February 12, 2015 - 12:30 pm
A couple weeks ago we visited our friend Alice Mattson at Reflection Farm and took several hundred pics of her beautiful lambs and their mamas, as well as the dogs who keep them safe. The full set is here, and highlights below:
Only a couple hours old.
Took him out into the sun for a better pic.
The colorful flock racing for the barn.
It’s a lamb rainbow!
Thor with one of his charges behind him
Alice teaching Rainy some manners
Rainy, the new guardian dog. She’s Thor’s little sister.
Thor being inspected by a youngster with CVM markings.
Who then raced straight back to momma!
And I’ve been watching for a new pattern. What do you think this wants to be when it grows up?
Find me at Madrona this weekend and I’ll tell you all about it. 🙂
December 3, 2014 - 4:17 pm
Drive-by post today to share progress on the first Curl I’m knitting: Icterine. It is made of gigantic braided cables:
I started with leftover BFL-silk, the first part of which was used for the DK weight Viburni:
Then kept knitting:
Until I ran out of yarn. Fortunately I have a lot more of the fiber, since this didn’t turn out to be enough scary wrap thing for what I wanted. So I spun a bit more, finished the yarn to be sure I had spun matcning yarn, and knit that bit into the scarf. I’m going to start spinning up the rest Right now.
November 26, 2014 - 1:51 pm
I do not have sewing to share today. Hit another road block with my baby blue machine head. I will not detail the process of discovery because I need to move on, but suffice to say parts were missing and have been ordered. Photos and brief summary:
The faceplate and tension assembly on the left is the Singer 15-90. The one on the right is the clone. Notice anything missing?
How about now?
Here— I’ll make it easy. Top row is the Singer, bottom is the clone:
So, they look like the same size and shape, don’t they? I should be able to swap parts and get a working set? Nope.
See differences here? Singer parts left and top, clone bottom and right.
also here; Singer left, clone right. See the notch on the mount for the tension assembly? Also the different thread path? The clone threads left to right, and the Singer right to left. So I can’t do a simple swap of the entire plate and tension assembly. And the notch means I can’t mount the Singer tension assembly on the clone, either.
So that was my evening last night and morning. That and researching VAT. But I have a shoulder kitten, so it’s all ok:
I’m going to go listen to an audio book and spin for an hour, then commence cooking for a feast. Hope your day is proceeding with less frustration!
November 17, 2014 - 2:32 pm
Today I’ve got so many things to talk about.
I’m excited about Curls and want to show off Jasper McTavish and the spinning I’m doing, but I haven’t gotten good pics yet, so I’ll settle for a teaser from The Artful Ewe, a favorite fiber store we visited this weekend:
I finished up the Hex quilt top section, and cleaned up the living room. Again, here’s a teaser:
I still need to figure out how to work this into a full or queen sized bed quilt.
I could talk about the tree we had taken out this morning, but I think that’s mostly just a story in pictures.
So I’m going to talk about my Kenmore 158-540.
I haven’t reworked this machine yet, nor named it, but it’s high on the list of machines to get fixed up. It came with all the gee-gaws:
And I have it in a lovely cabinet (please ignore the tile stuff and the new toilet staged for the bathroom remodel):
The cabinet has an inkwell:
See, it fits here:
And the next drawer down has spool pins and a pincushion:
It also came with a knee lever, which I haven’t ever used:
I haven’t cleaned it yet, but it was nearly spotless:
It was missing its bobbin case and spool pins, but I found spares while I had it out.
I love the lavender and purple bits.
and its antennae:
It’s biggest problem is the electrics. The plug was cracked. I glued it up:
And then I found a replacement on ebay:
The wiring looks ok, but I’ll give it a hard once-over when I’m putting it together:
It’s a JA-4 casting:
Or possibly a J-C16. It has both.
And takes cams, of which I have a full set:
But for now it’s put away in the cabinet, waiting for the studio to be put together:
November 14, 2014 - 11:21 am
I just couldn’t help myself. Twice, in the past 24 hrs.
I needed to spin on the new wheel. Needed. Tom did such a beautiful job; it felt like an insult not to put the wheel to immediate use. So last night after sewing and ripping the same seam on the quilt three times I decided I could spin. A little. I kept it to half an hour to wind down, then put myself to bed.
I wanted to wait til I’d spun on him to settle on his name, but I was pretty sure before I picked him up that he would be “Jasper.” I’ve added his last name too now, so please meet Jasper McTavish, fresh from his first spin:
That’s four ounces of Huckleberry Knits BFL silk on the bobbin:
Not that you can really tell from these photos, but it’s delicious, and the bobbins are ample. 4 oz spun point of twist doesn’t even come close to filling them.
The details of this wheel are amazing. I love how the two woods play with each other:
The wheel is part Dogwood and part Walnut:
and pure joy. Four oz spun up effortlessly in about two hours all together. I have another four to spin, and that should be ample for my Curl. I still have to decide which one. Today I’m thinking Icterine:
It looks so lush and cuddly with those big cables, and I think the blue-green BFL silk would show well.
But that was only half of my falling down.
So there was this machine on Ebay that was local. It was a Franklin Rotary, and stunning. Here’s a photo I blatantly stole from the listing:
I love Art Nouveau and Art Deco like no other movement, and the decalcomania of the early 20th century plays beautifully with the graphic flowing lines. Love. It was initially listed for $5, but of course didn’t stay there. I got a notice as I was pulling into my local Goodwill that the auction had settled at $125. I mourned a little, and went inside to browse the fabrics and look for good sheets to use as muslins.
Nothing seemed to need to come home with me, and as I wandered out I walked through the furniture section to look at the machines in cabinets. Our Goodwill gets All The Machines. There was something so nondescript I don’t remember what it was, a lavender Kenmore for $15 that would have been hard to leave if it had its bobbin case, but sadly it was without, and this:
Please pardon the crappy low light cell phone pic, but note this is in my studio. Which is a mess. Because this Franklin, with the identical decals, was also $15. So it got to come home with me, with David’s blessing.
It’s also missing a bobbin case, but I didn’t care. I’m trying to track one down now, and if none of my friends has a spare there are plenty to be had on Ebay.
I’m also contemplating whether there were two decal color palettes, as with the Singer Lotus decals, or perhaps the secondary colors were hand applied after the gold bits were transferred to the machine, or if perhaps through some accident of cleaning or light exposure some of them faded from the green and purple on the Ebay machine to the goldenrod and rust of the one I brought home.
Whichever is the case, I’m seriously considering picking up some Testors and coloring in the decals on this one to match the Ebay machine as part of the restoration. I’m also fully intending to follow this tutorial to restore the Japanning. Amusingly I had bookmarked it weeks ago to use when I restore the finish on my Davis, and to apply shellac to Charlotte the Free, but it’s also being demonstrated on the same Franklin. Some things are meant to be.
So. If this is falling down I dun wanna get up. 😉
November 13, 2014 - 12:25 pm
So much to talk about I scarcely know where to begin.
Adventures in Home Ownership is approaching the wrap-up of the first big push. Since mid-March I’ve woken up every morning with a list of things I needed to accomplish for the house, and I’m starting to see the bottom of it creeping up. There are still a very large number of things I’d *like* to do, in an abstract “wouldn’t it be nice if…” sort of way, but the “must be completed for house to function” list is decidedly short. Just a few more small but fussy tasks in the downstairs bathroom, some work in the studio, and a couple contractor days. It’s good that the end is in sight because I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the work.
We got a new kitten, Calcifer:
He’s named after a character from Howl’s Moving Castle, which is one of our household’s favorite movies. The obligate cute kitten photos will commence:
And also ob-video:
So, uhm, that’s been a distraction. We were hoping Mickey would like having a kitten friend. He was unconsolable after Pook died; I didn’t sleep for several weeks because he was so needy. Unfortunately, so far he’s terrified. He’s about 14 lbs. The kitten is not yet 2. Silliness.
I’ve been working on a quilt:
It has taken over the living room:
I’m not allowing myself to play with my newest toy until it’s put away, and I’m not willing to put it away until the top is pieced since arranging all the hexes the way I wanted was a bit of a nightmare. But I have a beautiful new custom made wheel from Tom Livernois waiting for me, tucked in between the cutting table and the ironing board where it’s safe:
I’m planning to spin yarn for a Curl. As soon as the quilt top is together. Because we really do need the gaming table, game shelf, and couches to be accessible. And I need a studio to work in so I stop doing this whenever I embark on a big new project.
three more rows to go!
September 16, 2014 - 1:48 pm
Viburnum began as a small take-along summer holiday project. It has origins in conversations with Sivia and Cat about the sorts of patterns that work well in a Moebius design. I am fortunate to have such friends.
The issue with a moebius is they are knit in two directions at once, so the pattern must look the same from the top to the bottom or the bottom to the top. They are also single sided, with the “front” and the “back” flowing into each other, so the pattern has to be the same on the front and the back. Cat has many designs which meet these criteria. Sivia has the Harmonia’s Rings pattern, which I had just come through knitting into a sweater when I cast on what was to be the first Viburnum.
After a lot of iterations I ended up with a chart and a swatch that made me happy. It took less time to knit out the first one than it had to design:
At about the same time I was finishing up the first cowl, I ruined a fleece.
David’s Viburnum was made with some gnarly handspun:
I botched the washing job on a lovely Romeldale fleece by letting it cool too much in the bathtub. In my defense I was a bit distracted for several hours because the bathtub drain had sprung a leak and was showering my basement with sheepy water. By the time I determined what the problem was and drained the tub the grease had redepositied, and removing it required harsh treatment that was fulling the wool.
Instead of rewashing the whole thing, which I had planned for some colorwork and had painstakingly sorted, alas, I set it aside a bit sticky.
David asked for a neck warmer to cover the space between his bike helmet and his jacket for commuting in the Seattle winter muck, and I pulled out some of this tacky fleece because (I reasoned) it would throw off rain and drizzle better than a properly washed one.
It performs beautifully in that role, but processing and spinning a fine and sticky fleece into a yarn doesn’t produce a smooth or consistent single, that is certain!
I opened the locks with a flicker, and then ran it through my Pat Green Big Batt carder, and pulled the batt through a diz to get a hand pulled roving. This is a picture of dizzing a wool/silk batt for another project:
The resulting yarn is fluffy and warm, but … rustic. You can no doubt see the thick and thin bits, as well as the neps and other messy bits. What you can’t see is that I had to pry it apart fir this photo because the lanolin had pretty much glued it together. Nevertheless, it knits up nicely.
Once I had the yarn I went casting about for a pattern. After some talking and thinking we figured out David wanted a moebius so it would fit high on the back of his neck but down under his chin. I realized I could use the same stitch pattern as my beaded lace cowl, minus the beads, and I knit him one that evening. This pattern is so very fast to knit in bulky weight!
I haven’t decided if I will process and spin the rest into a sweater for him, or let it languish. I did use some to stuff pin cushions, in the thought that greasy fleece would be a nice way to keep sewing pins.
Anyway. I encourage you to knit with your yarn. I have learned so much about spinning by actually working with the yarns I make!
November 11, 2013 - 2:39 pm
I’ve been washing a lot of fleece lately. A LOT of fleece. I’m helping Deb Robson with materials for her workshops, and so have been acquiring and washing fleeces for her. Plus *ahem* a few for myself that I’ve picked up as well. I think I’ve washed about 15 fleeces in the past two months. I lost count. And I’m well above 20 for the year.
To keep up with the washing I needed to build a second drying rack. I’ve been planning to write about this since my fleece washing article back in March, but, well, blogging. This is the finished rack:
If you’d like to follow along at home you will need (pictures below link to Amazon so you can buy these online if you’d like):
- A wire mesh shelf you don’t mind destroying:
- 4 48″ shelf bracket strips:
- A bunch of zip ties that will fit through the slots on the shelf
- wire cutters or scissors to trim the ties
First step is to decide how many shelves you will want, and do maths to determine how closely to space your zip ties. In my version I’m building 10 shelves, and leaving two grid squares to stabilize the rack. The top shelf goes at the top of the bracket strips, but the bottom one should have clearance from the ground to allow for air circulation. This means I inserted zip ties every 10 slots to space the shelves evenly:
I inserted them in one bracket and then used that as a visual guide (I hate counting!) to make 4 the same:
Then I took two of the bracket strips and attached them to the top shelf:
Continued attaching shelves all the way down:
And finally attached the two other bracket strips on the other side of the shelves:
You will notice this can fold almost flat. And the poodle puppy has decided I need help.
In the picture above I’ve already slid two of the bracket strips around so that there’s one strip on each side of the grid square. Comment if this is confusing and I’ll draw up a diagram or take better pictures. 🙂
At any rate, there’s no way this will work without more stabilization. That’s where the last two shelves come in. Attach them on adjacent sides at the bottom, zip tying all four corners around brackets and through shelves:
Now you can stand it up and have a drying rack!
The last step is to use the pliers to tighten the zip ties, and then cut off the excess tie. I didn’t take a picture, but I’m betting you can figure that part out on your own. Careful not to leave sharp bits, though, as you can snag your hands and/or the fleece bags on them.
These racks work great outdoors on a breezy sunny day, but just as well stood by a heating vent in the winter, perhaps with a fan blowing on them as well. With the vent and a fan I can dry a fleece in a day.
October 3, 2013 - 10:34 am
Monday I visited Eileen Hordyk at SandHill Farms in Arlington, WA. I was greeted at the gate by a 30-something Shetland pony, who decided the grass was more interesting than me when I didn’t produce treats. Apparently he’s a neighborhood treasure, and Eileen regularly has folks asking about him when he’s in a back field or in the barn instead of on display out front.
She and her husband are raising sheep for fleece as well as for meat, but Eileen says “For me, it’s all about the fleece.” The stack of ribbons they brought home from the Washington State Fair and the quality of her fleeces speak to the success she’s having. Here’s a sneak peak of the Lincoln Longwool I brought home:
This was a blue ribbon ewe fleece this year, but her brother’s fleece beat her out for grand champion. Another one of Eileen’s fleeces– one of her Dorsets– won Grand Champion handspinner’s fleece. I looked for a listing of the results from the fair to share all the ribbons she brought home, but it isn’t posted anywhere I could find. Suffice to say Eileen brought home more fleeces with ribbons than without.
Here’s Eileen with this year’s fleeces. This is also the lambing barn in the spring, once the fleeces are all sold.
Here are a few that didn’t come home with me. This one was a crossbred Dorset/Rambouillet:
This was a Romney that took best of show:
Pretty sure this was another Romney. Look at the length and crimp!
They have two flock protector dogs that are crossbreeds, and three Border collies. I didn’t take a note on this girl’s name, but she’s the old lay of the farm and spends her days in the barn now:
This is her brother, who prefers to spend his days with his charges:
Right now he’s in with the boys:
Eileen was in the middle of putting four of her Lincoln ewes in with a ram lamb. Here are the girls:
The girl in the green coat is #1188, who grew the fleece in the first picture that came home with me:
Eileen and I talked a lot about what she looks for in fleece, and how she manages coating so the fleeces grow well. This girl has a nice white one. It curls differently on her upper body where the rain falls than on her sides, but the fiber is quite uniform.
Here’s an up close shot of one of the fleeces on the sheep. This is 1189 who is the other one blanketed in the first picture; her coat was a little too big for her and so Eileen was switching it out. She pulls coats regularly and fluffs the fleece underneath to make sure it isn’t getting matted down:
Here’s another picture of the girls mugging for the camera or possibly begging for treats:
Eileen teaches all of her sheep to tie and lead. She explains it makes management much easier for her since she doesn’t have to fight with them to move them around. Takes extra work with the lambs, but pays dividends throughout their lives whenever she needs to handle them.
I brought home three fleeces, a Dorset:
The Lincoln fleece from #1188:
And a Romney:
Today I started washing the Lincoln fleece. It was six pounds in the bag. Here it is turned out ready to open up:
And here are some sample locks. Look at that crimp!
I opened the fleece out on a sheet in my living room because I have to start washing the pile you can see there under my puppy grooming table, and if I wait for a dry day in Seattle to start sorting fleeces it will be summer before I get that!
In the whole fleece I only found a few tidbits I wanted to skirt. You can see them in the upper left of the sheet. There were a couple locks that were matted, a few with dags, and a few second cuts. Here’s a close-up:
I’ll leave you with some more fleece beauty shots. It was so lovely!
It’s soaking in the tub now, removing the dirt in prep for it’s scouring wash which I’m about to start. I should have clean, dry fleece to share, perhaps tomorrow!
March 4, 2013 - 8:05 am
Between Madrona and the Visionaries retreat and it being February and therefore generally kind of a low energy time, many chores were left undone. This past weekend was a time for catching up. In addition to the mundane kitchen cleaning and floor vacuuming and laundry mountain, I sorted and washed a second fleece for Deb, and David & I tossed our stash.
The stash toss involves a sunny spring day that’s not too breezy, and dumping all the yarn out on a sheet on the porch, sorting it into categories, inspecting for pests, and then putting it back away.
And then all back into boxes with new labels. This year we divided it by weight, by fiber type, and by whether we loved it or merely saw it as useful. A special category was made for “souvenir yarn” which is yarn we don’t expect to knit but reminds us of places and times, or is the scraps and remnants from memorable projects. We also sorted out a bunch both in the “love it” and the “useful” categories that would be good machine fodder.
More than half of the yarn is in the “useful” category. I believe that’s going to be moving to Metrix and be sold by the ounce to folks who want to start fiber projects there. Where I’m going to start teaching regular classes and hosting a regular fiber craft night shortly. But more on that later.
The fleece sorting was cut short by a breeze picking up and clouds rolling in. Not much to detail differently from the last operation, except that there was only minimal sorting this time. There was a bit of wool in the bag from the britch, which ordinarily I would have skirted but Deb asked for it to be kept:
The fleece is white. No really. even though it looked like this fresh out of the bag:
It has the same pattern of not having guard hair on the center back as the other fleece I processed for her. I sorted the neck wool into two bags and the back wool into two bags and the britch into its own; don’t remember the tie colors offhand but I’ll note them later. The rest all went into unmarked bags.
ETA: The blue tags are the neck wool, with wool that had more guard hair in one bag and wool that had less in the other. The yellow tags are the back wool. The red is the britch.
Here’s a picture of it drying in the sun:
And an obligatory cat in the sunshine picture:
For those who asked about drying racks, I’m going to be making a second one probably later this week, and will blog it. If you’d like to follow along at home you will need:
- A wire mesh shelf you don’t mind destroying:
- 4 48″ shelf bracket strips:
- A bunch of zip ties that will fit through the slots on the shelf
- wire cutters or scissors to trim the ties
See you then!
March 2, 2013 - 5:44 pm
Note: The photos in this article were published on Flickr several days ago while the blog was down for repair, so you may have seen them. The blog is fully up and operational now, so I’m moving it to the blog, and expanding the text significantly.
Before I can actually start washing I prepare the working area, which for me is primarily the sink in the kitchen. I remove all the clutter so I won’t splash sheep water on things that are hard to clean, and put out towels on the counter to catch splashes, and a towel on the floor in front of the sink.
Sheep are lovely, charming, amusing, dirty, dirty critters. I always pay attention when I’m washing a fleece to make sure I contain the filth, and don’t contaminate myself or my home with it. After I’m done with the washing, the sink and counters will get washed with soap and wiped down with bleach water, and all the the tools run through the dishwasher.
I also set out my tools. For me, the tools are:
- Gloves which are long enough and thick enough to protect me from the hot water
- Plastic spoon for stirring the wash agent into the water, and for poking and shifting the fleece around in the bath
- Candy thermometer for measuring the temperature of the bath
- Wire cookie cooling racks with folding legs. I use these to lower the bags of fleece into the water and to take them out without overly disturbing the fleece.
- Wash agent; generally Unicorn Power Scour
- Most importantly, a good solid drain plug that will hold the water in the sink for 20 – 30 minutes without leaking.
I have the fleece next to the sink in a laundry basket. It helps me tote the fleece around particularly when it’s wet since there’s enough of a lip on the bottom to contain any water that drains out of the fleece. It’s also easier to carry a dozen or so bags of fleece in a basket than in my arms, and causes less disturbance to the fibers.
I boil water on the stove in big stock pots. I kept a second pot around after a handle fell off just for using in scouring.
I boil a pot full of water, then pour it into the sink basin.
Using a candy thermometer, I add tap water to the sink until I get to the desired temperature. I aim for 135 – 140°F.
Once the basin of water is at the right temp I add the scour. Power Scour has good directions on how much is needed for a given weight of fleece. I use about 3 pumps per sink full on the Shetland, but would use more for a heavy grease fleece like a Merino.
I stir enough to distribute the scour in the water, but the less suds I raise the easier it will be to get the fleece into the bath.
Next the fleece bags go into the water. Note how they’re stacked on the upside down cookie tray, and I’m using the legs as handles.
I generally let the fleece settle into the bath on its own so no air is trapped, but once it’s most of the way down I’ll use a second rack to push it the last little bit into the water making sure the whole fleece gets wet.
After 20 minutes- and I always set a time because I’m good at forgetting fleece for hours at a time until I have some other use for the kitchen- I remove the fleece from the water (ICK!!):
Drain the sink:
Wash it out:
Roll up and gently ring out the bags of fleece to remove as much dirty water as possible:
Note that too much agitation will felt it, so err on the side of being gentle.
And then make a new, clean bath to repeat the process until the fleece is clean and rinsed.
I made a tactical error on this fleece by not evaluating how dirty it was; this sheep appears to have been a bit overly fond of mud. After the first bags went into the wash and I saw how filthy it was the rest was put in the tub to pre-soak and remove the dirt before removing the grease. It ended up getting three baths like this:
before it was clean enough to get effectively scoured. I used some Planet dish soap to reduce the surface tension enough for the fleece to soak. If I had just put the fleece in the water without adding some soap it would not have gotten wet; wool is quite good at resisting penetration by water. After all that’s part of its job for the sheep. 🙂 Soap helps the wool fibers slide into the water without trapping a lot of air. If there are air bubbles in the fleece it won’t soak, partly because it stays dry, but also because the air will float it back out of the water.
When I wash a fleece I have three goals. The first is to remove all the dirt. The second is to remove all the lanolin/grease. The third and most important is to cause as little disturbance to the fleece as possible, both to minimize the possibility of felting and to make later processing as easy as it can be.
Most sheep fleece has more grease than dirt to remove, so pre-soaking is overkill. Alpaca/llama fleeces are the opposite of sheep- they don’t make grease but they bathe in dirt, so they’re full of it. Worst of all are goats, which have large amounts of both dirt and grease, and bucks particularly are quite smelly to boot.
It takes different processes to remove dirt and grease. Dirt will wash out relatively easily with soap and water of any temperature. Heat can also turn some kinds of mud into a quite an effective dye. Grease has to be melted to be removed, which is why I heat the water for scouring baths so hot. It’s worth noting that too much heat can damage fiber, so it’s good to keep the baths short and not too far above the melting point of lanolin, which is between 100 – 120°F. My preference is to remove dirt and grease in separate steps when I have to deal with both, and to remove the dirt first.
The last step in the process is drying the fleece. I built a nifty and cheap drying rack that functions equally well outdoors on a sunny day and indoors over a heating vent in the cold and damp weather that’s more common here. I need a second one, so stay tuned for the blog post about building it.
I also have a second fleece for Deb in the wash, and found some different sorts of wool and interesting characteristics in that fleece to share later.
February 23, 2013 - 3:22 pm
I volunteered last weekend at Madrona to wash some fleeces for Deb Robson‘s upcoming Explore 4 retreat. Thought I would document here, both so Deb can see what it looks like unrolled and so I can share some of my process. I have sorted one of the two so far.
First I dumped it out of the bag:
The tag gives some details about this Shetland fleece:
“Bently” gave this as a yearling fleece. The note says there was some that was cotted and removed; coated more or less means it was hanging in what look dreadlocks or matts.
Next I unrolled it:
The neck is to the left and the butt to the right. The part that sticks out of the neck towards the top is what was underneath; shearers start more or less at one ear and shave under the chin to the other, so fleeces always have a flap like that.
Next I started looking at how to sort it. I identified three staples:
The sides are the long, double coated staple on the left. The center sample is the neck wool. The sample on the right is the back wool. The entire fleece is double coated, but the back and neck have less guard hair, with the back having almost none. The crimp also changes from tight and spiraled on the back to wavy around the neck and loose, almost long wool-ish on the sides.
I did some minimal skirting, identifying the mucky bits like this:
Then stated separating it into staple types. To separate I pull from the tips of the locks, gently separating them:
Until I have fully separated fleece. This is the neck wool and back wool. Notice the back wool here has a grey undercoat:
Eventually I ended up with four piles:
That’s the skirtings to the bottom of the picture, the neck wool to the left, the back wool in the center, and the sides making a U around the back wool.
Next I divided it into lingerie bag sided sections:
until I had this:
Two bags of neck, three bags of back, and 7 bags of sides. The skirtings pile is perhaps a bag and a half worth- it looks like more because it’s handfuls of wool, and because it’s closer. I’m leaving the skirtings raw in a plastic bag in with the washed fleece, so Deb and her students can see what I chose to discard. One thing I didn’t attempt to do was remove short cuts. There were some, but it didn’t seem like a big problem. Here’s what to watch for:
I labeled them so Deb can reassemble the washed fleece if she would like. There are zip ties with beads attached to the zippers on the bags; this allows me to wash the fleece without worrying about destroying the labels or contaminating the fleece with ink or something else that could leech into the baths.
For her reference, the bottom of the neck is in the bag with the orange tie and pink bead, and the top is in the orange with red bead. The side wool has brown ties, and the back has grey. The color order of beads is (1) clear (2) yellow (3) green (4) blue (5) purple (6) pink (7) red, and they were laid out like this:
December 13, 2011 - 11:45 am
All I can say is yum.
I went with Terry on Saturday to Wet Thistle Farm to pick out fleeces. Usually this farm’s fleeces aren’t available to the public- a yarn company snaps up their whole clip. This year, however, there were some available, and as Terry promised it was oh so very worth the trip! I ended up splitting three colored fleeces with Terry and getting one white lamb fleece as well.
This is a lamb fleece that progresses from a red brown to a creamy white down the length of the staple.
I washed it and experimented with using the spin cycle on my front loader between passes- I won’t do that again. The butt ends felted slightly. It won’t be hard to process, but it fell apart deliciously before the wash, and past fleeces with that character have maintained it after washing.
It has a 5″ staple:
here’s a second lock:
Don’t you just want to bury your face in this?
It smells vaguely of lavender and sheep after washing, just so you know. I can’t wait to start working with this! It’s deliciously soft too; much finer than the rest of my Romney. Oh- and strong. no sign of crackle when I “ping” a lock. This is as close to perfect as fleece gets, and it’s even in “my” color! It will match my hair!
I’ll get pictures up of the other three fleeces as they are washed.
Thanks so much to Marie for letting us visit her farm, and giving us the opportunity to collect these gorgeous fleeces. I’m hoping to return for the annual clip, which will be happening next month. Maybe I can talk her out of another fleece then!
October 30, 2011 - 10:43 am
Last Spring before the Tour De Fleece I fell in love with The Painted Tiger’s Golden Oak BFL. Here, look, a picture ganked from her site:
Don’t you just want to snorgle that? I did. I bought a pound of it.
So I only just now got around to starting to spin it. My goal is to make a low twist soft worsted single, something like Malabrigo Worsted or Manos. I want to make another sweater along the lines of my Ingenue, except from wool I spin myself. This sweater is by far my favorite sweater; I have to talk myself out of simply wearing it all winter long. A second similar sweater in rotation would be a good thing!
I think I got it in one:
I”m very happy with how the yarn and the swatch has come out. I spun it up on my Moswolt M2, which I’m less happy with. I have decided I don’t need to make friends with Irish tension. It pulls too hard for me. I am going to make certain I can reproduce the yarn with scotch tension on the Kromski, and if I can the Moswolt is going to be listed for sale.
This weekend I’m spending a small amount of time spinning as a break from pattern editing. I have something getting published Real Soon Now I’m excited about. But work!! So much work!! I’m learning how much work goes into developing patterns. This time last year I had no idea. I thank all of the folks who are supporting me in this endeavor- I couldn’t do it without you.
July 10, 2011 - 7:25 pm
I’m enjoying my carder a great deal. This is an experiment in making a better sock yarn. 40% Romney, 40% Clun Forest, 20% silk. I intend to spin it semi-worsted and then cable it into a 2×2 cabled 4 ply. In my brain it’s AWESOME!
My new (to me) Strauch Petite carder is pretty comfortable making 1 oz. batts, which is a good sample size and a nice round number. I weighed out .4 oz of each of the Romney and Clun, and .2 oz of some Bombyx silk top I have in stash.
Next I lashed the locks on hand cards on 112 tpi Schacht hand cards (thanks for the loan, Heather!)
From what I’ve been able to tell so far in my month of drum carding, every wool seems to have a different best way to prep and load it into the drum carder for the first pass. The Romney and Clun seem to work best if I lap them fairly thickly in shingle-like layers, and turn the drum very slowly.
The stack of fluff on and behind the carder is the Clun and Romney, while the stuff in front of the carder is the silk. Slowly I fed all the wool through and packed the drum. The black brush helps pack the wool down into the teeth of the drum so it all will fit.
Once the wool has all been run through the carder onto the drum once, the combined batt needs to be removed.
There’s a special tool for this! I pull up little sections of the batt until the whole thing has been split, and can be unwrapped from the carder. I have two brushes I can use to lift stray fibers off the drum. This brush has soft plastic bristles:
This is a flicker brush, and it has long metal teeth:
I flip back and forth between them trying to figure out which seems to be working best. Again, every fiber seems to have its own temperament. Finally the batt is free from the carder:
In the next pass I’ll sandwich the silk between layers of wool. The idea is the wool is easier for the carder to grab onto, so if the silk is the filling of a wool sandwich it will card more smoothly. It seems to work. First step is to pull off a strip of the bat, lengthwise:
Then spread it out and feed it onto the drum:
Then add silk by dragging it over the teeth on the main drum, spreading it out in a thin layer:
Once a layer of silk is on, I smooth it down with the black brush:
then add another layer of wool:
Then more silk and more wool until everything’s on the drum. Then the silk and wool batt gets removed:
It has big chunks of silk, so needs to make another few passes to get smoothed out. They are run through the same way, splitting the batt lengthwise and feeding strips into the drum carder. The second pass is a little better:
After four or five passes, it’s nicely uniform:
I chose to make hand pulled roving out of this batt. This meant i first fed a little of the batt through a hole in a diz, and slid the diz down onto the batt:
Then pulled the diz forward about one staple length:
Then slid the diz down again:
And keep on like that til the whole batt has been pulled through the diz:
And I have coils of roving!
I have only had a chance to spin a small sample of this, but it was very nice. Sheen and strength from the silk and Romney, with some bounce from the Clun. My first little sample was overspun in the single, so it was too compacted to make a tight gauge knit. I can’t wait to try some more!
May 31, 2011 - 8:58 pm
I received a box of rare breed fiber from sarahw this Saturday; she offered some samples form fleeces she has on Ravelry.
First off, look at these guys, they’re adorable!
I like this fiber. A lot. Enough that I’ve reached out to the only farm in the US with any Kerry Hill bloodlines; they are trying to breed up from AI, and currently have some 75% animals. It’s difficult to get fleece from the UK, because it must be quite thoroughly washed to make it through customs.
Here are the first few samples I spun up:
I also included a handful of unprocessed fiber, a nest of combed sliver and a rolag form the waste of that combing in the picture.
The sample in the upper left is spun long draw from carded combing waste. The little one on top of the washed fiber was finger spun right out of the bag when I first opened it. The rest were spun from combed sliver in various ways: some worsted, some woolen, some two ply, some three ply, and at various thicknesses.
I only tried a little bit as laceweight. The sample fleece I have has very little crimp, so spun tightly it turns into wire, and spun loosely the laceweight drifts apart. You can see what I managed across the top of the combed samples; it just about completely untwisted in the bath. In the thicker singles, though, the scales on the wool seem very grabby. Even the carded fiber wanted to pull itself into a tight, smooth single.
As soon as it hit the water of the finishing bath it poofed out into a fluffy, springy yarn. I can’t really tell the worsted from the long draw samples after their bath. I can pick carded fiber sample mostly because it’s the longest, but I can see that it’s slightly more uneven than the other bits. I still like the little fingerspun bit the best, but it was pleasant to spin and has a very soft, springy character.
I will also say it wants to felt like a stone. I didn’t give it any agitation in the bath, and it was still sticking to itself.
I want MOAR! What possessed me to purchase a box full of unobtanium?
April 8, 2011 - 12:19 pm
Today’s telephone time crafting has been swatching Henrietta. My goal is to end up with a shoulder wrap thing, with alternating swaths of stockinette and lace, set off by garter ridges. There have been a number of patterns lately that use this technique to good effect.
I started on US 6’s, which is the blue/green swatch on the right. I liked it, but I wanted to see what a larger needle would look like, so I switched to US 10’s. Holey Moley. It looks like lace! It has the right character for the rough handspun look I was imagining. And it will knit so quickly!!
Both of these swatches are 21 sts across. The one on US 10’s is 40 rows. The one on US 6’s is 56. If I wanted a sweater, I’d go with the 6’s. Since I want a lacy wrap, it’s the 10’s all the way. The swatch is .4 oz, so roughly 1/10th of the yarn I have. I’m going to play with some designs, but I’m thinking I will be hard pressed to get a decent wrap out of that. Maybe an Elizabethan collar sort of thing, that wraps around neck and shoulders.
No yarn was cut in the making of these swatches. 🙂 I cast-off the first swatch, looped the last stitch around the whole swatch and snugged it down, and cast-on for the second. There’s a small puff of yarn left after the second swatch, which is mostly out of frame on the bottom of the picture, which I dealt with the same way.
My plan is to unravel the swatch, and start the FO with the small skein, then shift to the larger skeins that are actually fractal spun. I believe the shorter repeat in the small skein spun from two ends of a short repeat ply will work well in the smaller start section of a shawl. It will still be stripey. I’m thinking start with the pink end then work through the green, followed by the pinker end of skein B worked through to the dark end of skein A on the bottom. I’m not committed to that yet, though.
April 6, 2011 - 5:01 pm
Strawberries are perverse plants.
Last spring I built them a lovely mound. I amended the soil. I planted 4 varieties developed in the region, mixing ever-bearing and June bearing so we would have a big initial crop and then a constant small supply. I trimmed their runners, so the mother plants would focus on their own roots rather than offsets. We let each plant set a few fruits, but plucked most of the flowers.
And then suddenly it was winter before it had ever really been Fall. I never put them properly to bed; I just left them to their own devices. Today I perhaps reaped the rewards of my inattention, except I prefer to believe it’s their perversity, not my lack of care, that made such a mess.
They had, somehow, migrated. Instead of neat little offset rows of plants, they were scattered about with big empty spots and over-tight spacings. This could have been the work of raccoons going after grubs. It could have been the work of the cats and dog. But I think it’s the plants. They had also set a bumper crop offsets on the driveway and brick paths. Lots of perfectly good dirt, but nooooo, let’s set down roots between these two bricks! grrr.
All is now orderly in strawberryland again. Runners are trimmed back to the mothers so I can weed around them, and all the weeds are removed. The volunteer poppies and parsley have been heeled in elsewhere in the garden. The offsets are re-planted in the inexplicable bare spots. All that remains is a good feeding and some mulch, and they should be good for the season.
It felt good to be out digging in the little plot of Earth that’s mine to tend. I had a very grumpy day, but there is something relaxing and, well, grounding about tending the land. Even though it was cold, even though there’s now hail coming down and I’m still shivering, it was good. I’m still a bit down and disheartened, but no longer ready to chew nails and snap at people. I feel much more at peace and ready to face the things that must be dealt with.
In other news, Henrietta is all spun up, plyed, and awaiting finishing. 250 yds (unfinished) of worsted-ish yarn from 4 oz. I’m pleased. 🙂 As ever it’s shockingly darker than I expected, but I like it. I want to try to make a wrap of some kind, but I believe it will need to be mixed with another fiber; 250 yds isn’t a lot to work with, and I expect to lose at least 10% in the finishing.
The tags are for me to remember what end to start from when knitting, since I set up what should end up being gradual color shifts. I racked my brain trying to come up with a way to mark the yarn that would survive a fulling, and then realized I have plenty of scrap fabric and a laundry marking pen. I made up tags, lettered them sequentially (writing on satin is hard!) and tied them to the starting ends of the skeins, so I’ll know where to begin when I start knitting, no matter how long the yarn marinates.
It ended up that my first ply– the one that was split as a single length of the braid– is much shorter than the second ply. I *think* this is because I slipped into semi-worsted point of contact spinning, rather than the honest long draw I was doing on the first ply. Semi-worsted is much more well suited to cuddling on the couch watching tv. 🙂
April 1, 2011 - 10:29 am
On Sunday after brunch I left for this retreat. It’s now Friday, the official retreat is over, and I’m here on my own for a day, expecting Zack and David tonight. To say I’m missing them would be putting it mildly. I kept rolling over in bed last night expecting the weight of a cat on the covers, expecting David beside me, and feeling little jolts when neither of those things were true. It’s a good vacation in the sense that I’m definitely ready to be heading home. I love my everyday life, and I miss it.
The weekend should be lots of fun, though. There are many things to explore here on the reservation, and other places to go on the Peninsula. There’s a wood carvers studio, and some other tribal arts centers I expect Zachary will appreciate. The opportunities for stunning photography should please David.
The drive out here was so much fun! I carpooled with Heather, who makes a wonderful companion. She is wheat and cow dairy free, so my gluten free needs are easy for her to understand. We also seem to be able to talk and talk and talk and laugh and talk some more, and never tire of each others company. Five days of togetherness in unfamiliar and intense surroundings is challenging, but we were as delighted with each other at the end of the trip as at the beginning. I’m so glad she’s moved here, so close to me! I look forward to friendship and fiber arts collaboration for years to come.
She and I stopped in Port Gamble at the Artful Ewe on the way, and had tea at the Tea Room. I purchased some tealy green locks from a local Romney cross sheep to spin. Heather walked around touching things and cooing. We pet Grace, I gave Heidi lots of hugs, and we got back on the road to La Push.
The retreat has been fascinating. There were delightful people, good food, and of course lots of spinning! I spent most of the week working on my woolen spinning, with occasional breaks for some “comfort” spinning of fine worsted yarn. I spun several hundred yards of silk for the progressive yarn project, and I’m looking forward to making more so I can start the plying.
I learned the yarn I want to spin: fluffy, airy, diaphanous woolen yarn, is best accomplished with down breed sheep. The first time I sat down with Judith on Tuesday to talk about what I wanted to work on I showed her a little sample that was the closest I’ve ever gotten to what I want, and she said, “Oh! You’re using wool form the wrong sheep! Here, try this,” and handed me a length of Columbia roving. The sky opened and the clouds parted and five minutes later I had a sample of exactly what I’ve been trying fruitlessly to produce for several months.
I also confirmed that I’m really really allergic to lanolin. I spun some of the locks I’d picked up from Heidi, working on making the “wolf yarn” on Judith’s A Spinner’s Toolbox video, and after about 15 minutes my forearms were red and splotchy. No more lanolin for me. 🙁
It was an interesting exercise, even though I had to quit. If I work further on this yarn, I will focus on spinning the fine core yarn, and add fluff where possible, rather than focusing on the fluff. Even though the fluff is the goal, the fine yarn core is the structure of the yarn. Spinning it from the back of my hand as Judith demonstrates is HARD! I believe that will be the key, however.
I do not believe wolf yarn is on my quest for fluffy diaphanous yarn. I like the order of the Columbia far more than the chaos of the wolf yarn. I need to spin and knit enough of each to be certain how it looks in the finished product, but I’m virtually certain from what I see in the yarn. It’s an interesting, challenging exercise, however, and worth pursuing for that reason.
On Wednesday, Judith gave us a length of Rambouillet mixed with Mohair to spin woolen. I hated this. Hate hate hate with the heat of a thousand suns. It was difficult to draft, and nearly impossible to join when it broke, which was frequently. I persevered, however, and by dinner time I had a hundred yards or so of finished woolen yarn. Ugh. It was No Fun.
Just before dinner on Wednesday, we started lichen dye pots. This was nifty! I love the colors that were produced. Judith put in samples of her Rambouillet, and I tossed in the Columbia and Rambouillet/Mohair blend as well. She pulled out little skeinlets every few minutes as the dye bath started simmering so we could see the progress of the dye.
At the end of the retreat yesterday, Judith sent me home with all the samples, which was a delightful gift! The downside of this is the icky factor. I do not like icky stuff, and the slimy yarn matted with lichen definitely twigged my icky nerve. Heather is happy to dye me up more, however, should I wish, and no one else at the retreat seemed to mind handling the finished yarn. I believe this is my own personal foible, and reinforces my belief that while I am intellectually interested in how dyeing works and I very much appreciate the product, I have zero interest in going through the process myself. I am so glad there are folks who want to dye!
The other highlight yesterday was spinning bison down. Judith had some bison roving, and oh was it delicious. We had also spun up a sample of bison/silk. I hope I have enough of these, perhaps plied up with some plain silk, to make something.
This is far from all we did and saw during the retreat. Judith had many things for us to sample, including several different silks and cashmere. Mmmm, cashmere. She showed us yarn from paper, and some finished products and swatches from the yarn. One of the participants taught folks traditional cedar weaving. We saw whales on the last day, while sitting down for breakfast with one of the tribe elders. I look forward to the next time I can do something like this!
The Oceanside Resort itself is a mixed bag. The setting is amazing! My room looks out over the ocean. The view is spectacular, and it’s certainly a secluded retreat. My room is decently appointed, with a usable kitchen.
For the money I’m spending, however, I expect more service than is provided. I’m on my sixth day here, and have not had any maid service in the room. I asked one of the room cleaners for clean towels yesterday, and was sullenly directed to a service building at the other side of the retreat. I walked around the building until I found an open roll-up door to a sort of garage room, and had to shout to get someone’s attention, who was not at all friendly about the towel exchange. I had to give her my room number to be allowed to take extra towels beyond the two provided so that the three of us can all shower tomorrow.
The walls seem not to be insulated at all; someone checking into the room next door at 11 or so last night, not being particularly loud, just walking back and forth getting stuff up from the car and settled, kept me up for the better part of an hour. Folks who had rooms on the lower floor complained that they could hear everything going on in the room above.
The office is only open from 8 am to 8 pm, and that’s the only place on the resort property with access to a phone or internet. Outside of those hours it’s necessary to drive a 40 minute round trip to Forks. This would not be so bad if there were cell phone service, but there is not. I do appreciate the solitude of the setting, but would still like to be able to check in with the folks I care about to make sure they are ok, and have some way for them to reach me.
I have most of today on my own. I’m hoping to get more rest, to make progress on a Secret Knitting project, and to at least get a good start at spinning the Abby Batt “Peace Flag.” First, though, I’m going to head over to the office to check email and post this entry. I’ll add pics and links next week when I have better Internet access.
March 26, 2011 - 8:55 am
I’m not certain if it was Stacey’s intention, but the name Henrietta and the merry mottled colors of this braid remind me of a book my Granny read me as a kid, The Tale of Henrietta Hen. I purchased the braid on a complete whim, after finding out from David that he & Stacey had been friends many years ago.
Here’s the braid:
And an illustration from the book:
So not a complete match for colors, but a reminder, one of the other. This braid is dyed on a striped base; it’s dark and light BFL. That means the singles will barberpole naturally. The braid also progresses from mostly light at one end to mostly dark at the other. I have been reading a lot about fractal spinning, where you make one ply of a full color transition and then the other plys are splits, and wanted to try that. I decided to split the brain in half, and then split one of the halves in thirds.
It didn’t quite work out that way; I ended up with uneven initial splits when I weighed them, so I took a fourth split off the single, and ended up with these:
The small split on the right in the basket has less of the dark color; it’s the final piece. I kept weighing it as I was splitting it to make certain I ended up with equal weights.
These are put up as crocheted crochet chains, btw. I find this a tidy way to store them, and easier to work from than the long ropes. I make a crochet chain, and then make a crochet chain from that, starting from the same end I started the first chain. That way as I pull the thinner chain to spin it, I’m also pulling the second level chain. Maybe this makes sense. It works well for me. 🙂
I’ve started spinning, and I love it. Watching the colors transition is enchanting. I’m working on a low twist fluffy long draw, aiming for a sport to worsted-ish weight two ply. I keep plying the yarn back on itself to see what it looks like, and I’m happy with the yarn so far.
I’ll see what sort of yardage I get. I would like to make this into a little semi-circular shoulder wrap. If I don’t have enough from this braid, I may stripe it with another Stacey braid called “Wine Stains.” We’ll see!
March 24, 2011 - 11:56 am
I believe I’m going to start recording my fiber noodlings here. I’ve been posting bits of my adventure in Ravelry groups and recording bits in project notes and photo sets, but it would be nice to combine it all into a single location where there was chronology and coherence, so it would be easy to back-track a project through all the steps from fiber acquisition to FO.
I have been staying pretty mute online because I wanted to preserve the publishability of things I make in third party press. I am not going to let that stop me any more. I have proven to myself that I can get published if I try. I am more interested in sharing my process right now, and that lends itself more to a blog than a pattern or an article.
I may ret-con a blog archive out of older bits or writing and photography that have been filed in various places, at least for the various in process things at the moment. But for now, I believe I shall regularly record my fiber noodlings. I think this can work and be good for me and hopefully helpful for others.
Note here that I’m giving myself wiggle room. I may not do this. I may do it fitfully. But I think it would be enjoyable, and a more fitting format for what I’m doing right now. We’ll See. If I can re-up the notebook commitment I made at the beginning of the year, which has been going reasonably well, and add in some blog time during morning tea and lunch as well as notebook entries, I should be able to do this.
To that end, I’ve been spinning. Lots. There are now five and soon to be six wheels in the house. I have the Babe that made me cry, which will be re-homed as soon as it’s repaired. I have the Kromski Minstrel I bought myself for Channukah. I have one Canadian Production Wheel I got from Craigslist for cheeeep, and a second I found via the CPW list on Ravelry. One of the CPW’s will also be leaving; probably the Craigslist wheel after rehabbing. David has an ancient (I believe) Irish flax wheel from his grandmother which she purchased as an antique right after getting married. And there’s a Moswolt M2 on the way from the Netherlands scheduled to be delivered any day now.
I have spun many miles of singles since the beginning of the year, and I’m looking towards making this a career by the time I’m 50, so this doesn’t feel excessive.
Lately, I have been spinning a braid called “Henrietta” that was created by Urban GypZ and some batts I made myself from merino/tussah and firestar at Northwest Handspun.
Henrietta has gone from this:
And the merino/tussah/firestar has gone from this:
I want to write about how I did these things, but that will wait til next time.
January 15, 2011 - 1:11 am
I purchased my first wheel second hand about a year ago, and it was an old cantankerous thing that had seen more than its share of abuse. The day it made me cry, not because I wasn’t getting a technique I was practicing, but because the wheel kept binding on the frame and screeching to a halt, I knew I had to either quit spinning or buy a new tool. For the holidays this year, after everyone else’s gifts were settled, I bought myself a Kromski Minstrel, and she has opened up the joy if spinning to me in a way I had only glimpsed before.
I am wandering around lost in a world of strange terminology and unfamiliar concepts, but loving every moment. There is so much knowledge, but so few references that are approachable as a new person. It’s both fascinating and intimidating.
My first goal was to make fine laceweight yarn, and I’ve pretty much mastered that. Since I got the wheel, though, I’ve been branching out. David bought some yak down for me to spin when we got the wheel. He wants a yak scarf. I wanted a fluffy yarn for that, so taught myself long draw, and made it into a fulled single. It’s a delicious, squishy, fluffy skein now, and I’m working on the design for it. I am captivated with the idea of spinning diaphanous woolen yarns.
Last night I tore up 4 oz of roving from DragonFibers, sorting it by color, and then mussing up the fiber, first making pseudo-rolags but then tearing it up and crossing the fibers every which way and spinning the random bits as the presented themselves. I filled two bobbins with what is probably a couple hundred yards of single. My plan is to run it back through the wheel and attenuate the really chunky bits, then ply it with some purple lace weight.
I have an idea of having it start out fine but then get progressively chunkier, and knitting it in pattern that follows the yarn; first a fine pretty lace pattern, expanding into a bigger and bigger pattern as the shawl expands. I want to design the yarn and a pattern for Melissa; a half circle shawlette. I want to evoke dragonflies with the project.
I like this idea of spinning, designing a pattern, and knitting a project inspired by a person. Melissa is first. I think there will be others.