Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fleece of Sadness

I buy a lot of fleeces. A LOT!

I need them for classes and samplers and for my own sniffing pleasure. I do get some people who report back about how they are happy with the fleece quality they get from me and how they trust me when they are buying their unwashed fleece without seeing it first. This makes me very happy.

This blog post is about the fleeces you don't see. The ones where I got it wrong and am very disappointed. It doesn't happen often but it does happen.

I wanted to share this most recent experience with all of you who read here so that it will give and idea of one type of fleece to avoid.

This fleece walked in when the shop had some people in. The person knew I needed Blue Faced Leicester fleeces - I am ALWAYS low on them - and brought a couple to sell.

I was busy. Did a quick cursory look and paid the money. I am going to tell you all something here. When I buy fleeces, I buy them at the same price as everyone else. I get no discount and don't ask for one since I want the shepherds to be able to afford to keep their flocks.

So, all that aside, I am choosy about which fleeces I do bring in. Except for some times when I am in a hurry.
This is the outside of the fleece. Not the cleanest but not horrible looking.
This is the cut side of the fleece. In my really quick glance I thought that this had a huge amount of yolk but since I was very low on BFL I just went ahead. That was around November I think and I just put the fleece away. This week I decided to wash it as I couldn't sell it as it was and thought it would wash up beautifully and I could just use the washed locks. Sad part is, when I got it out of the bag and was submerging it into the very hot water with Unicorn Power Scour, I noticed that it wasn't just Yolk. The locks were very very hard and stuck together at the bottom. Another bad sign. And so then a closer look...

Click on the photo above so you can get a closer look. SCURF!

Scurf is caused by a mite that is on the animal and presents on the sheared fleece as white flakes that look like skin or dandruff. It doesn't come out with washing, combing or carding. You can wash the fleece with boiling water and the scurf will remain. I wanted to cry.

This fleece was not inexpensive and I didn't ask for a discount because of the yolk.

This is a lock taken from the dirty fleece. Lots of dirt at the tips. The yellow butts aren't showing well here.
One wash in Power Scour
Two washes in Power Scour
2 Washes and 2 rinses. Look at the luster and the curl. It could have been a beautiful thing. Instead it is headed for the bin. The scurf is all still there and makes this an unusable fleece. I am so very sad.

Here's my lesson. Don't buy fleeces on busy shop days unless I can take a moment and really look. There are shepherds that I trust and buy fro all of the time. But! Those ones who just walk in uninvited wanting to sell fleece, well, that's an opportunity for me to educate them about how to get the most from their fiber sheep.


Mary in A2 said...

Truer words were never spoken. Another huge disappointment is bad shearing with way too many second cuts. Thank you for being so particular. You can be my personal shopper any time when it comes to fleecy things. Mary in A2

Anonymous said...

oh Beth , so sorry ...yuck! Debra @ fuzzy fiber farm

Valerie said...

Well...don't trash it all. Use some of it to teach your students about scurf. Then they will know what to look for.

Sorry for the loss. Otherwise it looks like it would have been great fleece.

Mickey said...

a lesson learned just in the telling....... must get power scour. Wow. Have been using another product and have not had results like that. Just before and after pictures are amazing. Can you see scurf before it is washed? I couldn't with my computer display, even when enlarged.

goldfishgirl said...

Argh, how sad! It looks so gorgeous washed up :(

Anonymous said...

I got a scurfy fleece once. It was black and the scurf of course was not. It was the worst experience. I tried everything to get rid of the scurf, because I did not want to give up on the fleece. Eventually after numerous washes and combing, I tried spinning it up on the off chance the drafting process could get it out. No such luck... speckled yarn that spread dandruff gunk. But thank you so much for being choosy and for sharing the dark side of fiber retail. (and now that it has been used to teach --- you can take the cost off on your taxes OR you can take it as a loss..) ;)

Laritza said...

Thanks for the pictures. I had never seen it so clear. So far I have been lucky but surely this is a lesson to learn. I too buy a lot of fleeces, not as many as you of course, but I spin on average two fleeces a year.

Irie said...

It must have been hard to post but the pictures especially are very helpful to me, so thank you!

Tammy said...

I had never seen scurf before but have a fleece from our flock from this spring's shearing that has it. Very sad as it is, like yours, a beautiful fleece. And...Power Scour and the other Unicorn products for fleece are great. The Fiber rinse, if you are not dying, is a great finisher for fleece (or after dying).