I received a very welcome email yesterday. Deb and Clive Shillabeer have shorn their lambs and have some lovely fleece for me to buy. I met Deb and Clive at the Sheep and Wool Show in July. I was on a mission. I love woollen spinning, but the appropriate fleeces are hard to find. Having scoured the traders halls and the woolcraft area, I decided to venture out into the livestock pavilions. I located the Downs type sheep--they have the short springy wool that I'm after. Then I looked out for a combination of prize-winning sheep and approachable humans. Here's what I found: This pen and it's immediate neighbours belonged to Deb and Clive. I had a friendly chat with them and their two teenage children. What I noticed was their obvious devotion to their work. What's more, when I went through my speil about the fleece I was after, Clive quickly got beyond the incredulous look to the necessary willingness to help. Let me explain the incredulous look. Handspinners in Australia mostly do worsted type spinning. In worsted spinning the wool fibres are all lined up parallel to each other. The aim is a smooth even yarn with very little air trapped in it. Woollen spinning is just the opposite. The fibres are carded so that they are all mixed up at random angles. The aim is to trap as much air in the yarn as possible, and the technique is much more relaxed. The different style of spinning requires a different style of fleece. So whereas most handspinners are looking for a long-staple fleece with an even crimp, here I am searching for a short springy one. Hence the incredulous look. What's more, the breeds of sheep that produce this wool are usually kept for meat production, so there isn't a lot of focus on the fleece quality. And I'm after as fine a fleece as possible. And as clean as possible. So you see, I wasn't quite on a needle-in-a-haystack mission, but definitely heading in that direction. So meeting up with a prize-winning breeder, who's willing to go to the trouble of getting me a nice fleece was a very special thing.
That's the story so far . . . we had a good chat, exchanged contact details and the Shillabeers promised to get in touch after shearing. Well now it's after shearing and they've sent me a picture of one of their fleeces. It looks great! What's more, they're coming to Melbourne next week and we might be able to meet up. Oh, I am an excited little spinner. Stay tuned for updates.