Saturday, July 31, 2010

First Fleece Revisited

With Tour de Fleece done, I've had a little more time to give to my little Santa Cruz fleece before buckling down for the last of the State Fair knitting and spinning.

A little more on the fleece: this little fleece was courtesy of Sonja Straub at Legacy Farm in Corbett, Oregon. She and her husband are trying to help preserve this rare breed, descendants of sheep (probably merino) left by Spanish settlers on the Catalina islands off of California. To preserve the native vegetation, the sheep have been removed from the island -- Santa Cruz sheep, not being endemic, can of course be raised anywhere that sheep can be raised -- and several breeders are trying to keep the breed alive. The sheep have a short, but fine and tightly-crimped fleece.

Washing continues, one small bit at a time.

There's still a lot of VM -- vegetative material -- in the fleece after washing. It took intensive combing of each of the locks to get most of the hay and stuff out. The crimp just hangs on to any little bits.

Curious to see if carding would make cleaning go any faster, I put some uncombed locks on to some borrowed hand cards.

Hmm... in a word... no. At least not the way I was doing it. All I got was a tangled mess of wool and hay.

However, carding some combed locks made a few nice, fluffy rolags.

Using the rolags, I tried spinning woolen using the long draw, and it produced a fluffier yarn, though less even than the worsted-spun from locks:

Here's the worsted-spun (left) and woolen spun (right) side by side. Still tiny bits of VM in the finished yarn, not so as to make the yarn scratchy, but I'd probably want to dye this to make it look nicer.

The wool wasn't as soft as I thought a merino-type sheep should be, and the fibers feel as though they may be coarser (that is, a higher micron count) than merino wool, but it's incredibly elastic. The yarn stretches and bounces back amazingly. If the fibers were longer (for better wear), the wool would made great-fitting socks. It could be just the thing for mittens and gloves and for close-fitting sweaters.

Verdict: The tight crimp and the high grease content (yeah, that's a merino characteristic all right!) make these sheep into dirt and hay magnets. For the best quality fleece, they'll have to be coated in those fetching little canvas jackets to keep the fleece as clean as possible. The downside to coating sheep is that the tips of the locks tend to felt a little, but I'm not finding felting to be a serious problem with this fleece as I wash it. If I really agitated it, the fleece may felt, but the amount of agitation I'm giving it isn't causing felting. As short as the locks are, these sheep are going to need skilled shearers to get the most out of each fleece, and to keep out the second cuts. The short fibers are a challenge to spin, but they're suitable for both worsted and woolen spinning. While this particular fleece isn't as silky soft as merino gets, it's not downright scratchy, just a "crunchy" texture. The high crimp produces a highly elastic yarn that would be great for fitted garments, particularly outerwear where softness is less of an issue. I'd be interested to know what the micron count is for these fibers.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 23: Finish Line!

On the last day of the Tour de Fleece, I plied my sample of Santa Cruz fleece, getting a few yards each of 2-ply and chain-plied 3-ply:

It doesn't feel as soft as I'd expect a merino-type sheep to be, but I still need to work with this to see what I can do with hand carders and a woolen preparation. Carders may get out more of the vegetative bits, too. It sure has the lanolin content of a merino-type. Even after soaking in hot water and detergent several times to get all the dirt out, I still feel sheep grease!

I also got started on the hand-dyed BFL that came all the way from England:

Those lovely sherbet colors might make a nice spring shawl.

And here's the final TDF count:

480 yards silk/wool (4 oz), 360 yards pygora (2 oz), 130 yards qiviut (1 ounce), for a total of 7 ounces and 1000 yards, plus the Santa Cruz samples and at least 1/2 ounce into the BFL. Not anywhere near the TDF production of some folks who have several thousands of yards and a dozen or so skeins all washed and finished, but pretty good production in the time I've had between work, canning, and the usual chores and all.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 22: Nearly there...

Washed, fulled, whacked, dried, and skeined -- it's qiviut! About 130 yards of, well, probably fingering to DK weight plushy soft yarn:

Also started test-spinning the Santa Cruz fleece that I've got combed out. I'm thinking this might not be State Fair entry material, at least not in its current state:

That's spinning from the tiny little locks, and as you can see from all the little brown flecks, it still has a lot of trash in it that I'm still having a heckuva time getting out. I'll borrow some carders and see if a good, brisk carding gets more out, and if spinning woolen works for this fiber. It's got such a tight crimp that spinning worsted from locks feels like spinning elastic!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 21: Plying, combing

That nasty fleece? It dried out to -- well, not quite clean, but a whole lot cleaner. I'd already cleaned and combed out a small piece, yielding about half an ounce of fiber. A lot of work for a mere half-ounce, and about half of what I washed two days ago yielded another 3/4 of an ounce:

I'm not sure how those teeny little locks are going to spin, but I'll give it a try. I need 2 ounces for a sample to enter in the state fair, so I'll need to comb out another 3/4 of an ounce.

Also used the ball winder to made a center-pull ball of the qiviut single, and I've been carefully plying from both ends. A bit of a trick. Would have been a lot easier if I'd wound the ball the other direction -- the direction I was plying it so the outside end would come off in the right direction. Now I know.

Just about done, and I still have a little time to finish it tonight.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 20: Challenge Day!

Okay, it wasn't a huge challenge compared with what other TDF participants did, but in the little time I had today for spinning, I finished the rest of my ounce of qiviut, while teaching myself the long draw:

Plus I started combing out the piece of fleece that I washed (and washed and washed) yesterday. All in all, not bad for spinning productivity on a day when I had summer teaching to do.

I'll let that single rest on the bobbin, the wind it into a plying ball and ply from both ends.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 19: Rest day

Today was a day of rest for les Tours, both Fleece and France, so I took the opportunity to wash some of the Santa Cruz fleece that's been waiting for my attention.

There's a white fleece in there. Really. There is.

Honest. Or so they tell me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 18: The problem with fuzzy yarn...

... is how can you tell when you photograph it up close if your picture is in focus or not?

I'm halfway through the qiviut, and appear to be teaching myself the long draw as I go. At least, I've been letting twist into the draft zone, and the draw is slowly getting longer and longer. Ah, this stuff is lovely! I weighed the roving on a gram scale to divide it into two equal portions for spinning into singles for a 2-ply, but I may just spin the whole ounce on one bobbin and try plying from the inside and outside of a plying ball. A new challenge, and I don't want to waste a gram of this roving!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 17: Luxury of luxuries

Ah, the silk/merino yarn washed up nicely, and with some fulling and whacking, it fluffed up a bit. At least, as much as silk will fluff up. Some dye bleeding, so I'll have to be careful washing and blocking this in the future, but otherwise, quite lovely.

And a close-up, of course. Just like a good washing and blocking of a knit garment, a thorough washing and whacking (and fulling, if appropriate) does wonders to help even out the tension in handspun yarn:

Now on to the most luxurious item in the stash... mmmm, the Qiviut! The short, fluffy fibers are a new challenge, and I'm finding a semi-woolen draw with a fast whorl to put plenty of twist in the singles is working well.

Visually, not much to look at, I'll admit that. Sort of gray-brown and tweedy. But oh, this is deliciously soft! Not the silkiness of pygora or angora, but a tender, plushy softness. I could happily sleep on this stuff and never, ever want to get out of bed again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 16: Skein #2 done!

Taa daa! The second skein of the Tour de Fleece, completed!

I chain-plied the whole thing today, and I'm sure it will look a lot smoother and a lot less wonky after it's had its bath, a little fulling, a good whack, and re-skeining. It's 50/50 silk and merino top, Aventurine colorway from Dicentra Designs, 4 ounces, between 480 and 490 yards. Hmm, I'm seeing a silk/merino lace shawl in my future...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 15: At the end of the roving

That's it! That's the last bit of the silk/merino roving, spun into one continuous single!

It'll rest on the bobbin overnight, then I'll start chain-plying tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 14: More of the Same

There is more merino/silk on the bobbin. Not much more to report, except that there is very little more to go. A day or two more and I'll have the singles done and be ready to ply.

But I also picked and canned 12 pounds of cherries today, so no one can call me a slacker.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 13: Proceeding under supervision

I hope no one is tired of seeing the blue and green silk/merino roving, as it's still what I'm working on. But fret not if you are. The General is on the case, supervising closely, lest the spinning begin to flag:

Good show. Carry on.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 12: Nerves, I has 'em

The bobbin is filling fast -- I spun most of the morning, while listening to an audiobook on interview tips:

And this afternoon... the interview! It's a good thing I allowed myself 15 minutes longer to get there than the directions said I'd need, because just as my destination came into sight across the river, the traffic on the bridge slloowwed... dooooowwwnn... tooo a stoooooooppp. While I was nervously going, "C'mon, c'mon, let's go here, let's GO," the minutes were ticking by, and I scooted into the interview with just minutes to spare.

But all seemed to go well. I had answers ready for all of the questions, had some intelligent questions of my own, and all the people I met seemed like good people to work with.

Now the waiting...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 11: Spinning to calm the nerves

It's late, a little too dark for a good picture with the digital camera, and I don't feel like fiddling with it at the moment, so all I have is a little webcam picture to record my progress on the Dicentra silk and merino roving:

I've got a really important job interview tomorrow for a job I'd really like to have, so I'm just a leeeetle nerve-wracked. Expect obsessive spinning tomorrow to keep my nerves in order.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 10: Rest Day

The Tour de France bicyclists are resting today, and so the Tour de Fleece spinners get a day off -- of spinning, anyhow. Probably a good idea to rest my hands after yesterday, but rest totally? Not quite. I spent today reading academic papers and doing a few things to get ready for my summer class, then came home and made:

one dozen 4 ounce jars of currant jelly. From my own currants. I picked and juiced them nearly a week ago, and then we got hit with a heat wave so it's been too, too hot for making and canning jelly. Today the temperatures finally cooled down. Mmmm, sweet 'n tangy currant jelly!

I may comb out some more of my fleece this evening, then on to spinning again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 9: A fair day for the fair

I may have to massage my hands with liniment tonight because today I spun aaaaalll daaay loooong. I was at the Marion County Fair a second time for the full day, demonstrating spinning to anyone who came by and was interested.

Me 'n the Ladybug are in the back there, along with Shelly, Betsy, Kelly, and Helen:

In that time I spun up over an ounce of my merino and silk blend from Dicentra Designs:

Nearly done with the first 2.1 ounce hank of top, and still debating whether to spin the second on the same bobbin or ply this first.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 8: First finished skein!

Taa daa! Two ounces of 2-ply pygora laceweight, totalling about 390 yards:

That's after washing, fulling, drying, and re-skeining because it all looked pretty sloppy after the fulling, but the fulling brought out the halo, and oh, this is so soft and nice!

Work continues on the merino and silk, making lovely green and blue stripes on the bobbin.

And tomorrow it's back to the Marion County Fair for more spinning demonstration, and so a whole boatload of spinning time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 7: Plying

It was ply, ply, ply all evening, until the pygora singles were all done up into a 2-ply laceweight:

Tomorrow I'll skein it, wash it, full it a little and thwack it to bring out the halo, and hang it out in the heat to dry.

That's 2 ounces -- I still have another 2 ounces I can spin later, then choose between the two skeins for the best to enter in the state fair. And that's why I didn't spin both into one single 4 ounce skein -- that, and the instructions for the fair call for 2 ounce samples.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 6: Spinning all day, knitting for the win!

Sooo, I went to the Marion County Fair today to demonstrate spinning, and, of course, to check out to see if I might have won a ribbon or two.

I guess so! That's my Twist and Shout cardigan. And that there's a blue ribbon on the left for first place, and the blue one on the right is Best of Class, and the purple one is Best of Show in the adult division. Best of show! Eeeee! The judges loved the yarn choice (Andean Silk from Knit Picks, a soft and squooshy blend of merino, alpaca, and silk) and loved the vintage button.

And there's my Shalom Cardigan with a blue ribbon, too:

And then my camera battery went dead, so I didn't get pictures of the other ribbons. Let's see... my handspun merino, a Malabrigo beret, and my Fetching fingerless mitts all took second, while my Milkweed shawl and Indigo Dandy cowl each took first. Considering the small number of entries in the textile division, it wasn't hard to win something, but among the small number of entries were some really spectacular items. I wouldn't want to be the judge choosing between some of them.

I did a considerable amount of spinning there, and got my 2 ounces of pygora finally spun into singles. They're resting on their bobbins for plying tomorrow.

Looking pretty good, I think:

Then this evening I got out some merino and silk roving from Dicentra designs that I picked up at the Aurora Fiber Festival:

And started spinning some of that. I'm thinking I'll probably chain-ply it to keep the colors separate instead of struggling to spin even sections on two singles for a two-ply:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 5: Pygora, pygora, pygora

Again, only a little spinning time today, and again, still working on the pygora. About 1/2 ounce left to spin on this bobbin:

But tomorrow I'm going to be part of a spinning demo at the county fair, so I'll have lots and lots of spinning time to finish this single. Hmm, I should take something colorful to work on, too... one of the brilliant Dicentra rovings, perhaps.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tour de Fleece Day 4: Pygora, fleece, fair, and currants

Today was rather busy, what with a telephone interview (yes! hopehopehopehope...) and taking a stack of knitted items to be entered into the county fair. Last year's showing of knit items was sadly small, so some of us in the knitting group are going to pad it out considerably.

Hence my bobbin of pygora doesn't look much different from what it did yesterday:

But I did take some time to comb out some of the teeny little locks of my Santa Cruz fleece:

And picked the currents and cooked them down. They're in a cloth now, all the good juice draining out, which will become the best jelly in the WORLD tomorrow.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tour de Fleece: Day 3

Well, it's a start on the other ounce of pygora top that I'm working on:

Actually I have more, a total of four ounces, but I want a 2 ounce sample for the fair.

Here's why I didn't make so much progress as I otherwise might have on this day off:

Twist and Shout is finally finished! I did up the collar and sewed on a vintage button this afternoon. Only when I was done did I realize that I didn't do the collar quite at the instructions said, and I got a collar that overlaps. Well, it's going to be entered in the Marion County fair tomorrow regardless.

And speaking of finished projects, I never posted my Shalom Cardigan that I made with the custom yarn I got from Yarnia:

A bit heavy, but oh, so warm on chilly spring days. I modified the yoke a little -- two fewer rows on each tier -- and used four buttons instead of just one. The little square glass buttons were just the right touch.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tour de Fleece: Day 2

After going to the Civil War re-enactment (alas, the first battle was a sad moment for the Union), and having the folks over for 4th of July (grilled longhorn burgers, several salads, and strawberry shortcake), I still got in some spinning time for Tour de Fleece. I finished off a second 1/2 ounce of the pygora top, putting a full ounce on the bobbin. I plan to spin a second ounce on another bobbin and ply the two together.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tour de Fleece: Day 1

Kicking off the Tour de Fleece, I've got about 1/2 ounce of silvery gray pygora on the bobbin, spun fine, which will be a 2-ply laceweight:

The first 2 ounces are going to be skeined up to show at the State Fair, so I'm not rushing through this. Besides, even though this is a nice combed top, I'm finding guard hairs that I'm picking out as I go along. But oh, pygora is lovely, lovely stuff!

Friday, July 2, 2010

This is my new super power. What's yours?

I can start with some of this merino top (Winter Plum from Three Fates Knitting):

Then I can spin it down thin until I get one:


bobbins full of very thin singles. Then I can twist the three together like so:

and skein it up on a niddy-noddy like so:

and shazam! About 485 yards of 3-ply light fingering weight totally knittable yarn!

Up close, you can see the marled colors. Mmm.

Now that all the bobbins are cleared, I'm ready for Tour de Fleece, which starts tomorrow! Rev up your wheels, we're off!

I hear there's some kind of bicycle race, too, or something that just happens to start on the same day. I might try to look into that...


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