I know that some of you have been quite curious about just how much yarn comes from one sheep. I was too! I've processed fully just a couple of our fleeces, but never in a methodical enough way that I could really trace it, ounce for skein, or sheep for sweater, or however I wanted to measure it.
And so, today I bring you Cinnamon. Everyone's favorite sheep (she really is) and Mama to this spring's Nutmeg and Clove (our only ram, who incidentally, is sticking around, which means oh boy, there's only more yarn coming my way).
Mind you - everything I am about to tell you is coming from a complete novice, please do keep that in mind. We have practically no idea what we're doing, but we're certainly doing it. And so...
In the spring, we sheared the four ladies, just before lambing season. We're on a twice a year shearing cycle with our sheep - they're due for a haircut this month. It seems to grow long enough, and if we leave it for a full year, it just becomes matted and more difficult to deal with as a fleece. I've chosen not to coat our sheep - at least for now. Amazingly, they stay fairly clean without. Everyone with experience (meaning not us) who visits them comments on just how clean their fleeces are, and so I'm riding that and not bothering at the moment with the expense and hassle of coating ten sheep. That might change in the future, I don't know.
(These two photos are Anne, not Cinnamon, obviously. But I didn't take a photograph of Cinnamon's roving entirety and wanted you to see what that was like, as a whole. Anne's up next.)
This year, as I told you, I sent those four fleeces off to be cleaned and carded professionally. Cinnamon's came back as roving, weighing just under 2 pounds. They're tiny sheep, these Shetland - I don't think any of ours weigh over 80 pounds. That's part of the reason we chose this breed - I love that they are manageable by me and the older children, and that when the need arises, I'm perfectly capable of picking one up or wrestling them to the ground (of course I'm much more graceful than that. Ahem).
Sending those fleeces off for some help in processing may just have been one of the best decisions I made all year. Being a new spinner, I can't tell you what a relief and blessing it is to be spinning with such perfect roving. And how much time it has saved me in the hand carding that I was doing before! I was able to get right to spinning it these past couple of weeks, and it was such a breeze having it so beautifully prepared for me. I was surprised at how fast it all spun up - I finished with Cinnamon and started on Anne last night.
The finished yarn from Cinnamon, now plied, and with the twist set and all skeined up, is coming in at a total of 600 yards. I haven't done a swatch but I'm guessing it's an aran weight if not a bulky, even. (Someday, I'm promised, I'll be able to spin something other than 'fat yarn'. That will be lovely.) I've labeled and stored it and will keep going on the spinning for now. Perhaps this winter I will return to it with knitting needles ready to transform it into something else.
I'm not exactly sure what this will become. It's still quite 'new spinner' yarn, meaning not entirely consistent and I think it requires just the right project as a result. But soon enough I'll find just the right thing for this yarn, and hopefully the spinning will keep getting better, and before long I'll be able to fulfill all the requests coming at me from my family. They're having a lot of fun dreaming those projects up - "I'd like a Cinnamon hat!" or "I want a Jane sweater!" or "How about Charlotte socks!" and "A needle felted Clove pig!" And the list goes on....
Until then...I'll keep enjoying the process and all the learning and fun that comes with it - from lambing season to sweater wearing. Enjoying...and pinching myself every once in a while too. This really is happening, in my own backyard.