There is an adventurous path that pure wool travels, from the sheeps’ backs to a knitter’s hands and needles. Many hands are involved.
On shearing day at the barn, one of our Topsy farmers encourages the sheep up a ramp to the upstairs shearing area, where another farmer moves the sheep from a large pen to individual shearer’s pens. A shearer takes the sheep from the holding pen, skillfully and carefully removes the ewe’s pure wool coat within 2 minutes and hussles the startlingly white shorn sheep out the swing door to an outside corral.
One of our team of 10 helpers or ‘roustabouts’ picks up that fleece in such a way that enables him/her to fling it in the air, to float down on the ‘skirting table’. Other ‘rousies’ work around the perimeter of that table, removing bits of fecal matter and chaff, then roll the fleece into a ball and drops it into an 8 foot burlap bag, clamped to a frame in the floor.
It is packed very firmly with ‘foot power’ with other fleeces, then eventually sewn in (with a wicked 4 inch needle and baler twine). That bag is hoisted with a pulley and manpower, then rolled and stacked with other bags.
Our pure wool yarn comes from happy healthy sheep, raised ethically.
That makes 7 pairs of hands, minimum, handling the fleece so far.
At least 3 people maneuver the bags, weighing about 160 pounds, onto a waiting farm wagon, and stack them with others for the trip across the ferry from Amherst Island. (Large trucks cannot fit our boat, so we have to schlep the wool bags by hand and farm equipment.)
On the mainland, a waiting transport trailer is loaded with the wool bags – 4 men haul and roll them into the trailer.
At least 4 sets of hands have helped this transition.
Upon arrival in Prince Edward Island, strong arms and hands again unload the wool bags. Two people open the bags, lug the wool onto scales to be weighed, then grade the wool quality. Someone else manually picks through the wool before washing to remove any large impurities, then another hauls it onto a 70 ft “wash train” where only soap is used.
The pure wool is hypoallergenic. It has not been stripped with detergent or other chemicals.
If the pure wool is to be dyed into one of our more than 20 vibrant or subtle colours it is weighed for the appropriate amount. It goes straight to the dryer if it is being processed naturally.
Topsy Farms pure wool roving and yarn has 4 entirely natural colours.
Yet another set of hands transports it into a packer which presses the dried, cleaned wool into a bale. That bale is manually transported to yet another picking room. There the wool is blended before carding. One person puts it into the carding machine. Another person takes spools from carding machine to spinning frame where it is spun and strengthened.
Another pair of hands removes the wool to the twister table which is set up to produce different sizes of yarn (2 ply or 3 ply). Bobbins are filled by the machine, then a worker puts those bobbins onto a “skeiner”, where the wool is made into 4 oz skeins. Each skein is twisted and finished by hand. They are put in feed bags and carried upstairs, where they are bundled into 8 pound parcels, then wrapped. (Someone of course has to complete the book work).
A truck driver lugs the Topsy Farms order for the skeins of wool away from MacAusland’s Woolen Mills where it has been handled by 18 – 20 pair of hands.
4 to 5 people at Canada Post handle the packaged bundle of yarn as it is received, sorted, loaded on and off a truck and delivered to Bath Post Office. Two people load it onto a van to deliver to us on Amherst Island. The transport has involved 6 – 7 pairs of hands.
Back at our farm, the skeins of yarn are individually labelled, counted, bagged, and added to the inventory. (We store them in bins in the unused shearing area.)
The pure wool has ‘come home’.
When the Wool Shed inventory for a particular dye lot of yarn gets low, someone gets it from the barn, notes the inventory change and stashes it in its cubby for retail sale. Come to the Wool Shed, to purchase a 113 gram, or 1/4 pound skein of pure lanolin-enriched wool for $8. We also offer pure wool in roving or pencil roving.
From sheep, via about 40 pairs of hands, to your needles.