Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Monday, October 27, 2003

A Woman's Work is Never Done.

Someone actually said that to me, about me this weekend.

That's because they saw me on Sunday afternoon, in the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing as Sat, spinning yarn.

I really had a marvelous weekend. I got to spin for seven hours (with occasional breaks of course, mostly for shopping!) on Sat and for five hours on Sunday. I got an amazing amount of yarn made too. Details on that will be later, since what I spun all weekend is for the frog hair exchange, and I have not finished skeining and figuring out everything.

I had the fun of re-enacting a spinner in a historic home both days. I did a sort of colonial outfit, the 'mop cap' was the highlight, everyone loved it, and I of course hated how I looked in it. My husband couldn't look at me without giggling :) I spun on my Ashford traditional, and took my Haldane, which looked right at home in the parlor, even if it had been made in 1972.

The house was built in 1787, and was the founder of this town's home. It is a modest (by our standards) but large by the days standards, two story, two rooms up and two rooms down. Later two more rooms were added, seperate but attached to the house. Those were used as extra rooms for guests, when the Inn he owned across the street was full.

The house is made of bricks, created on site by slaves. The wide wood floors are still in very good shape. The house is still owned by the heirs, but is used only as a historical site. No kitchen, there was an outside kitchen with cooking fireplace behind the house. No bath of course, although I heard in later years water was piped into the house from the Ohio river (right near by) for plumbing. A later relative of the original owner was the town's postmaster, and there were slots in the one door, where everyone dropped off their mail.

I was kept company by 'Jenny Lind' She sang every hour, as in the history of the house, the real Jenny Lind did stop there and sing from the steps of the house. And amazing piece of historical trivia about Jenny Lind (the Swedish nightengale) is that PT Barnum supposedly paid her an astounding 187,000 dollars to tour the US and sing for 18 months. There was other information, quite interesting, shared with the listeners. Good thing too, because after the sixth time through 'My Old Kentucky Home' I was only half listening. And yes, she supposedly really did sing that song, at this house, in 1852 or thereabouts.

Meanwhile, I kept my wheel humming all the time. On Sat I spun all of the shetland locks I had washed, and half filled two bobbins with those. I had to stay awhile longer so I carded some of the shetland that was not in locks, and spun that on my Haldane.

On Sunday I spun Cormo locks that I had washed. I had less time to spin on Sunday, so I filled a one bobbin half full and the other one almost half full. I need to do a little more on that at home, so I can ply that yarn.

I answered many questions, and gave out my card to a potential new spinner, if she needs help.

On one of my 'shopping' excursions, I went to visit the weaver. She was at the opposite end of the 'town' from me :( We had a nice chat (I think she will be joining our Tues spinning group if she can find the time) and I bought a lovely little bag to put on my spinning wheel. I also found the neatest pair of scissors, that look very old fashion, black wide holes like circles, and tiny thread snipping scissors. I love them.

I found the colonial clothes to be quite comfortable, although found out several things. 1) When getting in a car to drive, be sure ALL of your skirt is inside before you shut the door 2) Woman that had to lift up a skirt to go up stairs, could only carry something in one hand 3) long skirts get in the way of the treadle foot, and I could not spin a drop spindle and wear a shawl. 4) NO ONE could look good in a 'mop cap'.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Hello Thrillers!

You probably have tripled the number reading my blog now :) I cruise the thriller ring twice a week but waited awhile to connect to it. See, I am so very technodeficient, that every time I tried to change the layout on my old blog, it would end up a mess. In fact that's where the name came for this blog, I had to dump the old one, and start "a better fiber blog"

I am envious of everyone's beatiful blogs with pictures. I aim to join those folks at some point. But for right now you will have to live with my verbal descriptions, and lowly blogger blog.

All week long I have been getting things ready for doing a demo of spinning both Sat and Sun. It's not just a pick up my wheel and go deal. I made a 'it'll do' costume, by making a long skirt and an outer back tie skirt. I'll use my Ren Faire blouse, and a gray shawl. I still want to make an apron.

Oh that is something interesting. I had decided I wanted to make an apron from some old feedsacks that I had in stash. I picked up about a dozen of them at an auction once. I found a one that had a lovely pink stripe down both sides, and thought it would look great with my costume. But when I went to cut it open, I realized that it was woven without a seam. That is unusual in feedsacks and now I wonder if it was really a pillowcase, albeit, very heavy cotton. So it did not meet the sacrificial scissors, I found another one to use. Woven round is really neat, think like a sock machine only with fabric.

But I digress. Along with getting a costume, I also pulled out and updated my educational boards about different fibers used for spinning. I will have a basket of washed fleece, carders, and a drop spindle and my ashford traditional. I hope to spin what I need for my frog hair during this weekend since my ashford has a lace flyer on it. That should be shetland locks and cormo locks. I was thinking in my head about yardage needed. Eleven people, with enough to give about 2 yards singles wrapped on a cardboard, and about 5 yards of 2 ply to wash, means roughly at least 132 yards singles. I think it should be doable over sat and sun even with the questions from passers by.

The only thing I have left to do to get ready are labelling some skeins I would like to sell. I went through all my hand spun this week, sorted out what I wanted to keep, and put what was left in a rubbermaid tub. Some of it was already priced from the booths I do. But there is alot that I had originally planned to keep, or I had just not gotten labelled before the shows. I came up with an idea to package some of the matching skeins into project bags instead of selling them separately. I do not have any that would be enough for a sweater, but could push them for a child sweater, or matching hat gloves and mittens. Most of what I have is in the bulky range-I sure hope knitters are still interested in bulky yarn still. With the closeness of the holiday knitting deadlines maybe it will be appealing.


Friday, October 17, 2003

In Hot Water...

because I finally found my big net washing bags for washing fleece. I just woke up yesterday morning and postively remembered where I had put them...piffle on this loss of short term memory thing. It only took a whole week for the shuffling in my mind to get done and the results pop out...the bags are in the cupboard by the sink, the one I seldom open because it is full of bottles of homemade wine, and seldom used small kitchen appliances. Oh well, it seemed like a good place to store them originally.

I actually do not use the bags for washing, only for spinning the wet fleece in the washer. I have a deep kitchen sink, and I just fill both sides with hot soapy water and wash the fleece in that. First dip is usually very quick, it gets off most of the crud and I don't want the fleece soaking too long in that. The next several rinses will vary in time, depending on how dirty the fleece seems. If the water is clear, that is the last rinse. It then goes in the mesh bag, and is spun briefly in the washer to get as much water as possible out of it.

I am sure there would be other ways to wash fleece. I just have my routine, and like to do it that way. I have found washing fleece is one of the things I like to do in the morning, the hot water feels so good on my hands. I absolutely can not knit in the mornings, my fingers are too stiff. I have very fond memories of my grandmother, always awake before me, peacefully knitting until the rest of the household awoke. My knitting is more likely to be after the household is to bed for the night.

But I digress.

Yesterday I washed a part of a small shetland fleece. I had pulled part of it to be washed in locks and part was hand picked apart. I washed the hand picked part yesterday. It turned into a very lovely white fleece. I think I will try using my small handcombs on it, it seems that it will be nubby if I card it. As I posted on one group, it was lovely to be smelling the 'wet sheepie' again.

This morning I washed locks. I had flicked some cormo locks previously (using a metal tooth dog comb) and yesterday I flicked the shetland locks. I managed to get both sets of locks washed this morning before leaving for work (and no I don't get up at O dark thirty-I work second shift) Once I get everything set up, I like to wash as many locks as possible, it is a bit of a mess while doing it.

Just a bit of how-to. I heat a big pot of water on the stove to suppliment my tap water. I use two crock pots (these are set aside for dyeing) One I just use the insert part, as the washing pot and the second one is an older model, that is more like a crock that sits on a hot plate. I use this for the rinsing pot and do not have to change that water very much. The hot plate keeps the water very hot. The washing one gets new hot water about every dozen locks. The procedure is grab a fingerful bunch of locks, dunk them in the washing pot, turn and dunk again. Then I pass the lock over a bar of soap (I like using those small bars one gets at hotels, it is just the right size to hold) pressing the lock on the soap with my thumb. It's not really a scrubbing motion, just a gentle rubbing. Flip and do the other end of the lock. The lock is rinsed in the washing water and then it is dunked in the very hot rinse water, flipped and dunked again. I lay the lock on a towel, no squeezing, just letting the towel soak up the moisture. When the towel is full, I lay another towel on top. Eventually I take all of the locks and put them on the sweater mesh dryers.

I timed myself this morning and in 2 1/2 hours I washed seven dozen locks of cormo and 4 dozen locks of shetland. That is alot of yardage, when spun fine (the only reason I wash locks in the first place).

It was fun to see the wide wavy crimp on the shetland still show up, even when wet. The other thing that amazed me, was how rapidly the shetland seemed to be drying. It was washed last and was starting to puff up, a sign that it was drying. The cormo still looked completely flat. I know from experience that they will eventually dry and puff up, but at this point it is hard to believe.

I am taking part in an exchange for spinning 'froghair' that is, spinning as fine as possible. I will be using these locks next weekend, when I spin for a demo, since the wheel I like to use for demos, is set up with a lace flyer. So now I have three shoe boxes full of locks ready to spin.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Breed Notebook Part 1

First an explanation. Two years ago I bought a sampler pack of 20 different breeds of sheep from a vendor. It lanquished the first year, since I was so busy spinning things for sale. It got a good start this year, but I had no specific plan developed for the specific notebook. This Sunday I got in the mood to focus on this and finish it, since I am tired of it taking up space in one large basket of fiber.

Each breed had about two oz of washed fiber in the pack, and a description sheet. As I worked with each breed I took notes. What I am going to record here is those notes. When I finish spinning all of the breeds I want to take a big notebook, copy the information sheet onto stiff stock paper, type of additional information I have found about the breed, and put this in a page protector. I also have plastic photo pages and I plan to put the fiber samples, yarn samples etc in those pockets. All of this will then go into a notebook.

So here are the notes from spinning that I have so far. A few things to know are I use either a fine tooth hand carder or a medium tooth hand carder, depending on how fine the fiber seemed. My combing is done on 2 pitch hand held combs.

Fiber is very clean, very dry causing some static while combing. It has an exceptional white color. Locks are not very distinct, and there is little crimp. Hand carding was not very effective, it caused neps in the batt. When combing, the fiber drafted off in short staples.

Spinning the carded batt emphasized the neps, some could be pulled out, others causes thick places in the yarn. A medium spindle was a bit too lightweight for the fiber. Yarn spun on my electric was better, the longer draft zone smoothed some of the bumps out. Yarn was 2 ply 8 WPI, a 7 yard skein.

Spinning the combed fiber on my electric produced a very smooth yarn, using a long triangle draw. There was lots of bounce to the yarn after plied and skeined. Sample is 10 WPI in an 8 yd skein.

Both methods seemed to need more twist in the singles. Both skeins hung loose after plying, very little residual twist.

Fiber clean, dry, with some static. Color is an off white, with moderate crimp. It had obvious locks with the tips still held together. It hand carded nicely with few neps. It was easy to comb, and moderately easy to pull off of the combs.

Spinning the carded fiber gave an occasional bump that could be pulled from the yarn. Used a very short drafting triangle. On my electric the 2 ply yarn is 11 WPI in an 8 yard skein.

Spinning the combed top was delightful. Could use a very long drafting draw and yarn was very smooth.
2 ply was 11 WPI (no record of length of skein).

Both yarns relaxed and poofed after skeining.

Fiber not very clean looking, yellow tips. Gave an all over appearance of a dirty white color. It had distinct locks and moderate crimp. Did not like how the fiber carded, it had many neps. Combs gave a nicer bump free top, but the fiber was hard to pull off the combs.

Spinning the carded fiber was surprising it actually drafted nicely and a longer draw smooth out any bumps. The 2 ply yarn from my electric spinner was 10 WPI in a 12 yard skein.

Spinning the combed fiber also was a surprise. It could be spun very very fine. I did a bit of both types of spinning, and had a regular 2 ply yarn of 11 WPI in a 12 yard skein, and a fine 2 ply of 21 WPI in a small sample skein.

There was no poof to the yarn after plying and skeining.

A fun sample to play with. It was off white with dark brown spots mixed in. I seperate the colors as best I could and also left some together to blend. The fiber had no definate locks, and had a high crimp. It carded very nicely, I did some white and some of the blend of colors. It was a hard sample to comb, I had to pay very close attention while pulling off the comb to not pull too hard. The combs are better for blending the colors though.

Spinning the carded fiber would only give me a bulky, bumpy yarn. The white looked more like oatmeal, once it was spun and the blend of color was a lovely tweedy although bumpy yarn. Both in 2 ply were 10 WPI in an 11 yard and 6 yard skein.

Spinning the carded fiber produce a lovely blended grey yarn. It could be spun very fine. I was surprised to find my 2 ply measured at only 15 WPI, it seemed to be finer as a single (obviously all that high crimp in the fiber).

Border Leicester
This is a white fiber that still felt a little sticky. It had very long locks with alot of the ends still twisted together. The crimp was wide and wavy. If these locks are opened up they card well on the hand carders. It did not comb well. It made wide puffs of fiber full of static in spite of the residual lanolin. I could get some nice top if I used some of the shorter locks.

Spinning the carded fiber produced a moderately nice yarn. It was difficult to draft, the stickiness of the fiber fighting the drafting. My 2 ply sample spun on my electric spinner was 13 WPI in a 17 yard skein.

Spinning the combed fiber was easier, I could use a very long smooth draw. It still only spun moderately fine. I noticed while plying that the singles were definately underspun, they were not holding the twist at all in some spots. The 2 ply yarn was 15 WPI.

More later in Part 2


Friday, October 10, 2003

Fleece Rollcall

I was off from work on Tues, and with the low humidity weather we have been having, I decided it was time to do some fleece washing. My goal was to get the stash beside the washer/dryer out of that location. It was in one big rubbermaid tub, and several shipping boxes, but I did not really remember what I had out there, except for one mammoth BL fleece (that was what was taking up all of the rubbermaid tub).

So I shuffled everything to my front porch and had a wonderful couple of hours of perfect fall weather sitting on the porch and sorting. I can not call it skirting, that was suppose to have been done on all of these fleeces. In truth they were all reasonably skirted. I was going more for breaking the fleeces down into washing to maintain the lock structure or not.

BTW the mammoth BL is still in the tub. I did not mess with that yet. I know I will not try to do any lock spinning from this fleece. It is courser than most fleeces I have had from this breeder's flock, but a lovely gray color. It is rug yarn eventually, whether I will spin it or locker hook it, I have not decided.

I had a smaller softer BL fleece that I had packaged up to take to a processor at the Allegan show. We never met up, so I brought the fleece home with me. I tried drafting a lock (still with lanolin on it) It was sticky and thicker than I'd like, but it did draft. I have not decided if I will wash this on for locks or pick it apart and card it. It joined the other one, in it's own box. I did set some dreadlocks aside from both of the BL, that would be perfect 'hair' for a doll.

It some became a mote point whether I would be washing any fleece anyway. I searched high and low several times for my three mesh laundry bags that I use to spin the fleece in the washer. I can not locate them anywhere. I know I stuck them away somewhere in my frenzy of cleaning six weeks ago. Alas, they are still missing.

So now knowing I would not be washing fleece, I consoled myself to at least get my hands lanolin covered anyway. Onward to the other boxes of fleeces.

I had a small fleece in a big box, labelled April. I found the sales slip (I really do try and keep that type of information in with the fleeces) and realized that this was a shetland fleece given to me free for buying two other fleeces. It was a small, very soft, very clean white fleece. I pulled the best looking locks and set them in a small box. I did the drafting of one of the locks, oh my, it just pulled and pulled to the finest roving, even in the grease. I think this will be a very nice cobweight yarn. When I could not keep the lock structure intact, I pulled the fleece into puffs, and will wash those that way.

The next bigger box also had a shetland fleece. I remember buying this one :) It came from a rabbit breeder friend that also raises shetlands. She was the one that got me to try shetland fleece again. My first experience spinning shetland was very bad. I purchased a processed roving because I loved the deep brown color. But the yarn was harsh and unwearable. I now know that I can not spin lace weight from roving, and that the processing probably made the roving harsh.

This shetland fleece is a moorit and I am just in love with the color. Sort of a cinnamon brown, with tan tips. It drafted just as thin as the white, and I have two pounds of this fleece. I put as many intact locks as I could into a box, and the rest was pulled into puffs to wash.

The last box was a large cormo fleece I purchased just this spring. Soft and white, it unfortunately has very dirty tips. The crimp is unbelieveable. ~~~~~~~~ only half the size of that. I pulled the whole fleece apart. It is one of the few fleeces I have actually been able to pick up and gently shake like is recommended. Usually everything just falls apart, but there is a very delicate web like structure to the whole fleece and it stayed together during it's easy shake. But not much fell out, the dirt is attached to the tips unfortunately.

Also the lock structure on this fleece is very small. It just didn't seem like a good idea to just break everything apart into tiny locks. I pulled long sections of locks, and laid them in the box. I think I am going to try a soak of a section first and see how it responses. I think it may just all fall apart, once the dirt is removed, but I am hoping that if I treat each section, like a lock, I can then take each section and draft.

Cormo is very hard to work with. I am in for a challenge to home process this fleece, but that is the part of all of this that I like. The challenge of taking each fleece and looking at it and deciding just how to handle it best.

I really did not have to put off the washing, since the biggest part of the fleeces were set aside to wash as locks. That does not need those yet to be found mesh bags. I decided I best do some mowing first, but lock washing is definately planned...real soon now.


Monday, October 06, 2003

How Deep is Your Stash?

In preparation for attending a Ren Faire, I decided to make a costume to wear. I can not decide if I want to brag, or be embarrassed to say that I made the ENTIRE outfit with what was in my sewing stash. We are talking patterns, fabrics and trims! The only exception to this was the grommets on the bodice, I had something that might have worked, but it was much easier to just give the bodice garment to my daughter to put some in from her stash.

I thought I'd take the time to write about each piece of the outfit and just what I used to make it.

I started with the blouse first, because I figured if I got short on time (I was after all making these about three days before the Faire) I could make do with a long skirt and shawl. I chose a pattern that Butterick makes, not the elaborate court costume of the Ren Faires, more of the serving wench style. The blouse is a typical gathered wide at the neck so it can be pulled down on the shoulders, and gathered at the wrists. The first piece of fabric I pulled to used did not have enough, so finding another piece of very nice cream colored fabric in the pile, I pulled it out. Yep there was plenty for sure. I do not remember what project I bought this fabric for, but I remember buying it, because it was the uncommon double wide cotton that costs so much. And yes, I went ahead and used it. Still have alot left, but not as much as I did! The blouse sewed up very fast. I found out that using bias tape inside for the elastic on the neck, and then using wide elastic gave the neckline and the wrist gathering a smocked look. The gathering was in nice big pleats instead of tight, looking just like it was smocked. I was very pleased with that. I also spent a nice half hour going through my jumble of lace bits, and found nice tatted looking ecru lace for trim on the neckline and sleeves. I finished the blouse in about three hours of sewing, and cut out the skirt for the next days sewing.

The skirt was from the same pattern. I found a heavy dark green cotton 'bunch' of fabric and knew there would be enough for the skirt in that, even though the skirt seemed to use miles of fabric. I have no recollection of what the green was purchased for originally. But whatever it was, it was going to be a big project. I used about 4.5 yards of fabric for the skirt and had over 5 yards left. For some reason, Butterick seemed to think that zippers were in use in those 'goode olde days' I decided I'd rather not. That meant adapting the pattern though. I went ahead and sewed all the panels together, held it up to me and realized the skirt was for a lady 6 inches taller than myself. I cut 5 inches off the bottom of the skirt, ripped out one seam and then made the waistband from that. What that gave me was the waistband and then enough tie to go around me twice. I figured that would keep the skirt on for as long as I wanted. After about two hours another part of the costume was done, and I cut out the fabric for the bodice.

Yes, I was practicing speed sewing. It only had to pass the 5 foot test, after all.

I made the bodice from two heavy weight fabrics. It ends up being reverseable, a dark side and a light side. The light side was an upholstery fabric, that looks handwoven. The dark side is a brushed demin. This sewed up very fast, the only slightly complicated part was easing that seam that form fits the breast. Oh and turning the vest. See, you sew right sides of both parts together, leaving the shoulder seams open and a turning area at the bottom of the vest. It meant putting my hand in that open area, wiggling the shoulder down into my fingers and tugging it all out the hole. It was quite fascinating really, I had this very metaphysical image of a world turning itself inside out. Passed the time, while I groped for the little shoulder seams. After the vest was turned I had to do that fancy thing of tucking one shoulder into the other, making sure all the wild ends were caught, and top stitching. Looked great on the light colored side. When I turned it over though, I realized I was still using white bobbin thread. OPPS! I have not fixed it yet, but my fix will be to color over those stitches with a black magic marker.

And I was done. My daughter took the bodice to put in the grommets. I went on to take some alpaca fiber I had spun and knit a head covering (I won't grace it with the name of snood) but that's another post.

Meanwhile, I got the sewing bug again. In my stash diving, I have found fabric for a colonial outfit I will need later this month. And for a cape, that I have been wanting for a long time. Oh there are plenty of other projects. My wonderful computerized sewing machine is sitting there lobbying for something with fancy stitches, after all that straight stitch sewing.