12 January, 2011

Why Get a Raw Fleece

I know more than a few handspinners who consider themselves fleece aficionados.  They have told me that they prefer to buy fleeces because it gives them a better chance to judge and experience the quality and qualities of the wool.  They shop for fleeces because the selection of sheep breeds is wider than that of prepared fibre.  They are looking for these breeds to experience the wool's particular properties or to achieve a particular end product in their yarn.

Also, they say buying a fleece is cheaper per pound.  You pay a fair bit because you're buying a large amount of wool, you lose some weight when you wash the wool and the greasy lanolin goes away, and you spend time on the wool that you wouldn't with prepared roving or top, but overall a raw fleece is considered economical.

With a fleece, you can prepare and spin individual locks.  Some handspinners like to spin a lock at a time, washed and brushed, always tip first to take advantage of the direction the wool scales lie.  Wool top (a commercial preparation) is directional like this.  If you ever see me spinning a strip of wool top, you'll notice I run my hand along the fibre before I spin.  I do this to check which direction feels rougher so I know which end to start spinning.

If you are curious about the properties of different sheep breeds and their fleeces, or want a reference on what wools there are, there are books devoted to the subject.  General handspinning books often contain tables with basic information.

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