From childhood, I have loved and cared for sheep. They aren’t stupid, although their natural curiosity is usually overcome by flock-think and a dedication to routine. The sheep love the grass, and the clover and the weeds and leaves and blackberry sprouts. They know everything they need to know about being sheep.
The grass loves the sun. The rain loves the grass. The worms and bugs love the sheep droppings and the soil loves it all. From these things, sheep create wool, that original, miracle material.
When the sun gets hot in the spring, the shearer comes and with great traditional skill and a strong back shears off the wool coats. (This is a hard time for flock-thinkers because all of a sudden, everyone looks very different!) But it is more comfortable, and there is still the grass.
I love gathering the freshly shorn fleeces into my arms. They are billowy, warm, fluffy, greasy with lanolin, redolent of the not-unpleasant smell of sheep. That’s the feeling I try to duplicate as I create beautiful things.
I sort the new wool, a process called “skirting,” to remove the dirty bits and save the best parts for spinning. I spin “in the grease,” just the way it comes from the sheep, without any pre-processing. Then the rather dull, grimy-looking skeins of yarn get a good hot bath in solar-heated water with lots of bio-degradable soap.
They brighten and bloom, emerging clean and wooly, minus the grease; glowing with soft natural colors, all ready to knit into warm, cushy, cozy things. It’s a partnership, the sheep and us, making sweaters out of sunshine and grass.