When I was a young mom I had a loom and big plans to make artistic wall hangings and other projects just at the edge of my imagination. I decided to get fleece from a prize winning sheep shown at the annual Royal Winter Fair. The first step was getting the fleece. To do that I took the St Clair streetcar out to the stockyards/abattoir in the west end of town. The fleece I wanted to purchase was from the front end of the sheep - I thought it was obvious that would be cleaner than the back end. It turns out that's magical thinking. Sheep are not naturally clean and fluffy.
The old (young) me who bought the fleece
Much time then passed. Between having children and developing rheumatoid arthritis my life changed and after 30 years I finally shipped the fleece to my niece in Nelson BC and thought no more about it.
My niece is a talented knitter and also has an entrepreneurial streak Her great interest in fleece of all kinds both rare and common led her to open a store on etsy.com called TheFibreMine, where she now sells fleece, I loved the picture of the feral sheep she uses to illustrate the section that showcases fleece from wild sheep.
She carded the fleece I sent, spun it and dyed it with lichen from her property, as I was to find out. It took months of steeping with the lichen in the warm sun for the colour to set. The picture below uses a different lichen but demonstrates the method she used.
When she was done she sent the yarn to her mom, my wonderful sister-in-law Jan who knitted them into the warmest mitts ever using a technique called thrumming that involves knitting fleece right into the mitts. I had never seen that before.
The inside of one mitten
So 40 years after this sheep perished I have new mitts made from the original fleece. I could not believe my eyes when I got these mitts for Christmas. It's a piece a family history and now our families are even more close-knit than before.