We lived in Oregon for a large chunk of the ’90s. After adjusting to the change experienced from leaving the San Francisco Bay Area, I fell in love with Oregon. Of course, it has a an amazing fiber-related culture: wool growers, weavers, spinners, knitters, crocheters, quilters, and great fiber-related events (e.g., Black Sheep Festival in Eugene, Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in Canby, The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, etc.). So what’s not to love (as long as you can handle the rain if you’re on the west side of the Cascades).
It was in Oregon that I first witnessed sheep shearing. I went through a stage where I was determined to learn how to shear sheep and even found a series of classes in Roseberg. I moved east for a job, however, and put aside the sheep shearing idea.
But the other day I decided to look at it again. Until recently I knew of only two ways to shear sheep: using hand clippers and using machine shears. Last week I watched a series of videos of demonstrations of each. Here are two of my favorites: using hand clippers and using machine shears. (By the way, when you see Emily Chamelin using the hand clippers, you may notice her unusual footwear. Those, I learned, are felted, flat (for balance, will not slip, and are like slippers (ballet?) so the wearers can move their feet in all directions as they hold the sheep between their legs! I didn’t notice the shoes of the men using machine shears.)
I discovered a third way that works only on Shetland Sheep called “rooing.” It is done completely by hand (no shears)! According to Kathy Baker (pic from her article):
Rooing is the process of removing the fleece from the sheep by hand plucking the wool. Many Shetland sheep retain a complete or partial tendency to shed the current year’s fleece growth in late spring or early summer. At the point where the fibre diameter becomes thinner and weaker, the fleece breaks quite easily. It does not hurt the sheep when the weakened fibres are plucked or roo’d by hand.
Well, I know what to ask Thor for my next birthday!