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.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympic Spinning challenge Day 1

And they're off!

Although my olympic spinning challenge certainly didn't start with the pyrotechnics that was used in the real Olympics opening ceremony. Nor will my challenge come even close to breaking me into a sweat. I salute all the athletes competing from all over the world, for all of their focus and hard work. And say again, thank goodness that's not me.

I want to try and keep my notes here instead of a notebook for this project. First a few details.

Fiber: Maine Island fleece, unwashed, and only around 2.5 lbs. I only purchased a part of the entire fleece, when I bought this, because it was a breed I had not worked with before, and because I was unsure if I'd like the fleece. Also it was white, and I am not usually attracted to that color. I gravitate more toward the blacks, grays and browns.

Project challenge: Wash, card, spin the entire fleece. Knit something to completion with some of the yarn, before the Olympics close.

Here's a photo of the unwashed fleece:

The fiber does not feel soft to the touch, nor does it feel like it has high lanolin. The fleece had been well skirted, I will not lose much at all from having to pull out dirty bits. That makes the higher price per pound that I paid (if I remember right it was $12 per pound) worth it, since I also don't think I will lose too much weight from lanolin. That will be determined later, after it is all washed. There was a reasonable amount of vegetable matter in it, for an uncoated sheep, but nothing nasty like burrs. There is some yellow areas, that I am not sure if it will wash out or not.

So starting bright and early on day 1, I took half of the fleece and pulled out the obviously big bits of straw and such, and gave it all a good shake. This lets some of the vegetable matter as well as short cuts of wool to fall out. Then I divided that approximate pound of fleece into half, and starting washing.

I used very hot water and Dawn dishwashing liquid. I washed the wool twice in soapy water, and rinsed it three times. The first wash water was almost like mud, it amazed me how much dirt was in the fleece, and also just how white the wool was turning after the first wash. The tips that were extremely dirty stayed that way though, and I may find I will have to cut those off before I card the fiber to keep that from ruining the nice white color.

Here's a photo of two washed locks and an unwashed lock (which is on the right):

The locks are of average length, around 4 inches. The crimp is really different and hard to explain. If the locks are intact, the crimp shows as very tight bumps. But if you look at individual fibers it's almost as if you can not see any crimp at all. You can almost see that on the photo above, the dark area of the unwashed lock shows the crimping I am talking about. It will be interesting to see what this fiber does once it is spun, because the amount of spring to the yarn does relate to the crimp.

After I had both batches of the fiber washed I put them on my sweater drying mesh and put them outside. We are having a period of low humidity and light breeze and it helped the wool dry. But just to be absolutely certain it would dry by day 2, I put it in front of a box fan overnight.

You would think I have a plan for this project, but I still am going back and forth about whether to be linear, and wash it all, then card it all, or to basically work on all areas at the same time. Card some of this batch, spin some and start knitting from the bobbin. Or do I wash the yarn? I have never knit with yarn that did not have the twist set first by washing.

And I have still to decide what all of the yarn from this fleece will become. At first I figured I would do a sweater for me, but I am feeling that the yarn will be too scratchy for that. I thought about a shawl, but that just doesn't work with the fact I would like to spin this a worsted weight at least. I do not want white socks either. What I see when I look at this fleece is an afghan or at least a lap robe to snuggle under in the winter. I am not sure why, but I can not get that idea to change into anything else. So I am going to look at some patterns and see if any appeal to me. And if the pattern is a good one to stop and start, I may just try knitting it without washing the yarn, and then wash and block the whole afghan.

It is an easy decision though about what to do on Day 2. I will be drum carding the fiber.


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