Last March I watched some of the shearing on a large sheep ranch in southern Solano County and I brought home fleeces. Here is the blog post from that day. In September I got the yarn back from the mill and used it for pieces in my show at the Artery.
Story that is part of the show: Margaret and Ian Anderson farm land that Ian’s great grandfather settled in the late 19th century. While Ian’s great grandfather raised only sheep and grain the modern ranch is a diversified farming operation growing hay, grain, and cattle as well as sheep. The original sheep on the ranch were mostly Corriedale but today’s 3000 breeding ewes are a blend of Corriedale, Polypay, and Rambouillet breeding. The ewes are bred to Suffolk and Rambouillet rams to produce each year’s lambs. The lambs are raised in adherence to the strict animal handling and environmental sustainability protocols of Niman Ranch, where most of the lambs are marketed. Local sources of Anderson Ranch Lambs are Nature’s Bounty near Vacaville and Chuck’s Custom Slaughter in Dixon.
As in many U.S. sheep operations the Anderson Ranch wool is handled as a by-product and is usually baled and sold in bulk. Last spring I watched some of the shearing and brought home about a dozen fleeces. I sorted and pre-washed the wool and shipped 90 pounds to Zeilinger Wool Company in Michigan, one of the few mills in the U.S. that can adequately process fine wools in small quantities. The wool was spun into 54 pounds of 2-ply-sport weight yarn. The fiber averages 20.4 microns. Feel how soft it is for yourself!
This yarn, like the yarn from the Timm Ranch and processed at Zeilinger’s, changes dramatically from it’s coned form to skeined yarn or finished piece. I will do another blog post about that because it’s so cool to see the changes. This would make a great knitting yarn as well (although I’d skein and wash it first) and it is on my website for sale now. This blanket and the one above it are woven with the same weave structure, but they look different because one has dyed weft. The browns are dyed with black walnut. This blanket has weft dyed with osage orange that grows across the road.I also wove some scarves. This is beautiful yarn, very soft and would make great knitted scarves or caps. I look forward to weaving more projects with it. Maybe I’ll even be enticed to get out the knitting needles.