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.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Spinning laceweight in the grease

I was working on my next to the last batch of the Rambo fleece this morning, picking it before putting it in the cold water soak. And I am finally working on the very best of the fleece. There is one batch left, and as I was picking and sorting, my fingers got very itchy to try and spin some of it. It is very soft and fine, and normally I would try and take some of this prime area and wash the locks to spin a lace weight yarn. I still think it would not be worth the time and effort to lock wash, because the locks have very little intregrity. Also for all of it's softness, I know Rambo is a cross with a merino, and I know merino will poof into yarn much larger than what it first looks like. Still, it was so tempting, I decided to just do some sampling with the locks in the grease.

It worked good, because today is very warm. The locks were not at all sticky.

I used my mini Bosworth spindle which weighs .77 oz. It was a good choice, since it has enough weight to keep spinning, but not enough to pull my fiber out of my hand, and drop.

First sampling was to just take some locks, pull out any VM or tips, elongate the lock some (like predrafting) and spin. I started with the butt end and worked to the tip. There was usually a bit of fluff that I did not include when I finished the lock. My drafting triagle was by no means fine enough to count the individual fibers, but it did let light through :) I spun some singles, checked the WPI and then did a 2 ply. The resulting samples are on the lower part of the card in the picture below.

The second sampling was to take the locks and comb them with a dog comb, doing both ends out, and trying to open the middle of the lock also with the comb. This is still in the grease. I was surprised to find I did not see much difference, in the two yarns. This combed 2 ply could be said to be just a bit smoother, but it was not as thin as the above 2 ply. And I had more trouble spinning the locks after they were combed, which also surprised me.

Sample card of Rambo lace in the grease Posted by Hello

If you look closely, you can see how much the halo the yarns have, even wrapped tight on the card. Along with this, I know the yarn has had alot of bounce in the skeins I have spun so far. None of this has made a decision for me yet for the processing of the final part of this fleece. I think I will be practical, and do it like the rest, and leave the lace spinning for some fleece still hiding in my stash. It's tempting though, because it is a lovely brown color, that would make a great lace scarf.


Friday, June 11, 2004

Working with Rambouilette

I have been working every morning on washing fleece. I seem to have developed a pattern, where I pick enough fleece to fill two 5 gallon buckets. I fill the buckets with cold soapy water, and put the fleece in it and let that soak until the next day. Then what had soaked the day before gets washed in my kitchen sink. One hot water wash with liquid laundry detergent, and a second even hotter (I add boiling water) wash with Dawn. Then a very hot rinse (with boiling water added) and a regular hot water rinse. I put the fleece in a mesh bag, give it a short spin in the washer spin cycle, and put it out to dry. It is dry by the next day. I take what is now dry and drum card it, and in the evening after work, I spin what I have drum carded.

It makes me feel like I am really making progress, although in truth I am not. I get that feeling I think because I am more focus on one thing, getting this fleece washed.

I have been working on a Rambo fleece that I bought sight unseen. It is a lovely deep brown color, but it does have some problems, and therefore was very inexpensive. I have found that I can eliminate almost all of the 'problems' in my processing, except for the weak tips or a break in the lock. This fleece is sound but it does have weak tips.It is just not feasable for me to cut them all off. The sheep was not coated and so the tips are very sunburned. So I have just been pulling them off whenever I can, and know that I will not sell the yarn, but use it for myself.

The fleece is worth processing time to me, because of the softness. After it is washed and carded, and even the yarn, is the softest wool I have ever spun.

When I first open a fleece, I will seperate it out into several piles. One obvious pile is for mulch, depending on how well the original skirting was done, this could be a little or alot. I probably lost about a pound of this 6 lb fleece to mulch. Then I try and pull out the worse of what is left. In this case it was areas around the rump that has nice wool but is pretty dirty, and also under the neck, which had lots of hay in it. The third thing I pull out if I can determine it, is the area across the shoulders of the sheep. This is traditionally the area of the finest wool, and is often used for lock spinning very fine yarn. There was not good lock definition to this fleece, but I pulled that area out to process as a batch. And finally the rest is the prime blanket area over the back, that gets processed as a batch.

I almost always process that extra dirty batch first. I do this for a number of reasons. One, if the way I think the wool should be washed does not clean the very dirtiest, it will not clean the best part. So I am using the worse part for experimentation. The cold water soak was an experiment with this fleece (one that turned out to be a very good idea) Second, when I start handling a new fleece, I am all excited about it, and will take the extra time and effort that those dirty bits need. By the time I get to that last batch, the prime blanket, I am tired of the fleece, but fortunately that area needs very little extra effort.

I mentioned that I find I can process out most of the faults in a fleece. The first thing I do is to take some fleece between my two hands and really shake it. I had always heard people say to shake a fleece, but found shaking a whole fleece is not what they meant. If I take a length of fleece between my two hands and really shake it, the second cuts go flying, and so does a lot of the VM. So I do this before I pick the fleece apart.

I pick with my hands. I would like to have a picker, but it bothers me to use a picker for both unwashed and washed fleece. If I had one, I would only use it on clean fleece. I have had an opportunity to use one, and I am undecided about whether I want one or not. I just did not get the hang of making the one work that I was trying. So I sit on my porch and pick a small batch at a time, and it saves my hands from getting sore. This is where most of the VM falls out.

There is a very frugal streak in me. Could be my German heritage, could just be my Taurus nature. I hate to throw anything away. So I was curious just how much 'yarn' I would get for my extra effort on the two dirty batches, and kept good records. I processed it just as I mentioned above and ended up with this from my drumcarder.

Looks like a lot but is only 5.5 oz Posted by Hello

I was very pleased to discover that my Patrick Green drum carder, with the fur drum, likes this Rambo fleece very well. I have tried to card merino on this fur drum, and ended up with neps. Not so with this fleece, with is why I became even more encouraged to continue the processing inspite of the tips. By the time the fleece had two passes through the carder, I had very wonderful batts that spun into this:

190 yards of very soft yarn Posted by Hello

It is a very deep brown. The carded batts look gray in the photo and gray/brown in real life, but the yarn ended up being a lovely deep tweedy brown. It is 13 WPI 2 ply, a bit too thick for socks (I wouldn't with the possibility of neps anyway) but I know I am going to use it for a shawl for me possibly with some dyed yarns.

Is it too much work? Probably. Right now it is a nice stress relieving project in my mornings before I go to work.


Finally pictures on the blog

Thank you to Annie for discovering Bloggers new picture linking software by Hello. If you are not using it and have a blogger account, check it out. It is very simple to use. The only thing I found is I am use to using Adobe on my computer to make the photos better, and can still do that. I was hoping to avoid that step, and the pictures in the posts are straight from my digital camera, to my computer and then to the blog through Hello by Picasa.

I also found out that it thinks each picture is a blog entry (unless I have not figured out how to use it properly) So I had to fiddle some, to get both pictures on one blog entry.

Still...pictures at last without messing about with Yahoo.