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How to Skirt a Fleece - a Picture Tutorial

Following Geode's 2011 fleece from the time the bundle enters the skirting room to its completion:

Step 1: the fleece, in its bundle and identified by name and number, is brought to the skirting table - in this case, our dining room table.  In the summer, we skirt on a specially made table in the yard, but when it is this cold (in February) I skirt inside the warmth of the house.


Step 2: open the bundle and remove any contaminants that you can see, including second cuts (small bits of fleece created when the shearer shears a spot once above the skin and then comes back with the next pass, clipping closer to the skin).  Removing them now will save them from embedding into the cut side of the fleece when you flip the fleece out of the bundle.


The photos below show you the difference that just a few minutes of debris removal can make in the presentation of your fleece.  This is especially important with show fleeces where contamination and presentation are a big part of placement.



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Step 3: after removing as much contamination as you can, flip the fleece out of the bundle with the cut side down on the table or skirting surface.


Step 4: begin to spread the fleece into a single layer.  Be careful not to tear the fleece - it should have come off the sheep in one piece and should be kept that way throughout skirting.  Geode's fleece in the photo below was coated all year long - you can see how clean the fiber is in the center.  Leaving the dirtier portions of fiber on the fleece at this point can help you identify which end is which....  The head and neck will usually have the most hay contamination.  The britch will usually be the most stained from lying in the yard.  If you see marking crayon stains, you know that is the dock.  Arrange the fleece on your surface with the head and neck on one end (in this case, the left), the dock at the other end (here, on the right), and the sides of the belly on either side of your table.


Step 5: remove any wool that is too short (shorter than most of the body of the fleece), too dirty (tags, manure, heavily contaminated with hay, etc.), or much different than most of the fiber of the fleece.  The photo below is the same fleece as above, but with the dirtier fiber skirted off.  The goal is to provide a uniform product for yourself or your customers, so if it isn't "the same" and you can remove it without eliminating the bulk of your fleece, then do so.  When you are finished, you should have an impressively clean fleece before you!


Step 6: we put all removed fiber and debris into one of two bags - either "seconds" (left) or "scrap" (right). You can see the difference in the photo below - the scrap is trashed. It is unusable. The seconds are good, long fiber that has gotten dirty or stained.  There is a market for this type of fiber, if you are willing to look.


Step 7: time to fold and roll your fleece for presentation....  First, fold in one third of the fleece from one side.  Continue to remove any contaminants you may uncover as you handle the fleece.


Step 8: fold the other third from the other side over the first side, resulting in a narrow pile of fleece with the cut-side out.  Again, make sure you remove any second-cuts or conatminants that you uncover in your handling.


Step 9: take several samples from different parts of the fleece and photograph them for future reference.  After the photo, we use these same staples to test for fiber strength.  To do this, hold each end of the staple tightly and give it a snap between your fingers - you should "hear" a "twanging" noise.  Strong fiber will have this twang - this vibration - when tested, whereas weak fiber will usually break.  Make sure to test tips, so don't hold your fiber too far in.


Step 10: fold in the neck end of the roll so that the outer edges will be inside the roll.  Again, look for and remove those second-cuts!


Step 11: finish by rolling the strip up from the tail to the folded-over neck.  This should result in a bundle with all outer edges of fleece imbedded within the roll, and giving your fleece a lovely, clean presentation like Geode's, below.  Congratulations, you've skirted your fleece!