Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My boat anchor

What a gorgeous day today! I went to our tiny little library to try to find a book or two on preparing raw fleece and spinning. They don't have any but ordered a couple of selections through inter-library loans. Patience is a virtue, right?

Well over the last couple of days, I've been playing with my new little boat anchor (Ashford spindle) and was quite pleased with my progress! Hey - I can now make my very own novelty yarn! LOL

Of course there's lots of room for improvement AND I'm not the quickest spinner on the planet - heck, I don't classify myself as a spinner yet! I don't think it happens in just a couple of short sessions for a couple of days. I'm determined though, I'm going to keep trying.

My very FIRST spinning was done a few days ago and it's the banner picture for my blog. I decided to just jump into the fire and try 3-plying. *WELL* No guts-no glory right? Well, I had the guts, but the "glory" didn't quite manifest itself.

I laughed so hard when I saw the result - I just HAD to save it.

Yes, I even set the twist... so I'm keeping this tiny skein as a measure of my future progress.

It looks better coiled up eh? he he he

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cleaning fleece isn't as easy as I anticipated.

I've tried two different methods and here's what happened.

As soon as I got my fleece, I took out half a dozen locks and washed them individually in the bathroom sink. I followed instructions given to me by Chris at Joybilee farms and filled the sink with hot water and Ivory dishwashing liquid. She actually told me to use Dawn, but Ivory's what I have and I had to try. She also said to gently rub the tips on a bar of soap - no problem, I just happen to make all our own soap. I soaked the locks for only a minute, dragged the tips over the soap, and soaked another minute. I then rinsed them by dipping into fresh not-quite-as-hot water.

Worked pretty good, but the tips are slightly stained yet.

Next experiment, I got a plastic mesh basket thing and put quite a few locks in it. I filled the sink with hot tap water (it was too hot for my tender fingers) and Ivory soap. Well, I've changed the soapy water over and over, I even let it soak all night and the result is not as good as washing the locks individually.

The lock on the left is still yucky dirty, the center lock has been washed repeatedly as a batch, and the one on the right was washed individually. So far washing individual locks wins.

I don't want to be condemned to standing at the sink washing individual locks for days! My 1.4 kg of fleece works out to 3.08 lbs which translates into too many locks to wash this way.

I started searching to see what I could find online, and came across the Yarn Harlot's blog where she descibes how she does it. Here's a link

I just might give her method a try. I'm absolutely paranoid of ruining my fleece and I'm being sooo gentle with it! Anyway, she get's a roasting pan and lays a clean pillow case in it. She then stacks her locks all neatly in two rows on the pillow case and then folds the pillow case over the fleece, making a big sausage shape package. I don't have her method memorized so if you're inclined get the instructions straight from her site. Basically, she puts her fleece package in soapy water on the stove and turns the heat on low. She doesn't use Dawn, she uses bargain blue-coloured dish soap, so I thought using Ivory would have been ok. I have to print out her instructions and try it.

Has anyone had the tips of their fleece stubbornly remain slightly amber coloured? I have to say, it smells a lot better now though. I'd love to hear some comments.

A knitter's Obsession

It all started like this.

Christmas was coming and I was knitting gifts. You know how it is - one boring hat after another. I needed something more.

I google-cruised looking for innovative new ideas and discovered Cat Bourdhi and how to knit a Mobius. Great! I made a few of those (all different) and this kept me entertained for a while. Then I stumbled onto "double knitting". I even found a Yahoo group and joined. This, inspired me but I couldn't find any double knitting patterns - so always ready to take on a new challenge, I came up with my own pattern. I came up with a few charts too. My obsession was being fed for now and I was satisfied. My gifts were all gratefully recieved.

Still feeling the itch, I felt compelled to knit lace. I knitted a lace shawl, although it turned out great, there was something missing. I needed to design my own lace. In the meantime, I also joined a dynamic lace knitting group called "Mario knits". Talk about inspiration!

I really wanted to come up with my own design... so I got out the stitch dictionary and got started. I can't leave a stitch well-enough alone, so I modified everything. My first test knit was done with Phentex acrylic yarn. Hey - blocking was sure easy... throw it in the washer, then into the dryer... voila! Blocked! You know, I'm an equal opportunity yarn lover - I love all types of yarn but my lace masterpiece needs to be made from an organic fibre for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, my shawl was taking me deeper into the traditions of knitting, so the yarn should be more traditional too.

Secondly, it had to reflect somewhat on my heritage - be a part of me.

I happen to be First Nations and wanted my creation to contain organic subject matter and also be made of organic materials.

My chosen subject matter was flight and honoring the creatures that fly.
My shawl was born and I named it "Whispering Wings".

For anyone interested, it's now posted on Ravelry here... or you can go to my patterns for sale page (top right of this screen) and get it there too without going to Ravelry and signing up. Anyways....

Now my quest was choosing a fibre. Google-cruising again, I looked at a lot of yarn sites and their prices were pretty good but shipping was expensive and I'd have to wait for it to be delivered. Also, I couldn't touch it or be guaranteed that the colours shown on my screen would be the same in real life.

Just then, serendipity happened! A lady introduced herself to the double knitting group I belong to, so I greeted her. It turns out, we have a lot in common - she's super nice AND she's an accomplished spinner AND the timing couldn't have been more perfect! She's obsessed just like me too! It also turns out, she has a blog showing the most glorious fibres that taunted and titilated... they drew me deeper in as I looked at photo after photo of fleeces that she's magically transformed into locks of soft flowing colours. Then to top it off, she posted pictures of spindles - and her new spinning wheel! The icing on the cake was beholding the awe inspiring gorgeous skeins that just cried out to be payed attention to! I was done for. My growing obsession had grown, ripened and was now ready for harvest. Yes, it's all June's fault.

Now, I was totally compelled to find some fleece and learn to spin. In my search I discovered there's a fibre farm not five minutes down the road from me! It's called "joybilee farm" and I read through their website. I told my new fibre-friend about it and with her enabling encouragement, I payed the farm a visit. I had a wonderful time there and was so impressed with all the choices they had... silks, kid mohairs, french rabbit, llama and a variety of sheep and lamb wools. They raise the animals, and the organic materials they use to dye the fibres too! You can get fleeces in the grease or finished gorgeous yarns that they process in their own mill. Heaven!

Hours later, I came home with a 1.4kg Fine Romney fleece and an Ashford spindle and I was ECSTATIC! Right away, I emailed my fibre-friend, I just couldn't contain my excitement. I got her nod of approval on my fleece "score" and was pretty proud. Then, here's the funny part, she told me my spindle is known in the spinning community as "a boat anchor". Ahhhh!!!! My first foible!

After my initial cringe, she further encouraged me by telling me that if I could spin on that spindle, it would probably make mastering a wheel that much easier. Ok, my sense of challenge is renewed. Thanks, June.

Well, that's how it all started and I aim to see this thing through. I want to make yarns as glorious as June's. I have a lot to learn - I know - and I think my first step will be learning various ways of cleaning my precious Romney fleece. Your pointers will be very appreciated! I hope you decide to follow me on my new journey. Go ahead and buy your first fleece - IT'S OK - I'm personally enabling you - and we'll figure this out together.