Alpaca Adventures and More

I love the alpaca seconds I was gifted with.

Due to the time consuming nature of cleaning these bags of alpaca I have decided to give Tour De Fleece a miss this year.  This is an event that lasts as long as the Tour de France and involves challenges, rest days, and more just as the bicycling event.  More than that it involves spinning everyday.  While that is an overarching goal of mine, I would also like to focus on ensuring that I have this alpaca clean and ready to spin for the fall and winter.  During these warm days as well as these rainy days I hope to take advantage of the weather, setting the fleece out on my brand new sweater racks while it is raining to wash them in a natural way, as well as setting them out in the sun to make sure that they are as dry as possible before I begin the next step in processing them.  I am also hoping to comb or card out the fleeces before the snow comes, this will allow me to dispose of the fluff I cannot use in an eco-friendly way.  Putting it out to be used as lining for animal homes or to decompose as mulch.

Flicking open the locks where I am able to and carding what does not flick is a time consuming process.  For some of the coarsest seconds I attempted to turn the fur into batts, I managed to get three batts done, but I do not know if they will spin up very well.  I plan on trying to spin them in a regular manner and if that does not seem to work, core spinning them.  If it turns out that I hate spinning these batts, I do plan on gifting them to whomever wants them from my Guild.  I hope to do this before my next batch of fleece is dry, that way I will know if this is a viable option for preparation.

That may have to wait though, I am currently spinning my June Box from Paradise Fibers, I am spinning the last third of those singles.  The first two are pictured below.

My original intention was to ply the three bobbins together, however it is possible that they will be too muddy when I am done.  Because of this concerns I will probably do a test sample to knit up, once I decide if I like that or not I will either ply all of them together or spin up a white single to ply with these.

Whew, that will keep me busy for a while!

Happy Crafting

Blooming an Idea Journal

It is already past the middle of January, ack!  I cannot believe that three weeks are gone.  Fortunately for me, these have been fairly productive weeks.  I received my January box from Paradise Fibers, it was a Breed Sampler Box!  How very exciting!  Since I am going to be teaching several classes on spinning this Spring I began thinking about the Journaling that is recommended for spinners.  At first keeping track of what you are spinning sounds like a real pain.  My excuse was “I just want to get good at spinning before I begin recording my results, it all looks bad right now.”

As a matter of fact, the ‘bad’ spinning that I didn’t like tends to get the most compliments.  Who knows, right?  Since these first heady…well okay 21 months….of spinning I have come to realize a few things:

A) I cannot just keep creating yarn, eventually I’m going to have to weave/crochet/knit it so that I can figure out what kind of yarn I (and possibly mom) like working with. (Thank You whomever came up with the ‘Half-Granny Shawl’ pattern it looks great no matter what yarn I use.)

B) If I don’t know what it looks like knitted (lace & cable) and crocheted (possibly eventually woven) then I won’t know what I want to use it for.  (My goodness, all of those people saying sample, sample sample, are on to something! *gasp*)

C) I won’t actually remember what kind of fiber that is a couple of months later when it’s in an unmarked skein and I’m trying to work with it.  (Okay, so I won’t actually remember what kind of fiber it is when I finish spinning it sometimes…did I mention I don’t have the best memory?)

D) By Gum, Journaling Might Be the Answer!  (actually journaling is the answer as well as labeling with water-proof labels.)

Given this hard won knowledge, but boy I have some really pretty skeins..if only I knew what they were made of other than ‘wool’…oh well, granny shawls here I come, I have decided to begin to journal my spinning starting with my January Paradise Fibers Box.

As of writing this post (okay last week) I had split each tube of fiber in half, keeping half in the tube so that I can have samples for myself and to show my students.  Half of each tube was spun, plied from a center pull ball, the twist was set.  I decided to spin 1/4 of my Targhee sample since I was given twice as much of that fiber and I saw something about spinning sock yarn from Targhee (I’m going to work on my consistency before tackling that).  My Targhee still has not been completely spun, I did start but work got in the way.

Before spinning each sample I took a staple of the fiber, taped it to a note card with the Breed, date, where I got it from, the wheel and settings I was using.  Then as I was spinning, usually near the end (when I remembered) I took off a sample of spun fiber, let it ply onto itself, then taped that onto the note card labeled ‘2-ply unfinished’.  *In theory if I did this when I was spinning and referred back to my ‘plyback sample’ I would be able to create a more consistent yarn, maybe in the next two years.*  Since finishing the yarns I have managed to Knit and Crochet two of them as well as blocking these pieces.

Okay, in all honesty I had to wash and block them twice.  The Paradise Fibers Box came with a sample of Unicorn Power Wash, I was really excited since I have been wanting to order from them but I didn’t want to invest a lot in case I didn’t like it (boy am I glad I waited).  When I washed and blocked my samples the first time, I was really excited with how they looked, but I started getting a headache which was odd for me.  After a bit of thought, especially with how sudden the headache was, I realized that it was the Unicorn Power Wash that was causing the headache.  I gave the samples a thorough scrub with Dawn and hot water, then rinsed them again.  There was still too much scent.  I wound up soaking them overnight with a lemon scented handsoap I had on hand, they are fine now.  However all of this washing caused one of my samples to ‘bloom’ a bit more than I would like but the halo effect is really pretty.

Once these samples are dry I intend to tape them onto a piece of paper, along with the sample card I made earlier, and put these into a sleeve to go in a three-ring binder (thanks mom for that Idea!).  I do plan on knitting *lace and cable* and crocheting each of the samples, so that I have a comprehensive journal of these fiber samples that I can refer back to in the future.  Okay, so I’m mostly crocheting to use up the last of each of my little skeins, I am better at crochet so I can make that sample fit any size I need it to.  I will also say that this sampling is a great way for me to up my knitting game, I was terrified of cables and lace before I realized that plain knit-one-side-purl-the-other wasn’t going to cut it.  I am almost positive that my ‘lace’ stinks but until I let a knitter see it I’ll live in ignorance.

This entire experience has been an absolute blast.  While I know it will be harder to find crafting time while I’m working I still like knowing that I have a specific project I am crafting toward, and a deadline really…April will be here before you know it!

Happy Crafting!

 

Dying Experiments Continue

I am not sure what is wrong with my water/wool/microwave but the methods that everyone else swears by don’t work for me.  During the summer I used Kool-Aid to dye some fiber.  Everyone swore that you had to use heat to set the color (which makes ice dying very confusing to me…), however I rinsed my fiber extremely well and have had no problems with the color running.  With my Drum Carder coming soon I dug up some left over white fiber and decided to pick up some dyes to experiment with.  There was a Black dye calling my name so I purchased it in addition to the same food coloring dyes I usually use.  (I do plan on getting some Wilton Dyes soon).

I went through my method of soaking the wool in hot water and vinegar.  The wool is wrung out, the water dumped from the bowl, the fiber put back in.  Next the dye, more vinegar and very hot water are added.  The wool is left to soak up as much dye as it can.

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In this case I decided to microwave the fiber for the five minutes recommended, however the fiber began to boil before it was well into the third minute, when it began to splatter in my microwave I decided to discontinue the experiment and pull the fiber.  After it cooled down and took as much dye as it seemed it would I rinsed the fiber, and rinsed the fiber, and rinsed the fiber.  After a great many rinses the dye stopped coming out and the results were…well disappointing.

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The coiled Brown/Purplish things at the top right are my ‘black’ fiber.  Oh well, the fibers that I overdyed with Yellow are beautiful, since I skipped the microwave the colors seem more vibrant.  The multi-colored batt at the top left should make a beautiful base for my first ‘official batt’ and I am very excited.  That piece was hemorrhaging dye until I soaked it with some pure vinegar, after that the color decided to stay put.

I am positive that most people have great success cooking/boiling/steaming their fiber.  I am certain that they have tried these methods without the heat and have had the fiber return to white, retaining little to no dye, (still can’t understand how they ‘need’ heat when they dye with ice cubes, have to research that more).  My experiments have lead me down a slightly different path.  Perhaps when I wash a finished piece, not finished yarn I’ve done that with no color leaking, my experience will be different, but for right now, when I’m dying with those little bottles of ‘easter egg’ dye, I’m not going to use any extra heat.  Perhaps a bit more vinegar, but I’ll use hot water and vinegar to see how things turn out.

When I move onto ‘professional dyes’, RIT, Wilton Gel, I will revise my experiments.  Until then;

Happy Crafting!

A Study in Wool Part 1

I have been having a blast sorting thorough my stash (taking a quick break from another project).  While doing so I ran across a sampler kit I had purchased with different wool breeds inside.  All of the wool samples were washed, but they were still in their lock formation.  To simplify things, and make sure that the preparation and spinning was not different for each type, I decided to card them and spin from the resulting rolags.  The end products (once spun) were interesting.  I’ll show you as I go, after letting the yarn rest a day (and clearing off a bobbin to spin with) I navajo/chain plied the yarn to keep the breeds separate.  I also spun a bit of a commercially prepared merino in between most of the breeds.

This is my bobbin before this concept seeped into my mind.  I started with some BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) a breed that most people rhapsodize about.  I have spun commercially prepared top BFL before and enjoyed it.  This fiber has a very soft hand, though this sheep must have had some tender tips or something because I wound up with some nepps in my rolags.  Rather than risk more appearing I stopped after 2 passes each rolag.  I did smooth this fiber down as I spun it (which should result in a less springy washed yarn).

The Lincoln had a well defined lock structure but once it had been carded the resulting wool was semi coarse.  This batch did not have many nepps, and actually carded out to pretty, lofty rolags.  I did not smooth this down much while I was spinning.

The Adult Mohair was a nightmare.  This batch had less than 1″ staple length and the guard hairs were still present.  This gave everything a slightly coarse feel but still quite silky.  The main problem is that when spinning the very short fibers either clump together resulting in huge bumps or fall out altogether resulting in a huge mess.  I nay be entirely wrong but I would like to say that the blame is either with the producer (it isn’t a very good fiber animal) and the seller that sold me such messy, useless fiber.  If you have the patience for it and a dropcloth under your wheel this might be usable.  I believe I will see if anyone can use it for felting, or something.

The very first thing I have to say about this Cross Breed fiber is: Whatever was used to wash this smells very sweet!  The fibers are springy and medium soft.  I would not use this as a next to the skin product like socks or a sweater but it might make a decent scarf.  Something you wear for a short while and then take off.  Maybe mittens?  Oh well, I did not smooth this down at all while I was spinning.  I am discovering that since I am not smoothing things down, I have a harder time getting an even yarn.  When I do what I see others doing, spin and then gently pull to pull out the bumps I just wind up with thin spots.  Something else to work on!

The English Gotland fibers had two different types of fibers.  The long springy gray fibers and the shorter less springy white fibers.  It carded beautifully but the differences in staples seemed to result in little clumps of fiber sticking up and falling out.  I did not smooth this as I went so it will be interesting to see how this washes up.

The Icelandic and Romney both carded up beautifully, the Romney seemed to have a lot more loft than the Icelandic.  Neither had many nepps but also neither spun up completely smoothly either.  Possibly an error of the operator rather than a fault of the fiber.  Neither seemed soft enough for next to the skin projects.  I did not smooth them down while spinning.

I had some Llama Fiber and Cashgora that I spun up as well.  I did not bother carding either of these fibers.  There was not enough Llama to bother and I felt that my hand cards would be too coarse to process the Cashgora.  Both of these fibers spun like a dream, the Llama was a little sticky (Probably due to processing oils).

I cannot wait to see how all of these fiber will turn out in the end.  I will say that one of the fibers, the English Gotland I believe, wound up splitting in a place and had to be tied back together resulting in a flaw in the skein.  This skein and the other that I plied to make room for the bobbin have both been soaked for an hour or so.  They are both hung up to dry and I cannot wait to see what they will look like when I dry.  (I also have some fiber drying that I washed and rinsed very thoroughly.  It came to me a bit sticky and so I hope it was lanolin that I have succeeded in washing off.  I only did about half of the batch if this does not work, or felts the fiber, I will have to see what else I can do.)

Happy Crafting, more information about the skein of samples and the sticky fibers in the next episode.  Dun, Dun, Dun.

Dying to get started

These are the results of my Kool-Aid experiment.  They were created from the wool I had received with my Schacht Wheel (I’m not really sure what it is).  A very pretty wool that did not felt on me when I tried this!  I put 3 Kool-Aid lemonaid packets into a plastic shoe box with about 2-4 oz of wool (I do not have a kitchen scale so it is all estimated).  I then poured enough water to cover the wool and added about 10 drops of food coloring.  The resulting fiber was the fire orange color.  After letting it set for about 30 minutes I took it out and began to rinse the fiber.  A lot of the dye started to come out of the fiber as I was rinsing.  Since I feared losing the beautiful color I decided to use some vinegar to soak the fiber and retain the color, after a 15 minute soak and a thorough rinsing the color remained and the fiber didn’t even have a vinegar stink.

There was a lot of dye left in the water so I decided to throw more fiber into it, again somewhere between 2-4 oz of wool, and another packet of lemonaid kool-aid to help things set.  It soaked for about 30 minutes and when rinsed created the beautiful yellow that can be found in both skeins.

I think that kool-aid (helped along with some food coloring if needed) is a great introductory method to dying.  I look forward to more experiments in the future, but some fiber is calling my name to be spun!

Happy Crafting!

Going Batt-y

This past week I decided to use my bottom whorl spindle to spin up a couple of mini-batts I purchased from Woolie Bullie out of Kansas, purchased through Etsy.  The first batt started out looking like this:

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These are two views of the same batt.  I split this batt into two halves and spun two singles.  I wound the singles onto (clean) chopsticks and plied them from there.  The plied yarn on the spindle looked like this:

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Then I used my Niddy Noddy to measure the yarn:

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This first 1/4 oz batt gave me 17 yards, all of the design elements that caused this to be less than a ‘perfect spin’ are my own and I love them!  I then cast on 20 stitches and using a stockette stitch on US9 needles I started knitting:

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This is after 17 yards, well I love it and so I spun up the second batt:

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Which yielded about 16 yards.  I have that knit up but could not stop there!  I am currently waiting with baited breath for my next Batt from WoolieBullie.  So exciting, I hope that there will be enough to make a very nice scarf or cowl.  I believe that when I finish knitting and wash the product, gently with Dawn, the finished knitted fabric will full out a bit and cause the absolute end product to look a bit different from this beginning.

For the WoolieBullie Dingbats, I highly recommend them.  My first batt spun very quickly and easily, while it looked like there was a lot of white the end product was very colorful.  There seemed to be a bit of a sticky substance on my second batt, but I believe that this is the result of having a few beautiful curly locks in the fiber and just surprised me instead of detracting from my spinning experience (obvious since I am getting another batt!).