Listen For The Ping

~Our teacher, Margaret, received a donation of quite a few different sheep breed fleeces this semester. Some of the fleeces came from sheep that had been abandoned and rescued by Animal Control. Margaret demonstrated how to “listen” to a lock of good fiber so that we could hear the “ping” noise. After trying it, we listened to the pulled lock of fiber from a stressed animal and it did not have that odd “ping” noise. She told us that is one test we need to try before purchasing a fleece. If you have some raw fleece try it!

The “bad” fleece we listened to was from a Suffolk breed. To most of us the raw fleece looked fine. Upon our physical inspection we could determine problems: 1. The lock did not ping, and 2. when stressing the lock by pulling on it the fibers broke. Margaret demonstrated what would happen if it were combed. The combed locks broke into little pieces clumping together. I’m not at the point in my spinning yet where I’d purchase a whole fleece, but I’m glad to learn how to pick one out if and when I’m in the market.

Tip: If you have some raw, smelly fleece that cannot be processed or spun because the animal it came from was stressed and the locks break into small bits, use it as a gopher repellent! Tightly pack the fleece pieces into the gopher holes. Other members of class swear that this works. There was a huge bag of smelly, unusable fleece and it was snatched up by the people with gopher-riddled yards. My parents sure could have used this tip.

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11 thoughts on “Listen For The Ping

  1. Yes, that was something I had to learn — that fleece raised for wool is quite different than fleece from sheep raised for food. Spinning is a lot of work and the result only as good as the starting point. Wool growers understand that the fiber grows weakly when the sheep is sick or malnourished. They also take better care to protect from weathering and vegetable matter. For instance, they might put a cloth coat on the sheep to protect the fleece. It’s a lot of extra work for the grower which is why, at least in my area, there are few growers raising sheep for wool.

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    • Thanks! Interesting note. There are fleece sheep breeders in class. One breeder changed her sheeps’ diet from straight alfalfa to a blend since her sheep were getting too fat. 😎 She said you could see the change in the fleece. As a class we are thinking about collecting donations to purchase coats for some of our favorite sheep. It is fun when the sheep owner’s come in and show us the fiber from Gloria or Henry. 😎

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      • Oh that’s a cool idea — planning ahead for the fleece you’ll get by targeting an actual sheep! Trust me, when you buy your first fleece, you’ll be really happy if you can get one that was protected by a coat. That picker can only get out so much vegetable matter. Sometimes, it just makes it finer but leaves it in the fiber! Ask me how I know!

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  2. I’m chuckling! I can see you picking out the fiber! We were given as much Churro as we wanted yesterday. The fleece was nasty dirty, poopy, veg matter, etc. It wasn’t skirted. It was one of the Animal Control fleeces. I put it out on the deck and hosed it down.

    Have you ever purchased a fleece and sent out to be processed? Or, did you buy one and clean yourself?

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    • I’ve been spoiled so far — the two fleeces I’ve bought (many years ago) were already skirted. I’ve never sent one out for processing although there is a place that will do that near where I live now (http://www.customwoolenmills.com/) but I haven’t tried them yet. I think I’d start by buying and spinning the roving they sell before I got them to process a fleece. Clearly a field trip is in order — only 1.5 hour drive from home!

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      • OH, a fiber field trip! How fun. 😎 From what the other class members have said, the closest processing mill to us is about 350 miles away. Yikes! Not a day trip.

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  3. Pingback: Spinning: What I learned from those hugely disappointing pencil rovings | Fibercrush

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