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, November 05, 2011

A Spinner's Journal

Wonder what I've been working on the past few months? Knitting? Spinning? Dyeing? Nope it's been a whole new experience for me, as creator and designer of the book, A Spinner's Journal.
I am a list maker, note taker at heart. For years I've kept spinning notes, in calendars, in notebooks, in fancy handmade paper books, and sadly just plain on bits of paper. I still look back on these notes now and then, and find that the information there, often scanty, is still helpful and enjoyable to read. I decided I needed a better way of archiving the process of turning that fiber into yarn, and beyond that, maybe other spinners would like to buy the same thing. The concept for the Spinner's Journal was born, tended, grew and finally is available for purchase. A peek inside: (the copyright part does not show in the actual book, I put that on here for the photo)
I've done a short promo podcast at Yarnspinnerstales that describes the book in more detail. There's a link right over there on the right side of this page that says A Spinner's Journal. Click on that and it will take you right to the page to buy it. Try it, I think you'll like it! I personally think it's fantastic :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fair Skeins 2011

Only a month late, and the last post needed to get this blog somewhat up to date. I put four skeins in the state fair this year. On the top, 100% tencel dyed by Natural Obsessions in a color called Baltic. Below that the beaded yarn:
Less exciting, but just as beautiful, on the top a skein of milk and targhee lamb and below that another fiber dyed by Natural Obsessions fibers, a blue faced leicester roving.
This was the first year that the fair had a category for 'man made fibers' and that was why I could enter the tencel skein.

Spinning beaded yarn

I talk about this process in the podcast in episode 66 but sometimes a photo essay also helps. So I thought I'd blog some of the photos as well as talk about the actual process. This idea has been rattling around in my head for awhile, instead of putting beads into my knitting, how about beading during spinning and then knitting with the yarn. The chance to actually try it though didn't happen until I bought the Aura spinning wheel. It's lovely wide open orifice allows spinning with objects larger than the fiber to pass through and wind on to the bobbin. If you've read the previous posts you saw where during the Tour de Fleece I tried a sample skein using an alpaca single, thin beading wire and beads. It was an interesting yarn, but not one that I really had envisioned knitting something with. So I kept to the basic idea of it, using the alpaca singles, and beads but this time I strung the beads on a thin tatting cotton thread. The idea was to have all the beads threaded onto that ball of tatting thread, and pull the thread up through them as I plied. So the thread had to be thin enough not only to pass through the bead holes but also to flow continuously through those beads as I pulled on it to ply. I set up everything around my comfy chair, my spinning spot of choice. My Roberta electric wheel was to the left of me, to serve as a bobbin holder for the bobbin of alpaca singles. My Aura was of course in front of me, and to my right, on the floor was a lazy kate, holding the ball of tatting thread with the beads. And we off and spinning..... Well, not quite. The fact that the beads were on the floor lower than everything else was a real problem. The beads needed to be higher than everything else, to 'fall' into the drafting zone when I was ready for a bead. Otherwise I was continually stopping, bending over, grabbing a bead, sliding it all the way up, and then putting it into the yarn. It worked, but was really annoying. I thought of asking hubby to hold the beads up in the air for the hour it took me to ply, and then reconsidered, wanting to not live with a cranky hubby. What I needed, a sky hook, really didn't exist, so I rigged up the next best thing. I needed something to hold the thread with the beads near the same level as the plying area. I finally used what was at hand, a collection of wood TV trays that sits in my living room. So the final set up looked like this:

First the lazy kate holding the (now almost gone) first ball of tatting cotton, with the beads strung on it.
Next, note the thread running up from the lazy kate to the TV tray and over it:
A photo showing what it looked like right in front of me
And finally the beaded yarn on the bobbin.
It worked fine and did produce a beaded yarn. The yarn has a few faults, mostly that it is hard to get enough twist around the larger beads. When I do this again (and I will) I have two changes I will make. One I will use consistent size beads, probably a bit smaller than these. Two I will actually do a three ply. This is something I read later in a book. It is suggested to make beaded yarn one should spin a single Z a bit over twisted, ply with a Z single that holds the beads and then S ply a third single. My first try will be a handspun single, but use the tatting cotton for the other two singles. Then I may get brave enough to try handspun for all singles.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Knitters become spinners

It happens all the time...a knitter sees a spinner creating yarn and thinks, oh what if _I_ could do that? So I decided to focus one podcast of yarnspinnerstales to just that process. If you are a knitter and have been thinking about learning to spin, take a listen to Episode 65. It's a pep talk of sorts, but is full of good thoughts about just how to get started with that goal, creating your own yarn. Because I've never know a knitter who had too much yarn.....

YST Episode 64 Interview with a sheep breeder

In the podcast for episode 64 I have a great conversation with a breeder of the Black Welsh Mountain sheep. These sheep, originally from the Great Britain area have been preserved and improved by the efforts of Oogie MeGuire at the Desert Weyr Farm. I belong to an internet group years ago of spinners, that decided to do an exchange of rare breed fibers for spinning studies, and at that time Oogie provided samples of not only fibers from her BWM sheep, but some UK fibers too. Her point was to show that the US breeders had not been select breeding for the fiber in the sheep. Her goal was to breed BWM and improve the fiber, because with it's lovely black color, it's a wonderful addition to any spinners yarn. In our conversation Oogie talks about the process of doing this over the years since that first sampling as well as many other interesting things a breeder comes to know about their flock. She also graciously sent me some new samples, and I can say the fiber really does show improvement. BWM fiber is never meant to be one of the super soft fibers, otherwise it would no longer be true to the breeds' standards. It is one of those very usable middle of the road soft fibers, good for strong wearing fabrics, whether knit or woven. Here's a photo of the new samples she sent:

Fiber gifts and purchases

OK, so although there's very little fiber that I don't love, and lots and lots of fiber that I do love to spin, it's hard to say that I have a favorite. Natural Obsessions Fibers though is one fiber craftsman that time and time again has created lovely colors on wonderful fibers. Over the last couple of months I've been 'improving my stash' with fibers from her offerings on her website both as gifts and purchases. This lovely 100% blue face leicester wool is called Chipolte. I spun some of it into a two ply yarn and entered it in the state fair this Aug. The fiber is nice and soft and I love the color.
I have not spun any of this fiber yet, but what lovely fall colors! It's called Herb Shoppe and it is 75% blue face leicester and 25% tussah silk.
There is nothing better than mulberry silk, unless it's dyed mulberry silk. This is called Elusive because the colors are hard to capture on a camera. That's OK because it's the shine I want you to see!
Want even more shine? Then try tencel, shown here in a very saturated blue called Baltic. I've spun some of this already and the yarn is every bit as lovely as the fiber.
Since I've been at SABLE in my stash for way too long now, I have to limit what I add to it, however, that won't stop me from encouraging others to add to theirs, especially from Natural Obsessions Fibers!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spinning a lock and from the fold YST Episode 63

This project started as a group spin along study in the yarnspinnerstale group on Ravelry. Remember when I posted here about washing locks in mesh to keep them intact for spinning? These are the locks that I used for this study. I talk about all of this too in the yarnspinnerstales podcast, episode 63. I only have photos for four of them, although for the fifth, I have a video of the actual lock spinning process. It's on Youtube and you can find it here. My daughter did a great job with the camera, it was my fault that we had so much background noise. I was super busy, as usual, and we combined a trip to the Greencastle fiber fair and taping of this video. Since we were spending the day together, we just got it done! The locks I am spinning in the video are from the unknown ewe lamb that was in this bunch of samples that I washed. It really was nice to spin, and the yarn came out super thin, especially considering the fact I was spinning on my haldane, a wheel not really known for spinning thin. So that's lesson number one, and really in my mind the whole reason to fuss with washing locks, is that you can spin a super thin yarn with the locks....usually. I'll show you an exception further down in this post. I had spun the entire amount on one bobbin while doing the video, so to ply the yarn I first wound it on my ball winder. While I was doing that I noticed that the single was very well behaved, no kinking at all. I looked at that and decided to try and knit with the single instead of plying it. I knit straight from the ball winder. I found a pattern from an old book, for a coaster for a bridge table. The set of course had all the suits in different coasters, I just made the heart coaster. This is shown in the photo below:
It was a totally unplanned project, knit up in several hours and gave me so much pleasure as I knit and admired the lovely single wool yarn. But back to the other locks and their results. Here's a photo of the next two breeds I want to talk about, including the yarns I spun by the lock:
The top lock is from a romney and was the shortest of all the samples. In spite of the shortness though, it was very easy to spin the lock. The yarn was slightly rough feeling and is 15 WPI. I know that it would work to do this fleece as locks but since I have others that will be better washed as locks, I will not spend the time doing this fleece that way. Romney cards up nicely also, and this length of fiber works well in the carder. The whole reason for doing the lock washing samples was to decide the final way to process each of the fleeces. The lock and yarn in the lower part of the photo is from a Cormo border Leicester breed. I bought this fleece because I have loved fleeces from this shepherd in the past, and because I loved the color of the fleece. The longer length of the lock made me think it would be a good candidate for lock spinning and it did make a nice 12 WPI yarn. However the feel of the yarn is a bit rough, because lock spinning is basically worsted style spinning. This creates a tighter yarn, which makes any scratchy fibers stick out, creating the rougher feel to the yarn. For this reason, I have decided that this fleece will be washed in my regular method and drum carded into big fluffy batts for spinning a lofty yarn that will hopefully feel a bit softer. The last two lock samples are shown next:
The top lock is from a corriedale fleece. Look at the length of that lock! And with that length, spinning it from the lock was super easy and fun. The yarn is 16 WPI with a slightly fuzzy look to it. My only complaint is the color. It's off white, with a yellow cast, and I would not like the yarn in it's natural color. So this fleece will be dyed. Now that I know spinning from a lock works well, I still have many options. I could wash the locks in the mesh like I did for this study, and then pop them into many different dyes, like in mason jars, coming up with many locks of many colors. Or I could wash the fleece less carefully, and comb the fiber on my large combs, pulling off top. This will give me a similar type yarn to this sample. I would then spin the yarn and dye it later. The bottom lock in the photo is from a cormo. The lock is small and tightly crimped and full of lanolin. I had concerns that it would not wash well in this method, but was surprised to find that the lock was not as sticky as I expected. There was more waste on the combs when I opened up the locks than I expected, so I'd lose fiber to the combing, something to be aware of when I plan my final project. But once I had the lock opened, it spun so nicely, and made a lovely soft 20 WPI yarn. This fleece would not do well with any other processing, and although it's going to be very time consuming to wash this fleece with the mesh method, I plan to do it, and then spin a soft yarn from the locks. It may seem strange to put spinning from the lock and from the fold in the same study. My logic is that really the process is close enough, although I agree the yarns are totally different. To spin from a lock, you open the lock by combing and then with your fingers tease fibers into the drafting zone from one end of the lock, catching more fibers until the lock is gone. To spin from the fold, you fold fiber over your index finger, and tease a bit forward off the fingertip and spin from that feeding more fiber from the fold until the fiber is gone. It's that manipulation of the teasing a bit of fiber in both of them that makes me say they are similar. I did not do a video of the fold spinning, but here's a photo of the fiber folded over my finger ready to spin:
To show the difference between the yarns created by the two methods, I choose suri alpaca fiber, which usually comes in locks when you get the fiber raw. Here's a photo showing the two types of yarn, and a bit of the washed but unprepped fiber:
The top yarn was spun from the combed opened suri locks. This is the case I spoke about above because these locks did not spin well. The combing open process was hard and there was a lot of waste. And the locks are so thin and slippery they were hard to hold to comb. Then once I had opened lock fiber, it would not spin as wool locks spin. There was not that even straight line style of spinning with these locks. So the yarn is thicker, and very lumpy. The yarn on the bottom of the photo shows the same prep, I combed open the locks as best I could, and then I folded that prep over my finger and spun. The yarn is much better, less bumps and more even. Both yarns are super soft, but the top one, having it's unevenness is less so than the bottom. And this is lesson number two, although the fiber is in a lock, it's not always best to spin it in the lock method. As a final photo I want to show a yarn I spun from the fold method, from a top:
The fiber is 100% milk top, natural dyed and called 'Persimmon' It was dyed by Natchwoolie The yarn is so soft and lovely, although the same amount of top that I got only gave me 88 yards of a two ply. I'm still looking for that perfect item to make with the yarn.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

YST Episode 62 two rare breed reviews

I had not done any rare breed reviews for awhile in the pod cast, so for this episode I review my study of the breeds Clun Forest and Black Welsh Mountain. Here's a link to the episode on the website. The clun forest sample that I had was small, but I was able to do some carded and some combed. Here's a photo of those yarns and a sample of the fiber:
The small sample on top was carded and spun on a lightweight drop spindle. The center skein was carded and spun on my roberta. The bottom skein was also spun on the roberta, this time from combed top. You can see the small sample of fiber left, short, soft and slightly crimpy. When I did my sample for Black Welsh Mountain fiber, I was involved in an internet group that was interested in studying the rare breed sheep and their fibers. One member of the group owns Desert Weyr farm and raises BWM sheep. She was very knowledgeable about the breed and had even included fiber samples in the exchange that were from the UK, the origin of the breed. The difference between the UK and the US sheep was distinct, and the farm's goal was to improve the quality of the US BWM sheep and their fiber, within the standards of the breed. The first distinction of the breed is of course the black color. The fiber is of moderate softness and crimp. The difference shown in her two samples was the length of the staple, the UK fiber was longer, and slightly softer. Although much of this can not be shown in a picture, I have photo of both samples that I spun into yarn. First the UK BWM sample:
Note the length on the fiber and compare it to the US sample of BWM
Both yarns are spun from carded fiber. I later learned that BWM can produce a better yarn when combed for top, because the combing helps remove some of the kemp that can cause the yarn to be less soft. The good news is that these samples are over five years old, and that since then there has been lots of progress in improving the fiber from the farm's sheep. I had the opportunity not only to see some of the new fiber from the farm, but talk to the breeder, Oogie for another podcast, episode 64.

A New Wheel YST Episode 61

April always means the chance to go to the Greencastle Fiber Fair, and I was lucky to go this year. I did a bit on 'impulse' buying too: a new wheel:
In case you don't recognize this wheel, it is a Majacraft Aura. I talk all about it in the Yarnspinnerstales podcast episode 61 The first thing I did was go through the various positions of the two bands, and recording just what affect they had on spinning. I found that many of them will not be positions I use, but the fact that the wheel is this adjustable is impressive. Making the chart of the settings will help me months from now when I find that I want to spin a certain way. I love the enormous bobbins, and fantasize about a winter long project of filling them with singles, enough to knit a sweater. I have a tub full of border leicester roving just waiting for that project. I think though the biggest joy is just how well a spinning wheel spins, that is so newly constructed. I have fussed with my other two old wheels for so long, that the joy comes in being able to just sit down at a wheel and spin.
I love having it signed and dated too! Although they use a code for the date, so referring to this Ravelry thread will help. The A stands for Aura, the M stands for 2011 and then the number of the wheel, 101.

Finished socks

Somehow, summer has come and gone, and I have lots of blog entries on my 'list' that I just never found the time to post. I have a dear friend with a similar problem, she actually posted a photo of 'ketchup' since that is what all her posts where going to be. I'll spare you that, but would like a bit of forgiveness, as I do post a series of posts here, trying to catch up on my fiber doings over the summer. Or, even earlier. I think I finished these late March. I am looking forward to cool weather so I can wear them. It always amazes me that photos of socks make it look like I have gigantic feet. I really don't. And these socks fit very well, in spite of looking like they are too wide and would just bunch up in the shoes.

Details: Yarn: Lana Grossa Primo Needles: DPN size 2 Knit one at a time Pattern: My favorite basic ribbed sock pattern, K4 P2

Monday, July 04, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011

And we're off spinning again for the 20 days of the Tour de France. I decided that my project this year would be to spin all of the dyed superwash Merino fiber that I did in the tertiary color study for the podcast.

The tertiary colors are created by taking a primary (red, yellow or blue) and combining it with a secondary color. This creates six tertiary colors, yellow/orange, red/orange, red/purple, blue/purple, blue/green and yellow/green. I dyed at least one oz of each of the six colors and then put more of the superwash into each dyebath to exhaust the bath and give me lighter shades.

So I have twelve 1 to 1.5 oz of the fiber to spin. My goal for each days is to spin two bobbins of singles of one of the twelve, ply the previous days singles and prep the next day's fiber. It sounds like a large goal for each day however, the 1 oz spins up quickly with the prepped fiber.

So follow along with me, I will try and post a new photo each day.

There is no photo for day one July 2nd. I prepped the dark yellow/orange fiber and spun two bobbins of singles and prepped the light yellow/orange fiber.

Day 2 July 3rd: Plied the dark yellow/orange singles (50 yards), spun the bobbins of light yellow/orange, and prepped the dark red/orange fiber.

Day 3 July 4th: Plied the light yellow/orange singles (82 yards), spun the dark red/orange singles and will prep the light red orange fiber tonight after work. This photo shows the top as it looks after dyeing and before predrafting.

Day 4 July 5th: 79 yards 2 ply of dark red/orange yarn, two bobbins of light red/orange singles and tomorrow's unprepped fiber 3 oz of red/purple superwash merino

Day 5 July 6th: 89 yards 2 ply light red/orange yarn, one bobbin single of 1 oz of dark red/purple superwash merino, and the prepped second oz of the fiber for tomorrow.

Day 6 July 7th: No photo today, there was so much going on during my day I barely found time to spin. I was able to spin about a third of the 1 oz of dark red/purple fiber in a single. I will finish that bobbin tomorrow, let it sit a day and ply those singles on the 9th.

Day 7 July 8th: Finished the bobbin with the singles of the dark red/purple. The fiber is the light red/purple and each bump is about 5/8 oz for tomorrow's spinning.

Day 8 July 9th: 107 yards plus a small 9 yard skein good for swatching of the dark red/purple. I love love love this color! Two bobbins of singles of the light red/purple color. And next we go to the contrasting color, yellow/green. The balls are the dark color of that dyepot.

Day 9 July 10: Sadly there is only 60 yards of the yarn, I loved the light red/purple as much as the dark. The dark yellow/green is now the least appealing to me of all I have spun so far. If it had all turned out like the dark bits you see now and then in it, I would have loved it. I think I put too little dye in the pot to get that type of saturation, I tend to be very cautious with yellow and the green was pretty light too (emerald). And the whole fiber ‘reads’ light because there is so much yellow in this blend, the primary is yellow and the secondary is yellow/blue probably more yellow than blue. So there is difference in the dark and light of this dyeing, but it’s hard to see unless the two are side by side, and I may lose even that after spinning and plying the fiber. The two lumps of light fiber to prep tonight really are the same weight, each 7/8 of an oz, one must have puffed up more than the other right before the photo was taken, it looks quite a bit larger.

Day 10 July 11th: A day of rest. I took the rest day too, although many spinners continued on with projects during the rest day. I thought my hands needed the break.

Day 11 July 12th: 79 yards 2 ply dark yellow/green yarn, bobbins of light yellow/green singles and tomorrow’s dark blue/green fiber.

Day 12 July 13th halfway point in the race! I’m slowing down for the rest of this week. I will spin another bobbin of dark tomorrow, and ply them on Friday. Probably will prep the light blue/green during those days too.

Day 13 July 14th

Second bobbin of dark blue green, and prepped light blue green for tomorrow.

Day 14 July 15th:

87 yards 2 ply of the dark blue green, 2 bobbins singles of the light blue green and tomorrow’s fiber which I will draft out tonight after work, the dark blue purple.

Day 15 July 16th:

73 yards 2 ply of the light blue green, one bobbin single of the dark blue purple, and the light blue purple prepped for tomorrow.

Day 16 July 17th:

Left two bobbins are the singles for the dark blue purple, and the right two bobbins are the light blue purple superwash merino.

Day 17 July 18th:

Top: 76 yards 2 ply dark blue purple superwash merino, Bottom: 82 yards light blue purple of the same fiber.

And finally a photo of all of the skeins of the tertiary color yarns, 970 yards total:

Day 18 July 19th:

Time to move on to other projects, mainly the yarn I want to enter in this years state fair. First though I need to clear some bobbins on my lace flyer on the Ashford, so today I spun some natural color cashmere, enough that I can ply with a previously spun bobbin. Then the bobbins will be available for the first project of my state fair skeins.

Day 19 and 20 July 20 and 21st:

Two days of spinning for one photo. The fiber is a 50/50 blend of targhee/milk and this shows the first bobbin with half of the fiber I want to spin. There is a small sample of what the two ply will look like on top.

Day 21 July 22nd

TGIF, except in the Tour, today is nothing but uphill. It's the most challenging day of the ride, so to keep with that, the spinners have decided that it would be a good day to spin something challenging to us.

I have an idea for a state fair skein, that involves spinning the beads right into the yarn. My challenge today was to spin a sample for that skein.

I had spun singles from a natural color white alpaca and used that as the base for the yarn. I took a thin wire normally used for jewelry making, and strung some beads on the wire, leaving the wire on the spool, the beads resting down by the spool.

Then I set up my Majacraft Aura wheel in front of me, and my Roberta wheel beside me. The roberta fed the alpaca single from it's bobbin, as I plied the wire and the alpaca. Every now and then I would slide up a bead, ply behind it, and then continue with the wire alpaca ply. It was a small sample because there was not that much wire on the spool.

Here's a photo of the resulting yarn:

The yarn is stiff, malleable, and can be shaped into just about any form I want. I like that for it's possibilities, but decided I would not make the state fair yarn with the wire. I will ply the yarn with something soft, like a crochet cotton.

Day 22-23 July 23-24th The End

No final burst of glory here, just some mundane spinning of more alpaca singles to be used for the large state fair skein. Play time is over, time to do some real spinning.....(laugh) I loved the TdF this year, I had so much fun with the tertiary color spinning, and can not wait to knit with the yarn.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Spinning Singles study

I had the great idea of doing spinning technique studies with my podcast listeners this year. I explained the concept in several podcasts at the beginning of the year, and set March as the start date. I needed a central location for them to post their photos, so I invited any one wanting to spin along to join the Yarnspinnerstales spin in group on Ravelry Even though I set this project for March, it's an open ended invitation, anyone can work on these goals I set to explore the technique of spinning and knitting with singles. So if this piques your interest, hop over to the group, check out the thread for the March singles study group.

I also discussed what I found as I worked on these samples in episode 60 of the YST podcast.

First a picture of all of the swatches, then a photo of each with explanation:

I was using a wool roving, probably a blend of other fibers too. I really don't know the entire fiber content, since I purchased the roving.

The first goal was to spin some of my default single, as if I was just spinning this to use in plying. I instructed everyone to leave the single on the bobbin to rest for a time period (mine was about 1 week) but then instead of plying, to just knit a swatch from that single. This was to give us an indication of whether the single was balanced, or over or under twisted. This is important information to know, even when using the single to ply. Some of that active twist can be relieved when plying, however, it shows up when knitted as a single, even after resting. You see this in the photo below, a slight slant to the knitting, and a curl at the upper right corner.

The next instruction was to correct your spinning, either not as much twist or more twist, to try and create a balanced single. I actually did this swatch last, after step three and four, and so had plenty of fiber left and spun a larger amount than all the others. So to use it up, I knit the garter stitch swatch but then went on to knit SS stitch, with a few YO to make a simple lace design. You can see this area, pulling in due to the SS stitch. I had spun the single as before, being more observant of the twist, let the single rest on the bobbin for 2 weeks and then knit the swatch. The garter area of the swatch was well behaved and laid flat without blocking, showing I had achieved my goal of spinning the single without extra active twist.
Suggestions 3 and 4 were set up to show ways of controlling the active twist of singles, before and after you knit, and also to show that active twist will return if you wash an item, and not block it.

#3 was a study of blocking the single before knitting with it. The single was spun as above, although not allowed to rest. I immediately wound the single on my plastic niddy noddy and wet the skein while stretched and allowed it to dry completely. Then the swatch was knitted straight off the niddy noddy. The resulting swatch was very well behaved, no active twist at all. Even the tiny skein of single, shown above the swatch laid flat. However the gauge of the swatch had increased by almost 2 stitches per inch, so doing this for any garment would require close attention to the gauge. Also, if the item was washed, it would have to be blocked back to it's original shape. But the goal here was to create a relaxed single to knit.
#4 was set up to study active twist yarn, or highly energized yarn as some call it. I spun a single with an excess amount of twist, spinning enough to do two swatches. The swatch to the left in the photo was knit immediately after spinning the single, as you can see it is so energized it almost rolls up on itself. Then I took the remaining single and put it on the plastic niddy noddy and wet it and allowed it to dry, just as in the step above. The swatch to the right was knit straight from the niddy noddy. It shows that blocking the yarn did help alot, however there is a limit, because there was still active energy in the swatch. The gauge is tighter, and the fabric has a very dense feel to to, like all those stitches as being crunched together by the twist.
I think everyone that spun along with me on this study had a great learning experience. I talked more about some of the observations from the group, and my personal experiences in the podcast.

I have other spinning technique spin alongs planned for the year, so be sure to check the YST group on Ravelry and join us if they seem interesting.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lock washing

This post connects with the Yarnspinnerstales pod cast, episode 59. For this post I will talk about the five different sheep breeds that I picked to wash and how I washed them. In a later post I will talk about the washed locks and spinning them.

First a photo of all five locks:

As you can see, I picked a variety of staple lengths for this study. I figure they would all be about the same as far as washing. The selection of the different lengths was more for the later study when spinning them.

A closer look at each of the locks. In the top of this photo is Romney, dark brown in color, locks very short and in 1 inch or so clumps. Below that are Cormo locks. These locks in my opinion were going to be the hardest to wash. First of all cormo is genetically related to merino, and so will have high lanolin content. Second, the crimp is tight, holding in that lanolin. And finally the clumps of locks are also tight. All these factors make this fleece require special handling as far as processing. However it should be worth it as the micron count of the fleece is very fine and the fiber is very soft.
This next photo shows locks from an unknown breed. It was just marked as from a ewe lamb. However it had such nice distinct locks that I decided to include it in my experiment. Staple length is much longer than the two above, but about medium length over all.
The next photo shows locks from a Cormo border leicester breed. This is an unusual combination but the shepherd was trying to come up with a fleece that had the softness/fineness of cormo with the staple length of the BL. It does have the nice long locks, like a BL fleece, but lacks some in the softness. It looks white in the photo but is actually a very creamy tan/brown color.
Finally, the longest locks, shown below in the washing bag is from a Corriedale fleece.
This is not really a bag, but nylon net that I cut into a rectangle, laid the locks out on and then rolled up. I realize now that I didn't catch the ends of the bag in this photo, but what I did was take crochet cotton thread and a large eye needle and just stitch up both ends, with a very wide running stitch. I left plenty of each end of the thread and did not knot it. That way after I was done washing the locks I could just pull the thread out, open up the bags and remove the locks. I can reuse the nylon net over and over for as many times as I want to wash locks. Rolling the net around the locks keeps them intact through the washing process.

I cut the nylon net to a size that would lay flat in an old oval roasting pan. In fact I used two roasting pans for this process. After I had all five breeds rolled and stitched up into their bags, I filled two roasting pans with water and a couple drops of Dawn dishwashing soap and heated them to boiling. I drew very hot soapy water into my sink, and put the bags into that water first. This prewetted the fibers, and removed the dirtiest part right away. After the roasting pan's water was boiling, I turned off the heat, and transferred the five packets of wet fiber from my sink to the roasting pan. I did this by clothes pinning the five packets together at each end, and picking the packets up all at once by the clothes pins, letting most of the dirty water drain out, and then whoosing them over to the roasting pan, dripping all the way. Ah well, it was time to mop the floor anyway. I let the packets soak in the roasting pan, still clothes pinned together for 15 minutes, picked the packet up, let it drain, and put it into the second roasting pans hot water, this time taking off the clothes pins. After another 15 min soak, I took the roasting pan to my sink, gently poured off the water, drew hot water without soap and slid the bags into the rinse water. I rinsed a second time, let the bags drain as much as possible and then rolled them individually into towels. When I unrolled them, I was surprised how dry they felt. I laid the bags out on my usual fleece drying mesh rack and they were dry in several hours, although I left them alone for a week before actually combing them, just to be sure.

All five breeds washed well with this method, although as expected I feel just a slight tackiness to the cormo indicating there may still be some residual lanolin. This method does not remove any vegetable matter in the locks, however once they are free of lanolin that generally falls out when combing. I really liked this method of washing locks. The only word of advice I would give is to be sure and not put too many locks in the bags, and to not rush the soaking process. But following this method does keep the locks intact, no matter their size or length and with gentle treatment will not felt the fiber at all.