Thursday, February 14, 2013

Part One: A Gal and her Goat...

I have a real 'thing' for spinning new fibres... I'm always trying to track down something I haven't tried before!  I mentioned to my pa-in-law once that I would love to try spinning some mountain goat, and he told me if he ever saw some stray clumps caught up in the bushes around his place up in central BC,  he'd collect them for me to try! And I got very excited.

However, he did me one better...

He tracked me down an ENTIRE mountain goat skin! He brought it to Vancouver with him last year on one of his visits. I was a little perplexed about how I should get the fibre out, and if it would even be usable because I am sure the pelt must have been preserved with chemicals. But I showed the skin to Judith Mackenzie at her workshop last year, and she showed me that if I used my fingers, I would be able to pull out clumps of LOVELY fibre from deep inside the coat! I happily took my mountain goat home, and put it in my closet until I had time to tackle such a challenge...

... Fast forward one year. This February long weekend, I decided I needed the closet space and I was going to 'recycle' that goat skin.  I knew once I started, I was going to need to finish it all at once, for it made a rather big mess and if I stopped, it might be months before I was brave enough to bring it out of the closest again...

So I set up an old shower curtain on the playroom floor and unrolled the pelt. Yup, it was even bigger than I remember. This thing must have been the size of a cow! (A little cow at least).

Fun fact - there was a little envelope left in the box with all the information about where and when the goat was originally hunted... It was kind of neat to learn a little about it's history!

I tried pulling a few tuffs of undercoat out with my fingers, but I knew that was just going to be WAY too much work. So I decided to see if I could work some magic with my mini wool combs... and they worked PERFECTLY! Within an hour of combing on the floor, I had recovered 3 ounces of fibre.

The next day, I decided to get serious.  I moved my loom off it's workbench and set up 'shop' in the middle of the playroom. I could sit in my spinning chair, wear an apron, and comb much more comfortably than I could on the floor. That first day I combed for about 5 hours (on and off) and I had only worked about a quarter of the pelt... but I had collected 12 ounces of fibre!

The process took longer than expected, but I tried to finish it up as quickly as I could because my apartment was getting FILTHY - there was goat hair everywhere! I could tell my lovely husband really wanted the space back (our place just ain't that big!). We went to the Marilyn Manson concert one evening and the dress I wore was black... big mistake. I was picking stray clumps of mountain goat hair off myself all night!

My husband was nice enough to capture some video of the process! If you would like to see exactly what I am doing, check out these clips we put on Youtube:

I finally collected everything I could from the pelt by Wednesday... my shoulders are pretty sore, and I have nice callouses on my fingers that are making knitting a little awkward! But I now have FORTY SEVEN sweet, sweet ounces of fibre ready to tackle in a big blue bag in my closet. 

Funnily enough, that bag is almost bigger than the original box I had the goat pelt in...

I'm not sure what I am going to do with the remaining leather and fibre, but I will keep it around for a bit until I come up with a good idea. Spinning wheel bag perhaps...?

My Next Step - I will have to finished picking out the remaining guard hairs from the fibre and sort it into 4 ounce allotments for spinning. Then I would like to learn how to spin semi-woolen.  I have some good quality cotton in my stash that I bought just for that purpose. I think I will make that my March Skill Study... so look forward to some more pics soon!

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