Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Feeling Less Sheepish

I'm feeling less sheepish but more fleecish. Let me define fleecish for you since it does not seem to be a real word. Fleecish, a state of excitement in which a person is preparing to buy their first sheep fleece.

I've done some research with nudges in the correct direction from friends and then I've mulled it over for a bit. First let me say I may not buy a fleece at all, when it comes down to it I want to be comfortable with what I get and don't want to look back and say if I had only waited till I knew a bit more. I am not a terribly spontaneous person, but I usually know what I like and when to get it.

So what have I learned? Many things. Starting with the paperwork for Battenkill Fiber Mill, it costs $31.75/lb to process raw wool into undyed yarn. Now for some reason I assumed 10 pounds of fleece maybe because it was a nice even number or because the form said any amount under 10 pounds increases the price by 25%.

So assuming 10x31.75 = $317.50 for processing alone. I almost dropped the idea right then but decided to forge on as I still did not know if any assumptions were correct yet.

Now assuming my 10 pounds is way too much and I buy less my processing fee goes to about $40/lb. Now I know I grew up in a buy-in-bulk society, if I buy a five pound fleece 5x40 = $200. That is better but still not what I am looking for. I'm still thinking the cost will out weigh the adventure.

Then I read somewhere. (I tried to take good notes but I got caught up in the search.) The price is per finished product weight. That has to lower the cost some, is it enough?

Ok now how much weight do you lose in the processing? Sounds like it ranges depending on the breed of sheep (lanolin production) and how dirty the fleece is. Most estimates said something like a third of the fleece weight is lost. So my five pounds of fleece is reduced to 3.35 pounds. 3.35x40 = $134. Yep I am getting closer.

So how much yarn do I need for my sweater? Normally this number resides in my head as a function of yardage, not pounds. I did not want to weigh a sweater but I saved that as a last resort option. Thanks for the idea Adriene! I don't think my scale would give as accurate a number as I was hoping to get. Thanks to Kisknit's suggested site I thought about some sweaters I've knit that may have some data for me. My go-to sweater yarn is Cascade 220 and I keep reasonably good notes so I know how many balls of Cascade 220 it takes to make a sweater for me. A skein of that weighs 3.53oz. Let's say it took 8 skeins. (I think it was closer to 6 or 7 but let's play it safe.) 8x3.53 = 28.24oz which leads us to 1.77lbs of Cascade 220. Now (1.77x.66)+1.77 = 3 pounds of raw wool that I need. (Did you check my math for me? See any incorrect assumptions?)

I am looking for a minimum of three pounds of raw fleece. Which brings me to about a $70 wool processing price. Not bad at all, much better than the $300 that I started off with.

Last year I took this picture because the fleece was calling to me even then. What can I learn about reading tags in this one photo? Well I can tell Leo is not a big enough fleece for me. He's only 2 and a half pounds. I don't want to fun out of yarn! Plus Leo bumps up my sweater cost to $120. I have no idea where the cost per pound hits the scale; high, low, in the middle.

Now assuming it is what I will have to spend, am I willing to pay $120 for the experience? I mean I know it would be fun to say I chose the yarn right from the fleece but is it practical for me. I am at my heart a frugal practical person. Except that one spontaneous trip to Montreal, I am who I am and proud of it.

Are raw wool fumes stronger than yarn fumes? What about the two of them mixed together?

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