Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Ending, as that feeling that occurs when the year draws to a close and the overriding urge is to finish, to tidy, to end ...what ever it is one is doing so one can start anew with the new year.
Yet again another filler post, nothing much to show at all. I'm plodding along on the socks, the cardigan seems forgotten in the depths of the work basket, I have a needle with a join that snags and that isn't fun when magic looping. Every few days a new loaf of bread is made and consumed. The minor change this week, major maybe, is that the building I work in is being upgraded, so I'm working from home. E-mail and internet and portable devices, makes it possible, I check in a few times a day and other than that I've spent my days polishing my Adobe Illustrator skills. This year work arranged a school membership to Lynda.com, and so I have indulged in all things techno geeky and fashiony and am working through lots of the fashion flats tutorials. The students have access as well, and this is something I teach so the Lynda.com subscription will change my teaching a little, or maybe a lot. It's been good to have several entire days to play and learn and practice without interruptions. Really good.
A few months ago J who lives on a farm asked if I was interested in naturally coloured wool. Being a commercial farm white wool and meat is the goal, and so any dark fleeces are removed from the bundles at shearing time. I think the whiter and finer and longer (within reason) and cleaner the fleece, the more value it has ... So this bundle of fiber became mine, a slightly scary idea, in that until now I have happily left the fiber prep to others. But a gift fleece from a quality sheep is nothing to turn away. I have read that cats often looooouuuve fiber, raw fiber and are almost annoying around it, stealing it, guarding it, rolling in it, so I was surprised Yo-yo was standoffish to the point of having her back to me.
Last weekend, it was fine and sunny and I felt up to the task of tackling the fleece. I laid out a clean old sheet and dumped one third of the fleece in the living room. Truth is I assume it is a single fleece, but it don't really know. The colour ranges from dark grey to white grey with golden brown tips where the ends of locks have been bleached by the sun. The sheer volume of fiber was almost to much ...I'm the kind of spinner who thinks that a 200-300 gram batch is large. This is kilos!

I sorted out some locks, the fiber is fine, with a nice crimp, and clean ( aka not smelly) so I am pretty sure it was skirted before I got it. Skirted is the technical term for the act of removing all the gritty bits, the messy bits and let's be honest the bits with poop and pee on them. I'm so glad about that, I did kind of avoid dealing with the fleece for a long time because I wasn't ready to deal with poopy bits even though avoidance was risking making a problem worse.

Then I laid out three rows of locks on tulle fabric, and folded the tulle mesh over to hold the locks in place. I repeated this eight times and the set about washing the fiber. The mesh envelopes/packets of fiber were sized to fit into a plastic mesh basket that fits inside my sink. I stacked several packets in the basket, and submerged them in very hot tap water with a dollop of Eco friendly dish detergent. I let them sit and wallow in the hot water for ten minutes, then drained it, and repeated with more hot water and dish wash. Once the water wasn't yucky brown I rinsed the stack of wet fiber by soaking it for ten minutes in hot tap water several times, until the water was clear not cloudy. The mesh and basket method I gleaned from the internet, and stops the locks from tangling and felting. The universal internet hive mind is also where I gleaned ideas about using dish wash, and hot, hotter, hottest water to melt the lanolin and general dirt.
This is the aftermath, I ended up with eight flat packets of clean dry fiber locks. And at this stage it all looks weird and very flat, oddly flat as if the fiber has lost its bounce and crimp - which due to the weight of the water it holds. So I left the opened packets of fiber in the sun/dappled shade for a few hours out on the warm concrete path to dry. I did move the fiber around a few times, to a new non-damp patch of concrete, to speed the drying, and then I popped it on a rack inside overnight over the dehumidifier. Just to make sure it was totally dry.
The next stage is to flick the locks ... And wash more. And I'll post photos. So far I've done a few locks and learned that I can be very selective when sorting locks for washing, it's easier to avoid the shorter ones, as they are harder to flick card. I think I will also snip away the bleached tips ... although Bear thinks they add a little drama. I weighted my dry fiber and it was 110g ... which surprised me, as 100 g is enough for many things. So only another eleventy thousand more batches to do.
There is a kind of project in mind for this, other than increasing my fiber knowledge and skill set. I will fill in the details next post.
Many thanks, na Stella


Elle said...

Nothing much to show? Are you kidding? You've attacked a MOUND of fiber! Wow, very impressive.

Knitting Linguist said...

This is incredibly timely for me! I have several kilos of Stansborough Grey fleece (from your neck of the woods) acquired last year and waiting for me to have the courage to clean and prepare it. It has been cursorily cleaned, but needs another wash first, and I have been rather overwhelmed. But the plan was to get to some of it over the holiday break, and to use it to try out the handcards I also got last year, and the handcombs I hope to get this year. Weaving projects lurk in the back of my brain... The tulle is a great idea - did you look anywhere special to find your mesh basket?

Walden said...

I disagree, you definitely had something to show! Too each their own, but I agree with Bear and would keep in the white tips. :)