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.