Sheep shearing

(I'll warn you now it's a picture-heavy post.)

So, we uncovered the sheep one by one and the Amazing K sheared each one. More about that anon. Behold above, the un-coated fleece of dear Jake. As you can see the covered part of his fleece is so much cleaner than the uncovered section (to the left, on his bum.) So we are happy with the coats.

 The Amazing K in action, shearing with the most enormous set of vicious-looking hand-shears ever.

Jake's fleece. 

His wool is soooooo nice and soft, with a staple length of about 5.5" and a beautiful even tight crimp. 

I immediately combed a lock out and spun it up into this lovely 2-ply yarn.

11 wpi for those of you interested and very even and fine, easy to spin. 
I had originally been thinking of making a jumper out of Jake - which I'm not sure I would've had enough usable fleece for after skirting him. But as the wool spun, it was clear something finer, a thinner yarn, would be more suitable. Perhaps a shawl?

Rosebud was the first sheep to be shorn and as a result, there was an awful lot of second cut in her fleece - little annoying bumbles of fleece that have been cut twice and end up forming a little lump in your spun yarn. 

Also her fleece was shorter - due to us being a bit cautious with the shears - staple length of 4" or so. Her fleece is more matted and difficult to comb out so produced a lumpier sample yarn when I spun it up.

Someone was very interested in the bags of wool.

 I washed Jake's fleece by placing it in mesh laundry bags and soaking it in hot water with a little detergent. Then I gently rinsed it out after a half an hour or so. I gently squashed the water out of it, and rolled it in a towel to squeeze as much water as I could out. 

Even so, the tips remained dirty. I've been thinking of ways to combat this next year. Firstly, I think we will try putting the coats on earlier - we didn't get them until January so there was a lot of dirt in their fleeces already. Secondly I would consider flick-carding the tips of his fleece either before the coat goes on, or before shearing. Jake is so tame that this would be okay with him. (Not so with the girls....)

I used small combs to prepare the wool for spinning, and also this home-made hackle. (A load of nails stuck through a bit of wood.) I loaded it up with fibre, tips all facing out.

After much trial I decided to just cut the tips off - it was much easier to use the rest of the fleece then, whereas with them on there was way too much combing involved and the fleece still came out dirty in places. If anyone has an interesting advice on dealing with a fleece with dirty tips please pass it on.

I combed it out then and pulled it off the comb and rolled it up ready to spin. Mmmm.... it's like a cloud... all lanolin-smelling and soft and mushy....mmmmm....

After shearing, the sheep were all suspicious of the "new" sheep - they don't recognise each other with  their new haircuts. 

Jake having a snack afterwards.

The girls with their fresh haircuts.

All in all, it was a learning experience. The two tamer sheep weren't too bad, but the two wilder ones were pretty unimpressed with the whole event and hard to manage.

In terms of wool, Jake's wool is by far the best of the herd, the softest and least matted so I think he is where we will focus our efforts on wool protecting in future. 

Now I have bags and bags of fleece to deal with and am wishing for more dry days so I can get it washed!