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 “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

Winding up Wednesday – Spin That fleece

Good afternoon, all. It’s been a dreary few days here in Serenity Cove which is the perfect weather for spinning. This week I’m spinning up Amy’s fleece straight as it came off of her. Yes. I’m spinning a raw fleece. No combing, carding, or even flick carding. I did run the fleece through a hot water soak since it’s a 2015 fleece just to soften up the lanolin. 

Why? Have you lost your mind? 

No. There are valid reasons to spin a fleece in the grease. It makes a good warp thread, and the grease helps protect the yarn from the wear warp threads experience during the weaving process. It also increases the water shedding ability of a finished garment to leave lanolin in. It also cuts down on processing time. Imagine spinning up an entire fleece in a week. That’s actually my biggest motivation. It’s also a good challenge, and frankly, you’ll be a better spinner by the end.

But Fleeces are DIRTY!

Oh, I know all about dirty fleeces and what can be lurking in a fleece. That’s why this method is saved for the cleanest fleeces. If you can snag a coated fleece from a low lanolin breed, that’s perfect. If you can snag a low vegetable matter fleece that’s in good shape, it’s also a candidate. If you find a gorgeous fleece with high vm, get out the combs. 

How?

Our foremothers didn’t have luxury fleeces, roving, top, art batts, and all those trappings offered by the industry these days. If they were fortunate they had wheel, maybe combs or carders, and a family to tend. You’ll spin this style just like they did.

First, fluff out the butt end of a lock with your fingers. That’s the thicker cut side that probably looks less worn. Start it on your leader, and begin to draft. Try to draft from the butt ends. It goes better, and any damaged tips or vm will most likely end up on the floor instead of the yarn. Drafting on the fold works well, too. Just avoid drafting from the tip end. It’s really that simple. This is the drafting crucible as a spinner. 

If you watch, I tend to draft back with my left hand and control twist with my right. This comes from spinning long draw for so long. Do what feels comfortable for you, and will give you a consistent spin. If you get into a bunch of nubs and narls, pick them out, and toss that bit of the fleece, and keep going. 

I’ve spun it, now what? 

When you get done you’ll have lanolin laced yarn, maybe even lanolin laced lace yarn. Wash it in hot water. I find a good tea kettle and a small basin are the best tools. Use a little blue Dawn if you must. Don’t let your water cool too much, or the grime will restick. I find three good near boiling soaks does the trick. Congratulations, you’ve spun that fleece. Welcome to the club.

Lessons 

This is the one time to be a total snob about fleece. I really enjoy long wool breeds and Jacob for this kind of spinning. You also can spin this way on a drop spindle as I learned in Bolivia. However, a spinning wheel is much easier. But for me, the biggest thing is how connected I become with the sheep and the process. I always feel more a part of the farm, the experience of the land and abundance when spinning straight from the fleece. In the end, I hope that connection finds you, too.

In all you do, craft no harm. 

Moriah 

Winding up Wednesday: Shawl Collar Vest by Jennifer Miller 

As mentioned in this week’s Sunday’s Sassy Stitch and Spin I made the Shawl Collar Vest by Jennifer Miller. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry, and it’s a great pattern, too. I enjoyed making the vest and it’s quickly become my new favorite around the house item.

The Yarn 

I rarely make heavier weight yarns. I enjoy working with sport and dk weight yarns the best, and frankly I enjoy size five to seven needles the best. They’re the perfect size in my hands. But occasionally I’ll do a bulky or heavy aran weight yarn. That’s exactly what I made one afternoon. 

I had texel wool laying around in my studio. It’s a short staple, maybe two inches, and it was heavy on the vm. I ran it through the picker, and then carded it up on my hand carders. I spun it slubby and squishy and then did a traditional three ply. 

I also dyed it, and didn’t like the color. So, back into the dye pot with rit navy blue and a few tightly tied places to preserve the pink it went. It’s not exactly like I wanted, but it’s a wearable color on me now.

This was another fleece most people would trash, and now I have a comfortable bed jacket! A little work goes a long way with a lower grade fleece.

The Pattern 

The pattern is actually the exciting part of this project for me. I’ve never knitted a sweater or garment other than shawls, hats, scarves, socks, and gloves. There’s something about fit, sleeves, collars, etc that intimidates me. Nevermind I can knit up Estonian lace like nobody’s business, a collar makes me think twice. When I saw this pattern I thought, “this is exactly what I need”. 

The pattern is incredibly simple. It’s all worked in ribbing, and the sizing is extremely flexible. It starts out flat to create the yolk and arm holes and then joins up into knitting ribbing in the round. All together it took maybe four hours.

I did run into one snag that’s completely on me. I did my typical backwards loop cast on. When it came to picking up stitches and keeping the ribbing lined up I ended up with a line on the inside.  I think if I had gone with a long tail cast on it would have worked out better. Oh well, next time. There will definitely be a next time. I’ll also make my vest longer next time. I didn’t have enough yarn to get a long line like I typically wear. But those are my issues, and part of the learning curve. 

Lessons 

As knitters we sometimes get into ruts. Oh, look, another shawl, just like the five others not being worn. Sometimes we just need to do something different, get out of the comfort zone, and be daring. Okay, we just need a new pattern that’s not too difficult. For me, this was that pattern. 

This experience has also given me a jumping off point to explore other sweater and vest patterns.  I’m seriously considering a traditional pull over sweater as a February 2018 project. 

Chunky yarn can be fun. There was something intensely gratifying about seeing so much progress in so little time. I was watching McLeod’s Daughters while knitting this, so I was knitting casually. I’ll definitely be looking to balance out my projects portfolio with these sorts of patterns in 2018.

Have a marvelous week!

In all you do, craft no harm 

Moriah 

P.S. I’m in no way associated with Jennifer Miller. I just REALLY enjoyed knitting this pattern!

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