Sheep 2 Chic is a new feature article that will appear over several issues, and will be a project that will start with a raw fleece, and finish with a beautiful garment, accessory or other item. It is designed to help overcome the fears of hand processing, and lend confidence to those who have never started with a raw fleece.
The first Sheep 2 Chic is going to feature my blue ribbon fleece from Lucy. You will need about 3-4 pounds of raw fleece to start with, as it will lose up to half its weight in the washing and processing. Lucy is half Merino and half Shetland. Her fleece is fine, soft and has a lovely loft and bounce without being marshmallow-y like full Merino. I love Merino for its softness, and I love Shetland for its quick spinning qualities. The two combine in the cross-breed quite nicely for a finer, crimpier fiber that is perfect for any project.
This project is something most spinners will want to make, and it is for YOU, instead of someone else! But the final pattern is a surprise. I will say that it will be knitted, then felted. You can always decide if you want to finish using my methods, or use your own. You will know what you are making once the final pattern is published. That way IF you don't want to make it (and I'm betting you will) you can choose another project before beginning. Of course you can also wait until the final project is published to begin.
I took Lucy's fleece and washed it carefully, according to the instructions in How to Wash a Fleece. All the picking mentioned scares a few people, but really, each picking only takes about 10 minutes, and is well worth the effort in the finished, clean and lovely fleece. You can follow those instructions for washing your fleece, or you may use your own methods. I used a white fleece, but a naturally colored fleece will make just as stunning a project. You will want to choose a quality fleece, that will felt well, and will be durable. Any type of sheep's wool in the 28 or less micron category will do well. You need not worry about pilling, as the final project will be felted.
Once you have a fleece washed, dye it in any array of pleasing colors. I dyed mine in dark purple, medium greens, and pale yellow. Choose colors you like together, but don't be afraid to be bold, just choose combinations you find pleasing. I have also dyed some silk hankies, some soy silk roving. All of these will work just fine, and I estimate you will need about 8 oz or so. The silk is totally optional however, so don't get hung up on it, if you don't have some, or can't buy any. All it is going to do is add surface texture and shine to the project, which will be a nice effect, but not necessary.
I dyed the silk in some vibrant colors, pinks, yellows, greens and purples. I kept the colors in the same families as the colors of the wool. You can choose any color combinations you like, but some stronger variations will be very attractive in this project. Solid colors will also look nice, so you have a lot of freedom to choose exactly what you want. This should be a project with which you can feel ok about getting a little wild with color.
I divided the fleece into thirds and dyed each section a different color using a crock pot, and regular pots on the stove. I used Jaquard dyes, but any dyeing method will work well. Be sure to heat treat the fleece well to ensure the colors won't run later. I don't usually worry about rinsing the dyed fibers, I usually rinse well after spinning the yarn. I have never had any colors run if they were steamed or heat treated well. If all your dye doesn't get absorbed, but the color is what you are looking for, place the fiber in a bowl, and microwave, or steam, and it should take up the rest of the dye. You may of course rinse your fiber, but I try to handle it while it is un-spun as little as possible, it's entirely up to you.
Once your fleece is dyed, you will begin carding it. I only have hand cards, so I used those, but a drum carder, combs or any process you like will work fine. You can even spin the locks without carding if you want. I carded each color lightly, then I carded the three together to make a blended final fiber. I cut up my dyed hankies, and also carded in some other silk roving I had dyed into the mix. You can also just spin a singles from silk and ply it to the wool singles.
So card your fleece and blend your fibers together, I encourage you to blend lightly, as we will be wanting some good color definition later. Next issue we will do the next steps on the project. Spin some samples up and experiment until you get a yarn you really like, with lots of colorful transitions. You can begin spinning for the project, worsted weight would be a good size, but I don't have a good yardage requirement yet, but you can begin if you like. Here is the yarn I am making for my project.