May 26, 2009

Why I coat my sheep!

I have been so very happy with all my coated fleeces this year : both the fleeces that were coated last year at shearing time and those that were coated in December. It is so exciting to have high quality usable fleeces!

My conviction that coating insures the best quality fleece was reinforced this weekend. I was asked to help shear some ouessant sheep in exchange for the fleeces. To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting to find great fleeces : I’ve seen too many felted ouessant fleeces chucked full of vegetable matter!

We sheared 5 ouessants.
Three of the fleeces are already on the compost heap!
One fleece has yet to be sorted out, but seems to be more or less usable.

The fifth fleece is a perfect example of why I coat my sheep.
It shows the potential beauty and quality of ouessant fleece.
At the same time it demonstrates its vulnerability to environmental ravages.
This is what the fleece looks like on the “outside”.

Ariel's Fleece : sun-bleached tips & vegetable matter

As horrible as this looks, when one opens up the fleece we find a beautiful long 6" staple. The wool is jet black and in perfect, pristine condition for the first 4" with severely damaged 2" tips. Additionally, the undamaged part of the staple is quite lovely and soft to the touch.

Look at that staple length!
But the tips are "burnt", matted and brittle!

What a shame, this could have been the most awesome fleece if it had been coated in November or December. That being said, I was able to salvage approx. 250 grams (8 oz.).
With a pair of scissors, I cut off the 2" tips of the best parts of the fleece. The clean 4" staples were put in net laundry bags then put in cold rain water to soak for one week.

Net laundry bags full of black wool.

Unfortunately, the rest of Ariel's fleece is on the compost heap with the others!

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