Monday, August 29, 2011

Sheep Shearing

Wool from sheep can be used in many ways. In the past and still today wool has been used in houses, clothes, and rugs. Shearing sheep is fun to watch and goes rather quickly, but cleaning wool is an enormous task.

One of our German neighbors has several sheep. Since we are a big fan of crafts such as spinning, knitting and needle felting which use wool we asked speaking the best German we could if we could watch. She said we could and invited us back when the shearing man came. Since cleaned, dyed fiber costs upwards of $2 per ounce, we were thrilled when she sold us a huge bag of wool for only 5 euros.

Today sheep are sheared with electric razors. They are brought to the shearing station and flipped onto their backs. As soon as the process begins, they calm down and most sheep lay still while being sheared.



The first step in cleaning wool is picking out any large dirty chunks. Sheep don't often bathe, so the fiber can be full of plant debris as well as feces.

Next, it must be soaked in water with soap. It is important not to agitate the wool in the water as agitation results in felted wool. Therefore, the wool is carefully laid on top of the water and left to sink at its own pace. Once submerged, it is gently removed and pressed against the side of the tub to remove excess water. Ringing out wool will also result in felting and should be avoided. If the wool is still dirty the process is repeated. If it is fairly clean it is left to soak in clear water without soap. Although the temperature is not critical, it should be similar to the soapy water temperature.

Wool can be left in the sun on racks (we used tennis rackets) to dry before being carded to remove additional plant matter caught in the fiber.

For us the cleaning process took 80 hours of work for the fleece of one sheep. If we ever do this in the future (which I doubt), we will remove much more dirty wool before placing the fleece in the soapy water. It was a ton of work. Now I have a much greater appreciation for stores that sell clean, dyed wool that's ready to go. It is the spinning, knitting and needle felting part of the process that I really enjoy.

Organic Aspirations

1 comment:

  1. I soooo want a sheep or two (I always hear that you should get two)! Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope you join us again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/03/flip-trainer-review-at-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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