Maude is a 2 year old Shetland cross ewe living a happy life on a small farm in a beautiful little valley near Eugene, Oregon, with my mother-in-law, Reida, and this is her story. O.k. really it's just the story of 1/4 of her first adult fleece, but that didn't have much punch as a lead. I am so lucky to have a mother-in-law who raises nice, soft, fluffy sheep in a variety of lovely earth tones. However, earth tones just won't do for a hunting season jacket, so....
The fleece itself is a lovely, long staple with nice medium crimp. I have no idea how those books and magazines always get such nice crimp pictures, so you'll just have to believe me. Yes, it is a multiple coat fleece, but I have never combed a fleece before to separate the softer from the coarser and I'm not starting just now (maybe with the other 1/4 I still have of this...)
Step 1: WASH AND DRY. As long as you remember not to let it agitate, the easiest way to wash fleece is in a top loading washer. Fill it with very hot water and some Dawn (cuts the grease, y'know?), push the fleece in gently with a broom handle and let it soak. Be sure to leave the lid open and turn the dial immediately to spin, just in case. You can poke it gently with the broom handle once or twice to be sure the top is wet, but don't overpoke or it will felt! After a while, spin it out and repeat, but use gentler soap--shampoo is good. Maybe once with conditioner then. Finally do the same thing a few more times, but with clear water. This always takes about twice as long as I plan for, so I was glad to be hanging out with another fiber buddy while we did this! Spread the fleece out on a sheet somehow suspended in an airy place (I decided my glider made of wooden slats was perfect) to dry.
Step 2: SORT When you have time,and most of your family is out of the house, spread out all the fiber for your project[The giant ball of roving is a lucious meriono /bamboo blend which I purchased through Dyelots.] and sort and weigh it and divide it up into piles for dying. I use a spring-load kitchen scale and an old letter scale. Imagine trying to balance wool on a letter scale. I really need to get a digital one. If you're smart, you'll label all your piles with your plans now while you still have half a brain and aren't lugging around vats of boiling colored water!
Step 3 DYE: Do your dying according to the instructions. It is possible to put 2 colors in one pot, but you have to be careful not to let it boil (really I suppose you should be careful of that anyhow), which I was not. The yellow and purple bubble together to make a fairly hideous old dusty mauve. I was totally disappointed, so imagine my joy when I rinsed it and discovered that for some reason, very little of the purple even stuck and I ended up with this beautiful antique yellow! Dying is often quite surprising, but the results are almost always fun! Also, you can always over-dye something if you don't care for the initial results.
The flourescent hunter's orange was a complete sucess though!
Step 4: ADMIRE After letting your dyebaths cool, spread the fleece out to dry again. Seth coined a new word when he saw the results. He said, "Whoa! Those are Hyperdelic!"
Step x: OPTIONS I left some white, too and carded some of it with tangerine angelina (a shiny plastic-y "bling" fiber) and some with copper angelina.
I'm planning a 3-ply worsted to bulky yarn with this plus some pre-dyed merino/bamboo rovings I bought at the NWRSA conference. This is going to be one crazy sweater (in about 4 years)!