Years and years ago, her father in law raised sheep. Lots and LOTS of sheep - at one time, he had over 700 of them! The wool in the barn represented the last shearing of the last sheep that they ever owned - 4 sheep in 1972. Annette's husband remembers participating in this last shearing. He says that they were Suffolk sheep.
Just look at this wool. It's really VERY dirty. But... I decided to have a shot at it just the same.
I took a grocery-bag full of it home, and let it sit, ignored, in the garage all summer long...
When I finally got around to messing with it, I first separated it into locks, and lo and behold, it's really not all that bad looking. It is terribly brown, and the tips are sticky - old lanolin? - and it smells really really bad...
I packed it into a mesh bag...
...and lowered it into a bucket of scalding hot water. Mud poured out of the locks. Then, I drained the water, replaced it with more scalding hot water with a nice glug of hair shampoo,and lowered the wool back down into the water. I let it soak until the water was cool enough for me to handle the wool, and I was simply amazed at how it got so clean! Just look!
Just take a look at the crimp - I may never spin another kind of wool again! (Not really... in the meantime, I've bought more wool. I'm incurable. I'm fickle. I'm completely entranced with the notion that my new wool is from The Faroe Islands.)
It's all like this - crimpy and clean with hardly any VM in it at all.
On the bottom, you can see the "kitten brush" which I used on this wool and which is the *perfect* flicker carder. I opened up each end of the lock, predrafted out the whole lock and then just put in the spin. It's the easiest spin job I've ever done. I am amazed at how well the drafted wool holds together. I think that I could knit with it just like that, without even spinning it. The yarn is sooooooo smooth and nice. I can hardly wait to get knitting with it.
I'm spinning sock yarn out of the small amount that I took from Annette's barn, and I'm going to knit a pair of socks for Annette's mother in law. It might just put her over the edge, as she's been really nostalgic for the days of living on a sheep farm. They still live on the farm, only no sheep anymore.