It’s been about a month since I attended the fantastic Fleece Harvest weekend in Surprise Valley, CA, and I’ve just begun process of cleaning and (eventually) carding the beautiful fleeces I brought home with me. As it turns out, these tasks are a bit more challenging in a Berkeley apartment than they were at the farm: I have no big outdoor sink for washing, no top-load washing machines to spin the water from the soaking fiber, and wet wool practically never dries in our temperate East Bay climate.
Lacking the tools to repeat what we did last month, I’ve started in on a task I can accomplish while sitting on my couch: separating the thel from the tog. As I mentioned in this earlier post, Icelandic sheep have two distinct coats: a long, silky outer coat called the “tog” and a very fine, crimpy undercoat called the “thel.”
You can spin the two coats together for a medium-fine yarn, or, you can separate the coats out. The tog on its own is good for rugs (maybe outerwear?); the thel is next-to-skin soft.
All of the online sources I checked say to wash the fleece first, separate the coats later. I happily ignored that advice. Instead, I’ve been working through my bag of dirty wool one lock at a time, grabbing the blond curls at the end of the tog in one hand and the grey, crimpy thel with the other and gently tugging the two coats apart. The coats separate easily, making this a surprisingly satisfying task.
November note: Next weekend Fibershed will be holding its 2014 Wool and Fine Fiber Symposium in Point Reyes, CA. Looks like an excellent program for all you northern California fiber lovers.