News Letter: Winter: 2000-2001

skirting table

I thought we ought to show how fleeces are skirted and made ready for show or sale.

It all starts here at the skirting table. Well, actually it started on shearing day: February 18, 2001, but here is where the good stuff gets separated from the bad stuff.

The skirting table is 52" X 78" and has 30 PVC pipe tubes that float/rotate over wooden dowels. The openings between the tubes allow any second cuts to fall through. The floating tubes allow for movement of the fleece once on the table.

Here is a fleece spread out on the table, ready for final skirting. The fleece is rolled out with the shorn side down and the coated side up.

The initial skirting takes place as the shearing progresses. Belly, leg, face, and head wool are pulled away as they are shorn off.

Now what must be removed is the neck wool and all of the edges of the fleece. (The lighting casts a yellow glow over the wool.)

fleece on the table
removing neck wool removing neck wool

removing sweat locks

It's very important to remove all of the "sweat locks". These are the greasy locks from around/under the legs and tail. These locks are especially hard to see in a black fleece and you almost have to skirt by touch. You can also shake the fleece to knock off any second cuts. The fleece will hold together fairly well as you move it around, shake it, and pull out the dirty parts.

Below is the well-skirted fleece. With the removal of the belly, face, leg, head, neck, and sweat locks the weight of the fleece is about 3 to 4 pounds less than the total sheared weight. You will have removed almost all parts of the fleece except for what was covered by the coat.

shaking out second cuts

skirted fleece

What comes next has more to do with showing a fleece in a Wool Show. The skirting demonstrated above is done for ALL fleeces whether for my own use, another hand spinner's use, or as an entry in a show. Until the year 2000 one was expected to tie all fleeces with paper twine. The industry standard has stopped this practice, and I know of no Wool Show that still requires tying of the fleece. Rather the requirement now is that the fleece be presented "loose" in a clear plastic bag. Still, there is a bit more to it than stuffing it into a bag.

First I work my way around the whole fleece rolling over the edge towards the center. In this way I am fairly sure to have seen and removed any sweat locks I might have missed before.

rolling the edges

I should add that as a hand spinner I have a fair amount of experience in washing wool and know which fleece can be successfully washed and carded by hand. Its possible that I don't discard as much of the fleece as some others might.

It's also true that I find all parts of the fleece to be of equal value. Some hand spinners would (I think) want only to make use of the 1 or 2 pounds of shoulder wool. Unquestionably this is the premium part of the fleece, but it is wasteful to separate the fleece in this way.

There has been a move lately by some producers to show ONLY the front half (the shoulders only) of a fleece in a Wool Show. This goes far beyond skirting and becomes more of a "trick". I think these practices defeat the point of even Hand Spinning Fleece Classes.

For more information on Wool Show classes you might want to read our page on Wool Shows.

At the right, the fleece has been rolled or folded in half.

fleece folded in half

rolling the fleece

Here I roll the fleece into a big puffy ball. If you DID want to tie it into a bundle, this would be the point in time to tie the fleece.

One of the benefits of tying the fleece was that it could be picked up and handled with greater ease during the judging. Some judges also think that a tied fleece is a better way to present the fleece. All of this is in the past now anyway.

It is now possible for the judge to reach into the bag of wool and "dig around" and rather mess up your fleece presentation.
Some judges seem to delight in this, knowing that they have every "right" to do so. However, it is very easy to remove locks of wool from the fleece for judging and this is not necessary.

Hopefully, what you end up with is a very attractive and eye catching fleece that you can be proud to show to any judge!

Perhaps we will see you at a Wool Show soon. Happy Spring to us all... Joanna & Keith

puffy ball of fleece what the judge will see

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