Saturday, 3 August 2013

Spinning in the Grease

Full of promise - and dirt!
When I first heard the term 'Spinning in the Grease', I thought how quaint it sounded.
The term is used to describe the process of spinning with raw, greasy fleece - straight off the sheeps back.

The story began, strangely enough, when my son asked me to take him out driving.  He has his preliminary license - this means that although he has passed his drivers test, he still needs 24 hours of supervised driving within 6 months in order to get his 'proper' license.  I think this is a fabulous idea.  It means our young drivers are experienced when they drive by themselves for the first time.  However, I find the whole process of supervising a young driver to be enormously stressful.  My foot is constantly pressing the floor of the car, looking for an imaginary brake pedal and I'm as jumpy as a box of frogs.

During the drive, we happened to pass my local spinning shop so I directed him to pull over for little bit of calming retail therapy and we browsed through the shop together.  I started chatting to the owner and mentioned that I was a complete beginner and I was looking for the best roving to spin.  In her opinion - and who am I to doubt, she spins at the Royal Agricultural Show so she knows her stuff,  far and away, the best stuff for a beginner is 'greasy wool'.   She showed me some fleece and it definitely felt greasy, sticky and dirty.  She mentioned that the grease helps it to stick together making the spinning much easier for a beginner.  The fleece doesn't 'run away' from you and you have more control.  It was also much, much cheaper.  I had been looking at the 'clean' stuff at $81 a kilo and I ended up with 1.2kg of fleece for $18.  Dirt has its advantages.  First you spin - then you clean.  How very thrifty.

I was much calmer on the drive home with my fleece keeping me company.

There is a problem though - it stinks.  Really badly - unpleasantly so.

I was initially banned from spinning in the lounge room due to the farmyard hues but spinning in my little craft room was worse.  It was also much grubbier than I had imagined.  I keep having to pull out all manner of debris and I now feel on intimate terms with my fleece and the sheep is must have come from (I have named him Errol).  Errol the corridale, has lived a typical farm life and this evidence keeps ending up on my lap.  The lanolin in the fleece is meant to be very good for your hands though, making them smooth and lovely albeit that they retain the faint whiff of ovine life.

The look of the water that the wool was washed in says it all ... 
There is something unrefined and unpolished about spinning in the grease.  It's how spinning must have started but I am not sure it's for me.  I honestly can't stand the smell.  For some time I have been grumbling about the smell of our dog and how unpleasant it is. Now, I have gone and added a sheep to the mix and it's all a bit too much.  

I was surprised though at how soft it became once it was cleaned - but it still smelled, only now it was more like a sheep that had been to the hairdressers.  The water instantly went the colour of builders tea and when I tipped it out, a muddy sludge was left on the bottom. Maybe the softness was comparative - it was truly disgusting to start with so any improvement would be substantial.

I do appreciate that it's a fantastic life skill and if we ever ended up with nothing in our lives but a sheep, I think I could clothe my family but I think this method is a little too 'raw' for me so I will wash the fleece first and then see how I go.  That's for another day though - I have to air the house out first. I can't see the  point in spinning when I can't stand the smell of the fleece and I have to psych myself up to use it.  Sorry Errol - I'm not sure that my tetanus boost is up to date so let's try another method.  

Happy odour-free spinning,

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