A morning on the farm.

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!).


About amy j

temporarily retired at 32, motivating myself to get off the sofa with a series of challenges...
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12 Responses to A morning on the farm.

  1. Julianna says:

    OMG, I am so bummed that I missed out!! But, it looks like you had so much fun and learned a lot in the process. I can’t wait to see the fleece you scored, I love polwarth!!

  2. Julianna says:

    Here is a link to an awesome blog post about washing fleece, just to get you started!


    • amy j says:

      Thank you! Everyone was really helpful, full of advice yesterday, but my brain is struggling to hold on to all that information, so this will really help!…..think I might have my Tour De Fleece project sorted now!

  3. ematiszdesigns says:

    I’m bummed I missed it too! I miss hanging out with sheep!

  4. Natalie says:

    Looks like a great time! How nice to get it right off the sheep.

  5. sandyjager says:

    Too cool! I have one of Shirley’s fleeces from last year….awesome fibre! You’ll enjoy working with it.

    • amy j says:

      I’m so glad there were other, more knowledgeable, people there, or I’d probably have come home with every fleece, they were all so clean, and great fibres. Do you have plans for yours?

      • sandyjager says:

        This is my first fleece, so I’m quite spoiled! I’m working up the nerve to spin for my first sweater. All I’ve done is a little sample skein of combed top and spindle spun. Gossamer weight, just to see if I could do it. I’ve never dyed before, so this will be an adventure!

      • amy j says:

        Oooh very exciting! I’m debating whether to use mine as a Tour De Fleece project, then knit it up as a vest for the olympics…..I do tend to bit off more than i can chew fairly regularly though! At present it is wrapped up in the craftroom and I visit it fairly regularly just to give it a squeeze!

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