We observed four types of sheep at the farm. The first was the Leicester Longwool. The largest species among the ones we saw, the Leicester Longwool needs to be sheared twice a year as a result of selective breeding. Next is the Jacob Sheep. These have multicolored wool, and can have between two and six horns, though the trait for having more than two has become rare. The third sheep is the Icelandic Sheep. The two we saw were young, and therefore were quite small. They are usually left to roam free, and are intelligent enough to seek out nutritional balance in their diets. Last are the Soay Sheep. These are the most primitive variety of sheep, having been isolated for longer than other breeds. They are capable of shedding their wool.
Dyeing was the area where we were able to take the most quantitative data.
For the red dye, we used 50g of madder root that had been ground into a powder that smelled like tea. We left it heating for an hour. We then poured the dye into a strainer to catch any large pieces. Finally, we placed the wool into the strained dye, and left it there for an additional hour. The wool came out looking more orange than red. We theorized that changing the amount of madder root used, the temperature it was boiled at, or the length of time might result in a more prominent red.
For the yellow dye, we took 100g of weld (which we did not grind up), and left that heating for an hour. As it was heating, the weld began to smell like overcooked vegetables. We once again poured the dye into the strainer, which caught the large pieces of plant matter, and then left wool in there for an additional hour.
The woad dye was already prepared for us, as it is made through fermentation. We put the wool in only for five seconds or so before pulling it out and hanging it on a rack. In the vat the dye looked yellow-green, but once it oxidized on the wool it had a blue tint. We left the wool on the rack for fifteen minutes, before putting it back in the dye for five more seconds. We repeated this twice more. Each time, the blue color became more pronounced.
It was difficult to get quantitative data on spinning, since we continued with it throughout the rest of the lab. However, we got to try out three different types of wool. The Leicester Longwool was the easiest to spin, as it had long fibers that made it harder to break while drafting. The Soay wool was the most difficult to spin, as the fibers were short. It made sense that the more selectively bred variety would have wool more suited to spinning.
Our group tried carding next. We had limited time, which made it difficult to record how long it took to card. We found that the most difficult part of the process was flicking the wool from one brush to the other, which meant the wool we carded was much lower in quality compared to the wool we were given to spin with. We also found that the trend we noticed with spinning held true here. The Leicester Longwool was much easier to card than the Soay wool, which got stuck in the brushes.
Lastly, we tried weaving. It took about a minute to get a single thread on the frame loom, which made it a tedious process, though I imagine with practice we would become much better. We experimented with creating an arch as we passed the shuttle through in an attempt to avoid the hourglass shape that comes with the weft pulling on the warp. While we were not entirely successful, we saw how this would be an effective strategy with more practice.