What is on my wheel?

Spinning has taken a bit of a back seat since I got my hands on the fleece. Something had to give right?

I started some BFL from C*Eye*ber fiber the weekend before last. I had originally intended to do my typical 3 ply sock weight yarn, but once drafted, it asked to be a 2 ply laceweight. I love the richness in color on this one!

I’ll get a chance to work on this tonight, and hopefully finish it up this weekend!

Handspun project of 2011

I try to manage a large handspun project once a year. In July 2008, I completed the handspun, hand dyed lite lopi sweater. 2009 brought me my handspun february lady sweater. Sadly, 2010 brought a couple of smaller shawl projects, and nothing at all epic. You could say that I was already preparing for my 2011 epic handspun project.

Last year we attended the Iowa Sheep and Wool festival. While there, I purchased 8 oz. of Alpaca/Cormo/Silk and 8 oz. of camel top. I spun them 2 ply. The alpaca/cormo/silk was absolutely a bear to spin. What those pretty white balls of top held were only slightly processed blends that had a ton of vegetable matter and even entire bug carcasses. It was a slubby, dirty, awful, messy experience. But I still got good yarn. The camel was a different story. Lofty, light, perfectly clean, heavenly soft, and also gave me a ton of good yarn.  In December 2010, I began the Lilia Hyrna shawl out of “A Knitters Book of Wool.” The idea was to use the yarn undyed for this purpose. I knit on it in spare time between other projects, then at some point after Month O’Socks, I brought it to work and kept it there, working on it on my lunch break. After finishing the second chart and the set up rows for the final chart last week, I decided to bring it home over the weekend and give finishing it up a go. I worked on it Friday night. Saturday was busy and I had no time to work on it, so Sunday began a marathon of finishing. It took all day to do 6 rows and a crochet bind off. By the time I went to bed, the shawl was blocking on the floor and I knew I was going to be wearing a new shawl soon!

This shawl is far larger than I anticipated it being. The crochet bind off was a new experience for me. I love the natural, undyed fibers used on this shawl, it gives it a rich tone while still looking handspun and warm. I still have a ton of leftover wool, and have some dangerous projects in mind for it. But they’ll have to wait for the hottest days of summer.


Fleecey Adventures Step 2

Since I now have a full bag of washed fleece, 2 pounds and an ounce of it, it is time for step 2.

The next step is pre carding. Or flick carding. I don’t have a flick brush and don’t care to go get a dog brush, so I read a bunch on pre carding so I could just use my hand cards for this step. The purpose of this step is to get rid of any leftover vegetable matter, dirt, and second cuts before hand carding and making rolags for spinning. I spent all Saturday morning on this step, and it doesn’t look like I got very far at all.

First, I find a lock of wool.

The lighter part is the tip and the darker part is the base of the lock. I then hold the base firmly, and put the tip in one hand card, brushing the tip.

The tips are a bit bleached, and have a little bit of yuck in them. Once I pull it through the comb, it opens right up, and the dirt falls out and is left in the comb.

Then I have to turn around and do the base of the lock, so I gather those tips back, and put the base on the comb.

Once I pull it through, I’ve got a lovely bit of combed fiber, clean, with all the fibers aligned properly.

I add this to a different bag. Remember when I said I worked all morning on this and it looks like I got nowhere? The second bag shows that I really did work at it.

Bug was also very interested in being part of this process. While I am not ready to let her flick the locks, She was active in switching out my combs and removing the dirt, debris, and junk fiber from them. She was also very interested in keeping all the junk fiber to pad her dollhouses in wonderful softness. There is fiber literally everywhere right now!

I stopped this process after dye day was over, as my shoulder had gotten quite sore from the use of new muscles. I might try to dedicate a night a week to this process now, in order to know that it will eventually get finished. I’ll just have to find a way to contain the junk it produces rather than ruining my furniture!

Dye day

My friend Orangekathy recently did me a huge favor by watching Bug while Nick was out here on his visit. In return, she wanted me to host a dye day at my house. We were able to get that done this weekend. O’Kathy had 11 skeins of yarn to dye, and I had some fiber. We started early, and really O’Kathy did most of the dyeing. We took everything out to the porch once we were done so we could take pictures even though it was terribly cold.

OrangeKathy lived up to her name. I lived up to her name too. In the end, I fell in love with one of her yarns, and offered to spin some merino that I dyed in return for a skein.

My wool:

The yarn I took:

I just loved the way this moved from blue to purple to pink!

All in all, a sucessful dye day. I have a total of 2 pounds of undyed fiber, so I am going to need my own dye day, but what I really wanted to work on yesterday was my fleece. I’ve got pictures of that for tomorrow!

Fleece, day 1

We had such a busy evening yesterday. There was the pancake man fundraiser at Bug’s school, and math night. And Bug needed to be bathed before I turned up the hot water heater. Yet I couldn’t resist starting to wash my new fleece. I did take pictures, though all of them on my phone, so the quality isn’t fantastic. My excuse for this is that the quality wouldn’t have been fantastic anyhow, since the weather is absolute crap and I can’t take pictures outside.

During Bug’s bath, I turned the hot water heater to high. I put half the fleece into lingerie bags, and took them to the basement. I had anticipated that I’d be washing this fleece in the washing machine. Turns out….my hot water cycle isn’t all that hot by the time the machine fills up. I ended up wasting a full drum of water and 1/3 cup of dawn dish detergent.

So, I got Bug out of the bath and started on her bedtime routine, while filling the tub with truly hot water for the wool’s initial soak. Once the tub was full and the water shut off, I added 1/3 cup concentrated dawn original scent dish detergent. You know the one, the one that cleans oil from animals at oil spills, and the one you use to make bubbles for kids. I stirred in the dawn with a wooden spoon, since the water was way too hot to touch. Apparently the idea is to avoid bubbles, and I managed that. Then I put the wool down on top of the water, no need to smoosh it in, it sank quickly. I set my timer for 15 minutes and walked away.

Once the timer went off, Bug started to get involved. We went back in the bathroom and took a look at what we had. This is what we saw:

Pretty gross huh? It actually is less gross than I expected. The fleece was amazingly clean to start with.  I had been worried about the smell of the processes. Having a lamb fleece made it far less smelly I believe. Once the wool hit the water, it did begin to smell barnyardy, but not in an overly pungent and bad way.

Bug helped me hold up the bags of wool to drain, then we put them in a bucket. I snapped another shot of the dirty water:

This was really amazing to me, the water was so full of lanolin that any contact I had with the water, which was minimal, made my hands instantly soft. It seemed that the dirt and dust really settled on the bottom of the tub.

Once the tub was cleaned out, we went for soak #2, same process. After a 15 minute bath, the water looked like this:

That is an amazing improvement on just the very first wash. We repeated the process for a third time in order to get really clean water. Then I repeated the process once more to rinse the wool. No soap was added to that bath, instead we added vinegar. I did not get pictures of this.

Then I ran into a little problem. The problem was me not thinking, rather than an actual problem. My original plan had been to make a “Hammock” out of a sheet on the porch, and allow the wool to dry out there. That got canceled on account of rain. I then planned to hang the wool in its bags in the bathroom until it drained well. The problem with this was that I had not anticipated on the wool holding quite that much water, and instead of draining into the tub, most of it was draining onto the bathroom floor. The bags were too hot to squeeze out, and I was afraid of felting them anyhow.

Then I remembered that I could use the spin cycle on the washer. I lugged the bags of wool in a bucket into the basement, threw them into the washer, and spun them out. Worked like a charm!  I then brought them back up, put a flannel sheet on the living room floor, and spread out the wool to dry.

I had been so concerned about felting during this process. I about panicked over the wool when it came out of the bags, as it was all smooshed together and had such a different quality without the lanolin. But….once I started moving it about, I realized that it had held up perfectly to my careful washes and soaks, and it felt just amazing. This morning I turned it, and hopefully I’ll have dry wool soon! Bug came downstairs this morning, got her hands right in it, and decided it felt like wool. As opposed to the stuff with lanolin, which she really didn’t like.

Tonight I have to wash the second half of the fleece. The hot water heater is still on high so now is a perfect time. I think after the first and dirtiest soak, I will try spinning it out in the washer. Hopefully this will help remove all the lanolin laced water from the wool, and I’ll only need one additional soak before I rinse.

Tomorrow is a big dye day, and I should have lots of pictures from that as well. This is going to be a very fun and fiber filled weekend!

Once in awhile…

I get an idea in my head and I can’t let it go.  That happened on Sunday, after my long draw spinning practice. I had no more rolags to practice with, and I discovered that rolags are hard to find and rather expensive. I completely understand why and I think they should be. They are very time intensive. I have a pair of hand cards, so I could have used my own wool to create rolags, but it seemed too silly to me. Using commercially processed wool to create something hand processed is like….going backwards.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. I realized what I really wanted. I mean, what I really really REALLY wanted, was my own fleece to process and handcard. I mean…I REALLY wanted that fleece and I wanted it RIGHT NOW.

This is after 3.5 yrs of spinning and saying “I will never be interested in the dirty and time intensive hard work of processing my own fleece.”

Never say never.

By Monday morning I couldn’t stop thinking about a fleece. I started seeking out a fleece I could call my own. But somehow, purchasing a fleece sight unseen for someone like me who doesn’t actually know what she is looking for seemed like a gamble. I was also wary of the price of shipping. It is all fine and good to pay a decent amount for a fleece, but with shipping it seemed that the price could double.

I then resigned myself to talking about wanting a fleece. I asked my friend Sarah if she remembered seeing any at the IA Sheep and Wool Festival last year. She said she had. I decided I could surely wait ’till June to have a fleece of my very own. And then Sarah came up with a brilliant plan. “Why don’t you ask Carin for one of her fleece? She has 3, don’t you remember?”  Oh BRILLIANT! I knew Carin had 2 she was going to send out for processing, so I emailed her to ask if she was willing to part with one. Carin, having a large stash of many types of fibery goodness, can usually be convinced to part with things, she is like a local yarn shop all to ourselves. But she works nights, and I had to wait ALL DAY LONG for a response! It was painful. Really painful.

So I occupied myself with researching how to wash a fleece. I spent my time reading about it, and watching videos, and then I decided I could go purchase my supplies. That is right, I purchased supplies even before I knew I would have a fleece. (Of course, purchasing dish detergent and lingerie bags wasn’t cutting into the budget all that much.)

I then got a message from Carin saying she’d bring both fleece and I could look them over. This gave me another task to fill my time and obsess over. Finding last years video cast where she showed off the fleece from Estes Park CO. I found it, watched it, sent the link to Nick, made him watch it, obsessed some more…it was intense! Had my heart set on Opal, the black CVM/Romeldale. I thought Sepia was nice too, such a rich kind of brown color, but I wanted that black fleece!

On Wednesday evening, I waited and waited for Carin to show up at knit night. Such anticipation! And she chose that day to oversleep! Thankfully, she came bearing fleece, and I was able to get an up close look at them.  Also, thankfully, I have friends who can really talk me down from a crazy idea. Carin patiently explained that the brown fleece was from a lamb, weighing only 3 pounds. And that her fleece, Millie, that she had started processing the year before was also from a lamb and only 3 pounds and she was still processing it. And thus, starting with the small fleece would be the way to go. And if I liked it, she could just get me another black fleece in Estes Park. Very smart woman that Carin, and enabler but not without logic!

So I introduce to you the fleece from Sepia of Black Pines Sheep. This is Romeldale CVM. Such a pretty pretty color! This was a coated fleece, so it shouldn’t be too terribly tough to process. At 3 pounds I should have enough for a sweater AND for a bunch of long draw spinning practice. And it truly IS significantly cheaper to process your own wool. I am amazed!


(Carin accused me of being a badger once I had an idea in my head. She is entirely correct.)

Cotton Comparisons Part 1

As I mentioned, I’ll be doing a dyeabolical cotton slub comparison in the upcoming weeks. Meanwhile, I’ll still have to work on the sweater commission which has already been started. I plan to devote 2 nights a week to the commission, and call it a wrap. Other than that, I’ll be working on the cotton project.

While I had mentioned that I would be finishing up my grover cardigan over the weekend rather than starting on a new project, I couldn’t help but ball up some of the yarn. In my defense, Saturday was far too hot to work on a fuzzy sweater. Doing so made me look like I was turning into grover myself. I mostly spun, but balling up the yarn and then starting on Bug’s cotton top seemed wise.

I’ve done pictures of the balled up yarn so you can see the differences. The purple does seem far thinner than the dk weight cotton slub.  I would also say that the red seems slubbier overall. I’ll have to see what I think once I start knitting with it.

I couldn’t start the Amiga over the weekend because I had not printed out the pattern. So instead I started on Bug’s top, which is the Child’s Ruched Tee from Interweave Knits Spring 2011 issue. To be perfectly honest, I am not positive I have enough yarn to complete this top, but I think my sassymetrical is too long, and I am willing to shorten it in order to finish Bug’s tee.

I’ve actually managed to knit another ruched repeat since this picture was taken. Thus far, I find that I love knitting with the unavailable cotton slub just as much as I loved it last year. This is not a surprise. It just makes me sad.