Thursday, July 28, 2011

This is the way I wash my fleece.....wash my fleece....still washing fleece

Last week I downloaded and read my first ebook, Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca, and a Shepherdess with a Day Job Kathryn Sletto.  I was inthralled and very entertained by the book.  The author described her efforts to raise fiber animals and inspired me that I needed to wash and get to work on my Shetland fleece.  After reading about her Shetland sheep, I got to work on my little fleece.  It is too hot to do this work outside, which is my preference.  So I covered our dinning table and got to work.

First I spread out the fleece to take a look.  This fleece wasn't in a good solid piece so it was a little more complicated to locate areas which need to be removed.  Sometimes fleece are on piece and it is easy to see where the head, legs and bottom are located.  This fleece had been handled a lot when we had our spinning group fleece sale.

I skirted (removal of unusable, dirty, veggie matter and dung tags) a lot of it off.  New fleece processors (and I fell into this category not long ago) tend to want to save EVERYTHING.  But trust me remove the nasty bits - it just isn't worth trying to keep very dirty parts.

I scour fleece with two times - once more if it is really dirty and then do two rinses.  Each of these cycles is 15-20 minutes.  Set a timer, you do not want your water to go cold.  When the water cools the lanolin will resettle on the fleece and get even tackier.  I divide my fleece up into laundry mesh bags (available at Target, etc) 4-8 oz at a time.  This all depends on how big your tub is and your bag.
The easiest way I have found to wash fleece is to fill a bin with tap water - the hottest that comes out and add a squirt of Power Scour.  Be sure to remove the fleece before dumping the water and running the hot water again.  Agitation = felt.  I have washed fleece in the sink, but it isn't my preferred method.  

After the final rinse, I press out as much water as I can.  Then I take the bags outside and swing them around to fling out extra water (like a manual spin cycle).  I open the bags and the lay the fleece out to dry on sweater racks.  

You will learn what way works best for you.  Each spinner is a little different.  Remember people have been washing dirty fleece as long as they have been spinning them.  Our modern technology hasn't altered the process much.

Tips for new fleece buyers:
1. purchase a covered fleece.  Sheep that are coated have cleaner fleece.  Clean is relative however so you can expect some veggie matter.  
2. Purchase a skirted fleece.  It is just easier to not have to learn what to look for and remove dung tags.
3. I'd recommended started with a fleece with an approximate weight of 2-4 lbs
4. Personally, I'd avoid fine wools (merino, cormo, etc) as they have higher lanion levels and may be more challenging your first time out of the gate.
5. Don't over think the process.  If you can hand wash garments, you can hand wash a fleece.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spinning Myself a Life

Happy Tuesday!  I have a rather length update today.  Let's just jump right into it!

Big News

I've decided to make the leap and head back to school.  I've applied to an art program and will specialize in textiles.  I'm very excited and of course a little nervous too.  This will be a totally new school experience for me.  Mister has been my biggest cheerleader on this front.  After earning my "practical" degrees and not finding a job/job satisfaction, it is time for me to work towards the degree that I never let myself think.  Since diving into fiber arts, my life has taken on a whole new direction.  I'm happier, learning all the time, meeting interesting people and discovering long dormant aspects to my personality.  My true self has been waiting for me to get to this time of my life to reveal itself.  It is exciting and I'm ready to see where this time will take me.

Can you IMAGINE the back to school shopping I'll have to do?  I'm waiting to see if I've made the deadline for this fall.  If not the back up plan is to start at school where I earned my undergrad degree and then transfer in the spring.  The art school is forty-five minute drive and Mister and I had a campus visit last week.  I need to go back and tour the art building.  After walking the campus for over an hour for the tour, we were done in with the heat (105+) and hunger.  

The school is located in my father's hometown and we spent some time just wandering.  I took Mister to the family cemetary and we managed to locate my family's plots.  I hadn't been there in a long time and my memory was a little off.  I was quite alarmed to see the state of the grounds.  Apparently, the cemetery is no longer in operation and while the lawn is cut, no other tending has been done.  We found a lot of stones completely covered in old lawn clippings, head stones moved and broken.  It really upset me to see it.  My grandfather's headstone was covered in old grass and soil has begun swallowing it into the surrounding turf.  My grandmother's stone was cockeyed and Mister managed to right it.

Tour de Fleece

The tour is over and I managed to spin 14 days out of 23 days.  I had intended on spinning everyday but I did manage to get a lot done.  I prepped, spun and plied my Winona fleece, washed a Jacob fleece (on a rest day), spun lace weight singles of turquoise wool, spun 2 oz of Dyeabolical fiber, and prepped one of my silk caps for spinning.

Here are the highlights:

Spinning News

I've promised Mister and myself to work on getting all my fleece washed in a timely manner.  I don't like having dirty fleece hanging around.  My goal is to get it all washed, properly stored and begin to work on processing it for projects.  Today I washed my lovely creamy Shetland fleece.  Now my dirty fleece count is: three (two Jacob fleece and 4 oz of alpaca) one.

Yesterday was a very happy day.  The mail brought my much anticipated package from Joanna of Gleason's Fine Woolies.  I ordered three pounds of Bond fleece.  I had heard spinners rave about Bond and about Joanna's fleece in particular.  I was curious so I contacted the shepherd and we did a bit of back and forth.  Please meet Allistar.  His fleece is like hot chocolate mixed with heaven.  I wish we had smell-a-blog or touch-a-blog.  It is the softest fleece and smells like fresh earth.  Allistar's fleece is the cleanest that I've ever seen.  Joanna keeps her sheep coated and this is not a simple process.  It is labor intensive and allows her to produce the highest quality fleece.  Be sure to visit GFW's website, Joanna has pictures, stories and a lot of helpful information.

I'm planning on spinning for a sweater, mittens and much more.  Right now I'm content to smell, pet and dream.  Thanks Allistar!  I plan to get more fleece from Joanna in the future.  This stuff is heaven.

Staple length of 4.5" - wow!
Coming up on Thursday: Washing fleece how to and tips for beginners.  Until then, a video of my CPW in action.  Still working on getting her replacement parts ordered.  It will be good to get this grand girl working again.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hot Spinning

I don't know about you, but here in the middle country, we are baking.  Heat index up to 118 and more.  Ugh.  It is hard to believe we live in a place that will one day required woolen things to wear.

Tour de Fleece Update 

Here is my finished Merino/Border Leicester yarn.  I'm really quite proud of it.  I have two skeins measuring 488 yards and 400 yards.  I plan to use one for a knit shawl and the other to weave a wrap.

My other tour projects are a lovely eye candy spin from Dyeabolical in Davy Jones Locker colorway.  I'm so smitten with this color.  

The last project is a mystery wool turquoise that I'm spinning for lace weight.  Hopefully it will be a lace weight.  During the process sometimes surprises occur.  As long as it doesn't fluff out with washing, I should have something lovely.


Finally finished my June/July socks.  Super easy pattern called Jeck (slipped stitch) that I adapted to use with the Yarn Harlot's basic sock recipe.  I love the yarn too.  Playful, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Travels and Tour Update

Hope everyone is having a good week so far.  We are under an oppressive heat/humidity wave here in the middle country.  Yesterday with the heat index it was 115.  Yuck.  With this time of heat it makes it hard to feel like doing much of anything.  This past weekend, Mister and I pushed through and took some day trips.

Travel About

We went to a fiber festival in southwestern Missouri.  It was small, but neat.  I did not buy any fleece.  I just wanted to get that out in the open off the bat.  Before we went in, I asked Mister to tell me that I didn't need any fleece if he saw me looking.  He was a good husband and cheerfully told me so twice.  The first fleece I saw that had me thinking was a lovely three pound Border Leicester fleece.  I was drawn by the color, but I didn't really need it.  I have a BL cross fleece, and I'd really like to experience different fleece.  I walked away like a big girl.  Later I returned to examine the fleece again.  I took a lock out and to test it for tenderness.  To do this you twang the lock to your ear and listen.  It should sound like a guitar string, this one said crunch.  Uh oh.  I took another lock from a different area and heard crunch.  Then I picked another lock and this one was okay.  So this fleece had some issues.  When a lock sounds like cereal being smashed it could indicate a break in the fiber growth.  This could be from stress, lambing, food issues, health, etc.  It might make a fleece harder to process by hand or my mill and cause breakage.  If I was going to seriously buy this fleece, I would have asked to lay it out and do more examining.  Luckily the fleece was purchased while I was there.  

What I was really looking for was silk and I found it.  I purchased three silk caps with the help of Mister for color selection.  I've not spun silk yet, but I think I'm going to like it.


After we left the fiber event and had lunch, we continued onto a local park which is a magnet for anglers.  We sat in the shade and watch the fly fishing.  Despite the heat, it was quite pleasant in the shade with a breeze coming off the spring.  I told Mister that I would really like to try fly fishing.  Perhaps it would be a good excuse to stand in cool water.

The next day brought us to a local county fair and to a Civil War encampment.  It was a hot day, but again not too bad in the shade.  We took in a horse show (which I neglected to photograph), some of the tractor pull, looked at the cattle and poultry barns.  I didn't see any sheep, except for the three that were in the petting area.

My mom brought me to many county fairs when I was young.  I've always enjoyed them and it is a great way to see sights we don't have in the city.  I love the food, the fun and the people watching.  Mister and I plan to go to many more this summer.  We must take in a demolition derby as well.  Mister has never seen one in person, and that is truly something we must all see at least once.

Then we headed over to a Civil War Camp/Reenactment.  Were were in time for the cannon firing demonstration.  It was very loud.

 Mister and I have gone to two events.  The larger was back in September in Pilot Knob, Missouri.  I meant to blog about it, but apparently I neglected too.  I will have to correct that and share some video and pictures.

After being out in the heat all day, we rested up at a local antique mall where I spotted this little wheel.  She didn't come home with us, but I found her fascinating.  Very delicate treadle, which appears to have been mended long ago.  Her paint is also interesting, barely visible, but I detected orange and perhaps green and black.

Tour de Fleece Update

I've had a bit of a wonky spinning schedule with our travels.  I'm back to it.  I have four bobbins of singles 12 oz total all spun up.  I'm working on plying two together and will hopefully finish my first 2 ply today.  There is A LOT of yarn to ply.  I'm not really guessing how many yards I have, but rest assured there is at least million/gazillion on there.
Yesterday was a rest day for the Tour, but I stayed busy.  I washed most of a Jacob fleece yesterday and finished up the rest early this morning.  Lovely, wouldn't you say?

sheep side view - downy white and lovely black

Hop everyone has ways of staying cool.  I'm off to finish plying.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Rabbit Hole

Still lagging on days here but with lots to share this time.

Tour de Fleece

The spinning has begun and I've been spinning almost everyday.  On Saturday, I cranked through four ounces of wool.  I spun at Knit and Caboodle with one girl from the spinning group, the shop owner and her employee.  We had a great day.  I helped troubleshoot wheel problems, we enabled a potential wheel owner and educated a few brave souls that asked what we were doing.

Spinning has been broken up with processing the fiber from my Winona fleece.  I'm flicking the locks to open them up for carding.  The Beast is helping me card up the fiber, and it even got to chew a bit on my finger.

Here is one of  my singles from the tour so far.  Tomorrow looks to be plying day.

Just after I finish flicking all of this....
 and finishing carding this....

Spinning News

Finished my beautiful Dyeabolical fiber - Green Means Go.  I'm thinking about making this a prize for an upcoming contest.  I still need to reskein and count up yardage, but I'm quite pleased with skein.  I didn't set up my dummy light box to help capture the colors.  The red is a red/orange and it is quite stunning.  The green muted a bit as the red bled a little during washing.

The Rabbit Hole

So we had a bit of excitement around here the other day.  Tuesday, I went out to bop around a local antique mall and visit another antique store that has a yarn shop inside.  Uneventful and a cooler way to get in a walk.  It is hard to do anything outside this time of year.  The Missouri heat and humidity just beat you down and take your lunch money.  So I went off to enjoy some looky-looing and air conditioning.

The first place had interesting things, but and I enjoyed wandering and wondering what things were.  Then I headed to the yarn/antique shop.  The yarn shop wasn't active and I quickly saw all there was to see.  Then I left that area and walked into to a room filled with antiques.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  There standing on a table was an antique spinning wheel (hear that noise?  That was the sound of me falling down the rabbit hole).  It wasn't just any wheel either.

With the trademark cast iron treadle and huge drive wheel it could only be one wheel.
 A Canadian Production Wheel (CPW).

CPWs were made by a few families in Quebec between the years 1870-1930.  They are fast wheels with large drive wheels (this one is 30 inches in diameter).  Factories had rows of them for cranking out yarn and thread.  Then this process became mechanized and the old ways were slowly let go.  

I stood in the door way stunned.  Not a week had gone buy that I said aloud to some spinners that one day I'd like to get CPW.  A woman in my spinning group has a few and they are just stunning.  I had joined the Ravelry group dedicated to them just last month and spent hours reading about their history.  The CPW Raverly group is dedicated and full of knowledge.  Members rescue wheels, arrange transport, enable each other and help source repairs and replacement parts.  They get word someone wants a wheel the group springs into action to help make it happen.  Wheels for sale are posted and from what I could tell much of the available wheels were still in Canada or in the north east.  Some day I knew I wanted to jump the group into action for me.

I texted Mister what I had found.  To price was good...very good.  But was I ready for a new wheel, an old one, with our current student lifestyle...perhaps moving?  I spoke to the owner and she quoted me a new lower price and gave it to me in writing.  I told her I needed to think and to contact the group for advice.  I didn't get that far.  I came home and Mister basically wanted to know why I didn't come home with the wheel.  He knew how much I had been wanting one and my growing interest in antique spinning wheels.

So, dear Reader....We got the wheel.

She is beautiful and in pretty good shape.  Near as we know the wheel spent many many many years living in southern Missouri with a woman that collected.  The woman got older and sold her estate off to the antique shop owner.  The shop owner was thrilled that the wheel is going to to a spinner.  She will be well treated and used.  There is something painfully tragic when things aren't used.  Seeing wheels are musical instruments abandoned for dust collecting just makes my heart hurt.  The rabbit hole of antique wheels has opened and I've fallen in.

The wheel does have evidence of once being used to spin, but she hasn't been used in a long time.  She is missing a footman (the wire that connects the wheel crank to the treadle) and a few other parts are damaged   She's dirty and needs some finish work.  All doable.

To the right is an ad from the 1920s.  The CPW group believe my wheel is a a Borduas wheel.

I have named my wheel, Julia, from The Beatles's song of the same name.  Look for more photos of Julia in the coming months.  I'm researching how to best clean her up and looking to have some parts made for her.  I did some temporary repairs to see if she spins true and she does.  It is a sight to behold to see the once quiet wheel spin again.  Perhaps a video is in order soon.

Until then, a family portrait.
Julia, the CPW, and Diana, the Schacht Ladybug.