Transforming a pile of filthy, dirty wool that’s just been sheared, into the most beautiful sweater, scarf, hat, or socks is my passion. I love it when I take a bunch of wool, put it into the hot soapy water with Dawn dish soap, and watch the dirt just fall off. Seeing it after I take it out of its final rinse and how beautiful it has become, it’s worth the work.
Fleece in the wash after the over-night soak (Below)
Ten years ago I suffered an ischemic stroke. It mostly affected my face, memory, how I problem-solve, and other brain processing areas I’m not sure of. I used to love to read but since my stroke, books became very difficult. By not keeping track or remembering what I just read. There needed to be something else to take the place of reading.
I used to crochet, but it was never something I was very excited about. Knitting sounded like something I wanted to learn instead. The way the two knitting needles clicking together made a beautiful piece of clothing was always intriguing. I knew how to knit the basic stitch but that was it so I got a book and started teaching myself, very, very slowly.
Washed and dried
My biggest problem was I couldn’t keep track of what I was doing. If I had to change a stitch or count them, I was lost. Sometimes in the middle of a row, I would forget where I was. I would have to put check marks on paper every time I finished a row. It was very frustrating. It took over a year to learn how to make a sock. I wasn’t just the making of the sock but how to rewrite the pattern so I could understand what I was doing and keeping track at the same time.
The hard part was admitting I had to do things differently to accomplish a simple job. Once I figured this out I was able to start making simpler items. I made my husband and sister vests, socks, and myself a sweater. I even entered them into the Idaho State Fair, and won! Wow, I was actually able to make things with my own two hands that looked like a professional.
First Vest At The Fair
I figured since I was able to learn knitting and follow patterns now, why not learn the whole process from sheep to shop. I’m slowly learning each part of the process and it is fascinating as well as fun. As I’m working with the wool, my mind is constantly going to how the women of the past, and even present in some countries, worked their wool to make their clothes.
I bought a few ewes last year and a ram and here we are. My ewes are Rambouillet and my ram is a Dorset cross. They have fine wool that’s soft and makes gorgeous apparel. So far I’ve been able to help with the shearing and wash several of the fleeces. I’ve learned to pick the wool to get it ready for carding. Picking is where you physically pick apart handfuls of fleece to get out the hay, straw, grass, and other assorted yucky things that managed to get in their wool.
Then you do what is called carding. This process is where you use two brush-like instruments called carders to pull the wool through each of the carders to get the fleece going in the same direction and get out the last remaining little bit of garbage left in. You then roll the fleece off the carder to make a rolag. Those are what you finally work with to spin up your yarn.
I was able to do all this without much problem but when it came to spinning, I gave up several times. It really had me baffled. There aren’t many things I have tried that I haven’t been able to accomplish. I thought maybe I won’t be able to do this because of the hand-to-eye coordination. Maybe my stroke did something to interfere with that.
Finally, one day I decided I was going to master this last part if it took all day or a week or a month! Well, I got my spinning wheel down, took a deep breath, collected my patience, and started.
It took longer than a day but at least I got the feeling and rhythm to keep going. I’m glad I didn’t give up. It’s so relaxing to get into a rhythm and see the bobbin fill up.
I’m still not consistent with the size of the yarn, but I think I have it down good enough to spin my own yarn. I’ve even dyed a couple of skeins with Kool-Aid. They turned out ok but not quite enough color. I tried food coloring next and that was a little better.
Tomorrow I’m going to pick up five Merino cross lambs to add to the herd. I’m so excited. Who would’ve thought doing something with your own hands could give you so much pleasure and self-worth. Now thinking back on my stroke I have to say I have no regrets. I realize my stroke wasn’t as bad as most, but it was still something “I” had to get used to.
For more great stories about my life and animals join me on my other blog sites. https://dustsweatboots.com/12-stroke-risk-factors-you-should-know/