When their Dad first came over to shear our sheep four years ago, Nichole, Heather, Michelle, and Jayden came with him. Jayden, at four the youngest, his Dad sat down on an upturned bucket, saying “Watch and learn”. Nothing else, just “Watch and learn”.
The girls went to work. As a part of their 4-H projects, they were learning how to keep records, and what better than to record each sheep by number and the weight of her fleece. There weren’t so many in those days, so they learned how to put a fleece together on the shearing floor and how to tie it so it stayed tied and kept the fleece intact. (Hint: skin side out and the “belly” part of the fleece on the inside, and always use paper twine.) Because they are our neighbors, two miles away, and because we shear sheep twice a year, we have had many occasions to spend time with them, and most recently the girls have learned skirting.
Skirting involves removing from a fleece by hand all the non-wool things that are mixed up in it, and the snarls and knots, and the kempy parts. It is fair to say that skirting requires nimble fingers, diligence, and good humor, and Nichole, Heather, and Michelle display all those qualities. This year they helped process 1,000 pounds on our farm. The yarn from that wool is woven into our Private Reserve collection of rugs. They have other skills too, like chasing the odd sheep down who insists it is not her turn to be shorn, and they’re working on how to use a lasso. We see them in other settings, too – a while ago, their 4-H club came for a tour to try our loom and learn what weaving was all about, and we are always invited to the Sunflower 4-H Christmas party.
During skirting there’s plenty of time for conversation and we’ve learned about their livestock – horses, calves, pigs – and the work that goes into making these creatures competitive and making themselves competitive as Horsewomen.
Another friend of ours – Jerry from the next county over – keeps asking when we will start weaving Saddle Blankets for horses. He went so far as to bring his favorite well-worn blanket as an inspiration. Our true inspiration comes from Nichole, Heather, and Michelle whose lives revolve around care of their animals.
The yarn in the blankets is from our sheep, some natural colored, some blue died over our Border Leicester cream. Just like our other rugs, Saddle Blankets are made to order in different patterns. Not everyone has a horse, but anyone can have a rug.