Hope Means Different Things to Different People
May is Lung Cancer Hope Month. I am celebrating hope in my own way this month: by purchasing and processing a fleece.
Making yarn from raw wool seems to me like an ultimate achievement, and it is one that has intimidated me. Last year at Maryland Sheep and Wool, my daughter Ana took the plunge, buying a gorgeous clean and subtly colored fleece from Raja Farm of Lincoln, MA. Later we met up with Clara Parkes of knittersreview.com, and we showed her the fleece. Clara was very complimentary, ooo-ing and ahh-ing in a most satisfactory way, and said that Raja Farm is renowned for its beautiful, high quality, and easy to spin fleeces.
This year, Ana insisted that it was time for me to buy my first fleece. After we arrived at Maryland Sheep and Wool on Saturday May 6, we made a beeline for Raja Farm. Ana bought two fleeces and I chose my first fleece. Actually it’s a half fleece, but it’s still 2.5 pounds of wool, and it will keep me busy for quite a while.
The fleece may have looked gorgeous when I bought it, but it didn’t smell very good to anyone except to our dog - or maybe another sheep. Sheep’s wool is coated with lanolin.
The first step in turning a fleece into yarn is a good hot washing. I followed the shepherd’s instructions: fill a tub full of very hot water, add a strong dose of Dawn dishwashing liquid, gently push the fleece under the water, and leave it until the water is completely cold. We had to travel to Roswell Park Cancer Institute for a consultation, so I put the wool to soak before we headed out the door. No one was going to need to use the bathtub for a couple of days! Here is a short video of my daughter washing her first fleece.
After I got back home, I lifted the fleece from the water, spun it out in my washing machine, and spread it on a rack to dry. It looks brighter and smells considerably better after cleaning.
Next step is to sort the fleece by color and do one more bit of processing. I’m using a wire cat brush to open the locks of wool at the tips, which are still stuck together, and at the base, which were slightly stuck together by the process of shearing. After that, I will be ready to spin directly from the lock. The shepherd hates to card, so she has learned to raise sheep so that their wool can be spun without carding. This premium fleece is actually the perfect one for a complete novice to spin.
Something to ponder: in general, we learn new things better when we use quality materials. How many times do we stick newbies with junk - stiff yarn, coarse paper, lousy pencils, low-quality paints, outdated computers, boring books?
Hope means different things to different people. To me, as I mentally prepare for a possible big change in my lung cancer treatment, hope means that I can still learn something new, take on a big project, and make something beautiful.