Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Gift Ever: Jackie Bland's Fleece Study

How can you not love a face like that?

This Christmas brought the very best gift. Ev-er. Naturally, SpecialEd was the giver, and I do believe that he's sick of hearing how awesome I think it -- and, by association, he -- is.

Jackie Bland's Fleece Study is a way for the hand-spinner to experience the fleece of 40+ different varieties of sheep. (Did you know that there are way more than 40? Learned something today, didn't you!) For those of you who don't know, certain breeds of sheep are shorn once or twice a year, and their fleece is sold as a whole or in pieces to fiberistas, such as myself. Of course, we could always buy a fleece that's been processed (read: washed and carded [combed so all the fibers are aligned]), but where's the challenge in that?

So on Christmas morning, SpecialEd directed me to a photocopier paper box next to our tree, and when I opened it, there was a 3-ring binder with fact sheets on each of the breeds represented, along with a worksheet where I could enter information about each fiber as I worked with it. This is the type of thing that appeals mightily to my anal-retentive nature: What does each sample look like, feel like, and how does it handle? How did I wash the samples? Did I card the samples before I spun them, or did I just flick open the tips? Did I spin S or Z? Did I ply? How did I ply (again, S or Z)?


Once I regained consciousness, I explored each of the three plastic bags full of individually labeled zippered plastic sandwich baggies, each containing about 1 ounce of wool. Look at those names! Look at the texture! This one feels like a sponge, and that one looks like doll's hair!

They all smelled like sheep. And that's just fine. It's all about the process, folks. Yes, I'm well aware that I could traipse over to A.C. Moore or Michael's and buy some 100% wool yarn, hey presto. You know, I can also buy chocolate-chip cookies. However, you and I both know that store-bought never tastes as good as homemade -- not even those obscenely overpriced "gourmet" cookies.

Fiber is my therapy. I love the way it feels, the way it handles. I love the repetitive motions that go into carding a wad of fiber that looks quite a bit like something a cat coughed up into a soft, sleek, shimmery puffball. I love that I can feel my neck and shoulders relax when I sit and spin small bits of fiber into one long, continuous strand of yarn, watching my drop spindle or spinning wheel go 'round and 'round ... and 'round.

This best gift ev-er is the gift that just keeps on giving, too, because now I'm racing all over the Web, looking at pictures of the different breeds of sheep ("Ooh! I have that one! And I have that one, too!"). I'm continually amazed by how big these animals are. I always pictured them as being about the same size as a labrador retriever. But then, I always thought that deer were only a bit bigger than that.

I've led a sheltered life.

I plan to send Jacke Bland a note to tell her how in love I am with her fleece study. However, first I need to calm down. There's no point in making her worry that she just might have gained a groupie.


  1. Great Gift! Yea DH!! He is truly special...looking forward to learning whte you learn from the fleece study! Happy New Year to you both!

  2. What a cool gift! I got my first pair of knitting needles, some yarn and a how-to book for Christmas. I'm on scarf #3 and loving every minute of it. I think the sheep must grow something calming into their wool that we humans absorb as we work. I love it!

  3. I think you've got something there, April! Hmm, wonder what the shepherds are putting in their flocks' food ... ha!