Several weeks ago, I wrote Three Bags Full, describing the booty I brought home from the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. My most prized purchase was three bags of raw wool from Lopez Island. Hoping to perfect my process after two previous attempts to felt a raw fleece last summer, I bought three bags of dirty wool from Maxine at Island Fibers , each weighing about 3lbs.
The first week I was back in my studio, I began working on felting a new set of sheepskins into a merino base. I couldn’t wait to get my hands into those stinking bags of fleece.
After working on two by myself, I invited a friend to help me with the third so she could see how it was done. Because I love her so, I saved the best fleece just for her. While we were photographing the three fleece together, her cat stepped in to check out the new throws. I’ve caught my cat sleeping on the sheepskins living on my couch, though she has had no interest in the commercial sheepskin given to use when my eldest child was a baby. She must sense just how animal friendly these sheepskins are – no hides attached.
The white fleece has an amazing texture; the crimp is intoxicating. The locks are a medium length, maybe 4″ long. They stayed intact throughout the felting process, producing a wonderful sheepskin once it was fully washed and rinsed.
The darkest fleece was by far the softest, perhaps a first shearing from a dark lamb. There were very few light spots on the tips and no white hair at all. The greyish brown fleece is soft in a wooly way, but far more coarse than the other two. The locks are also quite long and didn’t attach as well to the merino base. Since it is hard to keep our hands from fingering the locks while sitting on the sofa, we end up finger-combing it incessantly, pulling out bits of wool. I’ve been pocketing the loose fibers to stuff a pillow.
My only regret is that I didn’t buy more fleece. I would love to have them all over my house, one for the seat of my desk chair, a couple for cushions at my studio and then maybe a few to sell. There is some wool left in each color, but not enough to make a decent sized sheepskin. Since I’ll be returning to Lopez Island in May, I’ll have to hold tight for a few more weeks. In case you happen to be in the area, Lopez is hosting the First Annual Lopez Lamb and Wool Festival on Saturday May 14th. There will be a sheep drive down the main drag in Lopez Village and a lamb dinner prepared by Matt Dillow of Sitka and Spruce. What better reason do you need to make a trip to the island?