Monthly Archives: March 2012

Humming Bee Farm

When I first got into spinning, I had romantic notions about raising my own sheep and alpacas, with the occasional angora goat — a fleece flock I called it. That was before I spent some time with friends who actually raise sheep. It’s not a money maker — it is a labour of love. Animals need a lot of attention and the time you spend on them is time you can’t spend spinning and doing fibre preparation.

So in my development as a fibre artist I decided that I would do all I could to support those who are raising these fantastic animals — especially those who are doing it as small scale farmers. For as much as my crafts of spinning and fibre preparation need to be continued into the next generation or we’ll lose them, so too is the art of animal husbandry. The art and craft of taking care of domestic animals.  They don’t take care of themselves.  They need a lot of looking after for a healthy and stress free animal provides the best kind of fibre — and meat.  Sorry to the vegetarians, but it’s a fact. 

In my teaching workshops, I am committed to using and promoting locally sourced fibres. So as I begin getting materials ready to teach 2 full-day spinning workshops in Haida Gwaii in mid-May, I start by looking at what the local fibre producers have to offer.  This weekend was Fibreswest and I was thrilled to meet Devon Stringer and her mom from Humming Bee Farm there.  They had just the kind of fibre I was looking for — and a great story.  From her website:

At Humming Bee Farm we breed and raise high quality, purebred white and colored Angora goats. Angora goats are on Canada’s Rare Breed Conservation List and we are very pleased to be helping protect them from becoming an endangered species.  We shear our goats twice a year, once in late March and once again in late September. On average we get about 10 pounds of lusterous white mohair from each goat, each year. Mohair is a wonderful fibre and in much demand by our local spinners and weavers.”

Here is some fibre from Humming Fee Farm  that I purchased this weekend for the workshops. I bought 4 1/2 lbs of lovely corriedale and 1/2 lb of yearling mohair. I’ve spent the morning portioning the mohair into bags and making the wool into braids.  The braids on the right are 50 g braids and the bags in the plastic box each contain 15 g of the yearling mohair.  The corriedale will be used in both the Beginning Spindling and Advanced Spindling workshops. The mohair is for fibre blending in the Advanced workshop.  There are many more fibres to gather and prepare (alpaca, silk and other kinds of wool) but this is the start. 

And a grand one it is thanks to Devon and her family.

Back to the 100-Mile Skirt

After fiddling round for a while with various cabled yarn experiments, I have finally decided which one I want to make for the 100-mile-wear version of the Claudia Skirt

The one on the far right is the prototype.  It is a cabled yarn.  This cabled yarn is constructed from a 2-ply grey alpaca single and Placid Waters (50% merino, 25% bamboo and 25% silk ) single.  That 2-ply yarn is then plied again to make a 4-strand cable.  It’s a lovely yarn.  It has a wonderful drape and from a distance looks a bit denim. 

So I devoted last Sunday afternoon to combing alpaca nests, and here is what I got  — 22 grams of combed nests.  I haven’t yet done the complex math to figure out how much I need to make the skirt, and therefore how much I need to comb, spin and ply and cable.  Part of me just wants to comb up all the grey alpaca that I have and hope for the best.   It is extremely fine fibre and is to be spun up fine, so this amount, small as it seems, will go a long way.
 

I am going to comb up another serious batch of it and start spinning.  Here’s to lazy, rainy Sunday afternoons and a challenging fibre project!

Cheers.

The magic of rain water

A couple of weeks ago I took some dirty fibre, put it into a lingerie bag and threw it into a bucket of ice cold rain water for over a week. The day I removed it I had to break the slim layer of ice that had formed around it. The water, while dirty at the beginning, was replenished daily from the deluges we’ve been having, so at the end, it was rather clean. I was going to leave it for several weeks, but it seemed so clean already, I got impatient with my own experiment.

So, I took the bag of fibre and tossed it onto the garden for the rest of the week. Over the week, as we had bouts of rain and sunshine, it got soaked and dried out repeatedly. A couple of days ago I retrieved it, towel dried it and put it by the stove to really dry.

I am absolutely amazed how clean this fibre is. There is no dirt in it at all, and only a trace amount of lanolin. Here is a photo of it. Bottom corner are the clean locks, at the top is a combed nest, and along the side is a hand carded rolag from the combed waste.

Here’s the whole lot of the experiment, combed up and waiting to be spun. It’s beautiful stuff — not damaged or affected at all by super hot water or harsh chemicals. 

While it was easy to spin, the trick was keeping it warm.  When the fibre was cold, the lanolin was a bit sticky.  It’s generally chilly in this semi-insulated farmhouse, so I kept the fibre waiting to be spun, on the warming stove in our front room.

Here’s a double-ply skein which weighs 14.5g and is 58 m long. Pretty good sized sample to play around with I’d say.  Because the wool fibres are stretched so much during spinning and plying, it’s good practice to wash or at least wet the fibre after it’s been skeined.  This way it returns to it’s regular size and shape, reducing the risk of surprises the first time you wash a garment made with hand spun yarn. 

I didn’t want to remove any of the lanolin from this yarn, so I’ve wet it again in rain water.  The stuff is ice cold, so I brought a bucket of it into the house, where it may at least get to room temperature in several hours. 

Here’s my lovely skein soaking. I’ll let it do this for a few hours, to make sure the fibres get good and wet and then I’ll hang it to dry.

I can’t wait to knit this up and see what it’s like.  Imagine, this beautiful yarn from fibre made clean with rain water and time, plenty of time. 

July Fibre Club Socks in progress

The last post featured the overspun skein of wool/silk blend from Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.  It is proving to be wonderful yarn for knitting up socks.  Here they are.  On 2.5 needles with 54 stitches.

I like the way the colour ways are doing a bit of striping and no pooling.  It’s going to be a terrific pair, hope to have them done in time for FibresWest so I can show them to Felicia Lo myself.

Must stay focused and not fall victim to SSS — second sock syndrome. 

There’s a steady rain outside and since I’m averse to housework, there’s nothing to do indoors ‘cept knit, spin and play with fibre.  It’s going to be a good weekend.

Overplied, yet lovely

I finally made a decision about this yarn.  It’s been sitting on the bobbin fully plied for well over a week.  In fact I wanted it to be thought it was over plied, waiting to be plied again into a cabled yarn. 
However, I forgot that I over plied the first singles (because I had a particular plan in mind) so when I plied them together, what I thought was over plying was just making a good balanced yarn.  And that’s what you see here.
The problem was I jumped plans.  For a cabled yarn, I should have a put a gentle amount of twist into the fist singles; then take the singles and overply them — which means putting much more twist into your plying than you normally would; and then cable them (ply them again moving in the opposite direction) with a regular amount of twist.  This under twist; over twist; under twist, will result in a soft cabled yarn.
But I didn’t do that. 
I started with the experiement of putting a lot of twist into the singles, then let the project sit for a long time.  I decided when I looked at the colours, that I wanted to try a cabled yarn with it — forgetting the severe amount of twist I put into the singles.  There was so much twist needed in the first ply, that when I tried to make a cabled yarn, it was as hard as a cable.  Not the effect I wanted at all.
I hope this all isn’t terribly confusing. So let me synthesize it — I started with a plan, and I needed to stick with that plan.  I jumped into another plan halfway, and what I did in step 1, really did matter. 
It’s a nice yarn with good colourways.  With a lot of twist in it and, balanced like it is, it will make a very good sock yarn.  It’s not a disaster, at all.
But I still don’t have a cabled yarn.

Letting the Rain have its way

I told the story in an earlier blog post, about the woman who threw dirty fibre onto her garden to be used as mulch, because she thought it was beyond hope.  Only to rediscover it in the spring; white, clean and ready to be carded and spun.
Well it’s nearly spring here, as my lovely little flowers above can attest to, so I don’t have the long winter months to work with here.  But I do have the rains.  And boy is it raining.  So below is a bit of a photo essay of my experiment with letting the rain have its way — and cleaning my fibre in the process.
Above are the two samples I’m working with.  On the left is very dirty and greasy Jacob, on the right is Cheviot.  The cheviot isn’t as greasy as the jacob is.  But both have not yet been washed and both are local fleeces.
I tucked them into a lingerie bag, cause I don’t want to fight with sticks, straw and other unpleasant things when this experiment is over. 
Nicely layered and zipped up.  Ready to head outside. 
It rained all last night so the rain barrel was full.  You all know you can’t leave a full rain barrel hanging around, so it had to be tipped.  Before I did that, I gave the fibre a good soak in the lovely soft rain water.   
 I decided that it needed a longer soak, so I put a bucket aside for the purpose.  Then tipped the barrel.  I’m going to let it soak overnight, or maybe over the weekend.  After that I’ll find a good spot in the garden for it. Somewhere it will get rained on, over and over and over again.
If this works, I’ll be one very happy woman. 
Stay tuned.