Tour de Fleece 2017 recap

For those of you who don’t know, Tour de Fleece is the spinner’s version of Tour de France.  Every year, spinners worldwide pull out wheels and spindles and as the fellows crank their cycles over mountain and flat, the spinners turn pounds of fiber into yarn.  Their goals vary, and are very dependent upon the individual.  For some, simply spinning a few minutes every day of the Tour is a challenge.  For others, it may be to spin a particular fiber, or a particular yarn.  For others, it may be a matter of getting through as much fiber as humanly possible.

Regardless of the goals, it’s fascinating to watch what folks accomplish each day, to hear the dugout chatter calling to the other players, and to see the sense of camaraderie which develops during the ride.

It is always a joy—and quite frankly, a blast.

For my part, things were rather chaotic and I was juggling spinning around work and travel prep.  I’m finally landed in one place long enough that I can update the blog to show what I’ve done, but it honestly isn’t a lot.


I’m slowly working my way through a Bond fleece from Gleason’s flock.  The two bobbins in the basket are numbers 3 and 4, and the bobbin on the Rose is bobbin #5.  I’m guessing there are enough combed nests left in the basket to fill that fifth bobbin plus a good part of one more, so I should end up with 6, or thereabouts.

However, it will all have to wait until I get back from being on the road—and then we’ll see if I can knock it out sooner rather than later and get it plied.


Spinning and Knitting 2016 to now

While I wasn’t writing, I didn’t exactly have much time for spinning or knitting either, so I don’t have much to show.  And, truthfully, I don’t remember much of what I did do, but there was a little accomplished along the way.  If it weren’t for Flickr and being able to dump a photo there as I went, I’d genuinely be lost.  But, here’s a little photo bombing of what’s been finished since the end of 2015 . . .


115.  59/50 Merino/Silk. 837 yards. 223g (7.8oz). 12wpi, 2-ply.  The color in the photo is simply not right; it’s actually a dark turquoise rather than blue.


116.  Really really bad commercial prep (top) of what was supposedly a Spanish Merino. 1239 yards, 700g, 3-ply (aside from one small skein of leftover chain ply, 170 yds), 11wpi. Color is a dark chocolate with a slight green overdyed cast.  It’s fairly coarse so will be turned


117.  This beautiful little Corriedale lamb fleece (“Clarence”) from Observatory Hill . . .


became this box of fluff:


which became this series of singles:


which became this finished 4-ply sport-weight (12wpi) yarn:


There are 2329 yards of the 4-ply, plus the small skein at the top of the photo.  The leftover skein is a 2-ply (ca. 425 yards and 67g).  Total yarn weight is right at 869 grams.

118.  “3 Feet of Sheep” in jewel tones BFL (from the Woolery) became this 18wpi chain-ply gradient, 7.75 oz, 433 yds:


119. “Calla Lily” from Painted tiger in Falkland. Chain plied. 3.8 oz. 386 yds. 16 wpi.




This little cowl used the Buckhorn pattern and some alpaca/silk (I think) fingering-weight yarn I’d picked up somewhere along the way. I have no idea what it was, but it was travel knitting when I had none of my own yarn on hand and needed something small and simple. The pattern is easy and makes for a nice little project.


“Night at Niagara” handspun turned into an error-filled Lionberry scarf:


“2015 Blues” handspun turned into a simply massive “As the Crow Flies” stole. The thing is huge: 267xx89cm (105×35”). I kept knitting thinking I’d get to the end of my yarn–and never did.


Plus a couple of mitts:

Plus some leftovers which may get turned into a random weave. Sheesh. You’d think I’d learn. Clearly not. On the other hand, the stole has been handy at the office and is big enough to bundle into when the room gets chilled.

A small skein of uneven Malagbrio Nube handspun turned into an Infinitude cowl:


The “Calla Lily” handspun above turned into this “Whimsy Cowl”:


And the chocolate brown Polwarth fleece handspun finally turned into this Mondo Cable Cardigan.  I never would have finished it without help from a couple of friends!



The snaps are light leather and add zero weight to the fabric. I learned a lot in this project. It’s the first sweater I’ve done for myself, and the first raglan, and the first top down. I’m struggling with getting a tight enough fabric and generally have to go down a couple of needle sizes; I’m knitting far too loosely. But, I’ll work on it. In the meantime, I have a sweater—and have started another.

And finally, the “Sacre Bleu” handspun turned into this “Eyeblink” shawl:




Castilleja hat:


and an extra hat:

The first three made a little set–
—which went to the neighbor.  She was pleased.

It may look like a lot, but most of it was easy knitting or spinning which–aside from the sweater–didn’t need much in terms of functioning grey cells.  Fortunately.  😉

Changes and transformations

I genuinely don’t know where to start. I’ve let the blog lie idle for a long time and, quite frankly, most of you haven’t needed to know what was going on at the moment. The year has been as I expected thus far—one of change and adjustment—with ups and downs and a few level places. I cannot yet say that things are good or that I am well. Don’t expect that any time soon. But I can say that things are “less worse,” as a friend put it. And there has been a lot happening.  So let’s see if I cannot get myself back into writing and give you an update at the same time. Grab your cuppa and put your feet up, because this promises to be a long one and a picture-heavy post.

First, the year’s Trøndertreff is done, and we were pleased. We had roughly 35 spinners from all over the country, with a collection of wheels, fibers, questions, and discoveries, and all bubbling with enthusiasm.

Even the new folks who were intimidated about the idea of participating in an event where they knew no one else discovered that fiber and spinning creates common ground—and that we are a pretty harmless bunch, barring the presence of sharp and pointy objects such as knitting needles and wool combs. mg-1

And seriously, how can anyone not smile when they’re in the company of other fiberholics and given the chance to play with fresh fiber?

These photos are from last year, but the images—and many of the faces—are the same from this year. If you feel as if you’ve seen the images before, you may have: I used them in the “Nød lærer nakne kvinner å spinne” (“Necessity teaches naked women to spin”) article for the “Worsted” issue of Ply (Winter 2014). (A reluctant aside: the revised title and large grammatical error around para 4 are not mine; they are an editorial glitch which has hopefully been resolved for future publications.) 

With the completion of this year’s gathering, however, we can say that a whole new crop of Norwegian spinners have been introduced to all sorts of different ideas and techniques, the comradery that comes with sharing one’s passion, and have had breed introductions to Merino, Suffolk, Blue-faced Leicester, Norsk Pelssau, Gammelnorsk Spælsau, Shetland, Polwarth, and Romney for their spinner’s notebooks. That’s not a bad line-up, is it? And I have next year’s breeds already coordinated with some absolutely gorgeous samples. Folks will just have to come next year to see what they are. 🙂

In short, it was an exhausting but very good gathering, and we are very much looking forward to the 2016 gathering which will be held in the same location on 5-6 March 2016.  

One of the things that comes with loss is a sense of emptiness. Not just an internal one, but one connected with physical space. We connect people with locations; we expect to see them in their usual places, their accustomed corners, and that now-empty space can be just as difficult as anything else. Somehow, we have to find a way to minimize that effect, to keep a presence without seeing ghosts or feeling that we are surrounded by empty spaces. Somehow we have to find a way to own a space we had previously shared. It isn’t something anyone tells you, and the depth or severity of the need varies from individual to individual. Sometimes it is enough to change a single feature–a bowl where someone always put their keys when they came in the house, or the row of toiletries in the bathroom, or the chair they always sat in.

But sometimes, perhaps especially in smaller spaces, those little things aren’t enough. If you find yourself not wanting to leave the house because you struggle with the idea of going home, or if you find yourself not knowing where to sit because every space seems to have been “ours,” or if you quite simply cannot seem to find peace in the place you are, then you need to make a change.

You are the only one who can say how big those changes need to be, or which changes need to be made. They may be changes you had talked about or planned to make, or they may be impromptu flashes of inspiration and personal choice. They may be changes you wish the other person could be there to see, and you may find yourself feeling rather as if you’re doing something wrong by making the changes. Let me reassure you: you are not. This is a matter of survival. Specifically, this is a matter of your survival. You are the only one who can decide what you need, and you are also the only one who can remind yourself that you should not feel guilty about making those changes. Your life has changed. It’s perfectly ok that your surroundings change as well and, in fact, healthy.

That lesson took a little while to sink in, but I’ve learned it. But I’ve learned a few other things as well. For instance, did you know that user manuals for power tools are universally badly written? I am absolutely convinced they are written by folks who are communications challenged. Ikea instructions for assembly of a thousand-piece flat-pack piece of furniture are worlds better. I discovered that with the compressor-powered finishing gun where I had to bundle the entire thing together and go back to the hardware store and ask for instructions. I rediscovered it with this little gizmo:

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A miter saw. A simple little miter saw. And the only thing that kept me sane was the help of a dear friend who managed to puzzle it together. On a more positive note, I now know how to use an air finishing gun and a miter saw.

And a few other things.

I discovered a few interesting bits about compressed insulation/sealant—you know, the stuff that looks like exploding clouds and which you normally would use to seal the wall spaces around where you put windows or doors and which comes in a can? That stuff.  Did you know that it not only expands quickly—and by “quickly” I mean bloody fast–but that it expands exponentially fast when it’s affected by gravity? Such as when you use it to seal a crack over your head? And did you also know that it comes out with nail polish remover? And that no, neither the foam nor the nail polish remover (at least, not the five-year old version of Cutex “gentle” stuff I had) will leave you with a white spot in your hair so that you could enter a Dr. Strange or Lily Munster look-alike contest?

It’s amazing what one can learn.

Did you also know that it is possible to cheat when you install click paneling in a crooked room so that when you eventually get to the other side you aren’t looking at a full 10″ panel on one end of the room and a perfect scalene triangle on the other?

Or that there is a nifty little laser gismo you can use to measure distances so that you aren’t standing on a ladder in the middle of a room which is considerably longer than your own arm span, holding a metal retracting tape measure over your head and trying to keep the thing from flopping all over the place so you can get at least a moderately accurate measurement?

Or that the peculiar strip along one edge of the plastic you use when you add sheet insulation—you know, the heavy bluish plastic which is folded in half and rolled up on 4-foot long rolls and which you’ve struggled to find a way to connect the edges, including glue, tape, and staples—is actually a very strong adhesive tape? The kind with a peel-strip like a self-sealing envelope, so that you can just peel the strip off and then stick that piece of plastic to the end of the previous one?

See, one learns all sorts of amazing things.

The fact that one learns half of them after the fact is completely beside the point.

Trond would have laughed himself silly over some of these things.

The certified master carpenters who happen to be my neighbors and who were helping with some of these changes were polite enough not to laugh too much . . . at least, not in my presence. I’m fairly certain a couple of things—such as the discovery of new “helmetized” interpretations for that foam sealant—kept them in giggles and snickers in the privacy of their own four walls.

So, what exactly have I been learning this with?

Well, changes. Some changes we had talked about, some changes to make life easier, some changes to create peace. Changes to help shift from “ours” to “mine” without entirely eliminating the past. For instance, see the old combo oil/wood stove in the corner here?


The thing behind and under which the previous owner had never sealed the wall or floor so that there was a constant draft, provided a tunnel for the occasional mouse in winter, and which was hopelessly ineffective? It’s gone. It was ripped out, the wall and floor sealed and reworked, stone laid . . .

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and a new and very effective wood stove put in so that the house is no longer entirely dependent on electricity for heating. Isn’t it a clever little thing?

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(By the way, the raw doorframe to the right is where there was a door; the frame has now been sealed into a framed opening. Really, everyone should have carpenters for neighbors.)

And see the big and totally useless combo oil/wood stove in the back right corner here?


Also gone. The old oil supply line was removed, the brick was repaired . . .

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. . . new flooring was put in place, and bookshelves were relocated from another room. No more draft there, either.

I don’t have a photo of the crumbling cement fireplace which was on the other side of the wall where the wood stove is now, but that too was ripped out. That was a VERY good thing, because it gave them a chance to not only seal the floor and wall, but also to rehabilitate the bricking of the chimney.

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The wall was resealed . . .

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and new stone laid on the floor in the event a wood stove wanted to find a home there in the future. But in the meantime, see the ceiling? The old panels? The entire room . . .

2015-03-24 17.22.10

has now had the warped corners sealed (with that infamous compressed foam) and a new layer of insulation (and that infamous plastic!) and looks like this:

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It’s amazing what a difference a bit of insulation in a ceiling can make.

This room now looks like this:

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and has more light:

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and a cupboard for spindles, fiber, and knitting. (And no, no this is not where I keep the stash. That has its own room elsewhere.)

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The room with the new wood stove? It now looks like this:

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. . . and the wood stove has this perfect ash bucket and fireplace tools set.

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The changes are dramatic in some ways, not so much in others. Most dramatic is the difference in how it feels and how much warmer it is now that the drafts have been drastically reduced. And perhaps most importantly, the holes are smaller.

But I’ve learned a few other things as well.

Ok, perhaps that’s putting it a bit strongly. I’ve been reminded of a few other things.

One is that I can’t estimate volume worth beans. The other is that clearly my head is still not working as well as it should be or else I’d remember that I can’t estimate volume worth beans.

We had an old 14-foot fiberglass rowboat which, unsurprisingly enough, was no longer seaworthy. Heck, it was no longer bathtub-worthy, could you have found a tub for it to fit in. It didn’t have visible holes. Rather, it had decided to take the sneaky approach to falling apart and develop invisible cracks or lack of seals so that the water seeped into the spaces between the layers of the hull, effectively turning it into a massive paperweight. Do you know how well a paperweight floats when you toss it into the water? Typically not well at all. In this case, the boat would hide the fact that it was going down until you realized you were having to really work to make it go somewhere—and that the waterline seemed to have risen by several inches. Clever little beast.

Unlike a paperweight, throwing away a boat isn’t exactly child’s play. You’d have to hire someone to haul the thing off. So I opened the door to my Inner Redneck.

The boat? It’s now a planter.

A big planter.

A really big planter.

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But that’s where “rediscovery” comes back in play. Remember what I said about being totally sucky at estimating volume? Can you guess where this is going? How much dirt would you think that rowboat would hold?

Apparently, I thought it would hold three times as much.

I filled the boat. And filled the filled boat with perennials.  (Mostly.  There are a few annuals here just to fill spaces until the perennials fill in.)

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And these pots.

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All five of them.
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And these barrels.

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All four of them. (Don’t let the perspective fool you; these are full-sized barrels.)

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And this wheelbarrow I had intended to use to haul the dirt to fill the boat—until I discovered it had a flat tire and a crack in the bottom.

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Would you like to know how I filled that boat? And those pots? And the barrels? And the recalcitrant wheelbarrow?


Specifically, 5-gallon buckets. Lots and lots of 5-gallon buckets.

Please don’t ask me why I didn’t just go buy a new wheelbarrow. I didn’t think about it until after the fact. So, please don’t ask me how many buckets it took to fill that boat, or those pots, or the barrels. And the broken wheelbarrow. I couldn’t tell you. I lost track after the first hundred or so. Aren’t I clever?

But, I have flowers. And will have flowers next year. I like that idea.

FIBER has had some activity.

Remember the mystery finewool fleece which I ‘fessed up to messing up in this post? It now looks like this:


There are 2126 yards of a 4-ply, and a small 180-yard leftover skein of chain-ply yarn. It’s a light worsted weight at about 9wpi, and perfect for a sweater or vest.

And about 265 yards of this Polwarth/Camel from Longdraw James:


1050 yards of this superwash blend from Enchanted Knoll Farm (“Peace Rose”):


967 yards of this Vivid sock yarn blend:


The details for the yarns are on the Spinning Gallery 2015 page.

But then there was also this one . . . A couple pounds of this Polwarth from Wendy Dennis (the home of the Polwarth breed):


and another bit of this Romney from Ramstead Ranch:


were scour-dyed into this rather large pile of fluff:


which became this 1400-gram pile of batts in a 48/52 Romney/Polwarth blend:


which became this pile of singles:


which became this pile of yarn:


There are 3611 yards in a 4-ply at a fairly consistent 14wpi, and 500 yards in 2-ply leftovers at about 20wpi, 13tpi. (very top skein.) I had planned for a 4-ply and hoped I’d have enough for a sweater, but thought I was being overly optimistic and figured I’d probably just have enough for a vest.

Remember that Fail in estimating volume? Well, clearly it extends to estimating how much yarn I’ll end up with as well. I think I have enough for a sweater. A large sweater. A large swingy sweater.

And a hat.

And a scarf.

And possibly mitts.


So what’s on the wheels now? Well, right now Tour de France is running, which also means that Tour de Fleece is running. For those of you who don’t know, Tour de Fleece is when spinners all over the world run their wheels and spindles while the cyclists run their bikes. It’s three mad weeks of concentrated fiber work in efforts to challenge themselves, explore possibllities, learn techniques, try new fibers, reduce mountains of stash, or simply do a little spinning every day of the Tour.

I’ve not accomplished a lot, but I’ll have a couple of yarns to show for the time. On the Rose at the moment, however, is this:


They’re scoured locks from a lovely little Cotswold lamb of Pickwick Cotswolds by Rob Harvey Long. It’s going a little slowly, but those 700 grams are turning into a surprisingly fine single:


It will take time to finish, but I’m very very pleased with this fleece, and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the flock from which it came. Would you like to see? Of course you would.


There is a special joy that comes with meeting the sheep which grow the fleece you spin, and the shepherd who cares for them. These are just a few of the sheep in a flock about 90 strong.


And who . . .


along with their shepherd . . .


are producing fleece that looks like this:


and this:


and this:


(Note that the fleece is not yellow or brown; my camera simply didn’t like the shadowed white exterior and gleaming white interior.)

Are they not beautiful?


The king is dead, long live the king

That phrase has always bothered me a tiny bit.  It doesn’t allow for the interval between the ending of one and the beginning of the other, and that has always seemed sort of a sad thing.  There should be a pause between the changing of the guard, a chance to recognize that the old has passed away and the new is coming in.  In reality, however, I suspect that very little of life works that way.  And perhaps I’m just feeling it particularly now.

2014 has been a hellish year.  It has been full of illness, stress, chaos, and sorrow.  DH’s mother died in June, and he followed entirely unexpectedly and far far too young in November.  The November and December holidays have been wells of darkness, and I’m not looking forward to the coming couple of weeks.  But in just a few hours, the books on 2014 will officially be closed; the king will be dead.

And just after that, 2015 will start with a fresh page.  Long live the king.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not particularly looking forward to 2015.  I’m not expecting it to be a good year.  I’m expecting it to be a year of finding footing, regaining some semblance of balance, and figuring out a lot of things which weren’t even on the radar.  A year of adjusting to something which simply shouldn’t be.  A survival year.  Nothing more.  I suppose that sounds rather grim, but it is, if nothing else, realistic.  And I frankly think that if I can manage that, then I’ll have done well.

So, then, on this last day of 2014 and before 2015 rings that opening bell, perhaps it makes sense that there is little or no pause between the end of one and the start of the other.  It is, after all, just a continuation.

And in the light of all that, there is one final yarn to report and record.  It is 2014’s last, and adds 12 ounces to the total of handspun, bringing me up to 136 ounces (8.5 pounds). I didn’t even come close to the goal of 14 pounds, but given the year, that’s ok.

This is Enchanted Knoll Farm’s “Timekeeper” from May 2013. It’s a grief yarn, which means that you spin it during the absolute worst life has to offer–and it shows. It’s as inconsistent as can be in both grist and twist, short of being a true thick-thin. I saw at least one accidental eyelash when I was skeining it off, and there may even be one or two places where I began plying in the wrong direction. Otherwise, some areas are hard with enough twist to be brittle, others are barely held together, and some are actually rather normal.

This is a beautiful colorway and one of my favorite fibers (a sw Merino/Tencel blend), and the yarn doesn’t do it a fraction of the justice it deserves, or which I’d planned. But somehow it’s appropriate that it is the one which closes out the year. And this is one yarn which will not be gifted away. There are a total of 1574 yards between the two skeins, so there should be enough for something pretty and comforting.


Trond would have actually liked it.

Long live the king.

Do what I say . . .

. . . and not as I do!!

See this very badly photographed bundle of fiber?


Not the lovely nests on the left.  Look at the marbled roving on the right.  That.

It’s a mix of mystery fine-wools that came in last year.   There were about three partial fleeces, and they came in at a time when I was on the road and had neither the time nor the opportunity to do anything with them.  Nor did I have the room in my luggage to get them back home.  So, I did the unthinkable.  I gave them a cursory look, packed them up, and sent them out for someone else to worry about.

The fleeces had been requested—and sheared—about three years earlier, and I’d chalked it up to a learning experience; I never expected to see them.  Nor do I know what I received.  What was originally ordered didn’t entirely match what was in my hands.  I could make a couple of educated guesses, but in the end I genuinely have  no clue what I had received, other than that they were all medium-fine to fine wools.  The staple length was about the same for all of them, but the colors varied between a solid near black, a chocolate moorit, and a Jacob-like variation with a grey and white patch.

However, they were full of foxtail-type seeds.

Mom and I went through and pulled out a large bowl of the things, and I knew that as dense as the locks were, there were bound to be more buried in the fleece.  But there was going to be no way of really seeing the things without giving the fleeces a proper scouring—and that was something I couldn’t do at the time.

Together, the fleeces came out to be about 5 pounds, so I sent them all off to Morro to scour and do the initial carding but not take any further.

What I did not do was properly evaluate the fleeces, and I should have.  At least one of them must have had a degree of second cuts or weak tips—and given the weathering on the locks, I’m betting the latter.  But carding with the seeds that didn’t come out in the scouring didn’t help the fiber much, and there are a certain amount of neps in the roving. And, of course, there are still remnants of the seeds.  Don’t get me wrong:  Morro did a wonderful job given what they had.  I genuinely do not believe anyone could have done better.  The flaws in the roving are entirely mine.  You know the GIGO rule (garbage in, garbage out).  Well, it wasn’t garbage, but it wasn’t what I would have sent had I been thinking and had I had any time at all.

I span a bit of a sample to see how things would work out, but I discovered that the neps and remaining VM annoyed me slightly, and that I wasn’t entirely fond of the way the marbling was going to play in the final yarn.  So, I started combing it.  Not intensively, but one short round of rough combing—from stationary comb to swinging comb and back again—just to blend the color and allow me to pull out the remaining neps and bits of seed. This is not a brilliant photo—there’s only so much you can do at night without a light box and under halogen lights–but this is what I’m getting:


It’s a lovely dark moorit with a grey cast, and it spins just beautifully.

And the combing waste?  Those neps and odd bits?  They’re going to be stuffed into a pad for a pet bed along with some other processing waste bits and leftovers that I’ve been gathering, and a bit of a badly stained down fleece I never had the heart to mulch.  We’re getting into winter, our floors are cold, and I’m sure my brother-in-law’s guide dog would like something warm and insulating for his visits, especially given the fact that labs don’t tend to have much by way of coats of their own.

That works.

This won’t exactly have been a cheap experience, but I can’t say that I truly regret it.  Having Morro do the initial prep has saved me a lot of time and energy, and rough-combing the roving has been a pleasure.

So, what’s the moral of the story?  Well, first of all, there’s always time to evaluate a fleece.  Always.  Even if you have to put it on the shelf for another year before you do.  Wool has no expiration date.  Just check it enough to be sure it’s dry, that there’s nothing which will cause rot, infestation, mold, and so forth, and put it aside until you have enough functioning grey cells to deal with it.

Second, and perhaps equally important, there’s nothing which says you  have to settle for something with which you aren’t entirely happy.  Assuming the fiber is sound to begin with, there’s no reason you cannot take one prep and modify it into another, no reason you cannot change it, use it for an ingredient in something else, and so on. In this case, rough combing gave me exactly what I wanted.

It’ll make a wonderful sweater lot of a 4-ply.