My favorite shepherd, the one who raises the most perfect cormo fleeces ever, and allows my children to name the sheep their fleeces come from, asked me how I get any wool processing done after surgery and with a two year old. The answer, as it is for just about any question about how I’m doing anything, is slowly.
Used to be I could take my basins and buckets and scour a whole fleece over a whole day, taking breaks to do the rest of my housework and homeschooling and all.
But you know, you can’t SPIN a whole fleece in a day, so why get so intense about it? When I am feeling strong and well enough to spin for a while, I maybe make 1/2 ounce of singles in a day. But you know, that adds up to two pounds a month, so maybe there’s something to this slow concept.
So as long as my net scouring and combing or carding adds up to a half an ounce a day, I’m fine. No need to do more. But there’s also no need to get the wool through the whole process in one day, either. Maybe today I felt like sitting on the kitchen floor playing magnet letters with George and making neat and tidy piles of locks to wash carefully for worsted spinning.
I have three Shetland fleeces this year, too. Shetland like the islands of Scotland, one of which is Fair Isle, where the name of that kind of sweater came from. Emily thought the idea of a Fair Isle pullover made from only the natural colors of Shetland fleece was really appealing… so, we started. Slowly. Half an ounce a day… if I’m going to be cooking or working standing up in the kitchen, I might as well pull off some of each color and wash it. Washing fleece takes WAY less energy than washing dishes, since one of the cardinal rules to prevent felting in fine wools is DON’T MESS WITH THE WOOL. Just let it sit there and get clean. I wish the rest of my house worked that way.
So we’ve slowly accumulated some clean fleece. Maybe 15 minutes of work on days when I feel good enough. Then some magic can happen. Even after having a drum carder for years, I am always amazed at how it works. Clean chunks of wool go in one end. Turn the handle. SLOWLY.
Next thing you know your kitchen table is covered with heaps – VERY light and fluffy heaps – of batts. I wish you could feel these. Shetland is by no means the softest wool in the world *and it’s definitely the scratchiest wool I spin * but these batts are like holding clouds. Really truly.
So then we can spin, leisurely, which my children think is a good activity for me because I have to sit still to make it work. Knitting’s not good enough, I can (and do 🙂 )pick it up and take it with me all over. Half an ounce a day… works out to about 75 yards of the skinny yarn I make…
… although this test skein was worsted. Even slow spinners can try working outside of their comfort zone sometimes… good for the brain, I hear.
Then this slow fleece processor can turn into a relaxed, but not slow, swatch knitter. I can’t knit slowly, it just doesn’t work. My fingers have a rhythm, it goes with my rosary praying, and I get such happiness from the knit – pray combination that I don’t want to mess with it.
So, slowly, with just a few minutes here and there, or no minutes on bad days, we make yarn, we make sweaters and socks… no stress. Just slowly.
Tomorrow I’ll show you what all I’m knitting at the moment, besides a Fair Isle sweater for Emily and a Fair Isle sweater for a friend, and a few baby sweaters. Oh, I have got to take one more minute to tell you about the other Fair Isle sweater.
This friend I’m making the sweater for knows I pray and knit. I knit lots of socks while praying for the recipients of those socks. I pray for mamas, safe deliveries, happy babies while I make tiny sweaters. But anyway, this friend sent me an email entitled “Sweater or Blanket” The body of the email detailed a family transition that she was stressed about, but there was no knitting content at all. I was quite confused, and thought that chemo brain was worsening by the minute.
I emailed her back. Sweater??? To make a long story short, she needed me to pray about their situation, but she knew it was going to take a whole lot longer to resolve than the time it takes to knit a simple pair of socks. I loved the concept and I’m SLOWLY preparing the wool for her sweater, too.
Time for bed. Happy spinning.