What I Learned Watching Wool Judging at Black Sheep Gathering

We started our second day at Black Sheep Gathering with a trip to the Wool Show where Judith McKenzie was judging fleeces. It’s a real education and a pleasure to listen to her. Here are some helpful tips I picked up:
– Be sure to enter your fleece in the appropriate category if you want to have any chance of winning.
– You need to skirt and prepare your fleeces more carefully when submitting them to a show geared toward hand spinners than you would at other types of shows.
– Yellow yolk stain isn’t something to be afraid of, but you should wash the fleece promptly so that the bacteria doesn’t eat into your wool.
– Don’t try to increase the weight of your fleece by hiding old shoes or rocks in the center. The judges will not be amused. Also, please don’t include the severed ear of the sheep you were shearing. That’s a source of concern in more than one way.
– Shearers are few and far between. Shearers willing to shear Shetlands are even rarer. Shetland sheep are smart and feisty, and both sexes sport fierce horns, which they are willing to wield in defense of their fleeces.



Mom and I returned after judging to pick out a couple of fleeces to take home. She snagged a gray Corriedale-Romney cross. I managed to claim a black Corriedale (it may fade to a cinnamon color after washing). I was very pleased with my find as it was first place in its category.





  1. Q – Very nice! It is so totally amazing to see the fleeces final color after washing. Can’t wait to see yours.

    • At least it seems pretty clean overall. Well skirted. So that’s one less thing for me to learn to deal with.

  2. I tried ‘spinning in the grease’ for the first time this Sunday at a workshop and it was amazing how different it was! We worked with the same wool both washed, combed and carded and the raw fleece (and how much the color changed on my tiny sample when I got it home and washed it). I’m looking forward to seeing what your fleece turns into :).

    • I’m tempted to try a spinning in the grease a little bit with this fleece. It’s already so clean.

      • You might try 50 grams ‘as-is’ and see how you like it. I was really surprised at how much thinner the same fiber could be spun with the lanolin to keep the fibers bonded. When I washed the lanolin out the yarn suddenly went from thin, tight, yellowish and ‘greasy’ to a lovely light cream colour and with substantial loft but still a fine twist and quite stable (granted, I spun up all of 3 yards :)!

    • Yeah. I was surprised that people would be so concerned about weight. But then I look at it from a spinner’s perspective. I’m much more concerned with quality of the fleece than I am with overall mass.

  3. Congratulations on your first place fleece! I have cleaned fleece before. It’s not my fave activity for spinning. But it’s satisfying when you get the finished product for sure. I can’t wait to see how this spins up!

    • Thanks. I’m really looking forward to it. I had to send it home with my parents as they drove and we flew. I might not get to see it again for a month or two.

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