Wash Day

Early in July, my cousin from northern California brought her family up for vacation and brought me a lovely 3-pound Jacob fleece from one of her favorite ewes. I spent part of the afternoon on July 4th sorting fleece and readying it for a cold soak. The top two pictures are of the fleece before I sorted it by color. The staple length ranges from about 3″ to about 6″, with some of the fleece long and silky while most of it is soft and downy. Like most Jacob fleece, it is a patchy mixture of colors, from white and grey to tawny, russet, browns, and black.

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Jacob Sheep at Fat Toaster Farm

I cold soak dirty fleeces for at least 24 hours before scouring, and sometimes much more. I had been given a sample of Jacob fleece from this farm before and knew to expect a fair amount of VM (vegetable matter) and just plain crud hiding in the fleece. Cold soaking loosens up the dirt, feces, and urine and allows the solids to settle to the bottom of the tub while the urine is liquefied and rinsed out before washing (scouring). Because of work and lack of time, this fleece sat in the cold soak for nearly a week before I got to it. The warm weather had set up conditions for a good bacterial growth, so the tub developed into a suint vat before I got back to it. Pretty darn stinky when I took off the cover – but it sure cleaned the fleece well! I’ve found this method works especially well with high-grease fleeces and cuts down the time and number of washes (scours) needed to get the fleece clean.

A cold soak or even a suint vat probably won’t get rid of the hay, stems, weed seeds, and other VM that is embedded in the fleece, but I don’t worry much about that. I pick out the big obvious chunks as I sort – and have been known to toss out completely locks that are more VM than fiber – but experience has shown me that all the other VM will be processed out either when I comb or card, or while I’m spinning. No worries.

After lifting the trays out of the tub and squeezing out the liquid with my hands, I hot scoured the fleece using Dawn dish soap and very hot tap water. I do all this outside on our covered back patio in the laundry dump sink with a large plastic tub set into the sink to wash in. I washed all the fleece twice, rinsing once with hot water between the washes. Each wash, the fleece sat in the solution for 15 minutes, not allowing the water to cool. The second wash, I used Unicorn Power Scour and kept the temperature slightly cooler than in the first wash. Finally, I rinsed all the fleece with lukewarm water, squeezed as much water out by hand as I could, then placed all the fleece in net bags, zipped them closed, and spun the remaining water out using my front-loading washer set to “drain and spin”.  I then took the clean fleece out of the bags and spread the fiber out to dry on my drying rack – a folding laundry drying rack fitted with tulle “sheets” held in place with clothespins. Works like a charm! While the fleece was drying, I moved it around a bit, straightening locks here and there and flipping the whole mass over at least once or twice so the air would move through it a little better. Because of the afternoon wind threatening to blow the fleece off the rack and into the garden, I moved the whole thing into the house where it could dry safely, if a little slower.

The next day, after I was sure the fleece was completely dry. I packed it loosely into brown paper grocery bags, weighed and labeled, and then stored it for later carding / combing and spinning. (I tare weight the pair of grocery bags so my fiber weight in grams is more accurate.) To enclose the fiber, I pull a second bag upside down over the first.  I’m such a geek that I keep track of my fiber in a spreadsheet and label the bags with bag numbers so I can figure out what I’ve got where and how much of it I’ve got. If I’ve got just a small amount – up to 100 grams or so – I’ll store it in a gallon-size Zip-loc bag, numbered and labeled as above.

I’m enjoying the whole process of cleaning raw fleece. I really like the idea that I can create lovely yarns with locally-grown fiber, dye fiber with native plants or other plants grown in my own garden, then spin the fiber into yarns that I love to knit with. The whole process just pleases me immensely and fills me with great joy.

How about you? What fibery thing makes you smile?

 

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My Soul is . . . Twisted.

It’s been two weeks since my most recent update. What have I accomplished since then? Not so much with fiber, but quite a bit in the yard and garden and am now working part time for “The County”. The part time work alone sucks up three full days every week – 1.5 hours of commuting time each day plus 8 hours of work. With any amount of good fortune, I will soon be working full time, so I’m enjoying my (hopefully short-lived) freedom during the week.

FOs? Nada.

WIPs – B’s scarf is inching along. I’m at 42 inches now. He tried it on yesterday and we agreed that 60 to 66 is going to work for him.

The mitered square throw is still in time-out. It’s not being “bad”, per se. I just haven’t had the head space to deal with it.

Socks!! Oh. My. Yes. A fun “potato chip” knit, if there ever was one:

20170626 Twisted SoulThis is Nathan Taylor‘s “Twisted Soul” pattern, which was released as an MKAL (Mystery Knit-A-Long) and will be released soon as a full pattern. All three clues have been released, so I’m not giving anything away here. The MKAL pattern is linked above and is available until the end of June at 3 GBP (just under $4 US). The pattern is really well-written, the charts are lovely, and I encourage anyone that is at all interested in twisted stitches to give it a try. It’s fun! Oh, and DO use two contrasting colors of yarn and choose a tightly-spun sock yarn for this one. Splitty yarn is a pain in the neck for this pattern. I’m using Brown Sheep superwash wool in Lightning Lemon and Gunsmoke for these, with a Karbonz 42″ circular needle. The yarn’s a little splitty for my taste in this pattern, but the sharpness of the needle tips help a lot. They aren’t quite as sharp as a Hiya Hiya, but more sharp than some of the other needles I have.

Fiber: My spinning wheel is under the weather right now, with the flyer assembly having been sent off to the wheelwright for repairs. Accordingly, the only spinning that’s happening is a bit here and there on a spindle to test sample fiber that I’m carding or combing. I’m getting a little practice in with a set of combs that B just built for me and am having great fun combing some Romney lamb with them. One of these days “real soon now” I’ll set up the hackle outside and blow through some Merino. . . . or maybe more of that white Romney!

Meanwhile, the garden beckons.

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Fleece Up!

I’ve been busy since the last update!

Souring and washing fleece:

 

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Finished Cormo locks – 22 ounces from 32 ounces raw fleece

 

(Above) sorting white Romney locks for scouring and washing. Between a ewe fleece and a hogget fleece, I started with nearly 12 pounds of raw fleece – so I ended up with bags and bags of fluff to card and locks to either comb, card, or spin from the lock.

But, wait! There’s more! Little additions (a.k.a. “squirrels”) added to the inventory: an ounce of gold metallic fiber to use in a yarn that I’m planning. A couple of packages of silk hankies – one of which looks almost tie-dyed in pinks and purples, the other is undyed. Oh, and to go with the dyed silk: four 2-ounce batts of Gulf Coast Native that is dyed in muted, dusky blue grey with hits of purple. (Pictures later.) A little stash acquisition – and it’s not yet time for Black Sheep Gathering!

 

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Ladd’s Addition socks

FOs:  Just one this time – a pair of socks for B. He liked my Afterthought Everything socks so much that he asked for a pair in the same yarns.  His are a bit different than mine, other than being bigger. (The perspective is ‘off’ in this image, his sock feet are less than one inch longer than mine.) The toes on these are in the main colorway rather than the red yarn, and his heels are knit with the red yarn but held together with a nylon thread for additional strength. It feels good knit up – not stiff or scratchy – but it’s fiddly and a pain to knit. And weaving in the ends is even worse! Not something I want to repeat or do very often. However, I’d rather knit with the nylon than have to darn the socks in six months.

WIPs:

20170518 MiteredSquareThrow

The mitered square blanket is moving along slowly. Since this picture was taken, I’ve completed the second lace panel using a crown stitch and am now attaching the third block panel that you see here. The project’s kind of in a time-out right now while I solve some technical problems with it.

B’s scarf is coming along, too – not a huge amount of progress since the last picture, though. More of the same.

New on the needles:

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I’m participating in Sockmatician’s Twisted Soul MKAL, which is a lot of fun.  This is a Mystery Knit-A-Long in which the pattern is a pair of socks, knitted in two-color Bavarian two-stitch cabling, with the segments of the pattern released to the participants as three separate “clues”. The pattern in full will be released to the general public for purchase after the finish date, which is tentatively set for June 30. There’s just no way that I will be finished knitting these socks by then, but it’s proving to be a fun – if frustrating – pattern and I’ll have a really cool pair of socks when I’m done. This is NOT car knitting! B’s scarf is now my car knitting project once again.

Knitting Dreams:

 

The mostly-merino combo spin (above, left) is done and patiently waiting to be knitted up into something. I haven’t decided what yet, though. Sweater? Shawl? Dunno. The little bit o’ Jacob you see on the wheel up there has been turned into about 40 yards of two-ply which will be combined with other sample skeins into a hat for me later on this year. I’m thinking maybe a simple toque with some colorwork – I’ve got natural two-ply in various different colors that would work well in that use.

The lilac Romney, though – that will, I’m sure be spun thin and 2-plied along with more Romney that I’ve dyed pink and then used in a shawl. I may ply it with some undyed mulberry silk  . . . .

Update is Postponed

My goodness. Spend a little time in the garden and on a few knitting and spinning projects and I look up and find that I haven’t updated in over a month!

Well, the good news is that I’ve at least been taking pictures as I go, so in the next couple of days you should see an update here.

‘Til then, Thumbs Out!

A Quick Update

Yup, it’s still raining.

RoadCam - ORE6 at Lees Camp

Yup, the peas are coming up.

Nope, the Red Haven peach blossoms haven’t opened yet. The Veteran peach blossoms have, as have the Rainier cherry’s – and they are gorgeous!

Nope, no FOs today.

Nope, I haven’t finished B’s scarf yet. 34.5 inches long and progressing gradually. I should have it finished by the first performance of the 2017-2018 Oregon symphony season, as planned.

Other WIPs? A second pair of Ladd’s Addition socks, this time for B. No word yet on whether he wants red heels and toes.

The only other project on the needles is the “never-ending” mitered square throw. I’ve got the first three block panels done, including weaving in the ends (which I do after every few blocks so it’s not overwhelming). Goofball that I am, it dawned on me Sunday that I didn’t have a US-2 circular with a long enough cable for the lace panel rows, so I got one ordered. Amazon tells me that the ChiaoGoo red lace cable is in the mailbox today. [I really like ChiaoGoo needles. Smooth, well-made, inexpensive. Great cables.]

The other day the mailman brought me a prize that I’d won from the Knotty Knit Wits podcast. A project bag and hand-dyed sock yarn from Mitchell’s Creations.  Just right for a sock project – I love the carrying strap. The bag is lined with coordinating purple fabric, and the zipper pull is a tiny masque progress keeper.  Fun stuff!

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SIPs? I’m still spinning along on the brown Romney that I have so much of . . . along with the mostly Merino combo spin. I’ve also been doing a bit of spindle work with alpaca, shown below on the nostepinne.

20170425 SIPs

Each one of my fancy storage bobbins (lol) hold about 30 grams of singles. This picture shows five balls of Merino and two of the Romney. I have been spinning about a half-dozen balls then two-plying full skeins before wet finishing. I’m amassing a pretty fair amount of finished yarn. I haven’t completely settled on patterns yet, but I think the combo spin will probably end up as a shawl. The Romney will probably find itself in a sweater. I’m pondering a top down with some colorwork and very likely a steeked button or zipper placket.

On the drying rack today are three skeins of brown Romney, one of the combo spin (2 ply), and a sample skein of woolen spun alpaca and white Romney lamb blend. That sample will probably end up in a hat – it’s so soft and fuzzy, I know I’ll want to make more of it.

Wool washing!! First, you have to sort:

20170419 SortingRomneyLambLocks

This is the small Romney hogget fleece that I just bought. 3.75 lbs raw. What you see here is whole locks, with the random fluff (“not locks”) in the plastic bag. The staple length on these locks is averaging about 7 inches. Looks pretty grungy here – and smelling very sheepy – but it’s actually quite clean with very little vm (vegetable matter) and just some dirty lock tips. The yellow is almost all lanolin and the dirt that stuck to it.

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Here are part of the locks, shown after an overnight cold water soak and before a hot scour and rinse.

Most of the dirt will come out in the hot scour (with Unicorn Power Scour and the hottest tap water I can get) and a good rinse. The remaining dirt that sticks to the tips will be flicked out when I spin the locks. I don’t know if I will card, comb, or spin from the lock. Will have to do some sampling and decide!

So Much Fiber, So Little Time!

I was wishing for white fleece. I got white fleece. Oh. My. Did I ever.

Last Saturday, we went to the Aurora Colony Handspinners Guild‘s fiber fair in Oregon City. Our first fiber fair, we started with a small one – but even this one had my head spinning with possibilities:

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What can I make with this?

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We walked around, met people – including the lovely Janet, who is the current Vice President and incoming President of the guild – and ogled wheels, fiber, and yarns in progress. Additionally, I stopped at the Jenkins Yarn Tools table and visited with Ed Jenkins about his gorgeous handmade Turkish spindles. I don’t do much spindle spinning these days, but if I did, I would’ve scooped up (at least) a Kuchulu – I tried one out and loved it! At around $50, they aren’t as expensive as a Bosworth, but they are wonderful, well-balanced, and worth every penny.

One of the ladies I talked with tipped me off that over in the corner of the hall I could find a really good deal on raw white Romney fleeces, so we went over and checked it out. I hemmed and hawed, walked away, talked with a few other people, picked up some 4 oz. bags of Romney Lamb and a couple of 50% Romney and Polypay, and came back to the boxes of raw fleece and looked again. I didn’t jump at it because I just didn’t know whether I should spend that much ($19 for one, $48 for the other). They were gorgeous – the smaller was a 3.75 lb. Romney lamb fleece and the other was an 8 lb. adult Romney fleece. Neither one had much VM and the staple length!! Glorious – an average of about 6 inches. But I walked away from them both.

Since then, though, I not only scarfed up the last two 4 oz. bags of the Romney/Polypay, I bought 16 oz. of alpaca (mostly light brown, with about 3 oz. of black) from the guild. My new friend Janet (of the guild) sent me these and tossed an armload of miscellaneous colored fiber scraps to card in to make tweed or whatever else I can think of. Fun stuff! Probably the best $30 I’ve spent in months.

But the big deal is that yesterday, I drove out to Oregon City and bought those two fleeces from the shepherdess that was selling them at the fair. Handwashing nearly 12 pounds of fleece will be a lot of work, but I’m dreaming of lots of lovely yarn – and dyeing a goodly amount of it.

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Just the beginning – Romney lamb

Meanwhile, I’ve finished a pair of socks:

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PushMePullYou?

The Afterthought Everything socks use an interesting construction method. You knit a tube with ribbing on both ends, placing the heels with knitting in a half-round of waste yarn at the appropriate location for the heel. Then you put the live heel stitches on needles and knit the heels. You then find the center point between the base of the heels and steek to free up the live stitches for the toes. Pick up the toe stitches, knit the toes & you’re done. Pretty darned easy and they fit really well.

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20170411AfterthoughtEverything-Finished

I knit these using Knitpicks’ Hawthorne Fingering in the Ladd’s Addition colorway for the main color and their Stroll Tonal in red for the toes and heels. Hawthorne Fingering is a fairly high-twist sock superwash merino with nylon and is really nice to knit up. B liked these so much that I’ve ordered more Ladd’s Addition for a pair for him! (I’ll knit his longer in the leg, though – these are short socks for me.)

What else? WIPs: more work on the ongoing scarf, and more work on the mitered square throw. I’m working on the third block panel now and am waiting for the arrival of some special yarn for the bridge panels and border – I’ve ordered KnitPicks Gloss in the Blackberry colorway for this part of the throw, because the lace panels and border will work up beautifully in this:

Gloss-Blackberry

This yarn is 70% merino – 30% silk and shows stitch definition really well. The blackberry color is especially meaningful for this project, as this throw is really a sampler of yarns (both purchased and handspun), stitches and techniques, and incorporates handspun dyed with plants gathered here on the homestead. I spend a lot of time every summer foraging for berries – blackberries are one of our favorites.  I’m working on charting the mitered blocks and lace panels, and one day hope to have a finished pattern for this project.

no fiber, just garden

20170406 TomatoSeedlings

I’m in the land of the giant tomato plants this morning. Actually, these guys are happily thriving under their grow light – now several weeks old and due for a repotting, the seedlings are about 2-3 inches tall and getting their second leaves (not counting the cotyledons). Their flat neighbors are peppers and lettuce. The lettuce will get planted out next week and the peppers will take up the space after the transplanting day. This is a canning and preserving summer, so I really want a lot of tomatoes and peppers.

Not seen here is a flat with cucumbers, Swiss chard, butternut squash, and Casper pumpkins – just ’cause I like ‘weird’ plants. The cukes look like giants compared to the whispy chard seedlings, who just poked their ‘noses’ up out of the seedling mix today.

20170406 Rhubarb

Rhubarb! Yay! What more do I need to say about this? They share a bed with black and red currants and a Veteran peach (seen in his winter wrap, which I haven’t taken off yet).

20170406 Blueberries

The blueberry flowers are about to pop, too. The seemingly empty plot behind this plant is full of blueberry plants of various varieties. This diversity gives us enough blueberries to nibble at all summer, beginning in July. The metal tubs at the other side of the yard are planted with ever-bearing strawberries, which do the same thing (if we get to the fruit before the chipmunks do).

20170406 Julius

Our kitty, Julius – a.k.a. the gardening supervisor – is helping inspect the blueberries. He was talking up a storm when he came out to see what I was doing, but went quiet when I pressed the video record button on my camera. So, no video this time. Maybe in the future, when I get more than my own plaintive voice calling him to get his attention. He’s often following me around, commenting on my work, and protecting me from my hand tools while I’m out in the garden. He’s a big “help”.