The Long and Woolly Road

This morning’s  “To Do” list was quite long, and still not completed. Amid dropping off clothing donations (we had several garbage bags full), refilling prescriptions, picking up birthday cards and other ordinary tasks was “Drop off wool for processing.”  Back in December Karen had been kind and gracious enough to drive down 4 bags full of wool from an assortment of sheep belonging to several of her friends.  I didn’t want the wool to languish in our garage. Fear of it being invaded by children, rodents or moths, combined with an overwhelming desire to de-clutter and organize our home,  prompted me to act immediately.  After several phone calls I located a processor only 40 miles away.  I called and arranged for a meeting, loaded up the wool and headed out. 

Exits being what they are in the greater Portland area I ended up in the wrong right hand turn lane for Canby.  Seriously, how many turn lanes can there be off of one exit?  No worries, I figured I’d just drive east until I found a major road going south then cut cross country to my destination.   Those of you familiar with my impeccable sense of direction can guess how well this worked out. Luckily these were country roads with very little traffic, lots of lovely scenery and my gas tank was full.



Eventually I did find a road that took me to Canby, and ultimately, my destination!  Once at Fantasy Fibers  I met with the owner, Janelle.  I’d calculated getting lost into my driving time so I was about 20 minutes early.  These critters live in the field next door to Fantasy Fibers.


And this is Maggie! Maggie works tirelessly as Janelle’s assistant.


She was very sweet and loved having her ears rubbed… Maggie  that is, I never rubbed Janelle’s ears. Anyway, Janelle came out to the van to check out the raw fiber.  Luckily she did because upon opening the first bag she drew back as this sight greeted her.


It looks like lots of vegetable matter to me.  She pointed out the little nubs and explained to me that they were not seed pods, but rather moth casings. Oops!


Understandably, she left this bag outside and said it needed to be disposed of.

The next three bags were free of moths so we took them inside.   The combined weight of the remaining bags was 28 pounds. That’s a lot of wool! Of those three bags there was one that had lots of lanolin and other orange oils in it. She said that this was probably just wool from several seasons back. It would be okay, but it required extra washing and the wool might be more yellow than white when finished. Even though it was the smallest bag by volume, it was the heaviest due to the lanolin and it would have the greatest total weight loss when cleaned, picked and carded. By setting that bag *aside I was able to knock about $83.00 off of processing costs. 

By focusing on the next two bags and looking at different options we decided to do the following. The first bag, largest by volume but lightest weight consisted of a medium staple wool that appears to have been washed once initially. This wool was the standard natural, white color. This will be washed, picked, carded and left as spinnable roving with an approximate net weight of 5 pounds. I’m not having it dyed, pin-drafted or spun. Five pounds is a lot of roving!

The second usable bag was a darker wool, kind of a cross between brown and gray. The gross weight of this bag was 9 pounds. Janelle’s guestimate is that it will lose between one and two pounds after being processed. It will be spun into a two-ply DK weight at her shop.  I hope that it will yield enough to make a large fisherman’s type sweater.

Janelle was very patient. When I asked stupid questions like, “How much yarn will this make?” she talked me through the process and tried to help my pea-brain put everything in perspective.

Long story short, it’s probably more cost effective to buy pre-spun yarn or prepared fibers for spinning. I put half down for the deposit and once the fiber is ready, in about four months, then I’ll pay the rest.  This makes me realize that raising livestock would probably be an expensive hobby rather than a cost effective way to get my fix.  Even so, I’m excited to see how it turns out. Those of you who spin may be getting roving for birthday and Christmas gifts in 2009!

Now off to dispose of the mothy wool and take a bath. Cheers!

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*I left this bag for the 4-H kids to practice on



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10 responses to “The Long and Woolly Road

  1. knitwonpurltoo

    I’m glad to know what to look for. I honestly (and, naively) thought that unwashed fleece would be free of moths. Damnit. Still, I’m so happy for you. We have a processor in Missouri, but it’s in the bootheel which is about 250-300 miles of windy country roads. I’m a thinkin’ UPS or Fed-Ex. What a lovely drive. Did the girls go with? The pup looks adorable.

  2. Good thing you caught those moth casings early. I’ve known a few people who’d had their entire yarn and fiber stash ruined. I’ve learned from them that it’s best to isolate new fiber when it comes into the house. [knocks wood]
    Can’t wait to see what you do with those 28 pounds.

  3. Rae

    Wow all that wool! You will have to check the book “A fine fleece.” It is a collection of sweaters that are shown in handspun and then a commercial yarn. We (FKNK) keep threatening to have a create along…..

  4. Sorry to hear that first bag was invaded by moths. I wonder when those buggers snuck in there? What’s the incubation period for moths? I’ll have to look that up. Can’t wait to see how the rest turns out!

  5. I was just reading on a web site that if you bring the wool to 130 degrees (or higher) for a minimum of one hour, it’ll kill all the moths, eggs, larvae, and pupae. Just a thought…
    Hugs K

  6. Christy

    UGH! I hate moths! Worthless bugs invaded my kitchen this summer and decided that cheerios where their cereal of choice along with dried red pepper flakes. Ziplock bags, plastic and glass jars alike – NOTHING slows them down. I’m still finding at least one a day here and there and use the vaccume to suck the life & wings right off them critters – yuk! Thank heavens that wool wasn’t inside your house, but I’d keep a watchful eye out for those that may still be in your garage.
    I hope all goes well with the rest of it. Your creativity will put it all to just the right use.
    HNY 2K9! Big hugs to you & the “P” clan!

  7. Gillian Fergusson

    Now I feel reassured at the cost of the processed roving at the “local” farm shop near Leyburn in Yorkshire. It’s so lovely to have all that tiresome work done.
    Cheers Gillian

  8. Who knew that moth casings resembled seed pods?

  9. Roxie

    I love Fantasy Fibers. And I got lost on the way there myself.

    About a decade ago, I was given 25 big black garbage bags full of fleece. Never again! You CAN have too much of a good thing. Just skirting those fleeces gave me two extra garbage cans full on trash day. It was lovely wool, but so labor intensive. God bless our pioneer foremothers!

  10. Pingback: Spinning My Wheels « Serendipitous Opportuknitty

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