One of the best things about the new barn where Murphy and Katie live now is the fact that they share their home with a flock of sheep – pure-bred North Country Cheviots, to be precise. This is a cool thing because I am a spinner as well as a knitter, and the thought that I could get my hands on some fibre was maybe not the first thought I had upon hearing about this particular horse-boarding opportunity, but it might have been the second.
And indeed, it has come to pass that a couple of weeks ago, there was shearing, with fleeces in abundance, and in return for some really minor help from me, flock owner Jan Hunter was kind enough to give me a truly magnificent fleece, from one of their rams, Dirk Diggler. For his name alone you gotta love him; for his fleece, I am sincerely thankful. I have been in a frenzy of washing, dyeing and spinning the last little while. This is the first time I have worked with North Country Cheviot fibre, which my book The Fleece and Fiber Source Book says is “ best known for white, bouncy wool; a pleasure to spin...easy to work with and versatile”, and I have to say I am a fan. It’s easy to card, nice staple length of between 3 and 5 inches, really good crimp, and a pleasant ivory colour that takes dye really well.
My plan is to prepare most of it in its natural colour, and dye enough for a colourwork sweater maybe? But dyeing is so much fun, I may be re-thinking that. So far I have a red, a bright blue, an indigo, some black, beautiful tonal greens, pink, lavender, yellow, and the best one of all, something that was supposed to be a juniper green, but the dye broke, and the fibre ended up a hideous mix of greens and fuchsia. But when it got spun up, it turned into a lovely olive green with little speckles of rose and purple. Check it out:
|just off the sheep|
|fresh from the dyepot|
|on the carders|
|greens, blues and black|
|all spun up|
|some more colours|
And, just for fun, a few more pictures from shearing day, which happened to be the hottest day ever, so hot that the horses lay down in the field for a nap, and the sheep probably really felt good after losing those heavy sweaters!
|Murphy, Electra and Laddie flake out|
|The lovely Jan Hunter with her flock|
|NSFW! Naked sheep!|
And finally, here is a very short video of Dirk himself, surrendering his fleece: