I got a little time to play with Carl’s fleece tonight.
Before pulling it all apart, I measured a few locks from various locations. Being a primitive breed, it is expected that there will be great variation throughout the fleece.
And there was.

The locks where I started (I think that part was from low on the sheep’s side) had 4″ down fibers and 6-6.5″ outer coat.
The locks are very crimpy (wavy) and will be fun to spin.











The locks from the center of the fleece had 4″ down, and almost no outer coat.


The other edge of the fleece had very 3″ down and 7″ outer coat.
The down was less crimpy here, but still lovely.
This will be a good area for me to separate the coats to try to spin them separately.


I started by pulling off the edges off the fleece with the most vegetative matter. I will save it for now. I might get ambitious about cleaning it later – or find another use for it.


The inside part was mostly free from debris.

I was able to pull out any cockleburs by hand.

Then I flipped the piece over to check the inside for debris and second cuts (little bits of wool made by making a second pass with the shears).img_8826

Then the fleece went into lingerie bags for soaking.

They will soak overnight in cold water to loosen dirt before I really wash them tomorrow. The water was turning dirty already!

I’m only experimenting on a little at a time. I have LOTS of wool left for further experimentation.



Meet Carl. He came to live with me today:

Actually, this is Carl:

Isn’t he cute? Here he is with his shepherdess.


Photo by Stacy Kron Photography

Carl is a dual coated Shetland sheep and only his FLEECE has come to reside with me.

Carl the SHEEP will continue his happy life on his farm. That’s one of the best things about sheep, we can harvest their wool without harming them.

I have been hand-spinning for a few years now and it has been a dream to take a project from sheep to finished object.

It will take quite a bit of work to get it all cleaned and ready to spin.

So here we go!

This is Carl’s fleece out of the bag:

Step one…. lay out the fleece and get a good look. I set up a big screen door between two card tables in my basement. The fleece is larger than my screen door. It also weighs over 4.5 lbs.

The first thing I realized, is I don’t even know which end is which! I think the fleece wrapped around him the long way.

I know that the best wool is at the neck, followed by the shoulders, the sides, then the back.

The more I look, the better I can guess the finer parts. It will get pulled apart and washed in sections.

Here is one of his beautiful locks. The very long hairs are the outer coat, the fuzzy part is the downy under coat.

Today, I just laid it out to look. The next time I can get to it, I will start to pull off any matted parts, cockle burs, hay, seeds, sticks etc. It is a pretty clean fleece, but it is from a sheep that is allowed to be a sheep, so a bit of vegetative matter is to be expected.


My goal is to use this fleece to experiment with several different spinning projects.

I will spin samples “in the grease” unwashed, and clean samples of yarn made from just the outer coat, just the downy coat and one of a blend of both.

I will try to separate the fleece into different zones and see if I can tell the difference in the fibers.

I will try “tail spinning” locks into a yarn.

And I will see how different processing methods change the final yarn.

I also intend to make a large enough quantity of consistent yarn to knit at least a few small projects beyond the samples.

I will post my progress here…follow along if you are interested.

Dyeing with New England Asters

img_5098 The girls and their friends helped me pick a big bag of New England Asters on the prairie.






I hadn’t seen New England asters on any dye lists, but thought the bright purple flowers might yield a purple dye.

I forgot to weigh the flowers before setting them to boil.

img_5099  The dye bath looked kind of greenish. I was really surprised by the results.







The yarn turned a beautiful yellow!

The other thing I learned was that even though the yarn is super wash, I should be a bit gentle with it. I was not as careful with it this time – and it stretched out a bit compared to the first yarn I dyed.











Ok – so this will be my second try. The first was such a dismal failure, I don’t want to even mention it. I used far too little dye stuff and cotton yarn. It changed from white to slightly less white. I used goldenrod flowers and bedstraw root. I didn’t want to use much root, as that obviously kills the plant.

I am serious this time. I AM GOING TO MAKE Sumac Dyed Yarn!

Today I collected a HUGE bag of stiff goldenrod, and another HUGE bag of sumac berries.

There is a huge abundance of both plants on the prairie. And…Sumac is invading the prairie, so I wouldn’t feel bad if I actually hurt that plant.

The sumac turned my hand red, so that’s a good sign.

I tried the Sumac first and used 200g to dye 100 grams of yarn using 100% super wash merino – just in case.

I used 8 gr of alum and 6 gr of cream of tartar for mordant, simmering for 30 min.

The dye bath was made from the 200 grams of sumac, boiled for 30-40 minutes. It smelled and made my eyes burn. I will do sumac outside from now on!

Left both to cool overnight.


I drained out the sumac berries, washed the yarn, then simmered it in the dye bath.

It turned out tan instead of red. I think the berries were too dried out. But I am happy! The yarn changed colors and it is a pleasant one!


UPDATE – The goldenrod seeded out while drying. I don’t think I will use them. I will try again next year and use fresh. There are other options yet this fall.



May 22, 2016

Tiny pics- left to right starting at the top:

Hoary pucoon

Mouse-eared chickweed 

? Not sure. I don’t know my shrubs very well. I can list a bunch of things it isn’t. 


Blue eyed grass

Buffalo bean /prairie plum

Wild strawberry

Golden Alexander 

The two big pics: 

Top- prairie smoke

Bottom – violet wood sorrel

Single big pic- prairie smoke detail.


Today is a beautiful day. A Spring day. The kind of day that makes you happy to live in Minnesota.

We have survived another winter to emerge again like the little grass shoots pushing up through the soil this week. The ice has been off of the big lake for a little more than a week. There is no wind today and the sun is shining, so the lake is a deep blue flat surface. It won’t be long before we can swim in it again, but today it is still icy cold.

The lawns are slowly turning green as the new grass shoots shove aside the dead, brown grass and leaves that have suffocated under the snow all winter. Several of my conscientious neighbors have been raking away the dead vegetation from last fall in an attempt to encourage their lawns to hurry up and grow.

The buds on the maple tree outside my picture window will burst open any minute now.

This was a cold winter. A long, dark winter. A fairly normal Minnesota winter.

I have always thought that the calendar year should match the seasons better. The new year should start  on Memorial Day or when school gets out in the spring. The kids have finished their current ‘grade’ and are ready to begin their summer. Late spring really is the beginning of so many things here in Minnesota – crops get planted, summer projects are planned, and gardens are prepared. We itch to get going on Spring cleaning – to start fresh & new. I, for one, make more resolutions in the spring than I do in January, that is for sure. Not that my spring resolutions are more successful than January ones – I am just more inspired to get that fresh start in the spring than I am in the dark of winter.

Oh Holy Night

Christmas Eve. Midnight.

I just walked home from the candle light church service in the 3 inches of new, powdery snow that fell this afternoon. I was one of the last to leave the church as Christmas Eve is such a wonderful chance to visit with old friends who are home for the holiday.

But, I also lingered to make sure that I had a solitary walk home. I love the quiet that comes after a snowfall. The soft new snow muffles all the usual sounds of cars and humming electrical lines.

I found myself singing O Holy Night – but there were no stars brightly shining tonight, but the overcast winter sky has its own appeal. The light from the street lights bounces off the new, bright snow into the sky. The low clouds reflect the light back. While it is not “the luster of midday,” it is quite bright. The sky is pinkish gray and the light is soft and diffused. The soft light and the softening of all sound makes winter nighttime strolls magical.

Oh Holy Night – Oh Night Divine

Merry Christmas