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What’s New? Spring Cleaning….Fleece!

Good morning!

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It’s been so long….

Spring is here and I’ve been busy 🙂 Seems spring always makes one want to DO more – and some of us have a different take on spring cleaning! I’ve had several fleeces sitting for a while — some since last summer! I don’t know if I posted about it last fall but I have some absolutely beautiful long staple alpaca…dusty dusty stuff with some burr issues as well. It’s got a staple of about 8 inches as it was a long time between shearings and it is SUPER soft – lovely lovely lovely. Irreplaceable really. Fortunately, lol, I started out with about 14 pounds and there is no end in sight yet.

Unwashed…
alpaca - prewashing

Combed out for debris, but not yet washed…
raw alpaca lock 8 - 9 inches

Final product – rovings are clean and pulled from my combs…
alpaca -- combed

There is also the ‘meat’ sheep wool which I was given last year – in black and white – waiting to get a good soak and a wash. The wool comes out nice but the dirt is incredible – sometimes free looks like an excellent price. There is a large bin full of that waiting for me on the porch.

Oh yes, and a basset hound too…
Tired Basset

Mr. Man

My baby grandson has had his first birthday – still the cutest baby in the world with the BEST smile 🙂

Happy Birthday Baby

His other grandma has sheep and lambs and has very generously given me three bags of wool (I jokingly asked for ‘three bags full’ lol) – the first is lamb (three fleeces I think), the second is yearling (two to three fleeces) and the third bag is adult (haven’t counted them but I believe it holds two fleeces).

Grandma wool - three bags full

The lamb, unwashed…
Lovely lamb

The yearling, unwashed (or possibly the adult)…MUCH dirtier than the lamb. I plan to soak this in a cold soak for a few days before washing it…
yearling?

These fleeces MUST be a mixed breed but are sooooo soft I’m pleasantly surprised! I’ve washed some of the lamb, so far, and it’s coming out lovely. Very short fibers but lovely AND it helped motivate me to learn how to spin short fibers. Happy to say that after two days of utter failure…. I CAN DO IT! 🙂

The lamb…clean…
washed lamb

Here’s some blended short fibers that I’ve successfully spun…YAY!…it’s camel, yak, silk and lambswool blended on carders and then spun for a two ply thick and thin yarn….(it truly is soft as butter)
short fiber mix - camel etc.

I’ve sold one of my spinning wheels – the Bordua that I bought last fall – to a really nice Ravelry member who will truly appreciate her. I’ve also begun selling some handspun wool yarn and some spinning fiber (the above mentioned alpaca) through my local kijiji. I definitely spin more than I knit and the wool is piling up!

Some recently spun yarns…
handspun yarn
(Left to right…lambswool, spun from the lock very finely for a four ply fingering weight yarn; alpaca, spun from combed fiber, two ply; grammalamb spun two ply; the soft as butter blended camel 2ply; a skein of laceweight, handdyed silk two ply approx 800 metres.)

Oh – Almost forgot! There IS news on the knitting front….

lamb, silk, alpaca mix for socks - three ply

I’ve spun 900 metres of silk/lambswool/alpaca (in approximate thirds, blended on carders and then spun fine for a three ply lace weight) to make a really beautiful pair of lace knitted stockings. So pretty, so impractical. Of course I had to have them 🙂 I’ve only just begun the knitting but it’s coming along well…

socks!

Lace Stockings - heel detail

As if that isn’t enough, I’ve also been working on some orifice hooks…
orifice hook - loves red

Flowers on a spiral

I am also working on the spinning wheel at the beginning of this post – she needed a few things and a bit of a facelift. I should have pictures to share very soon 🙂 I believe she is a german parlor wheel but who knows for sure…

And just because…I’ve decided it’s time to make a quilt. A really special quilt I’ve had a picture for for ages…known to me and those that know me as “THE ONE”. It begins something like this….

Tammys Quilt

Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags Full…..

Oh yes, I DO have wool!!! :)))

I’ve been accumulating a variety of wools and fibres this year. It’s the ‘year of the blend’ around my house. Last year I had a couple different types; shetland and jacob and some very dirty suffolk/dorset (actually unknown – this is my best guess). This year, I bought two shetland fleeces, both silver and cream — one is silver thel and cream/brown tog and the other is cream thel and silver tog. Absolutely soft and silky. Though I don’t know the micron count (and frankly am not too concerned with it), I’d guess they would class as fine or superfine. They both came from youngish animals, possibly yearling fleeces. They are my faves….a repeat purchase from a fantastic seller here in Canada. I’ll go back year after year!

Ok, so, to begin at the beginning – the shetlands; (approx 10 lbs total before washing)

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Then, I was given some beautiful alpaca, in shades of honey and brown (which I had already blogged about), also from Canada, Ontario actually. I haven’t any idea of weight but it’s at least one full fleece and parts of another or two?

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Some sari silk waste fibre caught my eye. I bought 100 grams and love the effect it has carded with wool! You could make a really nice silky tweed yarn with this! (I like it so much I’ve now bought another 100 grams – hopefully arriving soon) Gotta love ebay. It seems I didn’t take any pictures of this…

I purchased one pound of border leicester fleece. It’s a lovely, strong, long and shiny fibre which cleaned up nicely….from a yearling ewe.

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I was then sucked in by some beautiful red mohair…lovely stuff! I purchased one pound and have tried it with some of the shetland — truly beautiful 🙂

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Icelandic fleece (again, from ontario) was my next find. 2.7 lbs of black and white (mostly white, really). I haven’t done anything with this yet, besides cleaning it. It seems very soft and silky (the softer undercoat does, at least)

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Then, of course!, I couldn’t help but order more of the lovely mohair. This time I bought a pound of charcoal/silver/black. Seems not as fine as the red but the fibres are longer. I think it’s going to be beautiful mixed with the right wool or perhaps the brown alpaca….

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Romney fleece became available and I thought – why not? I had never tried romney (actually have not tried most things and how do you know until you experience it for yourself?) and wanted to so I purchased 2.5 pounds and washed it up. I had to flick the tips before washing to get it to come up white but it was worth the work. Beautiful bright white and very soft!

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This next picture is after flicking, but before washing!

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My one, ‘non bargain’ purchase was some local (very local – we could drive to pick it up), very long, fine, white alpaca fibre. The staple is 6 or more inches. I WAY overpaid for these two pounds of alpaca but I don’t even feel badly about it since the fibre turned out so very very perfect! The fleece was absolutely covered in burrs and so I had to hand comb the locks before washing in order to clean them. It hadn’t been sheared in two years which is not usual and is why the staple is so long.

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I am waiting for some mulberry silk top (500 grams) – thinking this would ply beautifully with the white alpaca…perhaps for my next up pattern Multnomah Falls by Magit Sage of Fiber Fiend. Very beautiful, isn’t it?

And then, on Saturday, I was given four fleeces! Suffolk/dorset or a mix of some sort – the shepherdess isn’t sure since they are more pets than anything. One is deep black and seems to be a lamb fleece. One is charcoal, one silver and one (very large one) is white. The blacks are cleaning up easily and the white is a little more difficult – there is a bit of vm in there that’s too fine to come out without combing. I’m positive it will be fine once I comb it out. All of the fleece is fairly soft with the black black one being the softest of all.

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So, I’m overwhelmed. A little. I’ve been washing fleece for what feels like forever since I can’t handle leaving it to do later. I’ve got the silver and the white free fleeces to wash but the rest of the list is washed and waiting in pillowcases to become some very beautiful yarn this year! On the plus side, I haven’t bought any yarn since I began spinning and my yarns are a higher quality and much more interesting than anything I could buy 🙂

Yes, I Have Been Slacking

I haven’t blogged in SOME TIME….wow, too long, really.

My beautiful daughter had her beautiful baby!! He’s the most beautiful boy in the world…of course, I am a little bit biased…just a little 🙂 She says I must ‘blog’ him, so here is a picture of cuteness itself….

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So, perfect, right? I’m one proud grandma, though that’s something to get used to — I’m so NOT used to being a grandma!

Certainly the excitement of new babies explains my blogging-slacking behaviour, doesn’t it?

I’ve done some spinning, some knitting and some beautiful fleece purchasing – all since I’ve been on the blog last and some of which I’d like to share here since I’m really thrilled with some of the results 🙂 I’ve been on a bit of a yarn/fleece diet this year, and trying to use up the fleeces and fibre I already have rather than buying more. IF you could see the yarn closet you’d definitely agree that the diet is necessary. It’s that or we have to expand the yarn closet, lol, or trade it perhaps with the children – their room would really make a good storage! 😉

I spun some navy and royal blue superwash merino fibre which I had bought last year at the Black Lamb (www.theblacklamb.ca), from Laurie, who is wonderful. I plied it (two plies – I’m a lazy spinner with two bobbins) and knit it up into the Gooseberry Cardigan pattern. I’m more than happy with this sweater – it’s comfy, it’s soft, it’s quite possibly my new favorite all time sweater!

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Not the best picture and I can’t believe it BUT, it seems I forgot (?) to take pictures of the spun wool or the spinning itself. I must be losing my grandmother mind!

Bonus! Found a picture of the spun yarn…
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I made a little crocheted top – the Avalon Top by Doris Chan. Love how it turned out too….

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I also made a little pair of socks, from my handspun superwash merino sock yarn…three ply this time….

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I prefer ankle socks so when I made up this design, they seemed the way to go!

Seems like forever and like I’ve got too much to say for one day. Instead of jumbling it all together we’ll have to finish this up tomorrow – when I’ll show the new alpaca fleeces I just washed and the beautiful shetlands I’m processing!!!

Have a great day! 🙂

Must Catch Up…

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Wow. I’ve been really really busy lately! I feel like I’ve been neglecting the blog, lol…

The puppy is doing fabulous. He’s learning so much, so fast!! Really amazing. And he’s settled in nicely with the other two – has even learned some manners 🙂

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I’ve been asked to knit chain maille helmets for a theatre production which is coming up later in the year. Rehearsals start in July though so I have to get them all done by then…

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I was pretty happy — I made the pattern up and it worked out the first time! It was a happy, happy day 🙂 Now hopefully the rest of them knit up fast, and I’m praying to the wool gods that the wool stretches impossibly far.

I also have to knit sets of 3/4 length chain maille sleeves, for each.

AND!! I’ve been asked to appear in a play as a spinner, with my wheel. Coolness, I thought. It should be fun! I’m not clear on the details of when and where yet. Later this year, I understand.

I’m planning to post the pattern for the helmet, when I have a bit of time.

I’ve been working on quilting the baby ‘fishie’ quilt. That is nearing real deadlines too – the reletive it’s for should be visiting in July. I’d say I’m about 1/3 done the hand quilting and then there’s the binding to be sewn on by hand as well. I’m pretty sure I’m on track.

I was given some canadian unspun yarn – the kind they make the cowichan sweater out of and decided to use it to experiment with dying roving. The sweater needs to be frogged to claim all the yarn so I just started with half a ball of the natural/white mix.

I skeined it…
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Placed it in a pot with near boiling water mixed with almost a cup of vinegar and some wiltons ‘violet’ icing colour (dissolved in boiling water first and stirred). I didn’t soak the roving first. I want to accentuate the ‘breaking’ of the colour and allow the roving to soak the colour at an uneven rate for interesting variation in the colours.

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I soaked the roving in the dyepot, simmering without agitation, for about 20 to 25 minutes, until all the dye was exhausted and absorbed.

After cooling a little, a soak in hot, hot water with a drop or two of dishsoap, a hot rinse…

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It looked fantastic! Check out the colours! I think I maybe should have used a little more dye – see how the centre didn’t really lose the beige/natural tone. On the other hand, when spun up it might look really good so I’m reserving judgement 🙂

It’s drying and I expect the colours may fade a little.

I made my daughter a pair of ‘sockettes’ for her birthday last month and forgot to post them here…here are a few pictures. The pattern is improvised, toe up, using the free white fleece I got a little while back.

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She likes her socks low on her ankle. The best part of hand knit is the perfect fit factor 🙂

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Oh yes…almost forgot…I’ve also been knitting the grotto wrap from interweave knits with my handspun rambouillet lace yarn…I’ll post pictures when it’s done…it’s turning out soft and really nice (I think it’s my best handspun yarn ever).

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I have two skeins of sock yarn which I spun from the free white and black sheep – my son and I’ll work on dying those tomorrow….

A Little Shetland Lace Cardigan

Using my handspun!

Remember the shetland fleece I bought earlier this year?
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I washed it, combed it – seperated the down coat from the coarse outer coat, and spun the down into a nice, lofty two ply.

handspun shetland

I wanted a little sweater – it’s really soft and I’m not overly sensitive to wool anyways. The Sylph Cardigan by Robin Melanson (Interweave Knits) was perfect. Or at least close to perfect! I downsized it, one size. I also continued the lace pattern throughout and knitted on the neckband rather than sewing it on later. I reshaped the sleeves a bit when downsizing. I like them well fitted.

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I love how it turned out!

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Sweet!

I’ve recieved the free fleece from the local farm…I’m buried in sheepy goodness!

First – the black (two sheep fleeces I’m told)

As it came…
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Messy, huh?
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But it cleans up nice!
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I’m only half way through it…
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A little I combed with my wool combs…
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And then, there’s the white…

As I recieved it…
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I soaked it in cold water…
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Washed it in hot, hot water (boiling mixed with a little hot tap) once or twice. I’m finding smaller amounts per wash with a lot of love (teasing apart the tip and picking through) is the best bet with this but it’s worth it in the end!

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mystery white fleece - combed top

Washing Wool

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I washed/am washing the shetland fleece indoors since it’s not exactly balmy outside this week in ontario.

I began with soaking the fleece, in parts, in tubs in cold water – changing the water as it dirtied and warmed. I’ve still got a little in a cold bath that started soaking the first day. I think extra days make it easier to clean.

Next, I used this method of hot water wash. My soap is a presidents choice aromatherapy dishsoap – it smells like lavender.

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The wastbasket was a stroke of genius – we found it at the second hand store for 75 cents! It works as the perfect colander. I used an old tupperware bowl for the wash, the metal bowl for a drain to set the basket in.

Each batch got two soapy soaks and two or three rinses in nearly boiling water. In the interest of saving water I use the last rinse as the first soapy soak for the next batch (and make the last rinse very quick to prevent significant cooling). I used a couple of towels and rolled each batch, squeezing out most of the water and laid them out on my sweater drying rack (in the livingroom).

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As the fleece dried, I seperated it into locks…

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By starting at the tips, it was pretty easy to seperate. Dirty tips aren’t so bad, lol….they help the fleece stay together and (mine) combed out easily later.

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I’ve still got a third of a fleece to do…

I’ll be the lady in the kitchen 🙂