Working along on The Project, I've spent some time (again) recently with Karakul, the breed from which I learned so much many years ago. Some time in the 1970s, I ordered three Karakul fleeces at once: one white, one gray, and one black. If I recall correctly, they were my first whole fleeces. In washing and spinning them, I discovered how much the wool within a breed may vary not only in color but in length and texture and amount of grease and ease of processing.
Those fleeces became a rug that I wove and bartered for some training. I still remember the rug vividly, as well as the pleasant lessons those fleeces taught me.
In addition, some of the most memorably wonderful pieces I had the honor of presenting in Spin-Off during the years when I edited the magazine were Ellen Champion's Karakul rugs (Winter 1989 issue).
So I always approach Karakul with an anticipation of delight . . . and the expectation that I will learn something. Probably a lot. And that it will surprise me.
That's happened this week, as I've explored four different-colored lamb fleeces from Durakai Sheep and Fibre Arts, grown by sheep bred and raised by Marie and Ron Schmidt. I find myself facing an odd question, however: whether this wool is really too pretty just as wool to be spun. That question is almost inconceivable for me. I adore the transformation from fiber to yarn.
Yet when I see this:
I can't help but think of how the texture and the colors will be blended and muted by spinning. They're quite perfect just as they are.
Here's a sample from another lamb, along with the tiny skein I spun—which is, indeed, lovely. But is it lovelier than the fiber?
Both samples display the enchanting lamb-tips on the fibers, although they're a bit more obvious in the second photo: subsequent shearings won't have those characteristic, sweet, delicate curls.
While I have dutifully spun my samples for The Project, and I do like the results as yarns, I have made the skeins no larger than necessary because I'm so tempted to see what I can do to highlight the locks in their original forms, perhaps by spinning some adult Karakul into an even yarn and then weaving something where I'd lay narrow sections of the lamb locks into some of the sheds in a way that would display both the colors and the textures while holding them securely in place and protecting them from degradation. It would require thought and a bit of technical experimentation to get the effect I envision. And what might it become? A small rug? Sturdy tote for knitting? Book bag? Pillow for the couch? Jacket?
One thing about The Project: I keep getting ideas for ways I'd like to take each snippet of work I'm doing into new, deeper directions. Right now, I have to keep moving: on to the next sample, then to the next breed.
But I'd certainly like to come back to these charmers and explore the possibilities of highlighting their just-off-the-lamb form, which is exquisite.