Skirting Your Fleeces

May 07, 2017

Properly skirting your fleeces is one of the most important jobs to do before bringing the fiber to the mill.  We get lots of questions about how to properly skirt and since its shearing time it is a good time to review some basics.

Skirting doesn’t require any special skills just attention to detail and patience.  It is time consuming.  A well skirted fleece begins with shearing day.  Shearing the animals on a sheet of plywood or canvas will prevents additional hay or vegetable matter from attaching to the fiber.  The shearer will also advise on how to improve your clip and will do a certain amount of skirting during the shearing process.  He or she will also wrap up the fleece in an efficient manner for further inspection and skirting.

Soon after shearing is it best to lay the fleece out and let is dry.  It may not be wet from rain but it will be sweaty and moist from the animal’s body.  If the shearing was done well you should be able to lay the fleece out flat so it looks like the sheep laying with its leg spread apart.  Take a look over the entire the fleece and you will quickly different sections of the body have different fiber lengths, quality and cleanliness.  Remove locks or sections of locks that are too short, full vegetable matter, where the tips of either felted or stuck together with poop.  This will not come out at the mill.  Next remove as many second cuts, large pieces of hay and other foreign objects as possible.  Keep the most desirable locks to bring to the mill.  When in doubt, throw out. 

At the mill we charge by the intake weight for scouring.  The better skirted the fleece the less it will weight, the less waste there will be and your finished product will be of higher quality.  Check out the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association website for additional resources.  Pick a nice sunny day to skirt outside and it can be a very pleasant experience.  Happy skirting, Susan

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