There's a place around here that sells fleece. Actually, there are many. That sells many kinds. Sheep, alpaca, rabbit, goat. There are even bison and some yak lurking about, I have heard (or herd...). Haha!
But I am talking sheep and their wool, and one place in particular that sells extraordinarily clean and well-skirted fleece for a premium price. They have a booth at different shows, markets, and such places where I have also been demonstrating spinning, taking classes, or just shopping. I have bought good fleece from them, and some of their "naughty" fleece, which is what they call the ones when the sheep have wriggled out of the coats they wear that keep the fleece so clean. On occasion, they offer classes on scouring fleece, or talks on the breeds they raise, which are many, from rare Karakuls, long wools like Lincolns, Wensleydales, Teeswaters, and BFLs, and finally CVMs,
I have mentioned to the shepherd and her person in charge (PIC) if they ever need any help, I would volunteer my services. I would love to learn how to properly skirt fleece.
Well. A couple weeks ago, the PIC called me and asked if I had some free time. I was so excited. Especially after I found out that it was going to be a paying gig! At least starting out, I am working one day a week out at the farm skirting sheared fleece, and getting it prepped for sale.
What exactly is skirting a fleece, one might ask? It is removing the undesirable parts from the prime wool. The really bad bits is removed in the shearing barn, so we don't have to deal with that. Also the "undesirable parts" are graded from stuff that goes on the floor to stuff that are made into bird balls (nesting material) to fleece that will go to the mill for yarn and/or roving (not prime for sale to handspinners).
After that is done, we pick out all the obvious vegetable matter (VM). The two of us just walk around the table picking out what we see. Because these sheep are coated, their fleece are very clean. If I would purchase a fleece from this shepherd, I would only have to wash the fleece to get out the lanolin, then comb or card, and spin. Of course, one pays a premium for this privilege!
The first day we only skirted CVMs (California Variegated Mutants). The second day we worked on Wensleydales and Teeswaters. Some were crosses with BFLs (blue-face Leicesters). (Perhaps another day I will extol the virtues of the different breeds.)
I must say that the heady fumes of fleece might have overtaken me, but I repeated the mantra, "there will always be another fleece...there will always be another fleece..." along with "remember how much uncarded wool you have at home...remember how much unspun wool you have at home..." So far no fleece has made it home with me. So far. But it has been close.