Today we’re shearing sheep, later than usual because of a busy couple of months here on the farm, but before the weather heats up. We have Leicester Longwools to shear, which means we’re going to have a ton of wool when we’re done.
When shearing, I use old-fashioned (i.e., non-electric) hand shears and common sense. The goal is to get the wool off, not make this complicated. When one hears of the techniques of shearing and the “six positions” of the sheep, realize that is merely a method for getting the wool off efficiently and in one piece. It’s not the NECESSARY way, just the ideal way for the long-term. If you get the wool off the sheep and keep from injuring the sheep, you’ve done all that needs to be done. So, take your time, enjoy the process and get your wool.
Here on the farm, we’re raising these old-fashioned sheep for our daughters who, as they grow up, are learning to knit and crochet with grandma (they have a knitting night every Monday) and we’re getting the sheep flock ready for them when they’re old enough to begin spinning wool and making their own clothes, blankets, shawls, socks, etc., from start to finish with some of the most beautiful wool there is. The longwool sheep were the ideal sheep when spinning and clothesmaking was done by hand because the wool is longer (up to 9″) and better for spinning. When spinning was mechanized in the 1900s, shorter wool worked better, and the longwools were abandoned for breeds with shorter wool. So, the sheep we keep are a rare breed that were brought to the US (it is said) by George Washington and which were popular in colonial times. In fact, if you go to Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll find that the sheep they keep there for historical purposes are the Leicester Longwools. (Our ram is from there.)
If you want to learn the “six-position” method for shearing, I recommend you watch this video published by the Penn State University Extension. The man teaching is using electric shears, but the movement and position of the sheep, along with the pattern for the shearing is the same with hand shears.