SandHill Farm Visit

October 3, 2013 - 10:34 am

Monday I visited Eileen Hordyk at SandHill Farms in Arlington, WA. I was greeted at the gate by a 30-something Shetland pony, who decided the grass was more interesting than me when I didn’t produce treats. Apparently he’s a neighborhood treasure, and Eileen regularly has folks asking about him when he’s in a back field or in the barn instead of on display out front.


She and her husband are raising sheep for fleece as well as for meat, but Eileen says “For me, it’s all about the fleece.” The stack of ribbons they brought home from the Washington State Fair and the quality of her fleeces speak to the success she’s having. Here’s a sneak peak of the Lincoln Longwool I brought home: 


This was a blue ribbon ewe fleece this year, but her brother’s fleece beat her out for grand champion. Another one of Eileen’s fleeces– one of her Dorsets– won Grand Champion handspinner’s fleece. I looked for a listing of the results from the fair to share all the ribbons she brought home, but it isn’t posted anywhere I could find. Suffice to say Eileen brought home more fleeces with ribbons than without.

Here’s Eileen with this year’s fleeces. This is also the lambing barn in the spring, once the fleeces are all sold.


Here are a few that didn’t come home with me. This one was a crossbred Dorset/Rambouillet: 


This was a Romney that took best of show:


Pretty sure this was another Romney.  Look at the length and crimp!


They have two flock protector dogs that are crossbreeds, and three Border collies. I didn’t take a note on this girl’s name, but she’s the old lay of the farm and spends her days in the barn now:


This is her brother, who prefers to spend his days with his charges:


Right now he’s in with the boys:


Eileen was in the middle of putting four of her Lincoln ewes in with a ram lamb. Here are the girls:


The girl in the green coat is #1188, who grew the fleece in the first picture that came home with me:


Eileen and I talked a lot about what she looks for in fleece, and how she manages coating so the fleeces grow well. This girl has a nice white one. It curls differently on her upper body where the rain falls than on her sides, but the fiber is quite uniform.


Here’s an up close shot of one of the fleeces on the sheep. This is 1189 who is the other one blanketed in the first picture; her coat was a little too big for her and so Eileen was switching it out. She pulls coats regularly and fluffs the fleece underneath to make sure it isn’t getting matted down:


Here’s another picture of the girls mugging for the camera or possibly begging for treats:


Eileen teaches all of her sheep to tie and lead. She explains it makes management much easier for her since she doesn’t have to fight with them to move them around. Takes extra work with the lambs, but pays dividends throughout their lives whenever she needs to handle them.

I brought home three fleeces, a Dorset:


Sample lock:


The Lincoln fleece from #1188:


Sample lock:


And a Romney:


Sample lock:


Today I started washing the Lincoln fleece. It was six pounds in the bag. Here it is turned out ready to open up:


And here are some sample locks.  Look at that crimp!


I opened the fleece out on a sheet in my living room because I have to start washing the pile you can see there under my puppy grooming table, and if I wait for a dry day in Seattle to start sorting fleeces it will be summer before I get that!


In the whole fleece I only found a few tidbits I wanted to skirt. You can see them in the upper left of the sheet. There were a couple locks that were matted, a few with dags, and a few second cuts. Here’s a close-up:


I’ll leave you with some more fleece beauty shots. It was so lovely!





It’s soaking in the tub now, removing the dirt in prep for it’s scouring wash which I’m about to start. I should have clean, dry fleece to share, perhaps tomorrow!



OM NOM Romney

December 13, 2011 - 11:45 am

All I can say is yum.


I went with Terry on Saturday to Wet Thistle Farm to pick out fleeces.  Usually this farm’s fleeces aren’t available to the public- a yarn company snaps up their whole clip.  This year, however, there were some available, and as Terry promised it was oh so very worth the trip!  I ended up splitting three colored fleeces with Terry and getting one white lamb fleece as well.

This is a lamb fleece that progresses from a red brown to a creamy white down the length of the staple.


I washed it and experimented with using the spin cycle on my front loader between passes- I won’t do that again.  The butt ends felted slightly.  It won’t be hard to process, but it fell apart deliciously before the wash, and past fleeces with that character have maintained it after washing.

It has a 5″ staple:


here’s a second lock:


Don’t you just want to bury your face in this?


It smells vaguely of lavender and sheep after washing, just so you know.  I can’t wait to start working with this! It’s deliciously soft too; much finer than the rest of my Romney.  Oh- and strong.  no sign of crackle when I “ping” a lock.  This is as close to perfect as fleece gets, and it’s even in “my” color!  It will match my hair!

I’ll get pictures up of the other three fleeces as they are washed.

Thanks so much to Marie for letting us visit her farm, and giving us the opportunity to collect these gorgeous fleeces.  I’m hoping to return for the annual clip, which will be happening next month.  Maybe I can talk her out of another fleece then!


ISO: The Perfect Sock Yarn

July 10, 2011 - 7:25 pm

I’m enjoying my carder a great deal.  This is an experiment in making a better sock yarn.  40% Romney, 40% Clun Forest, 20% silk.  I intend to spin it semi-worsted and then cable it into a 2×2 cabled 4 ply.  In my brain it’s AWESOME!


My new (to me) Strauch Petite carder is pretty comfortable making 1 oz. batts, which is a good sample size and a nice round number.  I weighed out .4 oz of each of the Romney and Clun, and .2 oz of some Bombyx silk top I have in stash.


Next I lashed the locks on hand cards on 112 tpi Schacht hand cards (thanks for the loan, Heather!)


From what I’ve been able to tell so far in my month of drum carding, every wool seems to have a different best way to prep and load it into the drum carder for the first pass.  The Romney and Clun seem to work best if I lap them fairly thickly in shingle-like layers, and turn the drum very slowly.

stacking up the locks to card

The stack of fluff on and behind the carder is the Clun and Romney, while the stuff in front of the carder is the silk.  Slowly I fed all the wool through and packed the drum.  The black brush helps pack the wool down into the teeth of the drum so it all will fit.

wool on the drum carder

Once the wool has all been run through the carder onto the drum once, the combined batt needs to be removed.

removing the batt

There’s a special tool for this!  I pull up little sections of the batt until the whole thing has been split, and can be unwrapped from the carder.  I have two brushes I can use to lift stray fibers off the drum.  This brush has soft plastic bristles:

brushing stray fiber into the batt

This is a flicker brush, and it has long metal teeth:

flicking stray fiber into the batt

I flip back and forth between them trying to figure out which seems to be working best.  Again, every fiber seems to have its own temperament.  Finally the batt is free from the carder:

first pass batt 50/50 Romney/Clun Forest

In the next pass I’ll sandwich the silk between layers of wool.  The idea is the wool is easier for the carder to grab onto, so if the silk is the filling of a wool sandwich it will card more smoothly.  It seems to work.  First step is to pull off a strip of the bat, lengthwise:

splitting batt for second pass

Then spread it out and feed it onto the drum:


Then add silk by dragging it over the teeth on the main drum, spreading it out in a thin layer:

adding silk

Once a layer of silk is on, I smooth it down with the black brush:

smoothing silk onto the drum

then add another layer of wool:

silk sandwiched between wool layers

Then more silk and more wool until everything’s on the drum.  Then the silk and wool batt gets removed:

removing silk/wool batt

It has big chunks of silk, so needs to make another few passes to get smoothed out.  They are run through the same way, splitting the batt lengthwise and feeding strips into the drum carder.  The second pass is a little better:

second pass - a little better

After four or five passes, it’s nicely uniform:

after 4-5 passes, the blend is nice and uniform

I chose to make hand pulled roving out of this batt.  This meant i first fed a little of the batt through a hole in a diz, and slid the diz down onto the batt:

pulling roving from the batt

Then pulled the diz forward about one staple length:

next I gently pull the dizz and roving away from the rest of the batt.

Then slid the diz down again:

then pull the dizz back onto the roving

And keep on like that til the whole batt has been pulled through the diz:

repeat til done!

And I have coils of roving!

finished roving coiled into .5 oz portions

I have only had a chance to spin a small sample of this, but it was very nice.  Sheen and strength from the silk and Romney, with some bounce from the Clun.  My first little sample was overspun in the single, so it was too compacted to make a tight gauge knit.  I can’t wait to try some more!