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, August 11, 2014

Fiber festivals review 2014

This post goes along with the Yarnspinnerstales podcasts, episodes 109 and 110.

The Fiber Fest in Greencastle Ind is always the second weekend of April, on Friday and Sat.  Due to working every other weekend, I haven't been there for a couple of years, so I was happy that it worked out hubby and I could take a day trip and go up to it this year.

This is a nostalgic trip for us, since I use to have a booth there.  Hubby is fond of the phrase, 'it's just not the same' but then what is?  I personally think change is good and that includes fiber fairs.  The biggest change I see now is the increased number of brick and mortar yarn stores, making the fiber festivals tour.  It is still up in the air if this is bringing in more customers, but knowing how quickly some knitters become spinners, it seems a perfect choice.

I saw less raw fleece this year, but that was probably because I had my blinders on.  I told hubby when we arrived this would be the first year I would not buy raw fleece. And  I didn't. I almost caved when he pointed out a booth full of lovely fleeces.  Who knew the smell of lanolin was so addicting.

I am trying to focus on buying processed roving, and the one purchase I did make was from Sheep Street.  They raise Shetlands, and had some processed which Nancy then dyed.  I bought a nice 8 oz bump, and love the fall color of it.

I bought a Tshirt too, with a spinning wheel on it and the words 'I have a PHD in spinning'. In tiny letters by the PHD it says 'projects half done'. Oh my how true!

The second festival I got to attend this spring was the Ky Sheep and Wool Festival.  This time I left hubby at home and went with a group of spinner friends, including my daughter and grandson.  At 2 years old, grandson is still is a restrained onlooker, who's big moment was petting a sheep.  His involvement in shopping was the huggable ness of the fiber or yarn.  His 'ahhh' while doing so melts your heart.

I did much more shopping this trip.  First I found 4 oz of this lovely Jacob roving, from a heritage family farm in Pa called Ross Family Farms.

Then I found Dyed in the Wool's booth.  They are dyers but also had a booth full of processed undyed wool roving.  Just what I was looking for!  I bought 2 dark colors

The top is Romeldale and the larger ball is East Fresian.  I also bought this white Dor Galen, a cross breed of Scottish Blackface and Horned Dorset.

And as a treat, I bought this dyed BFL/silk roving from Rock and String creations. 

I seldom buy yarn at these events but just could not resist this skein.  

I love the muted colors and the fibers merino/silk are so soft.  The yardage is  great too, 600 yards.  It was dyed by A Yarn Well Spun, Melanie Gibson.

Next fiber fair I go to will be in Sept.  My resolve not to buy fleece is melting... We will see what happens when those sheep's fumes hit my brain.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Dyeing alpaca

This post goes with the YST episode 108.

Awhile ago I got the dye pots out to try dyeing some alpaca. I had already washed and spun some of this alpaca fiber but there was quite a bit left. My thought was if I am going to get the fiber wet to wash it, I might as well then put it in a dye.

I give all the details of the process in the podcast.  I will give a few brief details here.

The alpaca didn't look it but was very dirty.  It took many wash and rinses before I was not seeing any dirt in the sink once I drained the water.  While going through that process, I got two dye pots made and heating on the stove.

I think this cactus bloom was the inspiration for my two dye pots:
For some reason my Christmas cactus decided to bloom this spring.  For the dye colors I picked a deeper version of green and maroon.

I used acid dyes, putting vinegar in the dye bath with the fiber. The pots were held on the heat just below boiling for 30 minutes, then I turned the heat off and let them sit there for about five hours. Then I removed the fiber, rinsed it several times, and let it dry.

This is the fiber before I picked it apart.
It was not easy to photograph, the pink is not really a hot pink, and the green is much darker.  I was really please with the dyeing.

I had some left over dye, not from the dye pots but from when I was mixing up samples of dye colors to decide what to use.  I had drum carded batts of this same alpaca, and I thought I'd see how it would work to wet the batts and pour the dye on them. I worked on Saran Wrap, laid out a batt, poured the dye and rolled the batt up in the wrap. I put it curled up into a glass pie plate, and then microwaved the packet very briefly.  The first batch did not work well, I forgot to add vinegar.  I did remember with the second batt and it took the color much better.

One batt each color and then one batt with both colors on it.  I like the very pastel affect, but doubt the yarn will show the color as much as the batts.  It was a fun experiment.  I have only used half of the fiber, so I may repeat the dye process one more time, as well as just wash more and card and spin it in it's natural color.  Then I can make a project with the three colors.

Monday, April 21, 2014

More dyed Rambouillet

Just a quick post to show another color of the dyed Rambouillet, deep purple.  I spun this on the Haldane.  It is 2 ply, 120 yds, 12 WPI.  I think I have four more colors to go, from this dye project.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Hill Radnor British rare breed review

The podcast episode for this blog entry is number 107.

This was the last fiber in my British rare breed package from Hilltopclouds.  It was the only unwashed fiber, which never bothers me, I like learning about how a fiber is in the grease.  It was low lanolin and very easy to wash up, going from an off white to very nice white color.


I would describe this as medium everything type fiber, medium length locks, medium softness, medium crimp. It is a very lovely fiber to work with.

I found I had to pick the washed fiber completely open, then it both combed and carded well.  I did two passes with hand combs, finding lots of short stuff caught in the tines as waste.  I decided to take a photo showing why the top was so lovely.

On the top of this photo you see all the waste removed, and below that the top I pulled off, which was so wonderful to spin.  When I was spinning the top I felt a slight slickness to the fiber, reminding me of Lincoln fiber, only not as long.  There was a very slight halo to the yarn too, unusual in worsted spinning.  The 2 ply yarn was 12 WPI and I got 22 yards.

I drum carded the other half of the washed fiber into one big fluffy batt.  For being so fluffy, the carded fiber really didn't like being spun woolen, I ended up with a semi woolen spinning.  So the yarn was smoother than a woolen spun yarn would have been.  The 2 ply yarn was 12 WPI and I got 33 yards.

Here's a photo of the yarns

Combed top skein is on the top and carded batt skein below that.

I have shown all the skeins of yarn from these British rare breeds to spinning friends and they all commented how soft the yarn felt.  There seems to be a misconception about all rare breeds having coarser wool.  Every breed of sheep have specific characteristics to their wool, rare or not.  It was worth the time and cost of doing this review, just to learn there are rare breeds with soft lovely wool to spin.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tiniest skein

Back when I was working with the Portland fiber, I plied the skein of worsted 2 ply and had some of the very thin single left over.  I took it off the bobbin wrapping it around my three fingers.  I laughed at the size of this tiny skein and decided to keep it.  I tied it and slipped it off my fingers, and it proceeded to crinkle up like a scrunchy.  So I just held it under warm water until it was saturated, squeezed it out and looked around for someplace to put it to dry.  Obviously I could have just laid it on a towel, but decided on this instead:

Really the best part of sliding it on a vitamin bottle cap was it was a perfect fit and effectively worked to block the skein.  Now my tiniest skein looks like this:

Just for comparison here's the whole Portland photo again

The large skein upper left is the 2 ply that my tiny skein didn't get in.

Art batt spinning

A break in the reviews of fleeces for podcast episode 106 of Yarnspinnerstales.  I had the day off and started one big spinning project and a smaller one that I finished a day later.  Since I finished the one yarn I did post it in the ravellenic finish line on Ravelry.

First I started a large batt of bamboo/silk blend called dreamcicle from Fluffington farms.  I loved the color and it is going to spin very nicely on my Ashford.  It was 4.6 oz and spinning thin, so it will take awhile to finish.

Here's the start of the bobbin

The smaller project was an art batt from Wild Hare Studio.  I spun the batt as a single and wanted a single to ply with it that was non descript so I chose a brown Salish fiber that I carded into batts and spun woolen.  So this first photo shows the art batt and the Salish fiber side by side.

My iPad camera just will not capture the brown of the Salish fiber it ends up on the orange side all the time.  These was so evident when I took photos of the two bobbins.  First the art batt single:
So nice and blue right?  Now the plied yarn:

Really in person, the eye sees so much more blue than the camera shows.  Here's a final shot of the yarn in a skein:

Final details:  47 yards 2 ply bulky.  The WPI is really hard to measure due to the thick and thin areas of the yarn.  It's nice and soft though!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Portland fleece review

This post shows the photos for the Yarnspinnerstales podcast episode 105.  For this British rare breed review I worked with Portland fleece sample.

This shows most of the sample with some of the locks.  The locks were mostly open with a wavy crimp and a very pleasing spring to the lock.

I did my usual review by dividing the sample in half and combing one half and carding the other half.

On the combs

Instead of using my hand cards I decided to card one big batt on my drum carder.

So this shows top on the left and the carded batt on the right.  This fiber loved either prep, I got very nice preps to spin either way.

In fact the top was so nice to spin I got a 40 WPI single.  The drum carded fiber also spun well in a long draw woolen spin.  I just loved spinning this fiber, either way.

I got a lot of yarn too, there was very little waste in this sample.  The top yarn is the worsted yarn, 40 WPI single, 20 WPI 2 ply in the 65 yard skein.  

The bottom yarn is the woolen spin.  The single was 17 WPI and the 2ply 13 WPI  in the 43 yard skein.

Two completely different but wonderful yarns from one very versatile fleece.

Whitefaced Woodland fleece review

This post relates to the Yarnspinnerstales podcast episode 104 where I continue my review of British rare breed sheep fleece samples.  This is the Whitefaced Woodland breed.

There were two types of unprepped fiber in the sample, where some had more intact locks.  When I saw this I decided to only pick open half the sample and comb locks for the other half.  Then I got even more involved and split each of the halves, so I ended up with four types of prep before spinning.

For the worsted yarns I prepped by combing locks and also by combing with my handheld combs and pulling top.

The top is on the top of this photo, with the combed lock under the tag.

For the woolen I chose the obvious hand carded prep and then also did a cloud prep, where the fiber is just picked open as much as possible before spinning.

The cloud is on the left.

Here are close up photos of the yarns and details. You can see the yarns go from thin to thick with the preps.

Top yarn was a single of 21WPI 2 ply of 12 WPI. The 18 yard skein shows it to be a very smooth yarn, good for high definition stitches in knitting or sock yarn.  The combed lock yarn was 17 WPI single, 12 WPI 2 ply 17 yard skein.

Both woolen yarns spun very thick and thin due to the prep.  The cloud single was 16 WPI and the 2 ply was 9 WPI in the 17 yard skein. The carded batt yarn was the worse because the fiber used for it was the worse of the sample.  So it spun very lumpy. The single was 18 WPI and the 2 ply was 10 WPI in the 18 yard skein.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Norfolk Horn fleece review

This is connected with the YST podcast episode 103.

For the 2014 ravellenic event which goes from start to finish of the Olympics, I have a group of different fibers selected to spin.  Some are put together as a review of British rare breeds of sheep.  Most of these samples were from one source, Hilltopclouds.uk.co

The first of these is the Norfolk Horn.  This white fleece sample was 100 grams of washed fiber.  There were two distinct areas in the sample, tight crispy locks and open locks. The first thing I did was pick open all the fiber.  Then I sample processed half of that with handheld combs and the other half with hand cards.  I found the fiber to be soft which surprised me although this is a down breed and many of those are soft.  It is a misconception sometimes that just because a breed of sheep is 'old' and not like our current breeding goals, that the fiber will be coarse.

This shows the unpicked fiber and several locks.

The top part of this photo are carded batts and the bottom is the pulled top.

There was a lot of waste making both preps, many short areas and neps that I tried to remove.

Top skein is the carded prep.  Single was 15 WPI and 2 ply 11 WPI and there are 46 yds.
Bottom skein is the combed prep, the single was 21 WPI and 2 ply 12 WPI. There is 21 yds.

With a good commercial preparation of this fiber I think this fleece would be suitable for just about any project a spinner would want to make with the yarn.

Finished merino tencel yarns

I started these yarns for the July 2012 Tour de fleece.  Both are merino tencel blends but from different sources.  The green is from Bonkers, the pink is Damselfly Fibers.  Both were 50/50 blends in 4 oz braids.

The green is 17 WPI 230 yds.  The pink is 18 WPI 225 yds.  The small skein is the two colors plied together to use up the last of what was on one bobbin of each color.  I love the combination skein, the colors look so good together, although I noticed on the photo, it can almost look brown, instead of the rose/green.  There is only 30 yds in that skein, I probably will have trouble putting it in with the other yarns in any project with so little yardage.  Right now I do not have a specific project planned although I will be looking at shawl patterns for the two yarns together.  The best satisfaction of this project was spinning the two yarns to compatable WPI over a long time of spinning, so I can use them together.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Spinning alpaca

This is the alpaca that I machine washed and dried.  After picking it open, I drum carded it on my large carder.  The pound of fiber gave me 18 batts.

I decided to spin this on my Aura because of it's large bobbins.  I will spin 9 batts on each bobbin and then ply it to a two ply.  This is the single from one batt.  It spins up quickly and there is no waste.  I didn't even have to fiddle with the spinning wheel, just sat down and spun it up.  It's a good thing the whole process will be quicker than normal, since I have another 3 lbs to wash and spin from the same fleece.

The Suri alpaca on the other hand was difficult.  I talk all about that in a short podcast on www.yarnspinnerstales in episode 102.  After lots of trial and error I finally settled on carding it with my hand cards, which worked well to spin.

I even had trouble with spinning the Suri, I had to change drive bands on my Ashford to keep from getting too much twist in the single.  I finally got things worked out so the wheel was happily spinning the carded Suri.  I love the color, it is a deep brown.  I will ply this too but not sure yet if I will do a two ply or chain ply.

Neither yarn will be lace weight and may even be too thick for socks.  I don't like 100% alpaca for sweaters, they don't hold their shape very well.  So both yarns seem to be destined to shawls or afghans.  I am sure my cat would just love sleeping on my lap with an alpaca afghan under him!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Machine washing alpaca

I talk all about this in my podcast Yarnspinnerstales on Episode 101.  My thought was that since alpaca does not contain the scales that wool has, it will not felt as easily.  Also since it does not contain lanolin, I did not need to use soap, just hot water.

This is a lovely brown suri alpaca: 

This is the suri ready to wash in a small zippered mesh laundry bag:

I put two bags of suri and one large bag of Huacaya alpaca in the washer with a full tub of warm water.  I let it go through the entire wash cycle.  Then I put those bags into the dryer, for a low heat 20 min cycle. The Huacaya alpaca came out wonderful, but the suri ended up looking like this:

My first thought was, well that didn't work and I will toss it.  Instead I started picking at the suri and found it wasn't felted or even really matted.  The length of the alpaca locks had caused it to just wind around itself.  And just like one can pick open a lock of wool, so could these be picked apart.  Once I did the bag full it looked like this:

Beautiful!  and really almost ready to spin.

This shows the Huacaya alpaca which was in very distinct locks with some crimp to them.  The color is tan with a reddish band in the middle of the locks.  Here it is ready in it's large mesh laundry bag.

I opened the dryer to find that all of this alpaca had escaped out of it's bag, not really a problem I just gathered it up.  It was clean, completely dry and not matted.  It's not ready to spin though, it will need either carding or combing.

New year, not so new socks

My knitting friends know just how long these socks took me to knit, at least two years.  They were my portable knitting project, always packed and ready to pick up at a moment's notice.  I guess there weren't enough of those moments though!  I love the color.  The yarn is Online super sock cotton which is 45% cotton 40% wool and 15% nylon.  They called the color beach.  I like that, but it also reminds me of a lovely spring bouquet of flowers.  The sock pattern is by Erica Lueder for Dreams in Fiber  and is Hermione's Everyday Socks.