Today, I brought my sheep’s five giant bags of wool to the mill.
Based on the recommendations of Jack and Mary Ellen at Willowbend Farm where my ram Lyndon came from, I brought my wool to Hampton Fiber Mill in Richmond, Vermont. Cleverly disguised as a mild-mannered garage, Michael Hampton’s mill is full of shiny new machinery and bags of wool from around Vermont.
Michael and I had a long conversation about my hopes for the yarn. I want yarn that would make a scarf that someone at Banana Republic or Express would buy. I want our products to look and feel sophisticated and to appeal to wool-lovers and wool-fearers alike. My impression was that Michael spins every fiber batch as if it were his own, and that his engineering background helps him to craft the best yarn possible from fleece like mine.
We also talked at length about management – he praised my wool’s relative cleanliness (no sheep is ever really “clean”!) and the fineness of the fibers. He assured me that I need not worry about “tipping” the lambs’ fleeces, which means removing the coarse birth wool. He said that any bad fibers would come out in the yarn spinning process and that the fiber length would be better. That was reassuring! I tried using hair clippers on Saturday and it didn’t work at all. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses of various sheep breeds – apparently Vermont is too rainy for most Merino sheep and that finewool breeders should stick to crossbred sheep like Corriedales (check!) and Cormos.
Meanwhile, Spring is making tentative forays into Vermont. The sheep are looking forward to nice green grass!