Busy Busy Busy

It’s shaping up to be an exciting spring and summer. I’m about to head up to Hopland for a week of sheep shearing school and wool classer certification. That’s right, I’ll be able to fondle wool professionally.

I’ll also be using what I learn there as the basis for a paper on “The Life of Wool,” which I’ll be presenting at the November conference of the International Textile and Apparel Association. It’s my first academic presentation!

But the biggest news is, I just received grant funding to go back to Himachal, play around some more with my human and plant friends, and interview folks about traditional craft knowledge and forest ecology. Time to really buckle down on learning Hindi!

Herdwick!

Yesterday was a play day. I spent most of the day with members of the Meridian Jacobs Spinzilla team, learning about production spinning from Stephenie Gaustad. I am so glad they let me crash the party as a rogue spinner. I learned many things, but what I want to share with you all today is my new-found love for the weirdo fiber that we started off with: Herdwick.

I’d been reading about these guys in this paper, which has the best opening lines of any academic paper ever: “It is a sheep. You can see the photo.” Plus, the Herdwick pictured in the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook is the darn cutest sheep you’ve ever seen in your life. I mean, I don’t know anything about your life, but this is objectively the cutest sheep in it.

singles on the bobbin
singles on the bobbin
2-ply on the niddy
2-ply on the niddy

I spun my lil’ Herdwick sample in my usual semi-worsted draft, which really highlighted the crazy kempiness. I think I was also spinning from the wrong end of the sliver, so the kempy bits were basically sticking straight out of the main line of the yarn. The pictures definitely show how hairy it is, but don’t really convey how charming it is, too. The kempy bits are crimped in this way that makes the yarn look like some kind of novelty confetti yarn or something. I think next time I might ply it with something else to highlight the novelty effect.

So it’s obviously not next-to-skin wear. It shed a lot (a LOT) while I was spinning it, so I’m a little worried that it will continue to make a big mess wherever it goes, in whatever form it eventually takes. I’m thinking to weave a little mason jar cozy…

Shearing Day!

This weekend was a big “work” weekend for me. First was shearing day at Meridian Jacobs, a nearby sheep ranch. I’ve been reading all this post-humanist social sciences work about networks of animals, things, and humans, and shearing day was all that. The sheep, the shearer, the shears, the metal gates separating groups of sheep, the volunteers wrangling the sheep through the barn, the ear tags and spreadsheets to keep track of individual sheep, and of course the fleeces. I brought my camera but forgot to bring a notebook to jot down my observations, so ended up texting notes to myself to transfer to the computer later. It actually worked pretty well and might be a reasonable solution to the problem of how to take notes unobtrusively in the field.

The "dance of agency" between sheep and shearer. They didn't always agree on who was leading.
The “dance of agency” between sheep and shearer. They didn’t always agree on who was leading.

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Super-cute puppy.
Super-cute puppy.
Systems for categorizing and tracking fleeces.
Systems for categorizing and tracking fleeces.
Skirting fleeces (removing dirty and coarser sections) and examining the fiber quality.
Skirting fleeces (removing dirty and coarser sections) and examining the fiber quality.
Britch (wool from the legs) is coarser than the rest of the fleece and gets processed separately.
Britch (wool from the legs) is coarser than the rest of the fleece and gets processed separately.
One of the rams tried to head-butt his way to the ladies, and ended up tied in the corner.
One of the rams tried to head-butt his way to the ladies, and ended up tied in the corner.
Newly nekkid sheep out for a stroll.
Newly nekkid sheep out for a stroll.
One more obligatory  cute puppy picture.
One more obligatory cute puppy picture.