flat s lends a flat hand during shearing season

When we put Flat S in her envelope last March, we had no idea what adventures were in store for her. Since she left home, she’s walked the Greenwich Meridian in the UK, gone bike riding in sunny California, visited the 3500-year-old grave of a king in Sweden, and gone surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. We never imagined she would have all these (and so many more) wonderful experiences!




Well, we’ve just heard from Flat S again, and her surprising exploits continue. She has been spending time with our wonderful discussion forums moderator and super-prolific seamstress Nicole Keller and her family on their farm in Australia. And since her visit overlapped with sheep shearing season, Flat S pitched in to lend a hand. Here’s a report on the happenings from Nicole.

When Flat S arrived at our farm in South Australia, she brought the sunshine with her which was very handy as we were about to start shearing. And no-one wants to shear wet sheep.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

As we have two properties on either side of the town, we often have to move stock back and forth. This is called droving. The animals (in our case sheep) are gently walked along the road. Signs are put out to warn other drivers of livestock on the road. This we can do with horses, a ute, or in our case a four wheel motor bike and one of our kelpies (dog), Ruby. Tilly was very jealous of Flat S as she is never allowed to ride on the bike off the farm.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

The sheep are quite happy and graze as they move along. Often the older ewes (female sheep) remember the way and take little persuasion to walk.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

Once the sheep arrive at the main farm, they rest for a day in a paddock. Then they are “penned up.” This means placing the sheep in a large shed (like a barn) to keep them out of the rain.

Its very unpleasant to shear wet sheep. The poor shearers can become quite ill with dizzy spells and headaches from the humidity and ammonia odor the wet sheep give off. Wet wool cannot be pressed (packed) either.

The floor of the shed is slatted so that all the sheep waste falls through. Cleaning out under the shearing shed is a rotten job that is never sought after. The shed is divided into various sized pens. Only so many sheep are placed in each pen to avoid overcrowding.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

The pen nearest the shearing board (where the shearers stand to shear) has a little door that each shearer uses to enter the pen and catch his next sheep.

The shearer catches a sheep and gently flips it over onto its rump and drags it out to the board.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

Often shearers will use a sling (back aid) that is suspended by springs (not unlike the baby Jolly Jumper) to support himself and help protect his back. The shearer will then start to clip the wool using mechanical shears. This motion is called a “blow.” The wool is clipped from the sheep neatly and cleanly. It doesn’t hurt and a good shearer will rarely cut the skin.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

The shearer turns the sheep and continues to clip the wool with long blows, in a gliding motion. The fleece pretty well stays in one piece.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

When the shearer has finished the sheep, the roustabout folds the fleece up and picks it up. The fleece is then thrown on the skirting table, and then the roustabout will get a broom and sweep up any stray wool before the shearer gets back with the next sheep.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

Our shed is a three stand shed, meaning we have three shearing plants that operate the clippers. The roustabout has to keep up with all of them. It’s hard work as Flat S found out. “Broom, Flat S!”

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

The fleece is then “skirted.” This is when the ratty edges are removed. The wool is then “classed” and sorted accordingly.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

The fleece is classed (or graded) by its color, the length of staple (the length of the wool from the skin), its softness, and its cleanliness. Its stored in different wool bins accordingly, until it is ready to be pressed into bales.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

When the bin is full the wool is placed in a bale inside a hydraulic press. The wool press can compress up to 200 kg of fleece into a bale.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

Once a bale is full, it is labeled with its contents and the farm’s brand.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

The bales are loaded by tractor…

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

… onto the truck to be transported to the wool broker. There the wool is tested prior to sale.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

It’s not all work for Flat S, though. There was time for a quick game of backyard cricket with the Fab Five. Howzat?

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

After a busy day in the shed, Flat S was well and truly ready for sleep. Liddy and Tilly were happy to share their bed.

Flat S helps with sheep shearing

Quiet now girls. It’s another big day tomorrow.

I hope you enjoyed your stay Flat S and have a nice holiday in your next location after all your hard work!

As always, we can’t wait to see where she goes next. Thanks Nicole!




  1. Nicole, this was fantastic! Thank you for the interesting lesson. I can’t wait to show A, as she asks about Tilly’s sheep regularly.

  2. Linda Armenti

    That was so interesting, I loved learning about the sheep.

  3. Looks like Flat S had a great time with the Kellers! It’s fascinating hearing about the process of shearing the sheep and what happens to the fleece afterwards. I love that picture of Jed and Flat S on the four wheeler.;)

  4. Sarah

    Nicole, what a fantastic post! I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about your farm. I am so impressed by it all.

  5. Sarvi

    This was SOOOO AWESOME! Everything I’d hoped for from a farm visit! The farm is even more amazing and interesting than I’d imagined. What fantastic photos.

  6. Nicole, this is amazing, so educational. All that is on the truck was done in just one day? What a completely different life you live on the other side of the earth from me, yet we are brought together by sewing 🙂 Being surrounded by all that wool, do you or any of your girls knit?

  7. KarenK

    Completely love this. Fascinating and adorable. Nice work, Flat S!

  8. Thank you everyone.

    Rachel, there are 3-4 bales per hundred sheep. We shear 400-500 sheep a day.
    I don’t knit, but I wish I did and I to want to learn.

    I had hoped she would be here for harvest but it has been a bit late this year.

  9. Completely fascinating Nicole! So that is how it is done, I always wondered.

  10. Tamara

    Could not have explained it better myself! Fantastic Nicole!

  11. Wow, Nicole, that’s a LOT of wool! Once again, I envy Flat S and her adventures. Thanks for showing her around!

  12. Fab post Nicole! I do tend to forget that you do live on a real farm!

  13. Masha

    Great post! I laughed a little at the Jolly Jumper comparison 🙂 I do knit and I would love to get my hands on some of that lovely wool!

  14. Thank you for showing us around, Nicole! I loved learning about the shearing process.

  15. It’s so interesting to learn about all these ways of life on other sides of the earth! The knitter I me is always excited by wool. 😉 How many people in Australia live a farm life? And where does the wool go next? What a broad following Oliver and S has!

  16. Susanne

    Thank you so much for the fantastic tour, Nicole! What might seem “everyday” to you is a fun adventure for the rest of us!

  17. This makes me so happy! I couldn’t wait for her to get to you, Nicole, because I knew the post would be amazing. The kids loved learning about shearing sheep.

  18. greta clark

    Wow, what an amazing post! I love hearing about your farm and seeing pictures. I often think that since sheep are such a popular animal on children’s fabric now, you should get your kids to draw some and make fabrics at spoonflower.com. That would be great.

  19. Thank you!
    I hope it was not too long.
    What an awesome idea Greta, thank you.

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