WATCH it all happen at the Foster Show on Saturday February 23, when from 10 am a sheep will be shorn every hour in during special demonstrations by Peter Gay, held in and near the Robbie Allan Shed.
The first sheep will have a fine wool fleece from a first cross ewe with short fibres. The fleece will then be prepared by the Foster Wool Group led by Trudi Richter, a fascinating character who has been spinning fibres for over 30years.
Trudi has spun wool, silk, alpaca, mohair, wool and silk and has even tried spinning hair from Husky dogs. Knitting or crocheting follows to produce a scarf, beanie or jumper.
The spinning process is time consuming and requires patience and motivation. Originally, Trudi’s husband began spinning fleeces so she could knit him a jumper. As his spare time was limited, his spinning slowed down to a trickle and she was left with a half finished article. So Trudi decided to take up spinning but it took a long time over several years to perfect the skill before she was able to complete his jumper.
During the 1970s when spinning was fashionable, fleeces were plentiful and knitting was in vogue, spinning was common. Trudi prefers to spin from Poll and Poll Dorset fleeces as they are easy to spin, but getting a fleece from a sheep is no easy task.
Peter Gay wears moccasins on his feet which help to give him a firm grip on the floorboards as he grabs the animal by the rear end and drags it to his stand. Placing it in a sitting position, he leans over, selects the comb and commences to shear in one long sweep from its neck down towards its’ tail end.
Peter has a portable electric shearing stand and machine which is set up on-site close to a power source. It is still backbreaking work.
Once the fleece is obtained, it is washed to remove some of the grease, then washed again in very hot water with a different additive and is dried carefully. One whole fleece is usually provides enough wool to make a jumper.
To make the texture of the fleece more user friendly, it has to be ‘carded’ or wire brushed, using special carding tools with which the fibres are made to face the one direction. The fibres are then spun into a continuous single thread. It is then plied by the twisting together of two threads and is formed into a knittable ball of wool, ready for knitting into a scarf, beanie or jumper.
To see the procedure of sheep to fleece to wool, come along to the Foster Show on Saturday 23.