Maple Ridge Sheep Farm

Frequently Asked Fleece Questions

In 1980, even as a beginning spinner, I fell in love with Shetland wool. I felt it had the most wonderful texture, the softness of garments made from Shetland wool was outstanding and the color range permitted such exciting patterns of natural colors. I had to have some Shetland sheep! That is what started this whole project. I have spun a lot of yarn since 1980 and Shetland wool is still my favorite. Shetland wool is not the right choice for everything. Frequently customers call and discuss their next project. I am usually able to suggest a particular fleece that will be best fit the requirements. There are many techniques and tricks folks have discovered that emphasize some of the special characteristics of Shetland wool.

Should Shetland wool be washed before spinning or should it be spun in the grease? This is a very personal decision. Many hand spinners feel very strongly one way or the other. I prefer to spin washed fleece because I feel it responds better, does not change significantly when washed later on and doesn’t gum up my wheel.

How should Shetland fleeces be spun? Generally, fine fibers are best spun into fine yarn. They can be plied if a heavier yarn is required. There are many, many articles written by experts explaining the wonders of Shetland fleece: Black Sheep Newsletter, fall 1991 for example.

What is the best way to wash Shetland wool? I find that a detergent, such as Ivory, Dawn or Sunlight works best. I fill my washing machine with warm water and add the soap. I lay out the fleece on top of a twin size bed sheet and loosely roll them together into a long sausage-like roll. I feed this roll into the washing machine, continuing to wrap the sausage around the spindle until it is all in. I let it soak in the warm, soapy water for around half an hour. I then drain out the soapy water and put in fresh, warm rinse water. Drain that water out and repeat the rinse step once more. After the second rinse, let the machine spin the whole thing. I like to do this on a warm day so that I can take the fleece outside and unroll it to dry in the sun. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER AGITATE!!!

What is the best way to prepare the wool for spinning? Most spinners card their wool. That works quite well for the wool from most breeds of sheep and also works well for Shetland wool. However, Shetland wool varies a great deal from one fleece to the next. Some times they look the same but once you get working on them, they each have their own special characteristics. Sometimes the tips will be a different color that near the skin. This could be from sun bleaching or from a natural change in pigmentation, especially with a lambs fleece. I prefer to gently comb each lock with a dog comb. I comb a few locks and then spin them. The variations in colors give the yarn a super tweedy look that I particularly like.

If I find a couple of fleeces on your list that I like, how does the whole paying/shipping thing work? When you have made your final selection, drop me a note, give me a call, send a fax or e-mail with your choices, your mailing address and your UPS shipping address. A phone call works best because we can discuss alternatives if your choice is already spoken for by someone else. I will send you two copies of an invoice with the total cost of all the fleeces you ordered plus shipping. The invoice will show your billing and shipping address, as I interpreted it. Please correct my mistakes on one copy of the invoice and send it back with your check. We usually prepackage the fleeces in paper grain sacks. You should have them within a few days of when we receive your check by snail mail. We also accept the Discover Card which may speed things up a little.

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