Thursday, January 13, 2011

The wool shed

Shearing is scheduled for February 12. That means that lambing is just around the corner and that I’d better get the wool shed cleaned out.

Every January I look at the unsold fleeces in our shed and decide what to do with them so that we’ll have room for new fleeces. Sometimes I send the year old fleeces off to be carded into roving for spinners and felters. Less often, I have enough to design a new yarn and I send the fleeces to a spinning mill to have the yarn spun. Some years all the fleeces have sold. Some years I only have questionable fleeces left – those with a few guard hairs or those with more veggies than I like in my fleeces. This year I have all of my fleeces left except for the one we used for experimental dyeing on the last fiber day at the farm.

Sales have been down lately, but I hadn’t realized that they were that far down. The last two years, people have bought very little and I’ve blamed it on the economy. Fiber artists have no more disposable income than anyone else. People also seem to have busier lives. I have seen a trend; people buy carded wool rather than raw fleece which they would have to wash and then card before they can use it. More people buy pre-spun yarn because they don’t have time to spin it themselves before they knit or crochet it into something.

I understand that perfectly. It has been many years since I’ve had the time to spin enough yarn for a project. I have a skein of a wonderful soft brown alpaca waiting beside a pile of unspun fiber. I probably only need eight more skeins to begin that sweater I’m going to knit after the one I’m working on now which I’ll get back to after I finish the baby hat.

Many spinners suffer from the same cluster of problems. Too many good ideas, too much yarn already accumulated, and too little time. Actually, many crafts people fight the same pressures. Our eyes and minds are always on the look out for new ideas, new challenges. But our life is already scheduled rigidly enough that we have to plan those projects far out in the future or resolve not to finish something we are presently working on.

Actually, that’s not true. In the seventh year of a quilt that I was supposed to be hand quilting, my daughter Amber commented that if I didn’t work on it, it wouldn’t ever get done. An obvious conclusion, but a real revelation to me. I followed her lead and worked on that quilt for half an hour most evenings and finished it! Now I just have to make the same decision about the beautiful cable sweater with lots of color variations in the pattern that has me completely intimidated, and I’ll be able to finish the sweater.

But not until I finish the hat for grandson Jasper, and certainly not before I pull all the fleeces out of my wool shed and send them off to be carded into roving or spun into yarn. With almost fifty fleeces in the shed, I have the luxury of designing another new yarn, but I’ll have to work fast, because I need room for fifty more fleeces in exactly one month.

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