I bought it chiefly for the colours. The blanket, or underside of the fleece, which was close to the sheep's skin when shearing was done, shows the dominant colour of the wool, which is grey. This photo shows the rolled up fleece. From the photo above, you can see how dark, chocolate black edges shorn from the belly and legs shade through browner greys to reach pale grey along the top of the sheep's back.
The fleece is big, at least 3kg, plenty for a couple of projects. I pulled off all the coarse locks from the back end, or britch and all the more matted and short staples from round the edges. Much of it seemed too rough to spin for clothing, so I ended up with a big pillowcase full of skirtings. Washing raw fleece to remove dirt, lanolin and grease is a science in itself. Many fine wools felt easily, but I guessed this particular Texel might survive a 40 degree centigrade wool cycle in the washing machine.
Elinor Gotland was scandalised.
"Don't play fast and loose with your assets, Beaut. You won't be told, but they knew how to wash fleece properly where I grew up. It needs a long soak and no agitation."
Sheep can sustain a very long, hard stare.
Well, I admit I have been guilty of banging on her bathroom door. At least now I understand why she always takes so long getting ready to go out. After Elinor had read me the riot act, I secured the pillow case with safety pins, put a huge squirt of washing up liquid in the powder compartment and those coarse Texel skirtings came out of the wash beautifully clean and not felted at all. So there.
Among the many delights of Wonderwool was a visit to Rag Art Studios. BG and I got a demonstration of hooking fleece through hessian to make rugs. I treated myself to a rug hook and a couple of metres of best quality hessian. Although I had seen the basic technique, I made the rest of this up as I went along. First, I used a dustbin lid to draw a circle on the hessian and used it as a guide to cutting out an approximate oval. In my experience, avoiding geometrical accuracy from the very start means you can call a design 'organic' rather than getting fraught when it doesn't come out symmetrical.
I drew on a freehand pattern, leaving a margin of a couple of centimetres. Folding the edge of the hessian over to the front, I hooked around the edge through the double layer. This was slow going, although it did hem the hessian. The fabric will flex easily enough for curves, but I should have left a wider margin as the coarse threads fray easily. There may well be a better way of getting a strong margin for a rug.
Having imagined that the fat bumps of thick roving would fill out a big area pretty quickly, I was surprised how little progress I made each evening. Still, rug hooking is a satisfying process. This is how I did it.
Working from the back of the rug, put a bit of twist into a short section of roving. Turning to the front, push the sharp point of the rug hook through one of the holes in the hessian. As the hook comes out at the back, catch the twisted
roving under it. Pull the hook back through, bringing a loop of roving to the the front. And repeat, repeat, repeat ...
This small rug used almost all the skirted fleece. It measures roughly 49cm x 56cm and weighs 450g. Expensive craft, if you paid for beautiful, soft, dyed roving just to make a rug, but a great way of using fibre that would otherwise go on the compost heap. The name of this one is 'The Chicken Or The Egg?'. It is now a bathroom mat, very warm under foot and probably machine washable, too.