Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fiber, Fiber, and More Fiber!!

That's what I have!! Fiber, fiber, and more fiber!! The fleeces that I had sent off to the mill returned.....and it is all absolutely beautiful!! I'm so tickled with the way everything turned out. I was so incredibly nervous sending off all that lovely fiber. It's been years since I have had anything done by a mill.

Back when I first started getting into Shetlands....and was slowly phasing out my Angora goats....I took my first shearing of Shetland into the local mill to be processed into pencil roving. I had taken in my mohair the year before to be done and it came out beautifully, so I didn't think twice about taking in my Shetland. Well, since my Shetlands were lambs....and I had some kids as well, I thought a blend of the two would be wonderful. Took everything in expecting to hear good things. I figured the owners of the mill would be thrilled to see that I was actually blending wool with the mohair. Not a lot was said...and I was okay with that. I thought it was wonderful that they were so busy (especially since they had opened up the year before). Few weeks later went back to pick up my finished fiber. The fiber looked great. Cost more than what I was expecting....especially since I only got back about half of what I had taken in. I thought "okay, they are local and you do what you have to do to support local." The thing I wasn't okay with was being told that unless I blended some other wool with my Shetland, they would not do it anymore. They also wouldn't do a Shetland/Mohair blend anymore. They had gotten in with the local alpaca breeders and decided that they were going to focus on alpaca only. I honestly couldn't believe that they would leave out so many local sheep breeders like that. I mean, if you expect the local fiber community to support you, then you should support them.....which they chose not to do. I did take fiber to them the following year....hoping that they had changed their way of thinking. I had taken in 40 pounds of polypay fleeces that I was hoping to have blended with the last of my mohair....but didn't. Ended up selling the mohair on its own. When I finally got the call to pick up my fiber, it was months later. And it wasn't worth the drive out. Out of 40 pounds of fiber, I only got back 17 pounds of roving. I was told that it was normal to lose at least 50% of what you took in....if not more. Of course the bill I had to pay didn't reflect that.  :.(  The worse part of it all was that when I started to actually spin up the roving I found wool of various colors in it.....and all the fleeces I had taken in were white. Needless to say I took the money that I normally would have spent at the local mill and bought a drum carder instead. Have been doing my own fiber ever since.....which is why I was nervous sending my fleeces in this year.

Of course I didn't send them to the local mill.....which I heard has since closed down. Seems the local alpaca breeders opted to not support them as they had hoped. Also heard that they had turned away quite a few of the larger local sheep breeders, who then took their business to mills outside the area. Tsk, tsk. Shame on them for not supporting all of the local fiber community. I know that I sent my fiber out of the area to be processed....even though I got an earful and some looks from a few local spinners. "You know, you should have your fiber done by this local lady. She picks all the fleeces by hand. Yes, there is still quite a bit of vm in the roving....but she does put tissue paper between all the layers."  I'm sure those that take their fiber to this local person to be done are happy with it, but if I wanted to pick out vm then I would simply do my fiber myself. And I won't even get into the tissue paper thing.

The fiber I got back from the mill was absolutely stunning!! I had sent in 22 pounds of fiber (Shetland fleeces and alpaca blankets) and got back 20 pounds of incredibly soft, incredibly clean roving. The Shetland fleeces were ran as they were packaged (although I was expecting it all to be done together) and the mill even put the names on the bags of whose fleece was done with whose....which thrilled me to no end. What really impressed me even more than that was the alpaca. I know how much my alpaca roll and what they roll in. The fiber I got back was amazing clean and so incredibly soft!! After I got done playing with it, I started spinning it. Spun up 10 ounces of alpaca roving. It spun like a dream!! Drafted evenly with very little effort. No dirty fingers. Very little vm. I think I picked out maybe six small pieces of vm out of the entire 10 ounces that I spun. The roving was soft going through my fingers. No icky feeling like some mill processed roving tends to get. No weird smell either. All the roving has this very pleasant, clean smell to it. It was actually hypnotic to spin. I had intended to only spin up 4 ounces...just to see how it spins. Ended up doing 10 ounces....and have a pattern picked out for the finished yarn.  :.)

As for the Shetland roving.....well, after playing with that for quite some time I have finally started spinning some of it up. I have started with the brown-gray roving (from Caspian and Charlie). Have to admit it's spinning up beautifully! The color of the singles is a bit surprising as they have almost a tweedy look to them. The singles are soft to the touch. The roving is drafting very nicely....very easily. It's a joy to spin. There are no neps or noils in the roving at all. The mill did an absolutely beautiful job processing it. (And I have seen Shetland roving that was filled with neps and noils....not a pretty sight!) I'm planning on spinning up only 4 ounces of each color of the Shetland roving. We'll see how that goes.  :.)

**Pictured top, light gray Shetland (from Angus and Boogie).....brown-gray Shetland (from Caspian and Charlie) Shetland (from Trixie and Q-Tip)......bobbin of alpaca singles.....alpaca roving (from Jack and Casa). And, yes, the alpaca roving photos as a reddish-brown, but the bobbin looks to be a darker brown. Same fiber. Different lighting. Still a joy to spin regardless of the color.**


  1. So spill the beans! Which mill did you use? I have used two that hand-pick my Shetland and have been very happy with both; no neps or noils from mechanical picking of fine fiber. I've continued using Aunt Janet in CA because she has the best price, and comes to both BSG and OFFF, so I can save on shipping.

  2. I sent my fiber off to Zeilinger's Wool Co. in Michigan. I saw a Shetland batt that was done by them last year. It was a black and it was amazing! (I know the breeder and they don't keep the cleanest sheep.) So after the shearer did such an awful job on my sheep, my hubby suggested that we salvage what we can and send it out to be done. Did a bit of research on Zeilinger's....liked what I saw. Hubby called and actually talked to a person. They answered all of his questions plus some. That was enough to convince him that was the place we were sending our fiber to. They were very polite and helpful. Did a wonderful job with the fiber. Shipping wasn't all that bad considering how much we sent out....and how much we got back. I'm looking forward to sending my llama fleece there next year to be done. I've already talked to them about it and they assure me that I will be very pleased with what I get back. I figure if it's anything like the alpaca and shetland I got back this year......Yea!!! He's black and since he only gets sheared every other year.....his fleece can be quite a challenge to do by hand. I plan on sending a shetland fleece or two to be blended with it.

  3. Zeilinger's is great! They always do such a good job, and they're very nice, too. I had a similar experience with some alpaca roving I bought from a local farmer recently; there was some dirt still in the fiber, but it drafted incredibly smoothly, almost effortlessly. Probably the best experience I've had with roving (as opposed to top).

  4. Laughingrat, I couldn't agree with you more. I've tried my hand at spinning alpaca over the years and never found it very enjoyable. Could never get it to draft matter how hard I tried or what I did. Not that way with the alpaca roving I got back from Zeilinger's. It's a sheer joy to spin fiber that drafts as effortlessly and easily as this does. Makes you want to spin more of it. :.)

  5. I was so happy to read this. All of my fleeces from this year are in the process of being packed up to send to Zeilinger's also. My local processor is a lovely lady and I really like her, but there was so much VM in my roving last time that I can't stand spinning it. I don't coat my sheep so that ends up being a problem I guess, but I don't have time to do that much picking myself. I feel really confident about sending them my fiber now. thanks for this post!

  6. Claire the Shepherdess,
    I don't coat my sheep either. I really enjoy seeing them as nature intended. I do have custom made feeders that limit the amount of vm from that source. Of course it doesn't help any that I also have a llama that absolutely insists on eating over the sheep. Surprisingly the fleeces are rather clean.....with the exception of the head/neck areas on a few. Hope you enjoy the product you get back from Zeilinger's!