CONNECTICUT WOOL QUALITY WORKSHOP
ATTENDANCE AT ONE WOOL QUALITY WORKSHOP IS REQUIRED FOR ANYONE WISHING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONNECTICUT BLANKET
WOOL QUALITY WORKSHOPS FOR 2017
So far we have three Wool Quality in planning for this year.. The first one will be at 10:30am on March 4th at the Blue Ribbon Forum being held in the Ratcliffe Hicks Arena on the UCONN Storrs Campus. Workshop number two will be at the Connecticut Sheep, Wool & Fiber Festival on Saturday, April 29th at a time to be decided. The third will again be kindly hosted by the Sepe Farm on a date and time to be decided.
Thinking of participating in the 2017 blanket? Winter is a time when the most contamination of the fleece by hay and feed occurs as many sheep are being fed indoors in crowded feeding areas. Take the extra effort to keep your contamination to a minimum!
The purpose of our workshops is to improve the quality of wool in our Connecticut Blankets. Participants need to remember that the wool from each farm affects the quality of the blankets (for better or worse) and can contaminate high quality wool brought in by other members.
Although this page is directed towards producing a quality wool clip for the Connecticut Blanket it also applies to all producers who wish to market their wool to the public. Handspinners want clean, healthy fleeces as do roving and yarn customers so it can be well worth your time to pay attention to wool quality production.
To accomplish this goal, members who participate in the blanket will be asked to become independent by preparing and skirting their wool completely on their farms, and must attend one of the workshops. At the workshops experienced volunteers will help participants learn how to produce wool of the quality needed for the Connecticut Blanket. Much of the workshop will be “hands on” and focus on getting wool ready to skirt, skirting, rolling a fleece, and packing wool. When wool for the blankets is brought in to UCONN, each fleece will be inspected for quality. Only fleeces that are acceptable will be weighed, packed, and shipped. Skirting must be completed before the collection day.
You are welcome to attend more than one Wool Quality Workshop and to bring a fleece or fleeces to the workshops for evaluation. Anyone interested in Wool Quality may attend the workshop even if they do not want to participate in the Connecticut Blanket.
Questions? Email Sylvia Murray
Shearing with wool quality in mind
The best surface for shearing is a clean, level wood floor, swept after each sheep is shorn (or use two stiff pieces of 4’x8’ plywood). Avoid using fresh bedding just before shearing. Shavings always contaminate wool and should not be used! Withhold feed and water on shearing day, as the sheep will be more comfortable and cooperative while being shorn (be careful with pregnant ewes). Straw, hay, shavings, dirt, mud, muck, stones, and hoof trimmings should not be on or near the shearing floor. Avoid flipping your sheep and dragging them through this contamination to get to the shearing floor. Never ask your shearer to shear wet or damp sheep. Have enough help on shearing day to thoroughly skirt and pack the wool.
A homemade skirting table can be made from garden fence wire stapled over a simple wooden frame - or a better design can be made from ½” PVC pipe spaced 1 ½” apart. Pre drill holes in a frame made of 2”x4”s to hold the pipe. You will need (20) 10’ pieces of PVC pipe to make a 5’x8’ table. The plastic pipe is smooth and wool will not snag upon it. Add legs to the frame or prop it up on barrels, sawhorses, etc.
After shearing, remove fleece from the shearing floor and toss it on the skirting table, skin side down. Shake it vigorously to rid it of second cuts and loose debris. Working around the circumference, remove all tags, urine soaked and soiled wool, felted wool, parts of the fleece (head and hind legs) with kemp (hair) or excessively coarse wool, and belly wool (if the shearer did not already separate it). At the center of the fleece, remove any paint or crayon stains, vegetable matter (chaff), and any other defects. Once you are satisfied with the cleanliness of the fleece, roll it up and pack it into a clean container that will protect it.
Never store wool in poly grain sacks or tarps. Avoid problems of moisture, moths, and mice by not storing wool any longer than necessary. Wool should never be stored directly on a concrete or dirt floor since it will wick up moisture. Store on pallets or a wooden floor. Plastic bags should not be stored in direct sunlight and should never be sealed since wool needs to “breathe”. Bags packed firmly discourage moths and mice. Discard containers of spoiled wool immediately to prevent a “breeding ground” for problems. Be sure to label any stored wool to avoid confusion.