Shearing in Victoria seems to start in mid October and run through December. Some farms run open days where you can pick out the fleeces you want, others send out fleeces by the kilo in the post and others take orders prior to shearing.
I’ve had a special fleece on order for months and months. During the Spinning Certificate course, we were fortunate to sample many different kinds of sheep breeds and one fleece in particular really sang to me. It was a Finn x Corriedale fleece that really hit the sweetness note between softness and structure, lushness and durability.
That small sample became socks. Both the spinning and the knitting were a sublime experience and really wanted more time with this crossbreed. This week I was able to visit Fairfield Finns, near Bacchus Marsh and pick up my long awaited fleece.
Maureen Shepherd, the aptly named farmer of this flock had set aside two crossbreed fleeces for me and I picked the one that had the more open crimp, the more Finn-like qualities. Here, it is in all its glory on the wool table, a 3/4 Finn 1/4 Corriedale fleece. It is a wonderful fleece, not a hint of tenderness, springy and clean despite being uncoated. Maureen prepares all these fleeces beautifully, there is not a lock of lower quality nor a second cut to be seen. Every fleece is unrolled for your inspection.
I do think Fairfield Finns produce excellent fleeces. Their fleeces win many awards at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show and as Maureen is also a spinner, knitter and weaver, she knows what handspinners want in a fleece and these sheep are bred for softness, colour and handle.
This is Ben, the bottlefed sheep who came over to greet us on our way out. He is a real charmer, beguiling our group with whispers and kisses. I know the spinner who bought his lovely fleece, she got to meet him a week earlier, person to sheep. It is always a thrill to spin from someone you have met. I am not sure who my fleece came from, but I stood on the earth that raised it and that feels like a great gift.
I also bought the other half of that black fleece you can see in the bag there.
My plans for the white fleece are to wash it by the lock, comb it and spin the best darn 3 ply sportsweight I can, dye it naturally and then transform all that preparation into a cardigan with lots of twisted stitches and travelling stitches. And when you say it like that, it sounds like a doddle, belying the hundred or so hours that lie within such a project.
So thank you to all the farmers who look after their sheep and their land to keep bringing us an infinitely useful resource, that with our skills, time and the simplest of tools and processes, we can transform into warm, durable garments.
If you are local and you like the sound of Finnsheep, there are still fleeces available and an Open Day is planned for April.