What I’ve Been Up To

So here’s the deal. Even though we aren’t moving until next month, moving is EXHAUSTING! I’ve got this huge list of stuff that has got to get done, and below that a list of things that I’d really like to get done.

Many of the things that are on the must do list are things that I cannot do right now, which causes me quite a bit of anxiety. To ease that, I do things on the list of wants.

First up, that Lizard Ridge blanket. As you well know, I want to get it done, though I am not sure I’ll be able to. I am close to running out of yarn, so I needed to spin more for the border.

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Done. I need to ply. This is all of the CVM Romeldale that I have flick carded. I am really hoping it’s enough to finish the blanket, but I am not sure. I do have more, but I’ll have to card and then spin, so it ends up being a lot more time intensive.

In order to ply, I want to get the current singles project off the wheel.

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That’s my Inglenook Smaug batt. I am fairly close to being done now, and hope to finish today so I can begin plying.

And finally, in the crafty wants list, I want to move to a new house with no unwashed fleece.

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I’ve got this corriedale fleece, it’s been around forever. I washed a bit of it awhile back but didn’t get any further than that. It’s boxed up somewhere and I haven’t looked at it since. I began washing it in small batches last evening.

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I’ll be honest, there was a moment last evening where I was ready to toss the entire thing. It’s not one of my better purchases, it’s not well skirted, and while it could be more full of veggie matter, it’s certainly tippy and I was not that impressed. But, before I tossed it, I decided to wait for one batch to dry.

I am glad I did. I flicked a lock this morning, and the result was very pretty.

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It’s a keeper!

I know this is spinning heavy, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to have a chance to post some knitting tomorrow.

Color Progression

Yeah, still not done with Color Affection shawl, don’t get your hopes up! May I just add that while I am technically on the last row, I just looked at my yarn and said “Surely I can do another repeat!” I truly must be a sucker for punishment.

No, the color progression I want to talk about has more to do with lovely little batts from a jacob fleece that are coming off my drum carder. Now that the drum carder is running very nicely, and because I made myself a lovely little work space for it, I sure have a hard time walking away from the thing. I started with the darkest of the jacob fleece and worked my way to the lightest sections. I am now on the all white sections and I’ve got about a grocery bag left of wool left to card. It always amazes me that wool that looks rather less than desirable in washed lock formation can produce such a beautiful batt. The whole realization that I don’t really need to flick card the lock before sending it through the drum carder has really cut down on the amount of time spent processing the wool too. Yeah, the resulting yarn will be less smooth. Yes, there is still a bit of dust and VM left in the batt, but I know from experience that yarn smooths out with finishing and VM falls out of a batt during spinning. As long as the wool is free of lanolin, it will be fine.

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I showed all my batt progress to my knitting friends yesterday, and I immediately heard “Oh, colorwork!” However, what I have in mind is a bit different. I’d like to make a color progression. Probably a 3 ply yarn once spun. Of course, there’s little need to do all the fleece in a color progression, but I’d like to have enough for some sort of a shawl perhaps. I suppose I’d technically have enough for an entire sweater if I wanted to do that.

Point being I suppose…that seeing all these different colored batts from one fleece all lined up and tidy just looks like possibility to me and then my mind won’t rest!

I guess I do have a bit of a finished object though, I did finish Bug’s cardigan. I reknit the sleeves and finished over the weekend. She was THRILLED when she saw it and couldn’t wait to wear it this morning. I didn’t even get to block the sleeves. So they’ll just have to do. (Please excuse the lopsided look of the sweater, I tried to capture it as soon as she got out of school, that may have been ill advised. )

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I’ve got a few goals this week. My goals are to finish the loop batt I am currently spinning, finish carding the jacob fleece, and finish the color affection shawl. So this week is to be a week of finishing in various ways. Hopefully that also means it is to be a decent blogging week too!

Like new but better

So, I bought that drum carder a couple years ago. And I used it to process my first fleece. It was effective. But, after a number of issues with the carder, I stopped using it. I just didn’t bother to pull it out at all, which felt like a bit waste. I had renewed hope in it when I learned that I could process my Jacob fleece without flick carding first, but because I was still having issues with the drum carder, I ended up ignoring that project too. And I got in the habit of deciding that hand carding was just as fast as drum carding, failing to pull out the drum carder at all.

Then I decided to ask Jeremy to look at it. You see, I hadn’t done enough research (Oh I cannot stress enough the need for massive amounts of research when taking on any new element of fiber processing!) and didn’t realize the proper amount of space between the drums. That was totally my bad, and for someone such a proponent of the proper research, I felt really stupid, realizing that I should be able to fit a credit card between the two drums. So, Jeremy looked at the carder, made a few adjustments, and we tried it out with my jacob fleece. Lo and behold, it worked like a charm. Rather than fighting the carding cloth, it rolled right along beautifully and I got results I wanted. So, on Saturday I sat down with it and started processing the jacob fleece in ernest. I have worked my way entirely through the darkest of the fleece, processed all that was slightly lighter than dark, and have managed one bat of lighter yet still grey fleece all from the jacob. It would be SUCH a load off my mind to have that fleece done! And I am excited that it has been started and is moving along so fast. I am also quite impressed with how fast and fluffy and beautiful the batts are!

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Thank you Jeremy for all that you do to cut down on my frustration level when it comes to my fiber processing tools!

Grey CVM Romeldale Experiments

So, this past fall I purchased a grey CVM Romeldale fleece. Coated and beautiful, it really is one of those fleeces that makes you love the fleece washing process. This fleece was the first one I washed in my basket to keep the integrity of the locks, and it is such a smashing success, I am sold completely on the basket for finer fleece. It takes a bit more time on the outset, sorting all the fleece and pulling it apart into separate locks, then setting it up in the basket and making sure it stays that way. On the other hand, it saves so much time and energy on the flip side!

When I first washed this fleece, I was slightly concerned about the yellowed tips. I stressed over them a bit, but then decided I’d be blending the fiber anyhow, and how much could it really show? Once I flick carded the locks, it seemed even more apparent that the yellowed tips weren’t a big deal.

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(Washed locks shown with flick carded locks)

I then decided to see what this fleece and a set of hand cards would produce. And it produced some lovely rolags of fluffy beautiful grey wool. No yellowing apparent at all. So much for worrying over the yellowed tips! As an aside, I used to think owning a drum carder would make my life so much easier and make processing fleece so much faster. I can tell you now that it doesn’t. It is a useful fiber tool, especially for blending and so on, but a pair of hand cards are just as effective and quick, or more so.

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Then I decided it would be fun (and wise) to sample some of the grey CVM, so I set about to make a cabled yarn sample. I’d like to make this into a cabled yarn, but I’ve never created a cabled yarn before and didn’t want to mess it all up. I used this knitty article as well as instructions from a good friend of mine to wrap my head around it all. I concentrated hard on getting a ton of twist in the 2 ply sections. And then I did send it back through for extra twist just to be sure. Upon finishing the yarn I realized I probably didn’t need to send it back through a second time in the 2 ply stage. Though it would be a very effective tool if I hadn’t concentrated so very hard on making the 2 ply overplied. Despite all this, I LOVE the look of the cabled yarn. And I think it will be very effective for this fleece, as it is somewhat variegated in color. I did spin the singles on my spindle, but did all the plying work on my wheel.

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Now, I’ve heard a lot lately about spinning the waste fiber from the flick carding process. It used to be that I’d just throw all that outside for the birds to enjoy in their nests, or add it to my soil for compost. However, lately I’ve been saving it for things like stuffing. You know, stuffing for owls I hate knitting. I’d basically been told that I could spin the waste fiber, but to expect my resulting yarn to be a different quality than what I’d have when I spun the best parts of the fleece. I decided to see just how bad a quality I’d get! I spun a sample of waste yarn on my spindle. It is interesting because it seems that the lightest and darkest parts of the fleece are what comes out of the locks when I flick card. This sample is not plied very well at all. I think it was getting late and I’d done a ton of work in the evening and I did it as a plying bracelet which seems to make my plying a bit off in the first place. However, I think I can get an idea of what the yarn would look like if I spun up all my waste. That being said, I don’t think it is all that wonderful and feel pretty certain it is ok to leave the waste for stuffing.

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And now for variation on the theme. I’ve got this small, unscheduled fiber club going on right now. I mean, my fleece obsessions won’t be ending any time soon, and the only way I can deal with the amount of fiber in my house is for some of it to flow back out. I have found that there are plenty of spinners who want to experiment with natural fibers but don’t particularly care to purchase an entire fleece, nor do they care to do the washing of it. So, Shells Fiber Club (Which is not much of a fiber club at all) sells 4 oz. samples of quite a few of the fleece you see regularly on this blog. (Do feel free to contact me if you see something you want to get your hands on, as while I am not interested in offering such fiber in an official way, I am fairly open to making a deal.) 4 oz. of this grey CVM Romeldale went to my friend Corrie last month. She, too, worried a bit about the yellow tips, and this is what she (and her little one) came up with. Locks drizzled with dye and then flick carded. Looks like a fun spin to me!

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Cram Pot Dyeing part 2

Well, I’ve been a bit obsessive about cram pot dyeing. I decided to get the leicester longwool into the dye pot and use some primary colors on it. It worked out well, I did get some colors that blended together. However, I may have been a bit impatient that morning and I think I rushed the job, not allowing the entire pot to really get hot. So, the colors are a lot lighter than they could be I suspect. I think I’ll try this combo again during the next shipment, but allowing the colors to really get nice and bright.

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Since my Rambouillet experiment was something I was not too sure about, I decided that would be the best one to try to spin first. On Saturday evening I ended up staying awake quite late watching a movie and flick carding. I got a bunch done. This particular fleece is very weak and neppy, so there is a ton of waste. I’ll be interested to see just how much I end up with once the yarn is complete. However, I do think the yarn will be light, bouncy, and interesting in its color.

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There’s bumblebee in action again! I love that SST so much.

Fleece Club

So, in my spindle spinning board I came across a very interesting club. It is a fleece of the month club, you sign up and receive, for 3 months, 4 oz. washed locks of fleece which you can then process yourself for spinning. This idea thrilled me, as it is a chance for me to try some breeds I would probably never purchase an entire fleece for. So I signed up, for both the longwool and the merino clubs. It also comes with a card that gives a bunch of info about the breed and the characteristics of the wool, with even a space to add a sample once it is spun.

My first shipment, to be honest, didn’t thrill me overly much, but I knew I could experiment with what I had anyhow. My second shipment however thrilled me to pieces. And so I figured I’d better get the two shipments photographed and posted, before the third shipment shows up in January.

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This picture is the two merino breeds I received. At the top is Rambouillet wool, and at the bottom Saxon. The Saxon is absolutely the most beautiful wonderful soft, bouncy wool I’ve ever felt. In fact, I’d say you could just pick up a lock and spin it with no prep whatsoever. Amazing stuff!

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And then there are the longwools. At the top, Border Leicester, and at the bottom Leicester Longwool. I’ve never spun longwool before, nor have I prepped it. I am rather excited about these.

To top it off, they all come in a cute little burlap sack.

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I love the burlap sacks, and feel certain I can use them in the future!

The Saxon I’ll leave as is, but the rest are destined for the dye pot. I’ve been itching to try “cram pot” dyeing for months now and these seem the perfect fibers for such a thing. Then, my plan is to spin them with minimal prep. Maybe just a comb through with a flick carder to loosen the fibers before spinning. My last shipment will include Romney, and I believe delaine merino.

You see, I’ve got this fleece….

Or two rather, that need to be washed. So I made the fleece a basket to be washed in. Originally I wanted this basket to wash my fleece faster. But after giving it much consideration, I decided I’d rather wash the fleece while preserving lock structure. So I made a basket and then sorted the fleece carefully, lining the locks up butt to tip and pulling out any second cuts I found before I even put it in the water. The fleece I am currently washing is a CVM Romeldale. It is gorgeous shades of gray and natural.

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Bug took one look at this fleece and asked if it was all from one sheep. I told her it was, and she said “That must have been a very beautiful sheep!” I asked her why she thought so, and she told me it was because it was gray and white with some very dark gray as well.

I then created a top for the basket, because I was worried that just setting it in the water would cause the locks to move about and then I’d fail to preserve their structure. The next picture I took just after I set the fleece in the water for its initial wash.

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The fleece is nicely caged, so the locks are preserved. Then I snapped a photo after 20 minutes in the hot soapy water.

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All the gunk and lanolin just rise right out of there. I removed the basket, drained the water, and refilled the tub. After the second wash it looked like this:

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The rinse worked great, so I hung it using dowels, and allowed it to drip for an hour.

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Once my hour was up, the fleece was cool, so I removed the lid and gently squished out as much water as I could. Then I took it outside to dry:

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Look at all those locks all set up just how I want them to be! This will make flick carding so much easier. And sure enough, I ended up with some beautiful locks!

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The next batch I am going to try a few new things. First, I’ll try stuffing the basket a bit fuller. I had to fill far fewer tubs full in order to get the locks clean, but at this rate I’ll still be using the same amount of water because I am washing less fleece per basket. The other thing I’d like to try is sewing the basket shut. This might help with the instability of my materials. Once the fleece is lined up properly, I really have no reason whatsoever to open the basket up again until the fleece is dry. So next time I will fill the basket full, sew the lid on with cotton yarn, and then wash. That should be sometime this evening. I also think if I had my little Bug helper, it would have been easier, as she’d have helped me lift the basket out of the water each time. But, she was at school this morning thus unavailable to help. Even with these minor changes, I’d call my basket a success.

Stuff

Yesterday was amazing. The weather was downright balmy for November, and while I did get a bit of knitting done after the stockings, I also spent time in the yard, and did a little drum carding. So, last year at the IA Sheep and Wool festival I picked up a jacob fleece. At the time I didn’t know a ton about fleece choosing, but was obsessed with my brown CVM/Romeldale fleece and knew I really wanted a jacob fleece. I chose one at the festival from a booth. It was cheap, not too large, and I grabbed it up barely looking at it and, quite frankly, crowing over my discovery. I washed it soon after.

Let’s be honest, it isn’t the nicest fleece I own. There were a lot of burrs in it, big prickly pieces that really did make for difficulty even washing it. It is dirty, even after a good wash. It has a fair amount of VM, but more annoyingly the tips are yellowed pretty well and it wasn’t skirted all that well, so there are differences in wool quality and feel.

Well, I’ve been grumbling about this fleece since I sorted it a couple weeks ago. Flick carding and then drum carding is such a lengthy process and it felt terrible to think of spending that much time on a sub par fleece. However, I still wanted to get something out of this fleece. This begged the question: Can I drum card without flick carding? And the answer was yes. Of course, the wool has to go through the drum carder a few times after that initial run through, but the answer was favorable. The tip I heard was that I should feed the unflicked locks over the top on the large drum rather than through the tray. I gave this a try and let me just say it works beautifully! The VM and dust just fell out of the bottom of the carder, and the initial batt had promise. A couple more runs through the carder and I had a batt I could truly be proud of!

This is from the dark wool I separated out. The batt is surprisingly soft and lofty. Since I did not flick card, there was quite a bit of waste left on the small roll, but I saved all I could and am now quite excited about the prospect of finishing up this fleece!

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The other stuff I worked on…well I decided that this year all three of us should have felted slippers. My adventures into felting haven’t always gone so well and my desire to felt has always been pretty low. However, the prospect of thick felted slippers in the dead of winter is a promising one. I am working on the fiber trends felted clogs pattern. I started with Jeremy’s slippers, assuming since this is the largest, the rest would go quickly. I have knit the majority of the slipper, including the outer sole, but attaching it has proved complicated so I’ve given them a rest. Add to that the problem of my hands falling asleep when using large needles, and using large needles exclusively for the last week, I do think I need a break.

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Not sure what I’ll knit on next, but pretty sure it will involve something already on the needles rather than starting some new project. Also? I get to spin again!

Adventures in Fleece Part 5

So, in my continuation of fleece obsession, I also purchased this lovely CVM Romeldale fleece. More than 5 pounds of gray/white fleece and it is the BEST fleece I’ve ever purchased. This is good, since my obsession became my friend Mary’s obsession and she purchased her first fleece, a black one from the same vendor. This one is so clean and beautiful and doesn’t even smell stinky. I can’t wait to get started on this one!

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The Jacob fleece which I purchased a year and a half ago is needing to be picked up again so that I can get started on these two new fleece. I actually sorted it on Sunday, and it was one dirty job. I’d cleaned it, but the quality of the fleece is not fantastic by any stretch of the imagination. It was cheap, I shouldn’t be surprised. And I learned something new, don’t get obsessive over the type of fleece, get obsessive over quality. I will process part of it, get what I want out of it, and then maybe it will go up for grabs to someone else who might want to mess around with it.

Adventures in Fleece Part 4

I just received, in the mail, my fourth fleece.

I feel the need to add now that the first fleece is now a sweater, with the leftovers traded away. The second fleece is part sweater, part fiber still needing to be spin. The third fleece is washed and I am researching exactly what it is I want to do with it.

The fourth fleece is another corriedale. Greasy as all get out, and a bit dirty. The colors were advertised as ranging from silver to black, but there is certainly browns and beiges in it too. It isn’t particularly stinky and didn’t come with a name, but the sheep it came from must be beautiful! This fleece is the one that gives me the excuse to build my fleece washing basket, a project I’ve been contemplating for a long time. Hopefully I’ll get out to get materials for that this week. I do hope this one cleans up as well as the white to silver corriedale, as that has been my absolute favorite fleece thus far. Not needing to even put it through the drum carder but spinning from the flick carded lock has made it an absolute joy to spin. I am excited to see what is in store for this fleece!

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Since I purchased this fleece online, I was a bit concerned about the quality. So I pulled off a lock and tested it. Turns out it was a fine investment, the lock is strong.

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Frogging

I’ve been working all week on the brown fleece jacket.  I worked my way halfway up one side with the collar. You see, I’d decided to modify the instructions somewhat so that I didn’t have to sew on the collar. The trouble is, I failed to take into account garment construction as opposed to shawl construction. I tried to deceive myself for a few days, telling myself that it would be ok anyhow, but it just wasn’t. I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with the end result. So this morning found me frogging all that hard work and beautiful cabling and a weeks worth of knitting back out in order to pick up stitches again. This time with far fewer stitches.

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Which means, my brown fleece jacket still looks like this! Basically, this means there hasn’t been progress in an entire week! In all honesty, I just want to be done with this and on to something new. And in all honesty, there are moments where I wish I knit like I used to. Obsessively, carving out huge amounts of time just for knitting, as if I were training for something. However, I then remember all I’ve gained from putting the knitting down a bit, and realize that it just isn’t ultimately that important. It can’t rule overrule health, strength, and time spent with loved ones.

When I first started knitting, I’d keep so many projects on the needles at one time. I’d kind of allow my whims to take me anywhere they wanted. At some point, I decided this was “wrong” and I should actually complete projects. Paired with getting better at knitting and knitting a lot faster, this made me into quite a production knitter. I am wondering really if I should just go back to the old way. The way that allows me to ball up yarn and cast on projects as I get the urge. To stop worrying over the finished object and just enjoy the journey. I may just have to give that a try…

First Fleece

I’ve finally done it! I have finally finished spinning my entire brown CVM Romeldale fleece. This is quite a large portion of the project done, and I am feeling very proud of myself. I am also happy to be moving on to another color in spinning! The grand total of yarn on this project is 1507 yards of 3 ply yarn spun woolen, and weighing in at a worsted to bulky weight.

That is a lot of yarn! I have no idea what I will make with it at this point, it needs to take some time to mellow. And I need to look at wool that isn’t brown for a bit.

So since that large project is done, I now get to start on this fleece:

This is my fleece from a Jacob Sheep that I purchased at Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival this summer. It is just lovely! I have no idea how long it will be before it is all carded and ready to go, but I can at least get it washed and put away so it is ready when I am inspired.

Tomorrow I can give you a “to do” list update. I’ve done fairly well, but ended up working on an unexpected project, leaving a bunch of knitting by the wayside.

Mission Accomplished

I set out to process a fleece. And I did so. I feel very accomplished and I had more fun than I ever dreamed I would.

My Romeldale/CVM, a 3 pound fleece, is completely processed into batts. My final weight for this is 1 pound 12 oz. I don’t know if that is good or not. I knew I’d lose a lot of weight from removing lanolin, but it does seem like I had an excessive amount of waste during flick carding as well. Though that could be entirely user error. We shall see how the next one goes. It is still a lot of fiber all in one shot, certainly enough for a sweater. I have decided to start spinning it just as soon as my current project is off the wheel. I will then use this fleece as my Tour de Fleece project this year.

More fleece adventuring

It seems that my primary focus this summer has been fleece and fleece prep. I love it so much more than I ever imagined. I walked into this experience saying “I am not going to like this, but I want to do it once so I can say I understand the process.”  I was so mistaken. I think flick carding is just about the most relaxing and satisfying job ever. I don’t look at a clean fleece and feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the job. In fact, the opposite is true. I actually feel a bit selfish and jealous at the thought of anyone helping me with it.

So, the other night I sat out all evening long. It was one of those stunningly gorgeous days, somewhere between  70 and 75F, sunny, and breezy. I looked at the bag of fleece left to be flick carded and said to myself “I shall sit outside flick carding until the bag is complete or until it storms, whichever happens first.”  And that is what I did, I sat on the porch until late in the evening, when it got dark. But I did get the entire bag done, and now I have a bag of chocolately brown flick carded fleece!

This is the first fleece I owned, the CVM Romeldale lamb fleece from a lamb called Sepia.

It is good I made so much progress, because in addition to the jacob fleece I picked up at the Iowa Sheep & Wool festival, I had asked my dear friend Carin to keep her eye out for a corriedale fleece at the Estes Park Wool Market. She did find one for me and one for her, and they are gorgeous! Another small fleece, which I think is good at this point.

This one is white with silver. And ever so dirty! We were actually a bit nervous about these fleece because upon opening the bag they were really very stinky. Overwhelmingly so. We assumed they hadn’t been skirted. Once I pulled it out to check it though, I realized that it had been well skirted, the issue was just dirt. Lots of dirt.

I’d read somewhere that for a really dirty fleece a cold water overnight soak could go a long way to softening up the dirt and getting it started. So that is what I did. I then had to give it 5 hot water washes and 2 hot water rinses. The tips are still full of dirt, but I think at this point it will flick card out. I’ve taken a picture of locks, washed and unwashed, to show just how amazing this fleece looks once it is clean!

What is even more exciting to me is how fantastic this fleece feels. The locks feel downright silky soft. Just amazing!

And now I’ve got the other half of this fleece to clean, but that needs to wait until after Bug does Saturday laundry!  While the hot water is super hot, I should probably sort and clean the jacob fleece too.

Tools help get the job done

So I have this lovely brown CVM fleece that is washed and flick carding was begun. I was flick carding with my hand cards and knew it wasn’t ideal, but I just wanted to know if I’d enjoy the process. I did enjoy the process, but the tools were cumbersome. At the festival, I picked up a flick carder, since I had just purchased another fleece. The proper tools for the job make a big difference.

I’d been contemplating getting a drum carder. I enjoy spinning from batts, and figured it would be faster than handcarding an entire fleece, but the prices I found online felt a bit out of my price range.  Then, at the festival, I came upon a guy hand making them and selling them for very cheap. I originally picked up his card in order to purchase later, but then got in a panic about the fleece, and decided to procure one right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t take debit cards and I didn’t bring my checkbook. He then told me I could just take one and he’d trust me to send the check. Who does that? Only in the midwest, I swear! I was very uncomfortable with this, as I didn’t want him to lose sleep over the concern of me sending a check. Fortunately my friend Tina was there and she did bring her checkbook, and since she was looking for a drum carder too, she just wrote him a check to cover both of them.

I now officially have the tools to do the job. And once I got started, I couldn’t stop! I spent an entire day on fleece processing yesterday, and this is what I have to show for it!

 

Over 12 oz of ready to spin wool thus far!

 

Iowa Sheep & Wool Festival 2011

So, I went last year and thought at that time that I wouldn’t go again. But this year a group of us decided to go after all, and I am so glad we did. It really was one of the most fun events all year.

We got there around the time the sheep shearing demo was about to start, so we found a chair and hung out.

This ewe was hanging out too, waiting for her shearing. She was very dirty!

   

The shearing process, you can see just how dirty she was on the outside. She seemed relieved to be rid of that heavy coat. You’d be surprised just how little they move during shearing.

Bug was given a lock of her fleece, so she will get to process it herself

 

We also attended the hall of breeds where I took an excellent photo of jacob sheep, my absolute favorite.

 

This mamma was very protective of her little ones. Aren’t they cute? I’ve been hoping to purchase a jacob sheep fleece for quite some time, and I had the opportunity to do so!

There are creams and browns and blacks all in one fleece. Stunning!

We headed over to the sheepdog trials, which was an event we had not attended last year. The field was a muddy mess, but the dogs seemed to be having a great time anyhow.

 

Bug got to spend some time at the kids tent. I’ll have to post more about her activities later, but she had a great time learning to felt!

In this picture she is making a keychain.

Having purchased yet another fleece, I decided to come right home and work on my CVM fleece. I am really rocking now, the sheep and wool festival was just the inspiration I needed! I also managed to pick up a couple more tools that make my job much much easier. Which helps with the inspiration. I’ll post more about that tomorrow, since you are lucky to even get this post. I’ve not emailed a soul since I got home and have barely touched the internet, all due to my current fleece obsession. When the muse strikes, you must just go with it!

 

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!

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.)