Winding Up Wednesday

Last week I made a hay run. Big deal, right? I make hay runs all the time. However, this time I parked up the hill from the barn. That’s not so bad. However, I was a little addled due to dropping the trailer in the creek. Like IN THE CREEK, and then sliding back down the bank… I just wasn’t thinking my best when I let the trailer off the truck hitch without having first put concrete blocks and chucks down to lock to the trailer’s wheel. The trailer started rolling down the hill. I screamed, and it dragged me a good six feet before I dug my heels in and stopped it. That’s right. I stopped two thousand pounds of hay headed for my momma and my barn. I’m sore. I’m strained and sprained and all kinds of stiff and aching. So, I haven’t done much spinning. I’m slowly working on the Romney and Jacob. I’ve only gotten three hanks done instead of my usual five to seven a week. I’m still making the finishing touches to my pink and white wrap, and that’s the entirety of my fiber crafts this week.

So, you’re going to hear my philosophy about why everyone in the world should try spinning at least once.

Universal

Pretty much anywhere people grow fiber or can harvest wild fibers, spinning occurs. I was reading an article in Spin magazine recently that highlighted the textile culture of First Peoples in America. My Welsh and Scottish ancestors kept sheep and spun fiber. The Chinese perfected silk cultivation before my Jewish ancestors even existed as a religion, and we know they kept sheep and wove tapestries complete with metal threads.

According to Wikipedia the archeology records show that hand spinning and weaving date back at least twenty thousand years. That’s the Paleolithic era. That’s pretty the dawn of modern humanity. If you sat down a woman from the stone age, Ancient Greece or Africa, an Inca woman from Pre-Columbus America, a Samaritan, or a Scottish granny from two hundred years ago and gave them fiber, they could give you yarn.

What I’m driving at here is that fiber arts, spinning, felting, weaving in its many forms are all part of our universal heritage. It’s in our very DNA as human beings. It has no boundaries of nationality, skin color, ethnic orientation, not political borders. I think that’s one reason I love it so much beyond just the obvious.

Every time I pick up a fleece, sit down and start spinning, I’m connecting to my history as a human being. I think that’s pretty special. So, get out there and embrace your history, people. Because spinning is your heritage.

Until next time,

Craft no Harm,

Moriah

Winding up Wednesday: The Babe Production Wheel – A Review

* I am in no way associated with Babe spinning wheels. I’m just reviewing what I like and don’t like about my wheel.

In 2012 I FINALLY got my first spinning wheel. She’s an antique wheel from The Netherlands. I call her Abigail. I love spinning on her, but for serious spinning she’s just not sturdy enough.

And that’s why in 2014 I bought Josephine – my Babe Production Wheel. I decided on a Babe because it was the cheapest option for a double treadle wheel I could fine at the time. I thought about building one, but then I realized by the time I bought the racing wheel chair wheel, the pipes, etc, I’d pay almost as much for some aggravation without a return policy. No thanks.

My Babe arrived one afternoon and within half an hour I was spinning happily. Not too bad for three hundred dollar plumbing pipes and spare parts. So, let me start by telling you what I DON’T like about my wheel. (And don’t tell Josephine, it would hurt her feelings!)

The built in lazy Kate is kind of a joke. I mean, it’s great in a snap, but there’s no way to REALLY flow with properly tensions singles while plying. Over time I’ve learned to adapt, but the dollar store basket with my bobbins on knitting needles still wins.

It’s plastic. Yes. I know, I bought a plastic wheel. It’s not a major issue, but it’s not PRETTY. It’s not sustainable.

It makes an awful racket when I’m winding off a bobbin straight onto my skein winder while said bobbin is on the wheel. No matter how much oil I feed her, she still complains.

Don’t try to do art yarns on this model. They make a bulky wheel for a reason!

Now, onto the likes!

Overall this wheel spins pretty smooth. I think it’s the ball barings. It’s easy to start and stop, speed up and slow down. I like that!

Another fave feature is the double treadle. My calves are even and if I sprain an ankle I can still spin. Considering it’s typically my right ankle I sprain, that’s a big bonus.

The bobbins are a perfect size. Four ounces is a comfortable size for an afternoon of spinning. Of course, if you’re up for a good game of bobbin chicken six ounces is doable.

The company makes spinning bobbins and plying bobbins. The plying bobbins are hard to miss since they’re bright red and bigger than the others. Since the whorl speed is determined by the bobbin size you can really control the ply twist angle easily. This creates a very consistent ply.

What I really enjoy is that in three and a half years of spinning on this wheel I’ve not had one break down, one problem, one broken drive band. I oil it regularly and spin three to eight hours daily. That’s allot of wear with no problems.

Overall, I’m pleased with my Babe. If you’re looking to get into spinning without shelling our almost a grand it’s definitely worth the investment.

That’s it for thisweek’s Winding up Wednesday.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

Sunday’s Sassy Stitch and Spin: Tramp Cat and Mittens 

*This post was started weeks ago, but due to technical difficulties it’s just now getting finished and posted. Now to figure out how to replace a charging port…

I am blessed with three good barn cats. They do their job and are sociable with people as well as the sheep. I fact, they often nap with the ewes and out tom Clive loves to go out to the big field with the flock on a sunny day. So, with the cold weather we’ve kept them in carriers in the house at night. The strange thing: we’ve heard a lot of bumps under the house.

Sophie Ann LaClaire is a hybrid someone put out. As far as she’s concerned we’re BFFs.

Now, bumps under the house are normal when Otis, the resident possum, is doing his cat impression at night. He and Sophie the cat are besties. But this is something larger, and well, doesn’t smell like Otis. All the critters have been on edge and I’ve been bracing myself, concerned the foxes had made a new den. But no. It’s a big orange cat tramping around, looking for food. Now that the mystery is solved I can rest a little netter and concentrate on my night knitting.

Cloe. When it’s super cold I let her sleep on the foot of the bed… where she actually stays.

On the Wheel

My piles of Romney fleeces are spinning up nicely. Spinning in the grease means no prep time. Usually I spin up a pound of prepared with plying included in fourteen to fifteen hours (and I’ve done it in a single insane day). When I spin in the grease my average is half a pound in eighteen hours. However, it usually takes me about twice that long to really prep the fibers. So, with the massive cold front still clinging to the country, it’s enjoyable to not scour.

Off the wheel

I completed my mitten spinning! I wasn’t sure about mixing the courser Targhee and Jacob wool with my gorgeous fawn alpaca. But I’m truly pleased. The alpaca really softened up what is traditionally sock yarn in my house.I had planned to felt, but it’s thick, warm, and comfortable just like it is.

Since the mitten yarn came out so nice I dug out the coveted Hopkins fluff left over from combing on my viking combs. Most people toss it, but, well, that’s not my style. I picked through it to get out the neps and noils, then got busy with the hand carders. I’m even more pleased with the softness of this yarn. I may snag Go Lightly’s fleece this year from my neighbor. He’s Hopkins’s son and the fleece is very similar. In short, I want to reproduce this blend for both color and texture.

On the Needles

I’m finishing up my mittens. Honestly, I’m not sure what to knit next. I know I’ll need a sweater next year, and maybe a hooded cowl, but otherwise the household is set on knit wear for a few years barring mice and moths. And, I’ve got to concentrate on spinning and weaving along with up coming farm work for spring.

Off the Needles

I made two new hats for chores. They’re leftovers from other past projects. I didn’t use a pattern. Both are knitted flat and then stitched up the side. My ears are much happier!

Out of the Pot

Last autumn when it was Kavass making season I tried dyeing with beets. I crave a red dye that’s deep and substantial. However, beets are not a color fast dye. So now I have a three pound Jacob fleece with a weird yellowish cast coupled with pink streaks. Not good.

Last week I pulled out my dye pot and cherry koolaid. Can I just say “Yummy”? I’m calling it Cherry Cola Float. The red with hints of the Jacob browns with just hints of pinks and whites is so lovely. With the puni style rolags I added a touch of firestar. When I’m done working up this batch they’ll being the Etsy shop. I’m thinking next is green, or yellow. I feel a soda themed color way collection coming on!

Weaving

My little wrap is off the loom.

Even though it’s off the loom, the work isn’t over.

I’m warping for a double width throw blanket. Frankly, I AM NERVOUS. This is my first time using only my best handspun to double width. But hey, slow and steady wins the race, and that’s my plan.

Hopefully my technical issues are resolved.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

Winding up Wednesday: The “Trash” Fleece

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The problem with perfect fleeces or “Did you have to tell me that?”

If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have a policy of no fleece left behind. Simply stated there are no trash fleeces in my world. However, like so many sectors of Western culture, wool processing has become severely detached from reality.  There’s an unvoiced expectation that raw fleeces are fluffy, free from vegetable matter, long in staple legnth, and cheap. Any other fleece is simply unworkable and unworthy. This puts pressure on both the producer and the sheep. Remember the sheep?  You know, those cute prey animals we’ve bred to produce wool, some to the point of wool blindness? Those darling lambs who love nothing more than to play in brambles and don’t mind sleeping in their own berries? Those cuddle bugs that burp fermented grass and smell, well, like a barnyard? Yep, they’re pretty gross when it comes to personal hygiene.

The reality of keeping sheep coated, changing those coats four times a year, and acting in best interest of the sheep is more complex. Have you ever tried to dress a toddler that doesn’t want to be dressed? Now imagine that toddler is the same weight as you, or more. Ever dressed a two hundred pound toddler? I have. It’s not exactly easy. Then there’s the ethical considerations of adding weight and heat to an animal in the summer along with increased risk of injury if the coat fails (fancy a broken leg anyone?). Or, you can just leave the sheep on pasture away from the hay and hope they aren’t eaten or just horrifically mauled. So, that leaves the majority of fleeces with higher vm than most drum carders can handle with just a pass or two.

What to do!

Grab a lock of your fleece and a hand carder, or a dog slicker if you’re starting out.

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Place the carder on your lap.

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Now it’s just like brushing hair. Start at the tips, and work up.

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When you get past the middle, turn the lock around and do the same on that end.

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Repeat.

Or watch me do it on YouTube for a bit more details:

*Yes, there are cats in the house since it’s extremely cold. Lily’s fleece is being used for personal garments, so I’m not concerned about contamination. My studio is animal free!

That’s it?

That’s it. Once you’ve done every lock your fleece is ready to card or spin from the fold. You’ll loose some wool, but if you’re paying a fraction of the cost, or nothing, it’s worth it. I’ve done this on fleeces less than two inches in staple length. Yes, there were a few sailor impressions along the way, but it was worth the time and skint knuckle. Here’s a pro tip: don’t attempt this before coffee or four a.m.

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This is the final results from using this method then spinning in the cloud.

And that’s it for this Wednesday! Don’t be afraid of those lower end fleeces with real potential. A little work, a little patience, and you’ll be amazed what you end up with!

Until next time,

In all you do, craft no harm.

Moriah

Sunday’s Sassy Stitch and Spin: The Deluge 

We had four inches of rain over this past week, and almost three were over a twenty four hour period. The entire homestead quickly went from damp to soggy to a trees floating through the front yard and wading through squelching mud. I’ve gotten lots of spinning and knitting done this week!

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Our driveway and front field. The water is about waist deep.

On the Wheel 

This past week I’ve been spinning up a beautiful Romney fleece in the grease as featured in this week’s Winding up Wednesday: Spin that Fleece.

Romney Fleece

My current sweaters are rather breezy commercially produced cotton. So, with over fifty pounds of white Romney wool in my studio and another twenty in the barn I decided knitting a sweater for myself is in order. It’s spinning up into a soft aran weight three ply. Once I have enough yarn for a decently long sweater with a shawl collar I’ll put this fleece on my combs and make yarn for the Etsy shop. I plan to spin Romney for the next several weeks, so there won’t be too much to report for the next thirty pounds of spinning.

In addition to the three ply I’ve spun up some hanks of two ply sport as a gift. One of the mini hanks is dyed using marigolds.

Two ply made from mother and daughter. They didn’t full at the same rate…. but still it’s the thought, right?

 I’ve also been spinning up random bits of fleeces that I’m finding here and there. Any fluff bits less than half a pound are getting stuffed into a bag. I plan to just put it all randomly through the drum carder when I get a few pounds. It’s destined to be brilliant or shear madness.

I do plan on squeezing in some Targee alpaca blend this week. I desperately need new mittens for morning chores. I’m hoping with the Targee it felts easily and with the alpaca it keeps me warm.

Off the Needles 

My Sacre Couer shawl is finally knitted up and finished! I had to frog out the original work due to a dropped stitch. I tried to fix it, but if you’ve ever tried to fix a dropped stitch in a complicated lace knitting pattern, then you understand why sometimes you need to just love Kermit. I was going to just rip back to the mistake, but then I began looking at my color palette and decided to just start over knitting from the beginning, with bead work.  I’m glad I did. I’ll be reviewing this pattern next week.  It’s a beautiful shawlette, but it definitely had difficulties.

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Sacre Couer Shawlette

I also finished another project this week,  but I have to wait until next week to show it since it’s a gift. But it sure is cute!

On the Needles

I have one sock left to finish up this weekend for tomorrow. It’s just a pair of plain basic socks knitted up on dpn’s. The wool is squishy Jacob. I don’t remember who it is, but I’m think it may be Charlemagne Bolivar’s. I do know these socks are not fancy, but they are super comfy and warm. I may make a new pair for myself, too.

Dyed in the Wool

I’ve continued dying locks this week. Well, I continued until the rain turned or spring muddy and we stopped using piped water until it clears up again. As soon as I have decent light again the locks will go in the Etsy shop, too. And when the water clears up I’ll be finally rinsing that last batch of lavender dyed locks that sitting under the kitchen bench.

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Closing Remarks

This week has been a productive one, even with the weather. Yes, chores in the cold rain aren’t fun, but it has set me thinking on how people traditionally dressed in wool on farms, and what items I can incorporate into a modern style. I have man-made winter and rain clothing, but it never keeps me as warm and dry as my wool. Even the manufactured items I favor tend to be all wool or all cotton.

As much as dealing with this deluge is unpleasant, the water will keep the pasture in shape, providing green grass this spring. I’m thankful for the squelching mud and extra mucking, because it’s the cycle of nature that allows my flock to thrive and keep me warm and dry.

In all you do, craft no harm

Moriah

Sunday’s Sassy Stitch and Spin: Busy as a Beaver 

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We are blessed with an abundance of wildlife here at Serenity. We regularly see deer in the woods, squirrels, the occasional coyote and timber wolf, turkeys, herons, song birds, hawks, and even bald eagles. We have a possum living under our house named Otis. However, living on the creek we get to enjoy the engineering marvels of the American Beaver. This year they’re living almost in the front yard. So, in addition to the regular work, knitting, spinning, sewing, and celebrating holidays, we’re wrapping trees in chicken wire. Even as pest like as these overgrown rats are, it’s difficult not to admire their industry and ingenuity.

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One of our trees wrapped in chicken wire. We’re trying to preserve our big tree, some of which have tops as big as the house!

On the Wheel

I enjoy spinning roving, real traditional hand combed roving, not processed top being sold as roving. However, spending hours with my Viking combs can get exhausting. My arms get quite the workout daily mucking stalls and hauling hay, so by the end of an hour combing my shoulders are aching loudly.

What’s my solution when I’m craving a true worsted yarn and farm chores are heavy? Lock spinning straight from the fleece. That’s correct. Part of Daisy’s fleece is slated for spinning with no processing beyond a good wash out in hot water and some flick carding on the ends.

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This method is not suitable for short fleeces by a long shot. I’ve actually flick carded the tips on fleeces with a one inch staple. It was tedious to say the least. But Daisy has gorgeous five to six inch locks, and a perfect Romney lock structure. This spinning is gift spinning, and I’m planning on featuring the technique and dyeing the first Winding up Wednesday in January. In the mean time, some of Daisy’s mom’s locks are headed to the Etsy store.

Off the Wheel 

Somehow I managed to finish up both Oatmeal Girl and Jackie this week. It was definitely a challenge. Overall, I’m pleased with both spins. Unfortunately, I didn’t get Jackie’s fleece spun in time to continue knitting the Sacre Couer shawl. I’ll finish washing out the yarn this week,  and hopefully my newest blanket will go on the loom the first week in January.

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Jackie in front and Oatmeal Girl in the back. Jackie is the lightest grey I’ve ever seen.

 

On the Needles

The Sacre Couer shawl is still on my needles this week. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have time to work on it last week. But, finishing it up is my main goal this week. I have decided to put beads on it. I’m considering some shiny silver beads, or maybe black. It really depends on what Walmart has in stock. One of the trade offs for living in a small town is that Walmart is the only craft store. But, hey, we’re getting a Burger King and a fourth traffic light! Oh, and there’s still a hitching post at Walmart. So, at least our Walmart is cool that way.

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Sacre Couer Shawl – Finally all the yarn made!

Out of the Dye Pot 

Speaking of Daisy early,  I dyed some of her Mother’s locks this week. They’ll go in the Etsy shop this evening. I used food dye for this project. I’m beyond pleased with the results.

I dyed these in the microwave. I’m slightly suspicious of microwaved food, and microwaved locks sounded a bit far fetched. However, microwaving locks is my new addiction! They turn out so well.

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Round Up

Hopefully, the beavers won’t keep me too busy this week, and I’ll be as busy as they are this coming week in my studio. With the New Year approaching my mind is thinking ahead to planning new projects. Many are as ambitious as my creek dwelling neighbors. However, I suspect I’ll never be as single minded as our busy beavers.

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The hut is actually under that tree in the creek bank, but they have an impressive pile of food.

In all you do, craft no harm.

Moriah

Winding up Wednesday: Spinning Oatmeal Girl

The Fleece 

This past February I helped out on shearing day at my neighbor’s place. She graciously gave me a salvageable fleece with problems. The fleece has been in storage until recently. This particular ewe had a skin infection that caused skin flaking and small scabs throughout the fleece. However, it was mostly on the spine and rump. The rest of the fleece was nice and soft. I don’t know this ewe’s name, but she’s Oatmeal Girl to me because of her creamy oat color spots.

Raw fleece “Oatmeal Girl”

The overall staple length is under three inches, and I suspect the micron count is in the low thirties to upper twenties. She’s also a freckled Jacob, so there are dark hairs in her light wool, and light wool in her dark spots. This is a love it or hate it trait, and fortunately a minority of Jacob sheep carry it. I personally fall on the love side. Since the staple legnth is on the shorter side, and there was some dander I decided to wash the fleece first. This time I used the washing machine, and just pine sol. I wanted to kill off any fungus or bacteria that might be lingering before handling the wool. 

Freckled lock. Look closely and you can see the black wool in the cream

After washing, rinsing, and hanging out to dry, the fleece was picked on my Little Dynamo picker until fluffy. That’s when I discovered there was also a vegetable matter issue. However, carding on my hand carders really sorted out the matter. I still had to pick out some farm while spinning, but overall my rolags ended up clean.

Oatmeal’s oatmeal wool all picked

Once my carding party was over, Josephine, my Babe Production Wheel, and I set out spinning supported long draw singles. Since the bulk of this fleece is going to become warp thread for a new Jacob Sheep inspired blanket, Navajo plying (chain ply) seemed like the best choice. I ended up with a lovely three ply fingerling weight yarn that will hold up to weaving. I’m about half way through, and I’ll be spinning up the rest this week. 

Spun into Navajo three ply

Lessons

In our modern age of machine processed fiber it’s easy to overlook and simply toss fleeces that don’t meet milled standards. However, if I had gone with that idea I would have tossed nearly three pounds of nice usable wool. It was definitely more work, but the sense of accomplishment outweighs the extra five days in processing time. Besides, I dare anyone to beat the price!

Because this fiber was softer than most Jacob I ended up having to put extra twist in, especially since I went with a Navajo ply. It didn’t come out as squishy as I hoped, but then again durability was the goal, not a fluffy scarf.

Oatmeal Girl spent an entire year of her life growing this fleece, raising a lamb, and avoiding becoming dinner for coyotes or dogs. Why toss that? In days not too long past our mothers and grandmothers would have spun this fleece and been grateful for the opportunity to keep their families warm. What wasn’t usable for spinning will end up as mulch and eventually compost. Gratitude may be the biggest take away lesson from this fleece. Gratitude for good neighbors, a wonderful day, a free fleece, and a little ewe who gave an entire year of her work without complaint.

In all you do, craft no harm.

Moriah and the Flock