Sunday, October 2, 2016

Manitoba Fibre Festival - Handspinning

After much planning and a gorgeous weekend, the Manitoba Fibre Festival has wrapped up its fourth year.  There is much I could write about, but I will focus on the Handspun Skeins competition because I was the co-organizer of this event.  Last year was the first competition on a smaller scale.  As a lace-spinner, I wasn't satisfied by the requirement last year that yarns be of a medium weight, so I mentioned to the fabulous Festival organizers that I would love to see more categories and - as one has to expect when one asks for a volunteer-run event to develop an area - I found myself co-organizing this larger competition. Joanne Seiff was my fellow co-organizer.

All of our organization would have been for naught without a judge.  We were fortunate enough to have local Master Spinner Jo-Anne Tabachek as our judge. She carefully assessed each skein backstage at the Festival before they went on display.

We were impressed by the many beautiful entries and all the wonderful prize donations.  I have linked to the websites that exist for the donations, but a few of them do not have websites. However, they are all local (to the Winnipeg area) and can likely be found again this January at the Norwood Naughty Knitters fibre event. Stay tuned for that announcement and if you want a direct update you should join the NNK on Facebook. NNK will also cross-post in the Yarn Over Manitoba group if you are there.

Back to our competition update.
In the Singles category, this bright green skein of squishiness
 won this fluffy delight of a batt from Wild Wind Naturals.
Note that we did not have many singles submitted, so if you are a singles-spinner, send in a skein for next year's competition!

In the 2-ply category, this jewel-toned yarn
 won a delightful braid of wool top from The Wacky Windmill.

Also from the 2-ply category, this soft brown yarn
 won some squishy roving from Spin It.

In the multi-ply (3 or more) category, this much-admired skein of local shetland
 won this soft roving from Turtle Mountain Alpacas.

In the heavier weight of multi-ply yarns, this chunky 3-ply spun from local Shetland
full disclosure - this one is mine
won a gorgeous batt of Shetland and other goodies from Tog & Thel
Also mine now; I'm a wee bit excited. Prizes were assigned to categories in advance of judging.
For novelty yarns, much to our surprise there were only two entries and both were gorgeous. The winner was this corespun yarn.
 The spinner received this fantastic blend of top from Manjusha Fibres

Our final category was yarn spun from a raw, animal source. The spinner had to start with the raw material. There were three categories - wool, camelid, and "other" (for angora, silk, chiengora, etc.) We had 5 submissions of wool, but quite surprisingly only one of alpaca. We were not surprised by the lack of submissions outside of the wool or camelid category, but perhaps that will be an incentive to spinners - you could win in this category by default. Heads up you bunny-keepers.

Back to the winners.  For the wool category,  this gorgeous orange yarn was not only cleaned, prepared, and spun by the contestant, but she also dyed it. I love orange.
 She won a wonderful selection of Shetland and Mohair from Prairie's Edge Wool Farm

Our lone alpaca yarn (come on alpaca-spinners, regale us next year!), was this soft beauty
that won some very soft alpaca roving from Penny Lee Alpacas.

All the submissions were lovely and received much admiration from the public.  Here they are.

My singles submission using merino dyed by Cloud 9 Fibreworks

merino-silk. gorgeous.

I managed to take a terrible photo of my own yarn. It is much prettier in person.

My cable-plied yarn. Now I can finally knit it!

My submission spun from "All the Wool Fleeces", the brown fleece. 

I look forward to next year's competition and all the beautiful submissions!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tour De Fleece - days 1&2

It's my first year participating in the Ravelry Tour de Fleece.  For those unaware, spinners commit to spinning every day during the Tour de France, resting on the Tour rest days, and giving themselves an extra challenge on the more challenging days of the bike tour.

I prepared some fibre in advance.

 My starting plan is to 1) spin a 2-ply rainbow gradient yarn dyed by Waterloo Wools, 2) spin up the remainder of the jewel toned superwash merino that I carded with a little bit of white alpaca for fun, 3) make progress on the support spindle project, 4) spin up the locks as an art yarn for one of the challenges, and 5) spin my two braids of browns Falkland.  For the latter, I carded one braid with some yak and angora (for fun) and blended the colours in the process. I'm going to spin the other braid as-is (with some fluffing up of course) and ply them together.
If I get through that, there's more fibre. Not a ton of fibre (excepting All The Fleeces that are not ready to spin) like some of the stashes I've seen featured on the TDF discussions, but a couple more braids and a couple bags of alpaca-silk.  When I'm done, I can fully justify buying more fibre at the Manitoba Fibre Fest this year.

For the first two days I was camping, but that wasn't going to stop me from spinning. I packed up fibre and spindles. I was spinning while kids ran around. I was spinning at the playground. I was spinning in the middle of the night around a camp fire. On the way home we stopped at the "Bison Day" event in Birds Hill Park where we were camping and I enjoyed spinning with some bannock (just to say I did spin there).

When I got home I gleefully started on my rainbow gradient.

(I also have a new phone and am playing with a collage app for the first time.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pullovers finished just in time for too-hot weather

I gleefully finished two pullovers in May.  I even wore them a couple times.  I know it will soon be too hot to wear them. Fortunately, it will get cold again.

 A Chantalle (that I fear is actually too big for me... but I'm not willing to concede that quite yet)

And my self-designed Cafe Au Lait top knit in boucle (what was I thinking when I picked that up? Well, I was thinking there was a lot of it - enough for a sweater - and it was dirt cheap second-hand) and brown chenille from a destash.  The chenille colourway was "Starbucks" and when I saw it with the off white boucle I knew I had to make a coffee inspired top.  It's a basic contiguous shoulders top-down construction (with bust accommodations) featuring stripes with a slipped extra YO of the boucle that crosses over the stripe to break it up... simple hey? If I write it up, I promise to give a better description of the stitch pattern I made up.
After the BO I decided I didn't like how the bottom edge flipped and I wanted a wee bit more length, so I added a crochet border featuring puff stitch "beans".

Not for me, but in line with other things I knit in time for it to not be cold,
my mom got this vest/shell in super bulky yarn - as per her request

And one of my dance mates / fellow twins-mama will be getting this hat she ordered (because I apparently can't get enough of knitting brioche hats).  This one is Frost on Roses:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

To Scour Before Combing or Not to Scour Before Combing

That was my question.

My usual order of fleece cleaning activity is
1) Skirt heavily!
2) Soak is Fermented Suint vat in the back yard
3) Rinse fleece (in rain or bucket with rain water)
4) Lay out to dry in the sun
5) Comb locks
6) Scour in mesh bags (hot water and Unicorn Power Scour or Dawn detergent)
7) Rinse (hot water)
8) Dry
[9) Make rolags with hand cards - optional. But typically I do need some other prep step after scouring and before spinning.]

Why comb first? It gets a lot of the dirt out and also gets out any short bits or second cuts hiding in the locks. Recall that I am literally combing, with a small dog comb (see photo).  Having removed a lot of excess - and having determined if the fleece is weak/broken and not worth washing - I save on water and product for cleaning and my water stays cleaner.
But I wondered: would I save myself time if I combed after scouring? Then I wouldn't have to add a step 9 to prep the fibre for spinning.

I made a comparison
On the left is a dirty lock after step 4. It's been through the Vat, rinsed, dried.
Along the bottom is a progression of combed locks (and the leftovers beneath), scoured locks, and carded locks.  It's soft (and I'm spinning up about 30 rolags right now.)
Along the top is the experiment of scoured (uncombed) locks. You can see the scoured lock is still quite dirty. I don't expect washing to get all the dried dirt out - or, if I did, I'd waste a lot of water and soap trying.  Why do that when a quick flick with the comb gets the dirt loosened out?  I wondered if the dirt would release more easily. I don't think it made much difference. Sure, the waste part looks less dirty than the waste below, but who cares about the waste? Ultimately, the scoured-then-combed locks don't look any cleaner than the unscoured, combed locks.  In fact, I combed all the scoured locks and tossed them back in another wash I did today.  They just weren't clean enough for me. 
Combing open the tips and releasing 90% of the dried dirt goes a long way in cleaning the locks, so I will keep this method.  Between the FSM vat and a quick combing I've never needed more than one scour to get the grease out and whatever dirt remains. (Or I spin in the grease.)

However, a current bag of locks drying will test the one-scour method.  I noted while skirting that this is a particularly greasy fleece. (The first fleece of this season was not greasy, well, very lightly.)  It was so greasy that I couldn't really do a thorough job of combing. I opted instead to make sure all the tips were open and most of the dirt had fallen out before tossing in a mesh bag. Then I put it through some power scour (along with the remainder from the above experiment, in its own bag)... I am eager for it to dry.... is it still really greasy?? somewhat greasy? not greasy??
Dry fleece! Dry!
(patience, I'm still working on it.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning time for All The Fleeces.  Last week I hauled out the bin of fleeces I'd picked up from the stash at my sister's farm earlier in the year (when there were false hopes for an early spring). 
I may have over-filled it.  I wasn't counting how many I grabbed. I was simply trying to get relatively whole bundles separated from the mass in the cooler weather.

Turned out a lot of this was no good. I tossed over half of it in the garbage - including entire fleeces in addition to the parts I didn't want from fleeces.  Some of it looked moldy in the centre of a roll.  Eww.  I'm not sure if that was from me unpacking it from the large bundle and keeping it stuffed in a rubbermaid for over a month or if it was packed in the bundle damp long ago. I'm not too worried - since there's more fleeces where these came from. I just hope that, if it was in the bundle, not too many more are damaged. As I think about it, the weather on the day I pulled them from the farm was raining heavily. I was in the cover of the barn/storage the entire time because I backed the van right in, but the damp weather may have already lodged in the fleeces and then I stuffed them into a plastic bin.  Fingers crossed that was the problem.


Some of it was "I want to squish you" and "this is why I love fleeces!" lovely!
fluffy! Even after years neglected in a sack.

I heavily skirted the good fleeces (I'm so picky now!).  The weather had been warm for long enough that the open rain barrel was no longer a giant block of ice and didn't have an iceberg floating on top either.  Transferred the water into my rubbermaid (I dumped out last year's FSM vat rather than try to store it in -30*C termperatures!) and immersed one large mesh bag and a smaller zippered bag.

Today I drained the bags after several days of soaking. I know it's not a full FSM vat at this point, but I wanted to see what a cold soak does as I develop the vat. I separated the fleece into smaller sections and gave each a good swishing in a fresher bucket of rainwater.  Most of the brown tips were cleared up leaving me with relatively clean fleece.

All is now drying outside and a new sack is soaking.
I have two more sacks waiting for a soaking and they have very greasy fleece. I'm wanting to remember to keep that fleece separate as I expect it will need extra scouring.