Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

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zelph
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Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby zelph » Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:18 pm

We need some go inside tips on how this is done :D

We can start of by watching this video

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churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:22 pm

Zelph dropped a hint that I should chime in here. I plan to, as soon as I get some of my old photos organized and maybe get a new project started. For now, some teasers:
First, the sheep. Here's my favorite old ewe. I call her my "battle sheep", partly because she grows steel wool, and partly because she broke my nose once in defense of her lamb. She's a Navajo Churro, descended from the sheep that Desoto brought to the new world to provide meat, cheese and wool uniforms for his soldiers. Her line survived multiple nearly successful attempts to wipe out the Churro breed, and many unsuccessful later attempts to "improve" the breed. Fortunately, every generation of Navajo shepherds had some canny old guy who hid his flock in some box canyon. Her wool is my favorite for making shoes.
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I card the wool by hand. Last year my mother-in-law got me a drum carder, so it goes more quickly now. Then I either spin it with a "turkish" drop spindle or felt it to make shoes.
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I'm no expert, but have made 8 or nine pairs of shoes, many hats, socks and other stuff entirely from scratch. I'll get a play-byplay done up soon, I hope.

churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:06 am

The middle pic in the previous post shows several spindles that I have used. the two on the left are small turkish spindles I use to spin the initial plies that will later be plied together on the largest spindle, upper right. I made these from some scrap maple and some shoots off my apple trees. The turkish spindle is made from 3 pieces (2 cross pieces and a shaft) that fit together in such a way that the crossed pieces provide inertia to keep the shaft spinning. As the yarn is formed, it is wrapped onto the cross pieces in an over-over-under pattern to form a ball of yarn. When you are done spinning, you just disassemble the turkish spindle, leaving a center-pull ball of yarn. I make 2 balls of 1-ply yarn, fairly thin and over-twisted, then ply them together (spinning the opposite direction) on the bigger spindle. This locks the plies together, smoothes out the lumps and takes some of the twist out of the yarn, making a fairly thick, uniform and durable yarn.

The other two spindles in the picture are more common "drop spindles", one homemade from a wooden wheel off a toy and an apple shoot, the other commercially made. I don't use these much anymore because you have to unwrap and either skein or ball your yarn, which means much more handling. I use these only for making flax bowstring material, now. If you buy any spindle, make sure to check the balance: tie on a length of thread and spin it. It should spin smoothly and for a long time. If it wobbles, you will never achieve much speed in your spinning, and your yarn will be lumpy.

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zelph
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby zelph » Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:36 am

Whoa!!!! what a work of art :D Awesome craft and totally interesting history of the Churro Goat breed. Thank You :D Looks like one goat can produce quite a few yards of Yarn.

I wanted to spin some yarn many years ago when someone gave me a bed cover filled with Italian wool which looked like it had never been carded. I eventually gave the wool away to someone that was into spinning and weaving. I just may try it this year :o

It's interesting how inertia comes into play when using the spindles and how important the balance is 8-)
"Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained" stove store = http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/

churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:41 pm

The shoes have been a bit of an experiment, and the boots are still a work in progress. I used the shoes to experiment with sole materials. So far I have tried silicon caulking (too slippery), shoo goo (pretty good, but gets slippery over time), leather (wears holes too fast), tiny scraps of leather (3mmx3mm) mixed with contact cement (not slippery, but labor intensive and it peels off almost immediately) and just thick wool soles (slippery, not waterproof and wears pretty fast). The best option so far was to make the shoes, then make a sheet of felt and cut out an insole from it, and another from leather. Then I glue in the leather with shoe goo, then glue in the felt insole the same way, then coat the outside of the sole with shoe goo. I've been wearing these inside and outside for over 2 years and they are just now starting to wear through the shoe goo. I might just add another layer and keep wearing them.

For the boots I have decided to just make nice felt liners for my Lacrosse snowshoe boots that came with crappy synthetic liners, or maybe make leather moccasins with replaceable soles to go over the felt liners.

Here's a brief overview of the felting process:
The washed, dried and carded wool is laid out in batts that are several layers thick. I make 4 of these using about a pound of wool total, then lay each one on a cookie sheet (left). You'll also need several quarts of hot, soapy water, a measuring cup, shears, and a pattern (middle). On the right you see the flat, waterproof workspace, covered with a towel or something (right). The washboard comes into play later to shrink and shape the final product.
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The patten starts as a tracing on cardstock of the foot the shoe is for. Use this to make a piece of denim that is about 1.5" longer and 2" wider than the foot. Lay the first batt on the work surface and lay the pattern on top. The cardstock pattern is not used at this point, but I put it there to illustrate the size of the batt, the denim pattern and the foot.
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Now you dip out some hot, soapy water (hot as you can stand, soapy enough to be slippery to the touch; I use cheap liquid hand soap), and wet the wool through the pattern, keeping the wool that sticks out from under the pattern as dry as possible. Press on the pattern with the tips of you fingers all over until the wool starts to hold togther.
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I have some chores to do, but will post the rest later. Thanks for looking!

churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Mon Feb 23, 2015 5:21 pm

Continued:
Once the wool under the pattern is starting to hold together, fold the dry wool at the edges over the top, wet it with hot, soapy water, just to hold it steady. Lay the second batt over the top, wet ONLY the wool that covers the pattern, again press with your fingertips until the wool starts to hold together. Then flip the pattern, again fold over the dry wool at the edges, work the wool until it holds together. At this point you have a loosely felted mass of wet wool a little bigger than the pattern, with the pattern embedded in the center of it.
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Now you just continue to press and rub the surface of the wool in SMALL circular motions until it starts to harden and get denser. Avoid working the edges for now, until yo can pinch the surface at the center of the pattern and the wool will not easily pull free. Then pick the pretty side (this will be the top of the foot) and cut a slot only as deep as the pattern (only through the top layer of wool) that roughly coincides with the red line in the original cardstock pattern. Need not be perfect.

I don't yet have pics of this stage of things. Carefully raise the top layer of wool off the pattern by inserting your hand between the pattern and the wool. Once you get the whole top side separated, leave the pattern as though it is an insole in the shoe. With one hand inside and one hand outside, gently work the wool along the edges (that you avoided earlier) until it is about as dense as the rest of the felt. If it feels pretty stable (like it's not going to fall apart), rinse it with cold water, squeeze (don't wring) it out and go have a cup of coffee. Congratulate yourself- you're almost there. If it feels sloppy, just squeeze, rub and agitate until it does feel stable. I almost always go through a phase where it feels like it will be an utter failure, but have yet to fail to make something usable- stick to it and don't get discouraged. One thing I should have said before is that you want fast or medium felting wool. Some wool simply won't felt, and that wool is more common now than ever, thanks to Smartwool socks.

churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:30 pm

Now you have a roughly shoe-shaped felt bag, kind of loose and floppy. Wet the felt with more hot, soapy water and begin working it over the washboard, toes and heels first. Keep in mind that it will shrink along a line parallel to the direction you are rubbing. Shrink the heel, toe then around the instep until it fits your foot loosely, then put onto your foot (or the foot you are making it for) and continue rubbing with your knuckles or something similar until it fits perfectly.
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The whole process (after carding) takes me about 8 hours pre pair, so you won't get rich this way. If that seems intimidating, cut the wool you use in half or quarter it. It'll go faster, but the finished product will be half or a quarter as thick. With a pound of wool, mine end up about 3/4" thick. If you are buying wool it will probably come carded, but I can card enough wool for a 1 lb pair in about 3 hours on my drum carder, or 6 hours on hand cards.

Believe it or not, this is more efficient than carding, then spinning, then knitting or crocheting, then felting, and the end result is really durable, warm and water repellant. These are my go-to shoes for everyday wear. They do best on rough ground, and wear out faster on concrete, wood floors or other smoothe, manmade surfaces.

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zelph
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby zelph » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:22 pm

Your instructions make it sound so easy....I wanna go out and get the wool and washboard tomorrow :D The big question...should I purchase the carded wool online? What type of store sells it? I'm going to google ;)

Thanks a lot for the instructions and photos :D When does Churro get a hair cut? How many churros do you have on your ranch?

Oh boy, lots to learn :lol:

Is this a good deal on wool?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-lbs-RAW-WOOL- ... 19fc3c5e27
"Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained" stove store = http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/

churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Tue Feb 24, 2015 11:15 am

zelph wrote:Your instructions make it sound so easy....I wanna go out and get the wool and washboard tomorrow :D The big question...should I purchase the carded wool online? What type of store sells it? I'm going to google ;)

Thanks a lot for the instructions and photos :D When does Churro get a hair cut? How many churros do you have on your ranch?

Oh boy, lots to learn :lol:

Is this a good deal on wool?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-lbs-RAW-WOOL- ... 19fc3c5e27


Check out some youtube videos on felting. I would do one, but I am a little technologically challenged. It is easy, but there is a learning curve on how to manipulate the wool so it doesn't form ropey sections that have to be cut off later. And you can find plastic or rubber mats for storing muddy shoes at most hardware stores. They have a textured surface and raised edges meant to keep water off your floor. Makes a great work surface that's less messy and a little easier to work with than a washboard (because it's non-skid and keeps both hands free to work the wool).

We currently have 12 mature churros on the ranch, 5 lambs and a llama. The llama protects the sheep from coyotes (theoretically). We would have many more, but the coyotes took advantage of the fact that our last llama was too old to do his job properly. He finally died a few weeks ago, probably in his early 30's. Funny thing about llamas is that if you have more than one, they lose interest in the sheep. Our old llama loved those sheep like they were his children. He used to help lick off the lambs when they were born. When a coyote came around, he'd chirp a few times and the sheep would assemble in a delta formation right behind him, then he'd keep himself between the coyote and the sheep. I used to tell people that he owned the sheep and I worked for him. I sure will miss him.

We have them professionally sheared in the spring or early summer. I partner up with a neighbor who has more sheep than I do, to keep the cost down. His sheep are the breeds that are used for smartwool socks, and they are huge! I've also noticed that his tend to accumulate ticks, fleas and lice, while I have never seen a single bug on mine. I think that is due in part to the breed and in part to the fact that mine are exclusively grass-fed.

That looks like a decent deal on wool, but it's hard to tell anything about quality on the internet. Also, it might be worth buying carded roving. Raw wool is pretty dirty and needs to be washed and dried before you use it. Also, hand cards or drum carders can be expensive. You might check a farm supply shop for something cheaper like a pair of large dog brushes. If you decide you want raw wool, I'd be happy to send you some for free, if you pay the shipping. I never use up what I have from one year to the next.

There are other materials that felt well, including alpaca wool, angora rabbit fur and some kinds of goat wool. Alpaca and rabbit are both softer and more hypo-allergenic than sheep wool, so good for kids stuff or anything next to the skin. Churro wool is an oddity in that it has a combination of some of the finest and coarsest fiber available in the sheep wool world. It makes for a durable product (think rugs), but can be scratchy. Supposedly you can get different kinds of wool by shearing at different times of the year, but I haven't tried that. Avoid any wool advertised as "washable" as it will be non-felting. Also consider the staple length of the wool you use. That's the average length of the fibers. Churro wool has a long staple length, making it a little challenging to work with, especially for spinning. Something in the 3-4 inch range is easy to work with.

Here's a link to a reputable seller, though I bet you can find better prices if you hunt around: http://www.woolery.com/store/pc/Wool-Ba ... OyVQigcja4

There are "fiber arts" stores popping up lately, too, but you'll find better prices online. Any non-chain craft store that sells knitting supplies can usually get roving for you, too.

To wash it, I usually just shove the fleece into a big tub and run a hose underneath the fleece, with a pallet set on top to keep the fleece from floating out. I let the hose run until the water starts to run a little clearer, then dump it, refill with cool water that has some washing soda added to it (I never measure it). Let it sit overnight, drain and repeat the running-hose-rinse. Then I put it into a pillowcase or similar bag and run it through the spin cycle on an old washing machine I bought used for that purpose. Then I spread the fleece onto a chicken wire frame to dry. I do all this next to the apple trees (except for the washing soda part) so the trees get the water.

churro
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Re: Wool yarn from the backs of the sheep

Postby churro » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:28 pm

Zelph- given your interests, you might consider making a felt pot-cozy. It could double as a potholder.


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