Norwood Yarn: From Sheep to Hat

by Debbie Sullivan October 25, 2015

Norwood Yarn: From Sheep to Hat

The story of our Norwood yarn started last winter, as Elizabeth and I discussed the idea of adding a new Canadian-grown 100% wool yarn to our products. We really wanted to pursue the idea of adding more locally-sourced yarn, and we knew that we needed to have a plan in place before shearing season if we wanted to move forward with it this year.

The first step was to find a source of high-quality fleece. We don't happen to know many sheep farmers, so we got in touch with Donna Hancock from Wellington Fibres, where we'd had our Cambiata yarn spun in the past. Donna very kindly put me in touch with Allison of Pine Hollow Farm near Norwood Ontario, and we made arrangements to get samples of some of her fleece. Allison calls the fleece from her flock "Norbouillet" as it is a Rambouillet cross that she has been breeding for so many years that it is now specific to her farm.

The fleece samples were lovely, even softer than some of the imported Merino we've worked with, so we went ahead and bought 20lbs of raw fleece. The fleeces we received were from eight different sheep (Yoshana, Xavier, Ziera, Zeeta, Xutoo, Tierney, Thekla, and Yoki) several of whom were prize-winners at the Norwood Fair and the Royal Winter Fair.

20 lbs is a lot of fleece! I picked it up from the post office in a giant canvas mailbag.

The next step in this sheepy adventure was to wash the fleeces.

It came out of the mailbag and went directly into mesh laundry bags, to keep it tidy while we washed it.

From there it went into a 20 minute soak in very hot water. I know some people will add boiling water at this stage to get the soaking bath hot enough, but we were lucky that the tap water at our studio was hot enough without that step. At first I tried using laundry detergent in the water, but I decided I didn't like the scent and ended up using the textile detergent I normally use to rinse after dyeing. It worked just fine, and kept the wool smelling like sheep, rather than a combination of sheep and "spring breeze"...

It's pretty amazing how the raw fleece almost melts into the hot water as the lanolin begins to dissolve. The water became brown instantly, so we knew we were getting all the dirt and grease out!

Each bag of fleece went through two more plain hot water rinses after the initial bath with detergent. Since we had so much of it to get through we set up a production line. The process took Elizabeth and I most of an afternoon - Henry helped us out by napping while we worked.

After each bag had been through it's final rinse, we put it in our amazing spin-dryer machine to remove as much moisture as possible and make the drying time faster.

We started out trying to fit all the fleece onto our drying rack, rigged with some of our drapery cloths that we use for shows. We soon ran out of room though, and I realised that this was a part of the process I hadn't completely thought through. Where were we going to dry 20lbs of fleece?!

Everywhere, it turns out! At the end of the afternoon we spread out a cloth, and pretty much covered the entire floor of our little studio.

We left it over night, I went back the next day to turn it and make sure it dried evenly and within another day it was dry enough to pack up and send to Wellington Fibres to be spun into yarn.

Henry helped out again, with weighing the clean fibre and packing it up to ship off.

Out of the original giant bag of fleece we ended up with about 14 lbs of clean fibre. It lost a bit more weight on it's trip through the mill, and came back as beautifully soft DK weight 3-ply yarn, weighing just under 12 lbs. This time the box fit on the back of my bike!

The next step was to try dyeing it. I like to do small sample skeins when trying out colours for a new yarn. Then Elizabeth and I discuss which ones we like, and I multiply the recipe for a larger batch.

The last step, after the chosen colours were dyed, was to get our photographer (the talented Tudor Parau) into the studio to take some photos, and get the final product up for sale on our website.

After all that, I was itching to get my hands on this yarn and actually knit something with it! We needed a new sample for our Winter Sonata pattern, so I took the opportunity to knit one in the Pirate Cove colourway with Natural as the contrast.





Debbie Sullivan
Debbie Sullivan

Author


Leave a comment


Also in News

30 ways to brighten your month
30 ways to brighten your month

by Elizabeth Sullivan January 11, 2019

After we finished up #OperationLoveNovember this past fall, I had a few people ask for our list of actions that we came up with, either to use now in January or February (which can also be hard months), or to refer to next year. So, in no particular order, here they are!

View full article →

Gift-along 2018
Gift-along 2018

by Elizabeth Sullivan December 13, 2018

This is the fifth year that Debbie and I have been involved in the Indie Design Gift-along on Ravelry as both designers and participants. It's a fun event and it’s a chance for us to take a little vacation from designing ourselves, support our fellow designers by working from their patterns, make connections with knitters and crocheters around the world, and maybe finish off a gift or two or three.

View full article →

#OperationLoveNovember
#OperationLoveNovember

by Elizabeth Sullivan November 16, 2018 2 Comments

November can be a challenging month for those of us dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Several years ago my sister Margaret and I came up with a little activity to get us through the month of November and we decided to repeat the project this year. We each came up with 15 actions to make our day more fun.

View full article →