12 December 2010

Wool Gathering

Remember my dad's sheep named Miracle?
Miracle is one of a synthetic breed (a combination of four different breeds)
called Polypay and she is a fairly good wool producer.

Poor thing hasn't been sheared for three years...
nice warm coat in the dead of winter,
but I really feel sorry for her in July and August!
Poppa J just hasn't been up to finding someone to shear her
so we will make sure it is done in the spring.

After spending several weeks entranced with finger knitting,
the Treasure announced to me recently,
"Momma, I want to learn to knit with sticks like you do!
Will you pleeeeeze teach me?"
Well, that kind of request makes my heart beat a little faster.
What fiber enthusiast can resist the opportunity
to create a similar addiction in another willing soul?

Rather than jump right into the knitting technicalities
(we've had some issues with that in the past--
just needed more time to mature developmentally--)
I decided to combine it with some whold-life educatin'
and snatched the opportunity that presented itself
when we made an emergent trip to Poppa J's farm recently.

I wanted her to understand where wool fibers come from
and gain some appreciate of the labor required by our fore-mothers
to gather, process, dye, spin, knit and or weave
and then stitch the garments that they wore
and which we take for granted because we can acquire them
with such a minimum of effort at present.

I also wanted to introduce her to the joy of creating 
and all the magical processes that we can manipulate along the way.

I remembered that there were a lot of tufts of wool
caught in the barbed wire of the corral fence where Miracle lives,
and as we were currently reading a living history book
that kept mentioning the term 'wool gathering'
(in reference to the heroine's thoughts wandering)
I got the idea of inventing a story and taking her out
on a wool-gathering adventure all our own.

So on a crisp well-lit full-moon evening,
I gathered some baskets,
grabbed her and the Man,
and off we went.

As we walked along in the silvery darkness an made our way into the corral,
I wove with words a story about a Hispanic girl
and her Native friend who were sent out on an errand
to deliver a message to a shepherd in the desert southwest,
and how on their journey they gathered medicinal herbs for one girl's aunt,
and gathered sticks for firewood,
and as they found this magical white tufts of fiber caught on the branches of
the small shrubs they gathered it's soft whiteness as well...

...and we started collecting the tufts of Miracle's wool that we could plainly see by moonshine.

We gathered a nice, though small, amount,
and took it back to the house
where we gently soaked it in warm water and shampoo.
Then we picked through it
(at least half of it was discarded due to being hopelessly matted~
truly, this stuff is trash wool~but it served our purposes at present)
and spread it out to dry over night.

Next morning, the Treasure was thrilled with the mound of fluff
we had collected for her basket.

Next lesson will be with the carding combs.

(Hope I haven't packed them in the boxes that are hopelessly buried at present!)


  1. Just left a comment but I'm not sure it took as my computer started acting funny. I love your teaching idea and practical application to history.