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.