Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Preparing a Raw Fleece: Flick Carding the Locks

I was recently given some raw Romney fleece, and thought it would be a good opportunity to share how I prepare a fleece for spinning.  Many thanks to Andy and Pam Walton of Lake View Farm, who donated the fleece, and to our friend Tyson for setting aside the best of the fleece for us.  You made this post possible!

A raw fleece consists of many locks of fiber.  A lock is a group of fibers that "hangs" together, much like a lock of hair.  Here is a lock of fleece:

The upper left end of the lock is the butt end.  This is the end that was attached to the sheep; hence, it is usually cleaner than the other end.  The end at the lower right is the tip end.  Often (though not always) this end comes to a point.  Technically, I guess this would be two locks, since I see two tips here.

To prepare a fleece for washing and carding or combing, I first separate out each lock and (when necessary) remove any foreign material, such as hay, seeds, dead bugs, dung tags, and even on rare occasions a flap of skin that came off with the fleece.   Here you can see some hay in the fleece.

Next, I flick card it to separate the fibers and release the dirt.  This is the tool I use for this procedure:

As you can see, this tool has prepared many fleeces.  Working with raw fleece is by nature a dirty, greasy job, and my flick carder reflects this.  The flick card has many wire bristles that brush through the fiber to untangle it.  I start by holding the butt end of the fiber tightly between my thumb and fingers; then I use the flick carder to untangle and separate the tip end of the lock.

See how the fibers fan out and become much less dense?  Next, I turn the lock around and grab the tips tightly with my fingers and thumb.

I then use the flick carder on the butt end, to complete untangling the lock.

Here are the flicked locks, ready to be washed:

I will wash them by soaking them in hot water and dish detergent in my washing machine, being careful not to let them agitate.

Preparing fleece is a time-consuming pursuit, which probably explains the numerous as-yet-untouched fleeces in The Barn (aka our garage).  I have learned that, if I don't do this right away, I will probably not get to it...ever.  But I do enjoy getting my hands into the greasy fleece and creating order from the chaos of the unflicked locks.  And there is nothing quite like taking the raw fleece all the way through to a finished product!


Sharon said...

Wow, Becky, this looks like too much work to me, being the dilettante that I am when it comes to spinning. I love to buy roving already cleaned (and usually dyed) by someone else.

It is interesting to see the process, though, and it makes one appreciative of those who labor through it. Your great photos and description allows one to imagine doing this flicking and cleaning (and therefor saves one from the actual deed, LOL)

It's delightful to read another one of your posts. They are always so interesting.

Rebecca said...

It is a lot of work...but it is a great feeling to get the fleece picked, flicked, washed, and then carded or combed, and to spin and knit it all myself! I don't do it very often, though, as it does take time and effort. And of course, there's no way I can charge enough for the finished product to justify my time in preparing the fleece.

I must admit that most of the time, I buy my fiber already prepared. ^_^