAT IT IS OFF…
Lay your damp fleece into the water…no need to bunch it up.
Doesn’t that look nice?
Now, since you’ve made sure that the washer is off, go ahead and shut the lid.
Relax for about a half hour or so.  That hot water will help to melt the remaining lanolin.
Now…with the washer still off, set it to the spin cycle.(Here’s where we have a small disclaimer.  Some spin cycles will throw cold water on the clothes from time to time for the first part of the cycle.  You DON’T want the washer to spray your wool with cold water!  Some washers don’t do this.  Our current wool washer – yes, we have one just for washing wool – doesn’t throw any cold water.  Our old washer did.  So here’s how we worked around that.  When you’re doing a load of laundry, camp out for the spin cycle.  Listen to your washer.  You’ll hear when – or if – it’s throwing water.  When we found where the spin cycle stopped the water throwing, we marked it with a small dot using a Sharpie pen.  Then we would always set the washer to the Sharpie pen dot instead of the beginning of the cycle.  Got it?)Go ahead and start your washer and let the water spin out.  It won’t hurt your wool because it isn’t agitating it.  When the cycle is done this is what you’ll see:
Ok, now depending on the breed of sheep that you’re working with, 1 wash may or may not be enough.  You’ll know.  It may need another soap session, or it may not.Either way…Take your fleece OUT of the washer and put it back in the bucket or whatever you were using to hold it.
DON’T LEAVE IT IN THE WASHER.Refill your washer with hot water.
Now you’ve got another fork in the road…
If you need another soap session, redo your previous steps…PAYING ATTENTION TO WHEN THE WASHER NEEDS TO BE ON OR OFF.If you don’t need another soap session your fleece is ready for the rinse water.  To our rinses we add about a cup or so of white vinegar.  This cuts the soap residue and restores the pH.  Also, we usually add in a bit of patchouli essential oil…or clove essential oil.  Yummy.  We can’t prove it but it’s our theory that the essential oil is somewhat of a natural moth repellent.  We have never had any moth problems to date.The rinse is identical in procedure to the wash – but without the soap.  Let it sit in the rinse water for a while with the lid down.  Then spin it out, just like before.When you’re all done, your wool washing table becomes your drying rack.  Take your wonderfully clean and soft fleece back outside, open it up onto the top of your washing table and let the air dry it perfectly.  Watch out for too brisk of a breeze…your wool will travel with it.

Ready for your reward?  You’ve worked hard for it…so enjoy!
Soft, fragrant (in a good way), lofty, ready to pick, card and spin.
And MUCH better than if a commercial woolen mill had done it for you.
We know…we’ve done it both ways.
So what’s next?
If you’re like us, you start all over again.
** One final disclaimer**
Our sheep are Romney/Columbia cross.  We know that this method works perfectly for our sheep and for similar breeds.  The finest fleece we have washed this way is Hog Island.  This is a rare breed sheep that was most notably from (wait for it) Hog Island.  This is one of the barrier islands off the coast of Virginia.  We have not washed merino, targhee, etc with this method.  Mostly because we have not had the opportunity to try it out.  This method *may not* be ideal for fine/super fine wool.  But being the wool renegades we are, we would at least give it a try on a small scale and make modifications if necessary.
It’s our guess that beginners who would benefit from this tutorial would not necessarily be using low micron count raw fleeces.  If you are a beginner using low micron count wool and you feel adventurous, try our method out on a small scale and let us know your findings.It’s our bet that the wool from any sheep benefits from being shorn after a good solid rain…so why not try?  The cleaner they are on the hoof, the less water you use after shearing.
Best of luck on your wool washing adventures!
Please do leave us a comment at mail@TenGoodSheep.com
…we’d appreciate your thoughts.

K is for knitting – the history of

Standard

K Knitting, in fact all the textile crafts, are ancient arts, they go back so far in our history that I doubt you could fix the date – and unlike pottery and metal work, wool, linen and flax, the first fibres to be used to make cloth – ie clothes – are bio-degradable, so there are not that many artefacts to be found in archaeological digs.

Oddly enough, having just done a search for ‘the history of knitting’, the trawl is very sparse – this is from Wikipedia – the never failing first place to go!

Nalbinded socks originally thought to be knitting. Can you tell the difference? Circa 250 – 420 AD (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Nalbinded socks originally thought to be knitting. Can you tell the difference? Circa 250 – 420 AD (Victoria & Albert Museum)

“The oldest artifact with a knitted appearance is a type of sock. It is believed that socks and stockings were the first pieces produced using techniques similar to knitting. These socks were worked in Nålebinding, a technique of making fabric by creating multiple knots or loops with a single needle and thread. Many of these existing clothing items employed nålebinding techniques; some of them look very similar to true knitting, for example, 3rd-5th century CE Romano-Egyptian toe-socks. Several pieces, done in now obscure techniques, have been mistaken for knitting or crocheting.

Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and then to the Americas with European colonization.[2] The earliest known examples of knitting have been found in Egypt and cover a range of items, including complex colorful wool fragments and indigo blue and white cotton stockings, which have been dated between the 11th and 14th centuries CE.[3]

51V3CW-QCSL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_There is a tantalising listing for an audio book ‘A History of Hand Knitting’ on Amazon, that says “this product is not available in your region”, and several reviews that refer to a well illustrated hardback book published in 2003, which seems to be utterly  unobtainable.

I listened to the audio sample given, and heard enough to know that the author Richard Rutt, has delved into the subject with true academic rigour, and if it was available, I’d buy it like a shot! I can’t image why it is out of print!  Are you listening out there?!

I did find some interesting information in a post published in February 2014, on Sheep & Stitch,.  The unnamed author has found some great photos in various museum collections, which I have shamelessly copied here – smile.

These cotton socks found in Egypt are some of the earliest knitted pieces. From L to R: Textile Museum, ca. 1000 – 1200 AD; Victorian & Albert Museum, ca. 1100 – 1300 AD; Textile Museum, ca. 1300 AD

These cotton socks found in Egypt are some of the earliest knitted pieces. From L to R: Textile Museum, ca. 1000 – 1200 AD; Victorian & Albert Museum, ca. 1100 – 1300 AD; Textile Museum, ca. 1300 AD

 

This is the one of the the sample of Egyptian knitting, mentioned above.  It is very reminiscent of FairIsle knitting – see my i/sheet on this – and seems amazingly advanced!

egyptian knitting

egyptian knitting?

 

There is also what appears to be a stone carving, that was taken by a tourist in London, probably in one of the museums, but it doesn’t say which one.

I highly recommend you have a look at both parts 1 & 2 of the Sheep & Stitch posts, if you are at all interested in knitting or history!  Part 2 has some lovely medieval images of knitting, and then onwards, to the present day.

14th century painting of Madonna knitting!

14th century painting of Madonna knitting!

It’s difficult not to take the feminist stance about the lack of documentation on the History of Knitting – and I normally avoid any involvement in feminist politics!

It feels like ” knitting was always considered to be ‘woman’s work’ it wasn’t taken very seriously”. It has always been a very practical craft, and before machine knitting came in, was the only way to provide the family with warm clothing – something that was a necessity in cold climates – so why wasn’t it valued?

And before you men shout out loud at me, yes, many men knit and have done so far back into history – there is a proud tradition of seamen knitting to pass the time on long voyages!

tricoteuse - image from http://www.allaboutyou.com/craft/knitting/knitting-how-it-all-began-52451

tricoteuse

However, the majority of modern knitters are women, so why haven’t we valued it enough to give it a place in history?

With the introduction of mass production machine knitting, hand knitting seemed redundant, and gradually fell out of fashion after the 2nd World War. This also led to a huge fall in the price of wool, and a lack of choice for those who continued to knit.

However, there has been a heartening resurgence in the popularity of creative hand knitting in the last few years, and its great to see so many people on sites like Ravelry!  There is now a serious market for all kinds of yarn, and thankfully, hand spun yarn is particularly valued, and it is now worthwhile for home spinners to sell their yarn and even make a living out of spinning.

the mohair jumper I made, showing the repeat pattern detail

the mohair jumper I made, showing the repeat pattern detail

I was taught to knit by my grandmother, when I was a child, and have knitted on and off ever since.   At one time, when mohair jumpers were all the rage, I actually gathered a few knitters around me and paid them to knit some of my own designs, which sold quite well – until fashion moved on to something else – smile.

This is one of my favourite designs, which I knitted up for myself.  I still have it in the wardrobe, but sadly, it no longer fits!

Its really quite easy to adapt a standard pattern to add your own design, so all you knitters out there – be adventurous, and try making something that is truly individual!

Happy Knitting!

 

Fair Isle Knitting – a radio 4 programme for you to listen to + more knitting info

Standard
current fair isle knitting from the shetland collection

current fair isle knitting from the shetland collection

During January, BBC Radio 4, and Woman’s Hour, unusually, had a theme running about knitting, which I saved and thought I’d put it up on the blog for anyone who would be interested.

*
Among the old programmes they added to their ‘Archive Page’, was this one, about Fair Isle. I’ve never tried copying one of these before, so if it doesn’t work, the page link is below this box.
*
I have tested it, and if you click “listen in pop up player” you should get a new page and the 30 minute programme, with picture, direct from the BBC.  The original programme was first broadcast on SAT 31ST JULY 2010.
*
I’m not sure whether this is a permanent ‘archive’ or whether, if you try and listen to it in a few weeks time, it will have been withdrawn from the iplayer – but its here now, if you want to listen to it – along with a link to the full archive page, below.

Fair Isle Knitting

Listen in pop-out player

Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle, famous around the world for its knitting. With a plentiful supply of wool from the island’s hardy Shetland sheep, knitting kept many families from starvation, and the craft is still economically important for Fair Isle. Yet with Shetland schools soon to drop knitting from the curriculum, can it survive for much longer? Will Shetland’s children still learn to knit, and if they don’t, will it really matter? Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle to look at the importance of knitting to the islanders, and to ask what the future holds for this traditional craft. Available now

This is the link to the programme if you can’t use the the pop up link

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t5vkh#auto

And this is the link to the whole Archive they put together on knitting

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/24yX6CDWJH6QkjvmJ3shhzF/radio-4-knitting

newz from julz: yarns for knitting & weaving

Standard

scarfcopysThis post is written as a checklist for the latest newz from julz update, which goes out to all the customers on my mailing list – its easier to put the pictures and links on this blog, where they can be seen clearly, than try and put them all into an email.

I sell in the UK and WORLDWIDE

Anyone who reads this can join the mailing list – please go to the shop talk page, where you will find a form to fill in.  newz from julz updates are sent out when there is new stock or other useful information, and are not available unless you are on the mailing list, which has nothing to do with following this blog! If you want to know more about any of the yarns on this page, clicking on any warping yarn picture will take you to the ‘slideshow’ of these yarns and if you then click on the underlined caption, it should take you to the current listing.  Clicking on the pictures of the novelty yarns will take you to the listings directly. Of course anyone is welcome to buy anything they see on any of the sites I sell on – links to my etsy shop, my folksy shop, and my two sites on ebay, are underneath my photo on the right hand side.  If you are not registered on any of them, you are welcome to buy direct.

warping yarns for weavers

Warping Yarns are particularly strong and can take the strain of being the “vertical yarns” on the loom, as they are kept under tension whilst the cloth is woven.  They can also be used  for the weft – ie: you can weave with them – and for crochet and macrame. You can also knit with them.  Many knitters are so used to small balls of knitting yarn, that they don’t realise that you can knit straight from the cone – just put the cone in a bag or basket to keep it clean and allow the thread to be easily drawn. When you click on the pictures below, some of them will take you to julzweaving on ebay, and others will take you to julz craft supplies on etsy.  That does not mean that they cannot be found on the other sites, but as ebay listings don’t last as long as the etsy ones, I have used the etsy site for listings on ebay that are near to their end date. NB:  the links are current at the date of posting, but may not work in a few weeks time – that does not mean that I don’t still stock them – see below!

novelty yarns for textile arts

sample pack of tu-tu yarns

sample pack of tu-tu yarns

Anyone with an eye for unusual ideas and novelty yarns to experiment with will enjoy these ‘Imagine’ and ‘Tu-Tu’ yarns – but they may take some getting used to! Samples are available on request, and there is a particular sample pack of 4 colourways of Tu-Tu which is also listed.  If you would like to request a variation of colours, please ‘buy’ the pack and send me a separate request for the specific colours you would like in the pack.  (There are numbers on the banding that you can use for reference.

*tutu yarn mixed

hanks of multicoloured tu-tu yarn

You can actually knit with these, and create ruffles within your pattern, and there are links to free patterns on the listings, on both etsy and ebay – all of these are currently listed on both sites, clicking on these pictures will take you to one or the other. You can also use them as eyecatchers by weaving bits of them into your work, adding them to needlework and sewing projects and incorporating them in any any collage or textile art project.

hanks of single colour tu-tu yarn

hanks of single colour tu-tu yarn

Similarly unusual, and useful for art work, are the imagine yarns, which have been created to be used to make things like scarves without knitting them! They comes as ‘tubes of webbing’, and there is a link on the listing to a video that shows how to make a scarf in a few minutes.  Buy a hank and see what else you can use these for!

These listings have expiry dates, and the links may not work in a few weeks time, but I will have stock of most of the yarns shown on this page on a regular basis, so if you cannot find the listings, please use the form on the contact me page and I will send you the link.

hanks of 'imagine' yarn

hanks of ‘imagine’ yarn