Category Archives: local fibre

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.

Blending Fibre — Photo essay

I started with a pile of wool of various colours.  Pinks, burgundys and some natural brown.  Blended that together and made two good sized batts. It’s the dark coloured batt at the top of the picture below.

I had two good sized batts of cream coloured alpaca in my stash along with a batt of pink and purple mohair. Divided the wool, alpaca and mohair into six equal parts that I would blend.  All this fibre is locally sourced.

I put the fibres through the drum carder in layers.  On the second pass through the carder, I pulled fibre off the end of the batt so I would have a chunk the length of the staple.  I put these clumps through the drum carder sideways.  This makes the fibres blend quickly and evenly.

The final pass through the drum carder is done to straighten out the fibres and blend them one final time.

This is batt #6 coming off the drum carder.

I have six of these batts for a total of 1/2 pound of blended fibre.  That was time well spent.

Don’t waste the waste

I love combing fibre as a way to prepare it for spinning.  Several of my blog posts can attest to that.  However, the one thing that really bothers me about combing is the waste.  Last weekend I prepared some fibre for an upcoming workshop I am teaching.  I made a series of lovely combed nests.  After 70 grams worth of combed fibres, I weighed the waste that was left on the combs.  31.5 grams!!!  So — of an approximate total of 100 grams of fibre, I can get 70 grams of finished ready-to-spin stuff and approximately 30 grams of stuff I have to find something to do with.

This is not good.

I usually stuff the waste into the bottom of a sock I find in the laundry.  It goes through a wash and dry cycle and out pops a lovely felted ball.  These balls make great kitchen hockey balls, kitty play-thing balls, and base balls on which to wind spun singles.  However, there are only so many one needs in one’s life.

I knew that some people card this stuff up and use it in their spinning.  It just seemed so uninspiring — all those short bits, random second cuts, fibres of multiple lengths.  But what’s the harm in an experiment?

I took the bags of waste I had collected from the combing — one series was dyed Dorset (green/blue) the other bag was undyed, beautiful white Montadale.  I put them through my drum carder three times, blending the colours and creating two decent sized batts.

I’ve been brushing up on my spinning techniques in preparation for some workshops I’ve proposed for Fibreswest. This batt of fibre was an excellent candidate for the woolen spinning technique. Woolen spinning — is where you allow the twist to enter into the fibres and while it is doing that, you slowly and intentionally pull away.  When you have as much twist as you want — and for a lofty yarn you just want the fibres locked — then you let the whole piece run onto the bobbin.  And then you start again letting the twist enter the fibre source and pulling back.

For those of us who are more familiar with the worsted technique, where you never allow the twist to enter the fibre source — you feed the fibre to the twist — the woolen technique takes some getting used to.  It also takes some getting used to because it doesn’t look all that great on the bobbin. There are bumps and funny bits that you are tempted to remove.  But don’t.  That’s all part of the package.  Apart from the spinning technique, the real magic with woolen spun yarn happens when you wash it.

Here’s a photo essay of my yarn, from bobbin to finished skein.

You can almost hear the yarn moan as it expands, relaxes, and blooms.  I let it soak for few minutes in very warm soapy water and beat it up a bit while it was in the water.  I squeezed it and roughed it up.  And then I did something that I have read about, but never had the nerve to do with yarn.  Right after this warm soapy bath, I squeezed the water out and then filled the sink with ice cold water and threw it in.  While in there I continued the beating.  The point of this is to try to slightly felt the yarn.  Not so much that it loses it’s elasticity, but enough that it will hold together and those shorter bits won’t quickly find their way out of your stitches.  ie. pill.

So here is the lovely skein — my experiment with wool-stuff that would either be a felted ball or just thrown into the garbage.  It is 46g and 82m.  I couldn’t believe how light it was, especially after it dried.  
I can’t knit anything up with it yet because I want to use this skein as a sample — if my class runs.
I’ll just have to make another one.

Cowl #2 — purple ramboulette — in progress

My love affair with the Feather and Fan lace pattern continues.  I liked the result of the last cowl I made so much, I had to make another one.  This time, I wanted one that fit a bit closer around the neck.  So I used slightly smaller needles (4mm), thinner yarn (DK) and fewer stitches.

I knit a tube using the Feather and Fan lace pattern for a total of 8 inches (20cm) then did a garter stitch border and cast off.  I tested it out by wearing it on our weekly early morning grocery trip.  While I love it, especially the colour and the softness of the yarn — handspun locally sourced Ramboulette, I didn’t like the fact it was a tube.  I needed a bit of something to cover my upper chest, but a bit of a bib, like I made on the other one. 

Thanksfully I have plenty of yarn left over.  So while I join the family to watch the various hockey games on today, I will undo the garter edge and knit a bit of flared edge. 

Here’s the pattern to make your own cowl:

Yarn: 70 g of DK weight yarn, must be very soft as it will be snug against your neck.
Needles:  4mm circular — 16″ or 40cm

Feather and Fan Pattern — another variation on the theme — this one uses a multiple of 11 stitches.
Row 1:  Knit
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: *K2tog, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k2tog, k2tog*
Row 4: Purl

Repeat these 4 rows to make Feather and Fan lace pattern when knitting in the round.

Instructions to make the Purple Cowl:

Cast on 77 stitches leave an 8″ tail — see below. 

I hate the stress of trying not to twist the stitches when joining in the round, almost as much as I dislike doing garter stitch on circular needles.  So this trick deals with both issues:  Instead of joining in the round, knit back and forth on circular needles doing garter stitch for 4 rows.  After 4 rows, join in the round.  You will find it nearly impossible to twist the stitches at this stage — the extra tail is used to stitch up the 1/2 inch gap .

Begin Feather and Fan Lace pattern as shown above.  Knit in pattern for 8 inches, or preferred length.  If you just want a tube, after row 2 of the pattern, begin 4 rows of garter stitch.  If you hate knitting in garter stitch on circulars, use same technique as above.  Bind off loosely.

If you want a bit of a bib, or something to cover a bit more of your upper chest, try the following.  It’s the same pattern as the one used in the Placid Waters cowl

Instructions for bottom flared edge:

Round 1: *Knit 7, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (88 stitches)
Round 2: Knit
Round 3: *Knit 8, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (99 stitches)
Round 4: Knit
Round 5: *Knit 9, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (110 stitches)
Round 6: Knit
Round 7: *Knit 10, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (121 stitches)
Round 8: Knit to the last stich and then icrease one by M1L (122 stitches total)
Round 9: *K2tog, yo*
Round 10: Purl
Round 11: Knit
Round 12: Purl
Round 13:  Bind off — if you have the patience and enough yarn, do a picot bind off

Weave in ends, block and wear with pride.

Will post my revised version later on today.

LMSGA Annual Fleece Sale!

It’s back!!!

On June 4th, the Lower Mainland Sheep Growers Association had their annual fleece sale. It was pretty exciting for us fibre junkies because this sale hasn’t taken place for about three years.  On the Wednesday before the sale, growers brought their fleeces for sifting.  That’s when a group of dedicated volunteers and fibre experts look over each and every fleece and sort them.  In sorting them they are graded so the person buying the fleece knows, to some extent what they are purchasing.

The sale was a great event.  In addition to being able to buy raw fleece, there were vendors selling prepared fibres and other spinning, knitting and weaving accoutrements; food and information; and lots of people demonstrating their crafts.  It was like a mini-fibre festival.  Best of all, after days and days of rain and grey skies, the SUN came out.

At various times throughout the day, there were shearing demonstrations.  This is Ann Embra’s ewe being sheared.  She didn’t want to be shorn at first, but she eventually gave into it.  The shearer is a Master Shearer — didn’t catch his name — but he really knows what he’s doing.  Not a single nick on the animal, a wonderful fully in tack fleece, and no trauma.  She won’t be afraid of being shorn next time.

All during the morning the fleeces were being judged.  Shortly after noon the prizes were awarded.  There was a Grand prize ($100) Reserve prize ($75 – sort of like a second prize) and Spinner’s Choice Award ($50).  At 1pm the fleeces went up for sale.  There was a bit of a “rush” for the wonderful ones, but afterwards, things slowed down and you could linger and look and make your decision in good time.

My friend Debbie and I decided to split a fleece. I need more local fibre like I need . . .. you know the rest.  But I couldn’t resist.  We looked around and were mightily tempted by the Blue Face Leicester fleeces that were there — but at $15lb for a 7lb fleece, we decided to take a pass.  No complaints about the cost, famer’s deserve whatever they can get for the fleeces.  But 7lbs of fleece with an 8inch staple, just said “work”.  Lot’s of work.  So we decided to split a 6lb Dorset fleece   Lovely soft, with a 4 – 5in staple. 

My take was 3lbs.  Brought it home and scoured it.  Weighed it again when it was clean and dry — 2lbs!!  Go figure.  I guess the lanolin and dirt weighted more than imagined.  Also, the lanolin traps a lot of moisture into the fibre, again adding to the weight. 

I’ll post more photos of that fibre — and the dyeing I’ve done with it.