Just a couple of days after my last blog post, I headed out to the Woodstock Fleece Festival. It was a day of bustling spinners’ mayhem, and this post is brought to you by a happy co-incidence.
The spark for this adventure is a local credit to adolescents everywhere, E. Her grade 8 school project led us to connect with shepherd Robert I’Anson & his wonderful pure-bred Olde English Babydoll Southdown flock. Other handspinners have now found Bob’s fleeces thanks to E’s project.
We first met in September 2014 when E came to a guild meeting with her Mom. She presented so impressively about her aims to prep, spin & dye local wool for her project with knits. E was a novice spinner, and her enthusiasm was infectious. I soon agreed to stand as mentor if they were comfortable to go ahead. We did!
This experience was a real privilege, and ever since we met-up again at Wheelwright’s festival booth in October, I have wanted to really share it with you at long last.
Sourcing the Wool
With generous help from my friend, Sasha of Sheepspot, we quickly got in touch with Robert I’Anson who still had fleeces from his 2014 clip.
Since to quote Sasha the only thing that she loves more than wool is the ocean, I was certain that we were in good hands.
The ewes were in their front paddock. We gushed at the cute.
Bob not only welcomed our teaching visit to his farm in Louth, Ontario but also donated a ram’s white fleece for E’s project.
We chose this fleece after looking at a few. All were sound, and it was a fun decision. We also got to learn more about the sheep, farm, and Bob’s approach to breeding.
On that high note we turned to cleaning E’s wool
Guess who approved of our plan to clean the wool in his presence?
The scouring stage was intense on instruction as we worked on spinning through the soaking sessions. It was a good, long day. E really picked-up on everything & then did her homework.
It was also my first high-lanolin fleece. Even though the water ran clear after 2 baths with original Dawn detergent, the dry wool felt tacky. That was solved by simply re-washing but I will now use power scour in the first place!
E continued to work on other fibres for her display, and then did an amazing job on fibre preparation & spinning of the Babydoll Southdown over her winter break.
Thanks also to Deb Robson who gave her quick permission to share her Fiber Exploration Record Card with E in the project. It sets out key characteristics, and after taking a breed study workshop with Deb 3 years ago, I use the card for my own learning/ fibre preparation.
As soon as E saw my 2012 avocado dye experiment on Polwarth she determined this was her favorite. We worked from there, and she chose a water-only soak extraction method for her yarn.
There are no words. I was just blown away by E’s display & presentation – she received full marks and deserved applause!
My personal favourite part was her answer to the FAQ an attendee had to ask. In complete dignity & more tact than I will ever muster she asserted,
Well, I think that my spinning is a much better quality than what you can get at Walmart because they use factories, and I made mine by hand.
The Babydoll Southdowns are still growing wool, and Bob’s flock is doing well. I visited with N at the end of July, and have cleaned an ewe’s fleece. It is astonishing, and you will hear about it!
Yes, I gained friendships beyond E’s school presentation this March, a new wool discovery, and confidence in teaching. That’s all been fabulous but the best part is being there to see a young spinner’s imagination carry her into our local fibreshed, and onward.
edit to correct Webster’s name.