The First of the Fleece

On a bright and windy day not too long ago I washed the first bits of my Jacob fleece:

As I was getting everything ready to soak, Benny realized that wool smells pretty sheepy and awesome. I had a hard time keeping his big Roman nose out of my wool.

I was surprised at how totally filthy that first batch of rinsewater was.

I’d read that sheep sweat ‘a lot’ (I would too if I was wearing a 3-inch thick wool sweater into spring), but I was still amazed. Two washes and a rinse later, I felt like it was clean enough.  The whites were so much whiter, and the browns definitely looked better.

I put it between two puppy-proof layers to keep it all from blowing away or being eaten.

When it was completely dry, I drum-carded those locks that had mixed colors:

This is one of the batts from those mixed locks.

There were tons of noils, so I decided to just intentionally include them in the spinning for a very neppy tweed effect:

Next I carded and spun the locks that were (almost) all white.

There was another thing I’d read about Jacob sheep: the white fibers tend to be finer than the darker ones, regardless of where they are at on the body. I’m not sure what part of the fleece I pulled these particular locks from, but they definitely had a softer feel and finer crimp than the darker locks. You can see that the white spun up with almost no noils/nepps.

Then I plied them together.

As I was spinning, this yarn reminded me of something so specific that I had to plan a special project just for this yarn. When it’s done, I’ll write it up.

Do you think of anything in particular when you look at this yarn – either the finished yarn or the singles? What would you knit or make with it?

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More Color Mysteries

Well, I’ve spun and plied a new color of corriedale pencil roving. This time in a colorway called Watermelon, which I bought from Klaus *in person* over 5 years ago when I went to the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. This was long, long before I had a wheel, even before I had a spindle.  But I knew I was destined to spin, so I bought it (and others) anyway!

Totally smart move.

I bought this color because at the show, Klaus had both a pair of socks knit from handspun in this colorway, as well as a sweater knit on size HUGE needles using the roving straight, like ultramegabulky weight yarn.

First, I think after viewing my 3-ply that the socks at the show all those years ago were knit from 2-ply. The final yarn was still about the same diameter/wpi, but I remember it being more nubby and much less regular. Also the colors were less muddy.

Totally interesting to me that one half of the final yarn ended up green predom, and the other half pink predom. And not just kind of, but In a Big Way. At least it appeared so during the soak.

But now that the two skeins have had time to dry out and puff up just a tiny amount, the color differences between the two are still there but seem less distinct.

Particularly in the sun, which just came out after a day of quickly changing snow, rain, sleet, and wind (all that was missing were locusts and frogs). So I ran outside while I could to snap a few pictures in bright, sparkling-clean light.

I’m liking it more in the sunshine. Much more.

Here’s to sunshine!

Cool or Fool?

“Cool or Fool?”

That’s a phrase the Captain and I use a lot. We know full well that we fall outside the norms of modern-day society and expectations, but at times we get pretty far into the deep end of our hobbies and passions, and we’re not quite sure whether what we’re doing is all Kitschy-cool and hipster rad, or just plain weirdo foolish. Hence Cool and Fool.

With what’s in this big shipping bag, I’m pretty sure I’m walking the line. I’m not sure exactly where I fall.

I leave it to your feedback to inform my final decision. In the meantime, I’m happy as a clam, and as excited as Benny when the T-Bone snausage snacks come out.

I have a fleece!

This is a Jacob fleece, to be precise.

I got it off of ebay for $20, from an organic farm in Virginia. Isn’t it pretty? 

Raw (unwashed) wool, 3 pounds of it. Dirt and hay and lanolin and sheepy smell.

Look at the beautiful crimp on those locks!

I love it. Possibly more than the pups, who were mighty fascinated. (And sequestered for their own safety and my sanity.)


Whachoo doin’, Momma!?!

A lone lock.

 

 In the wind I hear a whisper: S p i n M e

 

For any of you who have purchased a raw fleece before, should I be happy with this one? Sad?

Where does it lie within your spectrum of ‘A Good Fleece’?

So – Cool or Fool?

Trying too hard

Spinning the Aster yarn taught me a couple of lessons.

1. I need to spend more time studying color theory.

2. It doesn’t take much messing around to screw up a good thing.

The long color repeats of the Aster fiber lent themselves perfectly to a spinning/plying technique I wanted to try called Fractal Spinning (check out this great article describing it in more detail on Knittyspin). The structured color repeats on the Aster merino would, I thought, lend themselves perfectly to the fractal method, so off I went to spin the first half in long color sections.

That worked perfectly, and as I prepared myself to spin the other half in shorter, chirpier repeats, I got a little to big for my own britches.

Charmed by my color success with adding a ply of gold to the bright Glacees fiber for the 3-ply experiment, I decided to “tone down” the saturated Aster fiber by throwing in some undyed white merino I had in the stash. I didn’t want any stretches of white stitches in the yarn – I knew that much – so I just tore off a handful of white and every once in a while jammed a tuft against the Aster roving to attempt a marl ply.

Well, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. At all. Who knew – (well, probably everyone but me) – that these two rovings were of different microns, staple lengths, and packed densities. The Aster fiber drafted easily. The white merino drafted like cement. The result – about 80% of the times I added the white fiber, I had either Aster or White… rarely marl.

Oh well, live and learn. I treadled on.

But as I spun and watched the bobbin fill, I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that happens when I am pretty sure I’ve messed too much with something.

Turns out, the white fiber didn’t really lighten things up. It just stood out. The colors of the Aster were too saturated, and the white just plunked against it. It looked to my eyes the way it feels when you are riding in your high-school boyfriend’s manual transmission and the gears clunk into place every time he shifts.

CLUNK.

BONK.

WHUNK.

Yarn color whiplash.

But I am stubborn (and what’s more, I needed those bobbins since they’re for the new Lendrum and I have just three of them) so I went on and plied the long and short color runs.

Turned out OK, but not what I’d hoped.

I’m chalking this up as a lesson learned, particularly for me to quit trying to manhandle my fiber colors and be a little more planful and to spend better time in preparation.

On to the next one, should be off the bobbins by the weekend. Pictures to come!

Possibilities

When I was little and would go to the clothes-store with my mom, I had a habit of disappearing under the clothing racks. It felt like going into a shady, close forest. Sounds and light were muffled, my ears filled with the rustle of fabric. It seemed warmer and safer there than out in the open. I liked to sit in the middle of rounders and look at all the clothing hanging down around me.

And while I was there, I’d find little treasures. Innumerable things fell off those clothes onto the carpet:  straight pins, shirt clips, collar stays, tag pins, tiny little safety pins. I’d collect them and hold them tightly in my fist.

 

Eventually we’d make our way to the fitting rooms where my mom would ask me what I had.

I’d respond, ‘These are my possibilities.”

Possibilities. I’m  not sure where my 5 year-old self came up with *that*, but as I look back now I realize that it was the perfect word. I had no idea what the bits were, what they were used for, but I was fascinated by them. I wanted them, wanted to *do* something with them – I just didn’t know what or how. But I treasured them and thought about ways that they might work together or find a new purpose.

*****

Fast-forward a few decades to now.

I don’t find myself much interested in diving under clothing rounders at Macy’s, but my fascination with little bits of things hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s only grown stronger over the years. Times have changed and I’ve grown older.  I haven’t seen a plastic shirt clip in decades. Shopping isn’t what it once was… now I don’t even need to leave my couch and coffee to purchase clothes.

But even though my shopping methods have changed, there is something wonderfully similar to the magical world under the rounders. I don’t have to limit myself to picking up Possibilities under the racks of the few stores at the local mall. Instead, I have entire universes of bits and bobs at my fingertips. Ebay, etsy, Ruby Lane, and other wonderful e-sites have become a new source for finding wonderous things.

And while the items themselves may be different from those pins and clips from the 70s, the sense of wonder and discovery I feel at seeing them and pondering their uses – both past and future – never ceases to fascinate me to distraction.

In place of straight pins, I have bone stilettos and crochet hooks. Tiny mother-of-pearl thread winders. A twee brass needlecase:

Instead of shirt clips, I have vintage spools of buttonhole silk and wonderful old packets of needles:

I certainly don’t need tag pins when I have lovely old cloth measuring tapes and cloisonné thimbles:

And frankly, I’m just not sure what these are all about… but I love them to distraction:

(Someone’s going to tell me that the one on the bottom is a lady’s personal care tweezers and ear-wax scraper, right? I was afraid of that. Who knows what the brass implement is? Does it have anything to do with buttoning? Do tell!)

There are other wonder-full things that have come along with these findings, where I’m not exactly sure of their purpose… yet. Discovery and learning are all part of the process, the magic, and the enjoyment of these new Possibilities.

Bamboo Pattern Scarf

During the holidays, one of the many fun books I looked at was Nature’s Wrapture by Sheryl Thies.

It had a few patterns that looked like they would be nice to knit. One in particular, the Chunky Bamboo scarf, caught my eye. I really liked the broken rib that resulted in a fabric that did look just like tall-growing bamboo! I wasn’t sure what yarn to use, but then remembered this in the stash

and decided to give it a whirl. Noro Silk Garden Sock, color S279.

I started in early January, beginning on an airplane flight to visit a friend in Florida. I knit more there and on the way home, and through the next month and a half. Here’s where it was at in early February.

I wanted to lighten up the colors a bit… Noro can be rather intense. Fortunately the way the color patterning fell on these two skeins, I was able to splice in a few extra bands of neutrals in two different places in the scarf.

I loved knitting with this yarn. The slubs of silk really pop as they are knit, and it’s fun to see how the color bands flow into one another and how the wool and silk and whatever other bits are in there all combine to make a finished fabric that is unique to Noro.