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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

I've Got The Blues

For a better comparison of the new superwash merino fibre base with the old superwash merino fibre base, I've been sent a sample of the old base.
It arrived well-smooshed for shipping, but a little shake and it was fluffy again.

Visually, compared with the new base and the non-superwash, it looks the same - you know, fluffy and soft.
Superwash Merino

Super-saturated colour! Old base, new base, and not-superwash
It spun up as I remembered the grey superwash merino spinning - smooooooooth.  Soon I realized I had the blues. All the fibre blues. All the blue. It all happens to be dyed by the same two friends.

At the wheel - Earth Day batt finely spun on the left, superwash blues on a bobbin and the wheel, jewel-toned blue and purple waiting to be plied

Earth Day batts and recent superwash contain similar shades of blue, but in different blends.

The first half of the purple-blue is finished and a little over half of the superwash blues is done too. It was blue bath day in my sink.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A few follow ups

I promised a photo of the finished purple-garnet shawl that I was spinning for three posts ago.

This is Tulippa by Kristina Vilimaite (aka AnimaKnits on Ravelry).
Tulippa for two

As always, it was a pleasure to test knit (my project link) for Kristina as I adore her designs.

I'm spinning and testing for another of her new designs at the moment.

This is some locally dyed Finn fibre that I picked up at a knitter's frolic. I am making this a 2-ply, DK weight yarn.

I also finished spinning the multi-coloured merino as a singles yarn.
As a fellow geek, I appreciate how Cloud9 Fibreworks names yarns and fibres - such as this Elephant Trunk Nebula merino.
I initially started spinning this merino for the sake of comparing it with a new fibre base, but for better accuracy in comparison I'm being sent some of the former superwash base fibre so that I'm comparing like with like. More updates to follow.
The real question is, what will I knit with this lovely yarn? I think I'm going to use a second solid yarn with it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Testing Fibre

When I spin, I decide the method using a combination of what I want and what the fibre does best.  There's not much point, I feel, in forcing fibre to do something it doesn't want to do. I know I won't be happy with the result.
When a friend asked me to test out a new superwash merino fibre base for her, I gracefully accepted the opportunity to spin lovely fibre.  When asked what colour I would like it dyed, I didn't make it easy - I chose jewel tones in amethyst and sapphire.  I received full, saturated colours. Gorgeous.
I wasn't intending to spin the next morning, but what's a girl to do when she opens her computer to work and it immediately reboots and begins a slow upgrade process?

This top is delightfully fluffy - no compression here and even with the saturated dark colours, there was very little tricky sections.  I don't do a lot of prep with my rovings - unless they are compressed and need a really good fluffin'.  For this top I tore the length in half and then split that half lengthwise so I would spin up a quarter of the fibre.  I pulled the fibre sideways a little, but otherwise I spun it as is.

Initially I spun fairly loose singles.  The fibre liked being a fluffy single.
Then I got to thinking that, being superwash (at least that's what I recall it is supposed to be, so I erred on the side of caution), I couldn't full a single and I didn't trust it to hold up to regular use as a single in merino.  Plied up, it was too loose for my taste, so I butterflied the yarn back on to my hand and added more twist before continuing.

It's probably difficult to see how much more twist is in the single thread above compared with the single on my fingers.
This ply-back provides a much better illustration of the higher twist compared with the first run.  I was quite happy with the higher twist result and carried on to finish the quarter of fibre.

Immediately following this quarter I popped in a new bobbin to spin up a sample of the fibre base my friend used to dye (because I happened to have some in my stash).

mmmmmm. Just look at those beautiful colours.

I wanted to see if the new fibre spun the same as the old.
The only difference is that this time I knew I was working with not-superwash merino, so I decided it was high time to practice spinning singles. I spun with lower twist.  It pretty much drafted the same as the new fibre.

All in all, I conclude the new fibre supply is equivalent to the former fibre supply. Test done. (Now to finish spinning the fibre! Oh the demands of testing.)