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: It’s all Ducky

Unfortunately, I didn’t get this week’s Friday’s Flock posting done because I rehomed a whopping thirty one ducks to a farm in Dixon, Tennessee. It was sweet seeing them meet the other geese and ducks, and a relief that the feed bill is essentially cut in two. My remaining six duck hens are with the chickens, and the drake is now bunking with the geese. Hopefully this way I’ll get to enjoy the eggs, and not have them breeding like, well, ducks all over the farm. But, I did make progress on the knitting and spinning projects.

Duckys

On the Wheel

I’m still spinning Romney in the grease. In fact, I found another fleece in my studio in what I thought was an empty bin. However, the carding on the alpaca and wool mittens is coming along well. Originally, the plan was for seventy percent wool and thirty percent alpaca. Then I  realized i want them even warmer. So, it’s a fifty fifty blend. I ran out of jacob wool, so instead I’m finishing up with black targee. It’s not as soft, and boy is it high in vm. But the color matches, and it should felt nicely.  It goes on the wheel this evening!

On the Needles 

My mom loves handspun socks for slippers around the house. I wanted to have them done last week, but it didn’t happen.  Between hay runs, freezing weather, a ewe coming up pregnant, Christmas dinner, moving into the main house for the remainder of the winter, and ducks, they just didn’t get done. Oh, and they needed resizing in the toe. Like, serious resizing. We got a good laugh. So, this one is almost done, and then it’s mitten time!

Off the Needles 

Technically, this was done last Monday. However, it was a gift and a surprise. It was supposed to be a sheep, but I think it’s more bear than sheep. I’ve never made a stuffed animal before.  Not bad for a first go. It was fun to make, and maybe there will be more in the future.  Maybe. But he is super cute.

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Chesca’s Lamb turned Bear!

On the Loom

I did get the loom warped! This time I’m making a wrap. It’s acrylic, but this piece needs to be washable. It’s just a simple tabby weave, and it’s coming along quickly.

Well, I’m off on another hay run and to muck the stalls.

Until next time,

In all you do, craft no harm.

Moriah

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Winding up Wednesday: The Sacre Couer Shawl by Nim Teasdale 

This past week I made the Sacre Couer shawl by Nim Teasdale. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. I actually started this shawl in August,  but lacking yarn, I had to make it a spinning project before it could continue as a knitting project.

Week before last I finally got around to spinning up enough yarn to finish my little shawllette. When I sat down to finish I discovered a dropped stitch that wasn’t easily corrected.  I also decided to change the colorway. So, I embraced my inner Kermit and frogged the whole thing, and bought some beads. This is my first beaded project. 

The pattern 

The pattern is very flexible. It’s designed to make anything from a small shawllette or scarf to a full cuddle up with a throw sized shawl. Since this piece was always destined for the Etsy shop, I decided on a shawllette / scarf size. 

There are two options for the cast on. The first is a garter tab, which is not my style. The second is to cast on nine stitches. So, me and the Old Norwegian cast on got busy. The beginning section sets up the correct number of stitches to begin knitting the Arch Lace section. This is one area where the shawl is flexible. I like the fact there is a chart of how many set up stitches you need before knitting the first lace chart. It took the math out, and that’s always nice. 

The Arch Lace section was easy to knit through while watching a documentary on the christening of Edward, the Boy King. I did two complete repeats, and then the first eight rows again before moving onto the Stain Glass lace chart.

Uh? What?

And that’s where this shawl took a left turn. Well, specifically it took a left turn at a downhill gallop heading into a fence with a busted bridle at row nine. No matter how many times I knitted and frogged, I just couldn’t get it to work. It became a jumbled mess. I even frogged out the Stain Glass section twice and started again. Finally I decided to stop before building a bonfire, dancing about like a mad woman, and using the pattern instructions to light shawl and knitting needles ablaze. 

I finished out the piece to row nine, and used a 3/5 picot bind off. Then I blocked the entire piece, and breathed a happy sigh of relief. 

Good Parts and Lessons 

I really do like the way this came out. I do plan to use the pattern again, up to row nine, that is. I’m wondering if there is a misprint in the pattern. Overall, it’s well written. I printed the pattern off ages ago, so it’s very possible it’s been corrected. Or, it could just be a case of my dyslexia kicking in, which is very possible. 

It was also good to try beading. Beading definitely slows knitting down. It basically doubles the time. So, unless it’s a wedding piece, beads just aren’t happening in my studio. If you do bead work,  bless you. You’re a more patient soul than mine.

My big take away is the next time I decide to do a lace pattern I’ll use an acrylic test yarn before breaking open my handspun. Test knits aren’t just for designing. Fortunately everything turned out well and this lesson wasn’t too costly. 

Until Friday,

In all you do, craft no harm 

Moriah 

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Monday’s Musings: Self Speech 

It’s been a busy Christmas day, and things are finally quiet enough to get today’s post done. Since it’s been so busy, today’s post is a quick video.

I’ll be expanding on this topic of how we talk to ourselves over the next few weeks.

Happy Christmas,

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

Friday’s Flock: Mighty Minerva and Dagging 

Mighty Minerva 

Our smallest lamb has grown into our smallest ewe. She weighs only twenty five pounds compared to the average one thirty in the rest of the flock. She was our bottle lamb, and in her opinion chores are a natural part of a sheep’s routine. It’s always sweet and humorous to watch her follow us around and discuss the day’s issues. She also understands gates.

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So, the other day, when I was tired and hungry I closed the main gate to keep the sheep in the barn paddock instead of the main pasture that currently is without fences. Before I could turn around and head to the house, the entire flock spilled out from behind the barn, gambling and leaping into air at a full run, straight into the pasture.  Minerva led the charge, and kept leading the charge until we finally got out the lawn mowers and rounded them back up.

Once all back in the barn lot and the back gate secured with a t-post I watched as Minerva started gumming the latch to open it again. This time she failed. She then began pushing on it. Over came Black Iris, Night, and Loral to investigate. After some none verbal communication the four of them began pushing on the gate. I was impressed both with group effort, and the intelligence. We often sell animals short, but clearly there was serious communication and collaboration at work. Minerva may be small, but she’s a smart cookie, like the rest.

Dagging

The word “dag” first appeared in Late Middle English at the start of the sixteen hundreds. It originally meant a pointed hanging part, or sometimes, a challenge. The Australians applied this word to shepherding, specifically the hanging bits of dung matted into the wool on the backside of a sheep. I think it’s a brilliant use of the word – it hangs, and is a challenge. The word was also transformed from a noun to a verb. These days, we dag sheep, or as this week’s blog is about, we learn about dagging.

Why dag? Well, those nasty bits hanging off the end of the wool sheep are a perfect place for flies to lay eggs and begin inflicting fly strike on the sheep. It can ruin the wool, and kill the sheep. Heavy wool bearers are the most at risk for developing fly strike because the wool goes all the way to the bum. It’s a messy, nasty job, and it’s my job twice a year to trim up the dag end of my sheep.

To demonstrate, I grabbed my buddy Black Iris. He wasn’t overly happy about it, but we  made up later.

In days gone by shepherds used to cut the skin off the back of the sheep in order to prevent fly strike. Fortunately that custom is dying out and dagging is becoming the norm. I use simple house hold scissors for this chore. If I had a large flock I would hire our local shearer, but with only twelve I can spread it out over a couple of weeks. For us, since we don’t dock our sheep any longer, this is an important part of our management.

And that’s dagging.

Have a lovely week, and we’ll see you next week when we clean out our sheep’s pen after a failed experiment.

Until then, In all you do, craft no harm.

Moriah

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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