Lock at the End of the Tunnel

Prepping this Romney is testing my perseverance. However, it is almost finished. I can see the end in sight with one box of locks to comb and several to card.

Using my new Louet Dutch combs

Rather than move on to the Cormo, I'll spin and dye (if I don't like the natural look) and begin another round of fiber destash efforts before Rhinebeck.
I'm using the Tour de Fleece as a mild jump start, doing an ounce or so per day in the Peleton. 
For Day One, I completed the 4oz. of Coopworth that I began a few weeks ago in Central park. This will rest for a long while and be knitted as singles. 


Cormo Afternoon

Not much to report this week. The weather was not fleece washing friendly, so I only got a few bits done.

Here is an ounce or so of carded Cormo that I used Unicorn Fiber Rinse on after scouring. It was not noticeably softer than the previous sampling.

It would be smart to practice spinning and plying for softness. I seem to be making wire again as if I was brand new at spinning. Boo and hiss. 


New Fiber Frontier

Someone wise said, never say never, because you never know.
Two years ago I am pretty certain that I uttered anti-drum carder sentiments. A never was thrown in for good measure. 
Today, I eat those words with Splenda on top. There's a Clemes & Clemes drum carder in my house!

It's going to make carding the Cormo fleece so much easier. While there is still physical effort, drum carding doesn't hurt my shoulder and wrist the way that hand cards do. 

Firstly, I'll need to find out how to use this gadget. My first spin was with some really short Cormo. Not worth the effort. Tossed.
Then I tried a slightly longer staple, which worked out much better. The roving is still wolf-like though. I added some purple BFL to half and kept the other plain, then miserably chain plied each. Pictures of my chain plying are not fit for the Internet. 

Here is the wolf:

For a splash of color, I also put a couple handfuls of dyed Finn locks through. 
It produced quite a cheerful little batt. What I'll do in future is flick open some of the tight locks. They can create havoc and break your toys. 

Drum carding was truly fun. There is much to learn, but I'm going to put it away for a little while to catch up with other projects. Craft overload is threatening to overtake me. 


Coopworth. Who knew?

Part of my spring cleaning included a brief foray into the fiber stash for WIPs. There is the odd few sample ounces of this or the second of an intended two-ply which has languished, undisturbed for ages.

This afternoon, I stumbled upon 4oz. of washed Coopworth locks. All my previous experience with this breed had been negative. It was usually a coarse, roughly carded or stiff and uninspired roving that I only purchased for practicing on, not an actual project. 

This sample must have piqued my interest. I'm sure it was long ago.
Look at  the cute locks! The big shock to me is how soft it is! 

Since its not a lot, this will be dizzed and spindle spun into lace.

Surely, I see more raw Coopworth fleece in my future. Who knew.


Bath Time

An extended opportunity of time approaches to wash and dry some wool. I'll be focusing on the less desirable Cormo sections and finishing the rest of wee Romney sheep.

For now, I've got one bag of locks and one bag of carded fiber going. 
Both probably amount to about 8 ounces, I think. It's a start.

Here's a few sample swatches from the Cormo. The brown (bottom right) is a mixture of the tips and main gray color of the fleece. I do not find that shade fetching. At all.
My mind is fixed on a solid gray color (bottom left).
Sadly, there will be a LOT of waste when I cut the tips and brown off each lock to achieve it. Not happy about that, but will make lemonade by blending the gray with a color like this third swatch. A splash of purple made for an interesting tweedy look. Lots of experimentation and practice in my future...



What's the Rush?

At some point the sun will shine and heat up the days and nights of the weeks to come.
When it does, my raw fiber shenanigans needs to be transformed into a more focused endeavor. 
There may be about three and a half to four months left of warm weather to process what is now a nearly eleven pound stash. Gulp.

As I make my way through samples of the Romney and Cormo Cross, conclusions are becoming more evident as to how to proceed with the bulk. But really, each attempt at processing is like a science project. I am enjoying taking notes and researching how other spinners are working with their fleeces. It seemed to make sense to flick locks first and card all the seconds or tangled locks that were left over from that process. I'm happy to say that there is very little waste from that order of operations.

Truth be told, wool fumes and soothing lanolin aren't the only stimulating aspects.
Distraction alert!
Shopportunities abound!

This set of two dishwasher baskets was only $7 and accommodated three layers of locks each quite handily. (Still using scrap plastic mesh in between.) I'm thinking several more layers would fit in since when wet, the volume reduces greatly. The plastic is lighter than my initial coated wire basket set-up. I placed a bottle of shampoo on top to keep it fully submerged. When lifting these out of the water, two hands were required as the latches aren't that substantial. All in all, at two for $7, this is a winner!


In the spirit of progress, I've been diligent to finish dealing with my Romney samples. What ever locks that were still dirty looking after washing are now pristine. I used the pet brush to flick the tips. Doing so lightened them up immediately. Residual dirt and lanolin peppered my apron. Even still, back into a bath they went. This time, I used a bit of vinegar in the first of two rinses. We'll see the color once they are dried.

These Prince Lionheart baskets were a mistake. I was giddy for its height and did not consider their narrow width. It won't work for my Romney fleece. However, it will be perfect for the Cormo's staple length when the tips have been snipped. They are $7 each on Amazon.

Oxo makes this flat basket with flexible sides. It's ideal for washing just a lock or two for sampling. Also $7 on Amazon. 

It occurred to me that I was getting slap happy with the Power Scour and I only have half a bottle left. I'm going to use this adorable measuring set of Oxo's to better portion out cleaning agents, vinegar and to help measure dyes in future. Pricey at $10 from the container store.

The last gem of a find are folding sweater drying racks once again from our good friends at Oxo. Not only do the legs fold, but the entire thing folds in half! Shown here is one rack resting flat on top of the wet locks to prevent them from blowing away.

Primo product for space deprived circumstances. Much appreciated, Oxo. You've scored a substantial amount of my discretionary income. Well played.


Whaaat have I done?!

There is absolutely no doubt that I have caught fiber fever in the worst way.

Last Saturday, I attended the 40th annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival via Philadelphia with Rosie's Yarn Cellar bus trip. I am so impressed that they had two full buses! What a treat to have made the trek with this friendly group. In just about two and a half hours, we were on the fairgrounds. It was just enough time to nosh, admire God's creation along I-95 and catch some righteous Zzzzs before lunging into action.  

Even though it was my third or fourth time being there, it felt as though it were my first. I was in such a daze. Reason being, the shopping was all about raw fleece. Unfortunately, all I know is just enough to be dangerous and not enough care.
I set out for something special, a fleece other than BFL or Merino that would be clean and inexpensive.

Not once did I entertain all the beautiful hand dyed yarns and fibers. Well, maybe once. I did stop by Gnomespun Yarn's booth for some undyed Dorset fiber which he brought at request.

I am really grateful, too. There were no Dorset fleeces to be had by the time I'd gotten to the fleece sale.  Were there any to begin with? Le sigh.
Instead, my first stop was to see Sheila and Michael Ernst's booth to drool over their glass knitting needles.  These earthy ones spoke to me.

By the time I did arrive at the fleece sale, it was mostly a ghost town. Slim pickings were left unless you were looking for common sheep breeds. My bad. Next festival, I get on the first thing smoking and run directly to the sale. 
There were a few fleeces that I looked at wistfully, wondering if they'd be a good purchase.  Along came a super helpful volunteer to my rescue and showed me how to evaluate them.  
This is what I brought home. Its a gray Cormo Cross fleece weighing 6.25 pounds.

Upon first inspection, it appeared to be a beautiful medium gray color with an oh-so-soft hand. A peek into the bag revealed some brown tips that I'd just snip off and still have a wonderful fleece to work with. Now while none of this was ideal, I really wanted to bring home something so that I could continue learning.

When I got home and unrolled the fleece the next day...all I could say was, whaaat have I done! Look at all the brown! At which point I begin to get the vapors.

I am glad to work with coated fleece and not have to deal with vegetable matter, but one has to wonder if the shepherdess should have changed this poor thing's coat to a bigger one so that the felted tip situation would not get out of hand. That's just my novice questioning, but really. What happened? Is this normal? Whatever it is, its creepy looking. And its all mine. Eww.




One day, knowledge and experience will make my processing of a fleece easier and smarter.
This is merely strategery.

Opportunity arose early today for me to roll out the remainder of the fleece to see what's what. Up until a few days ago, I had no idea that they were even packaged in that way. Doh!
So what would be an experienced spinner's step one was my step five. That's OK, right?

I bagged the fiber into sections that I may or may not have identified correctly.

Before an awesome power nap (thank you Blogger autosave feature), my confidence began to waiver under the weight of all the options before me.
How much of this fleece should I use to card? How much to comb? Do I store it prepped and ready to dye before spinning or dye it afterwards, or not at all? Do I spin worsted, woolen or over the fold?  Gotta make the most of this opportunity. This could be my one and only fleece. (ha, ha, cough, cough).
What fleece should I shop for next week, if any? Look at all I have left to deal with!

This crafter mantra was necessary to publicly declare:

Maximum fun is job one. Knowing who I am, this means it is all about "the process."
Correct execution and/or the actual product from my creative endeavor is purely coincidental and cause for caloric celebration.

A calming mango ice pop later, it has been decided. An attempt at combing most of the fiber in locks will be made. Whatever is uncooperative shall be carded. All will be stored until I learn how to dye, leaving my options open to consider whether to spin first or not. Cool.

Time to ply something purple.


My Friend Flicker

My next goal was to properly comb through each lock of this second batch.

Spinning from carded fibers that are not really aligned was not as bad as I had experienced before. Easy breezy combed roving is my true love. Obediently parallel fibers sliding through my fingers as I spin in a meditative state...awesome.

I digress.

Dog grooming brush and combs. Check.

Flicking with a brush is supposed to open up the fibers. However, these tips were still yellow and a bit sticky, so good luck to me.

While slightly damp and only leaving an end exposed, I brushed away any tangles or nepps. Turning the lock in reverse, the same was repeated. Finally, I combed it all through. Is this correct procedure? I'm not sure. It did get the job done with little fiber lost.

Flicking and combing was so much fun! There is something so pleasing about handling sheep fleece.
It's like combing a doll's hair that smells like baby products.

Now about those unpleasant yellow tips... In an experiment, I found that a little vinegar/water dip dissolved the stubborn lanolin that did not want to let go of my little lamb. I think it even lightened up the staining. Just a few teaspoons was all I used.

Whoop, there it is! Vinegar is totally going to be part of my routine for next time. Perhaps a quarter cup per gallon? Here is a side-by-side comparison of scoured locks with yet crispy tips and a vinegar dipped piece pulled from them.

One more recommendation, this time from the amazingly awesome spinners in Ravelry's Fiber Prep group. Flicking before scouring will help to not only open up sticky tips, but also shed any vegetable matter that may be hiding in there.

Armed with these new revelations and a couple of toddler dishwasher baskets from Amazon, I'm going to knock out the rest of the fleece in good fashion. Pray with me for a sunny weekend soon!


Mission the Second

There's lots more fiber to be washed and carded; techniques and tips to be tried. Three grocery bags of fleece are quequed up. Cleverly hidden in plain sight, they await their turn at a bath.

Home Depot had an inexpensive 6' by 8' tarp that I'll be using to sort out the fleece into smaller parcels for washing. This go round, I've taken the time to separate out locks from the mass. Grabbing the fleece by the tips while wearing rubber gloves proved helpful. It was easier to find natural sections and smooth down the hairs. How yellowed and sticky they were!

Some locks went into a compartmented mesh bag. Other wayward fibers went into a basic small mesh bag since there was no structure left to be preserved. I'll just card it at some point.

The rest of the locks went into what I'd hoped would be the start of something wonderful, a dishwasher basket!

It spoke to me when I passed it in a local hardware store. In between layers of locks, I used some leftover plastic mesh. This mesh is the kind that folks use to make latch hook projects.

Seemed to be a good buy. No locks could shift since their width is about the same as the basket. The latch stayed secure and the weight of the basket meant that I did not have to dunk a mesh bag to keep it under water during the soak.

See how the lanolin settled to the bottom of the bucket

All in all, I had about five ounces washed in this second mission. The locks drying in the center came from the compartmented mesh bag. They turned out ok. Just a little tangling from friction at the cut end to be flicked out. I think the best senario came from the batch in the dishwasher basket.
I've ordered a toddler dishwasher basket which is taller and wider to hold more fiber. Can't wait to try it out this coming weekend.
More in the next post on how this all flicks out.



Here's some purple for your Monday.

It's Gale's Art BFL in Eggplant.
303 yards 6.5 oz and a mostly fingering weight yarn plied over the weekend. I'm hoping to make two more just like this in the weeks to come.



In lieu of spinning pounds and pounds of fiber stash to make room for more loot at this year's festivals, I have reached new heights of procrastinaton.

Last week,  the fleece bug hit me as randomly as it did when I bought and hid a five pound Romney fleece in my house after Rhinebeck 2011.
Yes. 2011, people. It was smallish and cleanish and smelled innocent enough. At the time I had no idea what to do with it, but nevertheless, home it came. All this time I'd stored it in a ziploc bag inside of a plastic storage chest. Unfortunately for it, the lanolin melted and stained what was a mostly white fleece.

Fast forward to a week ago where the impulse struck to rescue the parcel and there began a stealth  mission to wash and hand process this fleece into yarn. The first bit to be processed was about 3-4 ounces.
The fleece was all rolled and squashed. I have no idea what section I grabbed first, but the locks were about 4 to 4.5 inches long. 


So much information is available on how to wash and process fleece. Spin Off magazine, YouTube and Interweave videos, blogs and several books provide whatever you'll need to know.
My most recent research was with the dvd, Three Bags Full with Judith MacKenzie. It gave me the confidence to test my fleece to see if it was even salvageable. Once I did the snap test and found the fiber to be sound, I set to work in lightening clandestine fashion.

Like most, I used mesh bags to soak what I'd torn off from the sort of matted mass.

Two soaks in super hot water with Power Scour and a couple of rinses later, the water ran clear.
I was so glad that there was virtually no vegetable matter and no poop at all to deal with. In fact, the fleece never stunk, wet or dry. How lucky! Hope it's not the exception.

The bags dried in the sun spread out on a sweater drying rack.
It appeared that one bag was super white, the other stained by the sitting lanolin. Drat!
It was my fault for letting them sit for so long in storage. Oh, well. At least I relearned how to use my hand cards and combs. Not expertly, but enough to make a little yarn.

This whole day session was a such an invigorating learning experience. I'm obsessed!



Dearest Dorset

I chose you for my latest of spinning exploits because you were something new to me. Your svelte four ounce skein and squishy hand was attractive. The light brown Chai Tea colorway given to you by the good people at Gnomespun Yarn, brought to mind thoughts of unassuming gentility.

What a pleasure you were to spin! It had been about a year away from the wheel. Just a few rough inches and the rest of the 165 yards was a smooth, triumphant experience! To the tune of Alicia Keys new song, this wheel is on fire! Yes! We are well on the way to getting through my goal for Maryland Sheep and Wool.

According to your label and The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deb Robeson, you are felt resistant.
For this reason, you are my dearest dorset, my new favorite fiber.


Welcome to the Thunderdome

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is in May. It's March. I have cabin fever. As cat is my witness, there is no room for another tuft of fiber in the cupboards.
So, what is a spinner to do?
SPIN!! Spin like the wind!

Here is the deal. There are sixteen pounds of inventoried stash to my shame ( there's more, but if it ain't accounted for, there is no shame to confess). Pushing the limits of sanity, I think that I can knock out eight to ten pounds by May 2nd...
Who's taking bets!


Navajo Spinning at VKL

Yesterday at Vogue Knitting Live, I had the opportunity to attend a class in Navajo spindle spinning with Katharine Cobey.
While it was not my first rodeo at the technique, it was the first time that I had successfully spun.
Instead of palming the spindle, I was taught to just use my fingertips. That helped me focus on the long-draw. That's another maneuver that did not agree with me in the past.

I enjoyed this trip to VKL, though it was short and sweet. With a ridonkulous stash of fiber and yarn, the plan was to just purchase on skein of Quivit, which I did from Bijou Basin Ranch. Dragonfly Fibers tempted me with a skein of Traveller in Violetta and Squishy Lace in the Mushroom Hunting colorway. Bead Biz offered Czech glass beads of a mingled green and turquoise color. I have no earthly idea what project to use them on,
That don't stop the shopping! You know what I'm talking about... I see you blushing...