Fleece sorting

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:


Unfolded 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: 

IMG_5711- labels

Stash Enhancement

February 18, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Wowzers what a week and a half it has been. And I have a gigantic bag full of new! yarn!, two fleeces, and a bunch of swatches and samples to show for it.

First let me flash the new stash.

Dear Claudia, I can only say WOW. Your generosity is amazing. The pink hatbox of yarn love was indeed inspiring. I got silk, linen, and sock yarn in my box.

The linen, in colorways “Paprika” and “Passion Fruit” will be a summer sweater wrap:


See the swatch? Imagine a drapey swingy sweater with the sweet little cable trimming the edges, and some leaf lace accenting the neckline and hem. Can you picture it? I can. It will be knit at an open gauge to enhance the drape and be just the right weight for a summer layer. 


Next up is the Superwash fingering yarn in colorway “John B.” It’s already mitts! I want to do a second knit through to have a perfect pair for photos, but they knit up quick! They took a little less than one 175 yd skein. I squeed about them all over Madrona, and made everyone try them on:


The loveliest of Claudia’s lovelies, though, was this green silk in colorway “Riverbank Grass.” I have a pattern that’s been simmering for a while.  I started a knit through with a green merino of about this shade, but while the color was right the fiber was wrong. It wanted something with some shimmer. Now I have it. I am looking forward to knitting the sample this summer, and feeling this cool silk slide through my fingers:


Thank you!!

Next up: Blue Moon. I love Tina’s yarns. I’ve already knit two of my patterns in her yarn, first Beamish and then one that’s still a seekrit. In her gift bag of deliciousness I found Geisha:


It’s mostly mohair, with some silk and nylon. The color is luminous, and the yarn has the sheen of mohair and silk. I roughed up the swatch a little to get the mohair to bloom, and it has just enough of an aura to be warm and soft without so much that it obscures a lace pattern. This is what’s in active development on my needles right now. I have a stole planned, and it’s going to be delicious.

Also from Blue Moon were two skeins of Socks that Rock, one in Heavyweight, and the color, “The New Color Of Love” which will be a hat patterned to my son’s specs for next year’s ski season.


The other was in lightweight, and the color way “Currier and Ives.” I’m seeing an intentional pooling project for this one. I love the interplay of the colors and the possibilities:


The last of the gift skeins is a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon yarn called “Carnal” which comes from a small dyer in Texas named Vice. I haven’t been able to get much information about her; Hunter Hammersen of Violently Domestic and The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet brought it to share. I got a skein of a lovely blue-green that reminds me of a Monet Waterlilies painting. Hmm. French Impressionists and carnal vice. Who knows where that will lead me?


Rejoining My Tribe

February 16, 2013 - 7:38 am

For the past week and a half I have been by turns deeply engaged in conversations with knitting designers, working flat out at my job, and collapsing unconscious. I’m full to overflowing with inspiration and ideas, and the intention to carry this forward into action.

First was the Visionary retreat on San Juan Island with Cat Bordhi and twenty-odd knitters who were drawn together by her for the better part of a week. We discussed our individual ideas as well as plans for collaboration in the upcoming year. It was intoxicating; I may hav OD’d on creative inspiration.

The time was made even more amazing by the Lakedale Lodge location, and the cooking of Deb Nolan. The only way I can thank these people for my time in that place is to follow through on the work they have enabled and inspired.

Anyone who wants to make or take a retreat in the Pacific Northwest should consider Lakedale. It’s sumptuous, with a delicious breakfast and a variety of accommodations ranging from hotel-like with fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs to detached cottages with full kitchens, fireplaces, and a shared hot tub to (I understand, though I haven’t seen them) tent cabins and camping spots.

It’s just disconnected enough to make access to the outside world inconvenient. Email gets through in the lodge house, but web surfing is extremely slow. It’s possible to take care of essentials in this connected world, and access needed online resources, but in the inviting surroundings and amazing company the lure of the Internet dims to a minor annoyance. Perfect for a retreat.

There is a lake, with swans and diving ducks. There are the beautiful towering trees of the Pacific Northwest sheltering the enchanting mosses and plants of the understory. Walking, or just being outside is a sensory delight. I gush. I drool. I dribble. Would that I could spend a week a month there.

Deb’s cooking. If you ever have the chance to experience it, say yes. She delights in cooking food that is not just delicious but also healthy and nurturing for the people in her care. She is mindful of dietary limitations, and makes sure there are delicious options for all; in fact most of the meals she prepared were gluten free and largely vegetarian to support those of us with limits, but she fed us in a way that didn’t feel limited. Beautiful and delicious food that drew raves from everyone. Again with the gushing and the drooling. I wish I had thought to take photos of some of her meals.

Cat is inestimable. Many knitters have had the pleasure of taking classes form her; probably most of the knitterly folks who will see this post. She is a dynamo of inspiration; she spins through the world throwing off sparks that set fire to imaginations. I have been feeling a bit dull and drab for months now, without ideas or even desire to find ideas. I stopped writing in my journal, stopped spinning, all but stopped knitting. I felt empty.

Now I am awake and alive and in touch with my creativity again. The only words that come close to expressing how that feels are: “Thank you.” Dearest Cat, You have returned me to the core of my self, lit and nurtured my creative spark, and turned me out into the world inspired to share the light you’ve awakened in me. I didn’t know how much I needed that this year. Thank you, thank you.

And let me not forget to thank the generous and inspirational yarn donations from Claudia’s Handpaints, Blue Moon Fibers, and Vain. I will need to blog about them later, but I’ll add one teaser pic. I have a new mitt pattern completed and mostly written up from Claudia’s yarn, two more in development, and one from Blue Moon. Did I mention overflowing with inspiration?


But the Visionary retreat was only the beginning. After a few days being distracted by that work I do for money, it was time to come to Madrona.

I’m writing this on Saturday morning from my hotel room, with two more days of wonderful awaiting me. I will be taking spinning classes from Sarah Anderson and Amelia Garriopoli; sadly I will not be taking my scheduled classes from Jacey Boggs due to a death in her family. I’m looking forward to learning wonderful stuff, and having my spinning inspired as well as my knitting.

Right now though, the classes feel like a distraction from the community I’ve been savoring since Thursday night. Being with my tribe is something hard to explain. I suspect those of you who have communities that come together for gatherings a couple times a year understand. every moment is precious. Sleep is an annoying distraction. There is not enough time, there is never enough time. Things are left unshared, connections missed, plans fall through and time is so short. I have two days left and it doesn’t feel like enough; I’m already thinking forward to Black Sheep, and maybe Rhinebeck this year.

But it is enough, and more than enough. I’m full to overflowing with plans and ideas. I have found my heart and center again, and am determined to follow through. I’ve set some goals and they feel attainable.

Last year I was gifted with a Surprise! sabbatical immediately after this time, and the opportunity to do whatever I wished for a while drew me away from my plans to create in fiber. I learned about 3D printing and met a local community who have become my friends and had glorious adventures, but I lost this. I am back now. There will be more. Fiber is where my heart lives, and this community is my tribe.