I finally finished sorting through each fleece, and I thought I'd post the totals.
I sorted their wool into 3 types: Good stuff to go to the mill; 'seconds' that were a little dirtier or shorter, that I'll work with myself; and *ewwwwwwwww* ! Overall, their fleeces were pretty clean. I found vegetable matter, some dead bugs, thorns and even some short branches from the multiflora rosebushes, and a fair number of little burrs - hoping to have much less of those as I continue to clear the pastures.
From the 5 sheep, I have 10 lbs, 3.5 ounces of wool to take to the mill (this is half a year's growth, so I should get a comparable amount again in the spring). Some will be lost in processing, but Icelandics have less lanolin, so I'm hoping I won't lose much. Brosa, the littlest lamb, had 1 lb 7 oz of wool for the mill, and Rose, the grey sheep, had the most at 2 lb 9 oz. My wether had nearly two pounds of wool, and I thought his was the nicest of them all - some of his outercoat (tog) was really long (8 to 9 inches) for him being only a little over 5 months old, and his undercoat (thel) had good length to it too, and had a great crimp.
There was another 1 lb 13.5 oz of 'seconds'. Some from each sheep, for me to practice washing and carding. I am glad most of it's going to the mill though!
3.5 lbs is nothing to sneeze at, especially from those little sheep. Are you taking it to Ohio Valley? I've got some nice stuff back from them. Are you blending the brown and the white or keeping them separate? I've seen some gorgeous heathered yarns this year that I'll be trying with my next shearing.
(psst - Roving Jacobs - ten pounds, not 3.5 - and 12 pounds if you count the stuff I kept!)
Yes, I took it to Ohio Valley - they were at the Ashland fiber festival today, so I was able to take it to them there and save on shipping! I put each sheep's fleece in a bag with their name on the bag. I'm keeping all the colors separate this time, but I might do some blending next year. I'm having it all turned into roving, and they said right now it's a 2 to 3 month turnaround time, so that's not too bad. Then I'll weigh what comes back, so I'll have a good idea of how much is lost through processing.
Next year I also want to separate the thel from some of the fleeces and have that made into roving separately. It's so wonderfully soft!
The fiber festival was nice, with a good turnout despite some rain. There were a few people with fiber animals there, too - including someone with a four-horned Jacob.
I got my wool back from Ohio Valley Natural Fibers on March 7, woohoo!!!
The box that came was fairly big, but it was packed full of beautiful, fluffy roving! I opened it, and this 'cloud' of soft, white, fluffy roving started expanding out of the top like a cloud. They had each sheep's fleece layered in the box, and the top one was so soft and beautiful, I knew it was Brosa's.
I took it to some friends to show off, and to have them show me how to work with it. I wasn't quite sure how it was arranged in the box, and it's very different than the 'top' roving I've been learning on. They showed me the little paper that was wrapped around the beginning of the roving, and then it just went back and forth in the box. Once it wasn't so compressed, it was easier to see, too.
The wool from the lambs is definitely much softer than the wool from the adults. It will be interesting to see how Brosa's wool is next year. Interestingly, I think the wether lamb's fleece isn't quite as soft as Brosa's (ewe lamb). Rose's wool is very pretty soft grey, her undercoat is a lot lighter than it looks on her. And Elding's fleece is a really nice brown. I tried to get some pictures but I couldn't do them justice, so I'll try again when I can get some better lighting. It was hard to get the camera to focus on it, too.
I weighed the roving from each sheep, and did some calculating (there's a lot of math to keeping sheep! LOL)
I sent 10 lbs. 3.5 oz. to the mill, and got back 6 lb. 7.5 oz. of roving, so the percent of waste was 36.7 % (lanolin, dirt, crud, vegetable matter, etc...). I tried to skirt them pretty well, and picked out all the vegetable matter I could see, so most of the loss would have been lanolin and dirt/crud. I found one website that said Icelandic fleeces only lose about 25 to 30 percent of their weight during washing, so I don't think mine did too badly overall. Rose's percent loss was the most, at nearly 42%. Elding's loss was the least, at just under 30%. So now I have a good idea of about how much roving to expect back per pound of skirted fleece I send in.
Then I figured up the costs to produce the roving. I only counted the costs for the shearing and the mill processing/shipping. I didn't count feed, hay, minerals, vet/medicines/vaccines, supplies, or the costs of the sheep themselves. I also didn't count the hours I spent skirting the fleeces and picking out vegetable matter to prepare it for the mill (average 2 to 3 hours each fleece). Or the batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies I baked for the shearers
So just in shearing and mill expenses, it cost $19.99 per pound to produce that roving, or $1.25 per ounce. I checked etsy, and saw Icelandic roving listed for anywhere from $25 to $54 per pound. I don't have any plans to sell mine yet, but I can see somewhere in between being a reasonable amount for me.
It sure gives me a better understanding of the work and expense that goes into the rovings and yarns at the fiber festivals I've gone to! I know costs will vary, but it's still been quite a learning experience.