It is a rainy and overcast day in Ottawa this morning, which usually means I head for the duvet, knitting and sofa. Today I got a little more active though, and was lucky enough to help out with shearing at a local farm.
It all started last September when I took a weaving course through the OVWSG, and met the very talented Shirley Browsky, who taught the class. Shirley has a farm not far outside of Ottawa, and this morning her 19 Polwarth sheep were due for a shearing, so along with several other willing volunteers, my friend Tara and I headed out to help.
Aren’t they beautiful? Polwarths are a mix of Lincolns and Merinos, and Shirley has bred her flock from scratch as it were. You can read about the genealogy on her website here, (and also browse her yarns and woven fabrics, beautiful stuff).
She hired a professional shearer for the job…
with the volunteers catching the sheep, moving the fleece from the shearing area out to be skirted, and sorting the fleece itself. Tara became chief mover, trying her best to avoid getting a faceful of the ‘bottom-end’ :
I joined the skirting team, sorting the fleece into three groups. Garbage (mainly from the bottom end!), seconds (dirty or slightly felted sections), and the blanket pieces – the firsts. Each fleece that came through caused more drooling, such soft and luxurious locks. Eventually I settled on this one, and sharing with others, came home with just over a pound to play with.
I’ve not worked with unprepared fleece yet, having stuck with the safety of prepared fibres thus far. I’m very excited to see what I can come up with – so much to learn in the coming months!
So, a very educational and fun morning. Thank you so much to Shirley for opening her house to us, we’ll be back next year!
I’m going to claim myself a cheeky point for fibre preparation (getting in right at the grass-roots!), and leave you with a piccie of the very soggy but handsome Bailey, who is the herd’s official bodyguard, safe-guarding against Coyote attacks. Apparently he’s a big softy, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him!
(NB. Any errors in terminology or details are all my own, I’m new to this and welcome corrections!).