During our very last week living in North Carolina I was able to wrap up my epic adventure at Shepherd’s Gate Fiber Mill . In my last blog post about the fiber mill I explained some of what I did with Miss Ann to get my fleeces clean. If you need a refresher, you can check that out here. My favorite part of the video in that first post is when I pour the water out into the washing machine and it is so, so, so dirty. Yuck! But now they are super clean and ready for the next step.
So when I went back to the fiber mill, the first step was to condition my fiber. We put the fiber on a conveyer belt. As it ran through the machine it broke the locks up. We did a bunch of math to figure out how much conditioner we needed for my amount of fiber. We used a spray bottle to add the conditioner and it made it nice and soft. The conditioner is very important because when we did all the washing you saw in my first post we pulled out tons of lanolin. Lanolin is a natural oil in the sheep’s fleece. Without that it can get dry and there is static electricity. The conditioner helps it stay soft without being greasy like it was with the lanolin.
Next my fiber was off to the separator! This step is optional, but it makes the fiber so much softer. It is also one more chance to pull out any VM (vegetable matter) or whatever else might be stuck in your fleece. It comes out of the separator like falling snow. It is so fun to watch. We ran my fiber through a few times to get it good and fluffy. In fact, after this step it is called “cloud.” Very appropriate!
It goes in like this…
And comes out the other side looking like this!
I went back to the mill another day for the very last step! This time we used the carder to turn my cloud into roving. It involved tons of measuring because I had to load the fiber into the carder in 3oz batches. So I weighed out pounds and pounds of fiber into 3oz buckets. Then I would spread it all out evenly on the conveyer belt.
Viola! It comes out the other side roving ready to spin!
The mill offers the option to keep processing your fiber. They will spin it with their fancy schmancy spinning machine, turn it into core spun, or wet felt it. Whatever you want!
While I was at the mill, Miss Alesia and I did some needle felting and chatted about that craft too. I am newer to needle felting, but I love it! I really enjoy painting and this can look a whole lot like painting, but with fiber. It is so much fun, so I was excited to learn from her. She has felt so many things.
I left the mill with about 4 pounds of processed fiber and had the time of my life. I am not a morning person, but if I was going to the fiber mill I would spring out of bed ready to go! I am so thankful they let me come and taught me so much about processing fiber.
So what’s next? I think I am going to spin up the fiber we processed at the mill and use it for a weaving project. There’s a competition in Texas called Make It With Wool and I am excited to jump in and create something special for that.