You may remember this spring I shared the time lapse video of our sheep getting their haircuts. At the time, I bagged up the wool in big black garbage bags and set it aside in a corner of the barn. In years past, we’ve donated the wool to our 4-H club for their wreath making fundraiser. And two years ago, I gave all the wool to the girl who shears our sheep so she could send it to the Maryland Wool Pool. But this past spring I held on to it.
Our sheep are Southdowns–known for being easy keepers, having great temperaments, and being easy finishers–they are not a wool breed sheep. But I’ve always hoped that there might be a way to do something with their wool when we shear each year. And in my wildest dreams, what I really wanted to do was have wool blankets made for the each of the girls’ beds. How cool would it be to wrap up in blankets made from the wool of the sheep you work so hard take care of every day?
I talked to my shearer about it and she thought it was definitely possible. And she said the best place to send it was McCausland’s Woolen Mill in Prince Edward Island–if I could ever make that happen.
As a matter of fact….I could. Each year, Prince Edward Island just happens to be the place where my little sister and family goes each summer.
I got online and read all the information from McCauslands. I was totally overwhelmed, so I decided to give them a call. They were obviously busy and possibly a little frustrated by all my questions. “You’re not really into this, are you?” was the question I was asked on the other end of the line. I explained that I had grown up with sheep, showing animals in the 4-H fairs and now my daughters were doing the same, but that this was the first time we had ever done anything with wool. The voice on the other end of the phone softened. And my questions were answered with a little more patience. Phew.
But, I hung up the phone and still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I didn’t know if my wool was good enough. There was a very good chance that because my sheep had been bedded down on pine shavings that the wool would be worthless. I hadn’t picked through it. I hadn’t done anything to clean it. I had shoved it into giant black trash bags.
Prince Edward Island departure day arrived. And I was ready to back out. I was asking my family to take two giant garbage bags of wool in the back of their car on a 16 hour car drive. And wool, even stuffed in a garbage is not the most pleasant-smelling traveling partner.
But they were meeting friends in Boston and making the rest of the trip in a truck and could throw the bags in back for the rest of the trip. And the woolen mill was on a part of the island they had been wanting to visit. This would be a great excuse.
So throwing all my wool insecurities to the wind we smooshed, squeezed and jammed the big bags into their car.
I texted periodically during their trip…how bad do they smell? Do you still love me? Everything was fine.
Eventually the wool made it across the border and thanks to my funny little sister–got a magical tour of the island before eventually ending up at the mill.
Several weeks later, per their instructions I called the mill.
“Hello, I’m the girl with the wool that was delivered from the US.”
“Oh yes, the one with the wool in the big black garbage bags?”
I braced myself for the news that it was worthless and dirty and couldn’t be used.
But instead she started rattling off the details–here’s how many pounds you have. You can make x number of blankets or get x number of skeins. Do you know what you want to do with it?
I needed a moment to collect my thoughts so I said I’d call her back the next day.
And now, as I type those bags of wool are being washed, cleaned, carded and woven into three blankets, and 8 skeins of wool. I won’t get anything back until the new year. And the batch won’t be exclusively my wool but it will be added to the batch and will be the good part of the blankets we receive. The work involved in trying to re-string looms and make a blanket is exclusively from one batch of wool is work and cost-prohibitive.
So now we wait. We wait for the call that the blankets and the yarn are finished. I can not wait.