What are "woolies"?

Evans Knob raises a variety of fiber producing animals. The Romney sheep, the alpaca, and the angora rabbits all contribute to the knobs wooly wonders. Usually, Farmer Kathy shears the critters with the assistance of Farmer Reid, or some other willing (sometimes not so willing) helper. Shearing typically takes place in the spring on most farms, but here on the knob, we try to shear in November, with the exception of the longneck boys. There are several reasons for the reverse time. One being the long fleeces, or wool, on the Romney sheep makes it difficult for us to be able to monitor the ewe’s, (mother sheep) pregnancy. We need to be able to see if she is maintaining a healthy weight and if her udder is developing. This is a good indicator of an approaching birth. Although we lock the sheep in the barn at night, they are usually allowed access to the outside during the day. They don’t mind the cold, snow or rain because of their long coats. Only when they do come into the barn, they are dripping wet and that makes the barn and the bedding wet.

After shearing, the fleeces are skirted; all belly, butt and leg wool comes off and is discarded. These parts are the dirtiest and undesirable for spinning. The prime fleece is then washed in hot water and Era laundry detergent. We do not believe in using harsh chemicals to wash the fiber. It breaks the fiber down, making it brittle and scratchy. Most commercially processed wool is submerged into a vat of acid to break down the dirt, manure and vegetable matter in the wool. We have found that most people who are allergic to wool can wear our garments. We believe this is due to the fact that we do not use the chemicals, and that people are actually reacting to the chemical residue in the wool from the processors and not actually to the wool.

The next step is the picking and carding of the fleece. The locks need to be picked before carding. This pulls out vegetable matter, pieces of dirt and manure that were missed during washing. It also loosens the locks of the wool. The carding process is a combing of the wool to align all the fiber into a straight direction. It makes spinning the yarn more enjoyable and a more uniform.

After the wool is carded it is ready for the spinning wheel. Kathy’s favorite spinning wheel to use is the Louet S10. It isn’t a very pretty wheel, but it is easy to use and spins a beautifully consistent yarn. The wool can be dyed any color using a dye made specifically for wool. This can be done before the wool is carded or after it is spun into yarn. Once the bobbin fills on the wheel it needs to be wound into a skein, dipped in hot water and hung with a weight attached to the bottom of the skein. This is called setting the twist, which locks the yarn into place so that it doesn’t come unspun.

Finally, after all these steps, the yarn is ready to be wound into a ball and is ready for knitting or crocheting. There are several steps taking the wool from the sheep to the finished product. It is a “from the ground up” operation here on the knob, but truly a labor of love.

Some of our wooly items:

Handspun yarn

Handwoven shawls, rugs, place mats and table runners

Hats, mittens, scarves, socks and sweaters.

Felted ornaments and toys.