I have a flock of heirloom Jacob sheep. I have never tried spinning, but attended a few fiber festivals in Michigan and was awed as well as overwhelmed. We are city-folk turned sustainable farmers and are trying to learn to do things on our own and by hand. That said, we shear our own sheep and now I have some wool and am ready to learn the next steps toward making all the lovely things that come with it! My main concern at this point is that our wool is not of the best quality due to our skills in shearing being so raw. Am I setting myself up for disaster and dissappointment by learning on inferior wool? Thanks in advance for any advice!
Hi there! Thanks for raising a conservation breed! It's so important to focus on the less common breeds so their numbers can be brought back up.
I am no expert (have only been spinning and studying about 7 months) but I will share what I know. And I can't speak at all about shearing, I know nothing about that. But I imagine that your shearing might not have as big an impact on the quality of fiber. A lot of things do impact the quality of the fiber , most importantly the genetics, so it depends on where you got your starter flock and if they were being selectively bred for the quality of wool or not.
An important thing to consider when you're learning, besides the genetics of the sheep, is the preparation. Will you be preparing it yourself or sending it to a mill? Again, I don't know much about preparing fiber, but I know there are some great resources here. If I remember correctly, Interweave has an eBook (maybe a hard copy) about combing and preparing fiber. If you are preparing it yourself, I would look into that.
Do you want to learn on a wheel or a spindle? I only spin on a spindle because I haven't been able to invest in a wheel yet. Obviously a spindle is a much smaller investment - you can get a spindle for $10-$20. When shopping for a spindle, make sure it's not too heavy. I didn't know anything about spindle weight when I started and the first one I bought was extremely heavy - almost 5 oz. It was impossible for me to learn on. Even once I started getting the hang of it, the fiber would just keep breaking because the spindle was so heavy. I'd go for one around 1.5 - 2.5 oz as a beginner.
When I got a lighter spindle, I got a kit with a few different breeds of fiber. One was Jacob. I found it to be quite easy to spin. It usually has a relatively long staple, which is easier to spin. I just didn't like the finished yarn - it was too coarse. But that's just a matter of what you want to use it for. Coarse fiber has its uses. It's great for outerwear.
Do you knit? You might not even be thinking about the uses of your yarn for a while. It'll probably take some time until you're making consistently even yarn, and until you have enough quantity to knit something. I wouldn't worry about it just at the beginning. I didn't use the first yarns I made. Just learn to spin and get the feel of the fiber.
I hope that helps!
you might consider separating the length of fibers to do a couple things. I love spinning Jacob and have a friend who raises them that i get the wool from. I generally separate the longer fibers from the short ones, especially the ones that were shorn a bit off. I spin the longer fibers either with a hand spindle or wheel and then i felt the other stuff for quilt batting or craft projects. I hope that helps. good luck!