The penny drops slowly

A couple of years ago, I was given some Hebridean fleece, to see if I could spin it. Well I don’t know if all Hebridean sheep have hairy coats, but these certainly did! I have spun some fairly hairy wool before, but this has much longer hair, and I failed miserably with it. The hair and the fluffy undercoat kept separating making lots of lumps at best and pulling apart at worst! I took it along to my local WSD (mid Essex) and asked some of the experienced spinners there what they thought of it. Well they weren’t actually rude about it, but they certainly weren’t complimentary either!

At least one of the fleeces was quite badly felted, and washing it whole didn’t do it any favours either, but I found that if I pulled out the hair, the undercoat came apart easily, so I tried spinning each part separately, but the hair was too smooth and slippery, and the undercoat was short staple, and the resulting yarn was nothing special. So, I thought I’d just pull the hair out and pull the rest apart to fill a bed roll, and that would probably have worked, except that it was in the car half fluffed up and half remaining when it got stolen. So that leaves me with two big unwashed fleeces, all but forgotten about, except they are still hanging around by my back door, not being worthy of being put with the rest of my stash.

Weeks, if not months ago, I discovered that, somewhere or other, it was/is a traditional thing to weave rya like coverings with locks of fleece, making a very realistic kind of faux fur. I figured that would make a very good Saxon shoulder cape, so I decided to give it a go one day and mentally put it on my list of future projects, wondering if any of my stashed fleeces (only Shetland and Jacob’s in any quantity) would be suitable or would I need to buy yet more fleece!

Today, looking up ‘Icelandic method’ and the like, I find a very nice article on making such a thing, and for some reason this time I made the connection, and realised that those rather nasty fleeces would be perfect, all the more so for being unwashed.

Especially interesting (for me) is that they only used the guard hairs. (Maybe that’s what made me remember those fleeces.) I’m not sure why they were trying to use carders to separate the tog from the thel, though. Combs or a hackle would have been better.

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