Monthly Archives: August 2014

100-mile wear revisited: reclaiming Cormo

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about locally sourced fibres. Since this blog is called 100-mile wear, I thought it high time I remedied that.

I dug through my dwindling unprocessed fibre stash and found a modest bag of locally sourced Cormo – about 12 ounces. Strikingly white with fat, bouncy locks 3 – 4 inch locks, it was just the thing to have some fun with. It had been washed, but that was ages ago. The fibre felt dry, like it had had all the moisture sucked out of it, and it felt sticky at the base.

I tossed the entire bag full into the kitchen sink that was filled with hot tap water and a quirt of shampoo. I covered the sink with a Rubbermaid lid and let it sit for about half an hour. Then I carefully lifted it out of the soap water, drained the sink and filled it again with hot water and a quirt of vinegar. Covered it again and then after half an hour, drained the sink. I towel dried the fibre and then put it outside in the bright sunshine with just a wee bit of a breeze. By the end of the day it was dry.

A few days later I sampled a few locks with my wool combs. I did this all on the back porch and when I did the first batch, it was in full sunshine. The first batch, in full-on sunshine, combed up beautifully and came off the combs like a dream. It was too hot so I abandoned the activity until later. It was much cooler when I returned to it hours later, and the next two samples were sticky and I could barely pull the fibre off the comb. And it caused a lot of waste. This wouldn’t do.

I figured that the problem was some kind of wax or oxidized lanolin in the fibre. It hadn’t been thoroughly scoured the first time and then after sitting for several (yes several) years, it oxidized and hardened. The heat of the sun warmed it up and melted it a bit. But I wasn’t prepared to get heat stroke just to process this fibre.

Believing that I needed to soften up the wax and oxidized lanolin, I tossed the entire fleece into a bucket of warm water. Covered it with a tea towel and let it sit for nine days outside. Why nine days? Because I am on holiday and that’s when I figured I needed to deal with it before I returned to work. I am glad that I did deal with it that day because it was starting to smell. Not quite as bad as my retting flax last summer, but decidedly disturbing. Fortunately the smell was just in the water and didn’t affect the fibre.

I divided it into three large pots, filled each one with hot tap water and about a 1/4 cup of shampoo. The water felt really soapy. Then I put the pots on the stove to come to a boil. Once they reached boil I let them simmer for about 15 minutes, turning them from time to time to avoid hot spots.

To rinse them I filled the kitchen sink half-way with hot tap water and the rest with boiling water. I lowered the soapy fibre into it and gently pushed it further into the water with the insert for my pasta pot. You know, the thing that is almost as large as the pasta pot but has holes like a colander. That allowed me to push the soapy and buoyant fibre into the rinse water without having to manhandle it too much. I let it soak for about ten minutes. Drained the water and filled the neighbouring sink with hot tap and boiling water. This time I added a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Did the same thing with the pasta pot to get it all submerged.

After ten minutes I drained the sink and filled it again with hot tap and boiling water. This time I only put a small squirt of vinegar into the water. After ten minutes I drained it completely, put it into the pasta colander and put that into a bucket. Let that drain for about 15 minutes and then put it outside to dry.

It was early in the day when I did this so had a good chunk of time for it to dry. Because I didn’t squeeze the water out of it, it took a while. I checked it regularly and flipped it every time I went past it. I covered it overnight and by mid-morning on the following day it was dry.

And it is beautiful. Not a spot of wax or any stickiness at all. I did a sample with the wool combs, in the house out of the heat, and it combed up beautifully.

So what did the trick?

  • The nine days of soaking? 
  • Using a decent amount of shampoo? 
  • Using super hot /nearly boiling water for every step of the way? 

I could have done experiments with the different methods and I’d be able to tell you. But alas, I just wanted clean fibre so I threw every strategy at it.

And it worked.

Simple Lines

Here is my latest pattern. I just posted it on Ravelry. It’s call Simple Lines because of the elegant 3 x 1 rib stitch. It is a straightforward knitting project, suitable for new knitters. In fact, it has been test knitted by a fleet of new knitters from the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild. Have a go at it and let me know what you think.

They are so easy (and inexpensive) to make, you will make a fleet of them for all your friends and fashion needs.

Reflections on the month of July

I love the month of July.

It is a month of celebrating – starting with Canada Day on the first, then a nod to my roots – Independence Day on the fourth. A little over a week later, it’s my birthday and after that my wedding anniversary. In the middle of that is the charming Aldergrove Fair. And to top it all off, July is when I usually manage to organize my summer holidays and get a few weeks off work. Delicious.

Fibre-wise it’s been a good month. I’ve got a good start on spinning and plying the July Fibre Club. I’ve reclaimed some local Cormo and am in the process of cleaning it, again. That will be a separate blog post. But the biggest accomplishment for me this month is that I have changed the way I knit.

I learned to knit when I was 10 and since my mid-teens I’ve been a steady knitter. So why would I change now?

I love making yarn almost more than anything. I mostly knit when I am tired of spinning or when I am commuting. I am amazed at the production of some knitters and when I get to the roots of their speed, one common factor is the way they throw their yarn. They are knitting Continental – throwing with their left and picking the yarn to make the loop. I knit English style which is to throw with the right hand and wrap the yarn around the needle before you pull it through. It isn’t efficient at all.

I learned how to knit Continental style at the insistence of Lucy Neadby. At a knitting workshop she showed us some of the best ways to get a smooth and consistent fabric when making intarsia or knitting fair isle. That was to hold one colour in one hand and the other colour in the other. Thus the need to be able to throw with what ever hand/colour was needed at the time.

So I know how to do it, but I only did it when I did colour work. But suddenly I wanted to see if I could knit faster so I could get through more yarn. That’s when I decided to knit Continental, and Continental only beginning with a lovely little project – baby socks.

The pattern is by Kate Atherley and it’s free on Ravelry. It was a quick easy project and one that I could focus my new knitting skills upon. You start with a 2 x 2 rib stitch so it was good to get practice with knitting and purling right from the start. But it was frustrating at the beginning. On my commute to the city, knitting my usual way I could easily have finished the cuff/leg and even had a good start on the heel flap. But not this time. I barely had one inch of knitting to show. Nonetheless, I didn’t give up. Ever time I reached for my knitting, my hands would go into the English throw position, and I had to readjust. By the time I was onto my second sock I was getting a bit faster, at least more comfortable with it.

I finished those socks and quickly moved onto another pair. That pair went much faster than the first, but still it didn’t seem as fast as my other knitting. Now I am onto a third pair and I am happy to report that I can now do the knit stitch without looking. It’s just coming quite naturally. And the purl stitch is actually fun, and easier to do than the English style.

Lesson learned:  You really can teach an old dog new tricks.

I wanted to change the way I knit and so I focused exclusively on changing the way I knit. When it got tough I either put it down for a spell, or just persevered. The change didn’t come over night. It took a while for my hands and my brain to get used to it. I noticed that every morning when I picked up my knitting, it was just was wee bit easier than it was the time before.

Here’s the first pair I knit next to the parent pair that used the bulk of the yarn. Aren’t they the sweetest things?

And here’s a photo of the second pair of socks I knit from leftover handspun. Great pattern – these are the newborn size and used 20 grams of yarn.

That’s it for July. Welcome August and all the new fibre adventures it will hold.