Skirting is when you unwrap a fleece and get rid of the stinky bits, the places where the fibers are too short or might be damaged, that sort of thing. I always do this outside, usually equipped with a large old sheet and a trash bag or two. Folks on farms usually mulch with the wool they won't spin, but since I live in town and my dogs find this too tasty, mine is thrown out.
First, I started with the alpaca fleeces. Alpaca, you say? Well yes. A kind lady from California who has two pet alpacas found me on the internet. She sent me her fleeces as a present, since she doesn't spin. I sent her postage, and will send little bits of the fiber, spun up, as a present in return. Doing this sort of thing is sometimes a risk since you don't know what the fiber will be like. However, I'm always grateful for presents and find that many times, folks have lovely fiber on their hands, but since they aren't spinners, knitters, or fiber artists themselves, they don't want to deal with it. They have pets, and those pets need to be shorn to be healthy. The fiber is useless to them, and they don't wan to fuss with marketing it, even if it sells in some places for $2-6 an ounce.
First up were "Danny's" fleeces. I think I was sent the "blanket" (this is the best part of an alpaca for spinning) from two years' from Danny. Either that, or he was huge.
This fiber was fine and a rich, mauve reddish brown. Almost pink, in parts, but Danny had a problem. Like a lot of alpacas, Danny likes to roll in dust, hay and straw. His fleece was full of the stuff. I hope it can be picked out, but there was a lot of vegetable matter in it. Alpacas are often subjected to a blow dryer treatment before shearing to blow this stuff out of a fleece. Danny needed that time in a salon!
Next was Gatsby's blanket. Slightly more hairy, a bright gingery color, and relatively clean. Gatsby probably doesn't roll too much!
Finally, I unrolled the mixed breed fine wool fleece I got at the TN State Fair Fleece Auction. It is perhaps a Merino or Rambouillet cross. A good shearer will wrap up a fleece like a sleeping bag, and when you unroll it, some fine wools will hold together very well and the fleece will look just like a pelt. (Again, shearing is like getting a hair cut. No one was hurt in this endeavor!)
Here's what it looked like, close up. There were bits of corn and hay in this fleece, it wasn't spotless. It was big though, which is standard for this type of sheep!
Once I'd cleaned things up around the edges, (sheep's tail end, belly and legs) I packaged up the alpaca and wool into one big box and sent it off to be processed at a carding mill. I'm hoping to have two blends:
The Danny Alpaca/Wool blend
The Gatsby Alpaca/Wool blend
It was roughly 16 lbs of fiber, according to the post office scale. Once the fine wool has been washed and rid of lanolin and dirt, it will be halved in size, at perhaps 5-6 lbs. Alpaca doesn't lose much weight in washing, although getting rid of all that dust and hay might be nice. In the end, I'm guessing perhaps 11 pounds of finished roving. While I don't do this from "start to finish" at home (16 lbs is just too much washing and carding for me!) I really enjoy choosing my fiber right from the raw fleece and getting my hands in it. I also like meeting the sheep to say thank you!
Last but not least, ribby shell #2. I knitted this in two weeks. The dark blue is Greek cotton, the lighter blue and white is Madil Eden Bamboo.