I love to snuggle up in a blanket on cool mornings while I sip my coffee and write or on summer evenings while sipping tea on the porch listening to the crickets. I have a small purple blanket I often use for this purpose. However, I’ve been wanting something heavier, sheepier, something I can wear while pouring that second cup of coffee or the walk back to my house from Mom’s.
I also have a tote of scrap yarns from spinning tests, left over projects, and that ever present “what was I thinking” yarn. Since I’m in need of a serious stash busting and I want a specific item I decided to put the two together with my own variation of the sweater vest I knitted up a few months ago.
I’ve managed to whittle down my stash to just a few yarn I really love and have project appropriate amounts of in stock.
To keep my yarn thickness consistent I held multiple strands together. At first every time I changed yarn I was dropping the yarn, picking up the next strand, and weaving in as I went. That got to be too much work. Enter the magic knot. It’s not something I would use on my shawls or socks, but for this project it’s perfect.
I still have a ways to go on my shawl blanket. But it should be done in the next week or two. I’m so looking forward to snuggling up in it.
Until next time,
Get creative, bust those stashes, and
Craft No Harm,
PS. I’d love to see some other stash busting, so feel free to post in the comments!
Wow! What a busy week. I started training for my new job this week, Bossy took me for a few runs, and I’m almost finished with Charlemagne’s 2015 fleece. Plus, I’m busy shearing and getting fleeces ready to put up in the Etsy shop. But this week I wanted to feature one of my favorite tools for processing wool, and my newest way of using up left over scrap yarns from my stash.
Ah the Vikings. Those seafaring, raiding, colony planting baddies we all know and love from History Channel. Archeological research shows that Vikings kept sheep and used hand combs, just like mine, to process wool into worsted yarn and thread.
Viking combs are easy to use, but not. They are basically big spikes set into wooded handles. We joke that they are a home defense device, and I’m sure some ancient Viking woman used them that way. They are sharp. I’ve accidentally dropped one and scratched myself. But they do their intended job well.
To use Viking combs, you simply put your locks butt end on one comb and then rake the other through the tips. This transfers the wool from one comb to another. When what’s left on the first comb is too short or nasty, you simply slide the refuse off and go at it again a time or two more. I personally find combing longer wool best. Three inches is the minimum I usually go. Yes, I can go shorter, but to me short wool makes better woolen. Traditionally, you should fill the combs three quarters full. But, when starting out use less. Your forearms definitely get a work out.
When you’re done you can either diz into roving, or be a crazy spinster like me and spin directly from the combs. Both have their own challenges. Being difficult for me to hold a comb and diz at the same time, I just go from comb to wheel.
I’ve read allot of articles stating that you should load your combs three quarters full. Don’t. Just save your arms, your wrists, your sanity, and don’t. I find a clean fleece does well about half full. A high VM fleece, and about a quarter full will do fine. If your fleece is hitting high on the ridiculous VM scale go ahead and flick comb each lock and then load those bad boys up to the three quarter full level.
Diz or spin off the but end of the locks. It does spin smoother when you spin butt to tip.
Don’t comb towards yourself. That includes your body and your legs. I promise it’s a BAD idea, especially if the cat jumps in your lap and you have on a thin garment. You will end up injured.
When not in use slide the combs into each other to keep the points “capped”. There’s nothing worse than forgetting your combs are in your project back and cramming your hand down on them or having them rip up your bag.
Don’t take them on airplanes. They will be confiscated.
Don’t let children play with them.
Keep them away from animals when not in use. For what ever reason, Pate found these extremely interesting as a puppy.
You can blend different fibers into roving with them! That’s one of my favorite things to do with them.
If you decide to spin directly off the combs, remember to keep the points facing away from your arms.
It feels so good to be over my aching back and up to spinning and knitting. Shearing season has started and I’m very excited about this year’s fleeces. So, without further adu, let’s jump into what I’ve been up to this past week!
Off The Wheel
I’m working on Charlemagne’s fleece. I’ve gotten his kempy britches all spun up into a three ply. For britch it’s not THAT bad. I’ve spun it in the grease, and just as it came off him – freckles, stains, and all. I ended up with right at a thousand yards.
I’ve also spun up a few fleece samples from this year’s shearing so far. Lilly has given us a beautiful fleece. It’s pretty dirty, and the spine fleece is worthless due to her being so short, but the dominant fleece from the sides is lovely.
Minerva is my surprise fleece star this year. She’s a whopping thirty five pounds after shearing and gave us a pound of Smokey black and silver wool. I was not expecting this at all. Her texture is similar to her grandfather’s Charlemagne’s, but she inherited the Merino softness from her grandmother Buttercup. I’ll be spinning this myself and then putting it in the shop. It is pretty high in vm, and it’s going to nep in a drum carder. I’m looking forward to her fleeces in years to come as she lightens up. She’s SO PRETTY!
On the Wheel
Charlemange’s 2016 dominant fleece in on the wheel currently. I’m working on a two ply light fingering weight yarn. It’s mostly white, but I’m allowing the dark bits just to sit in wherever they pop up. With all the bamboo sprouting I’m going to test some and maybe dye it a turkey red. That should knit up nicely. I’ve just washed it in hot water at 165 degrees and nothing else. I seem to be anti washing lately… except for Lilly’s fleece.
On the Needles
I ended up with five skeins of Charlemagne’s britch yarn. Each skein is about two hundred fifty yards. So, I’m making a wrap sweater for this spring and next fall. Not only did I spin it in the grease, I decided to be crazy and knit it in the grease. I washed up a swatch sample, counted, and now I’m knitting. It’s really kind of gross, but at the same time enjoyable. My hands are getting very soft, too. It squeaks on the metal needles. I think next time I decide to do something like this I’ll soak the fleece in cold water first. Grease minus dirt and a little less smell sounds good.
I also made a new shawl this past week. It’s Wendy’s Fern Shawl off of Ravelry. Great pattern, totally free. I used this green Romney yarn I made years ago when I was first learning to spin and dye. The spinning, or I should say plying isn’t my best. I dyed it with copper pennies and carrot tops with a splash of spinach. It’s bright. I think I may over dye with walnuts in a gradient. Or just leave it until this fall and see if someone picks it up at a festival. Either way, it was a pleasure to make at each step.
On the Sheep
I managed to shear Lilly, Minerva, and Night this past week. I’m hoping to shear Daisy this coming week. Lilly was pretty chill by the end of the process. She stomped her foot more than once, but as soon as the grain came out all was forgiven. Minerva left me with a swollen eye. Yep. That’s right. A thirty five pound ewe lamb decked me. Her Aunt Dagney would have been proud. I was dreading shearing Night. She’s a bit off, and frankly a little crazy. But she was actually very well behaved. She actually is friendlier with me now. I guess it was bonding time? Who knows. Sheep are funny that way.
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.
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.
*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.
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.
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!
My little wrap is off the loom.
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.
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.
Place the carder on your lap.
Now it’s just like brushing hair. Start at the tips, and work up.
When you get past the middle, turn the lock around and do the same on that end.
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. 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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