Sunday, May 24, 2015

A good fleece day

The sun was shining, it was going to get warm... so what's a woman to do?  Wash and prep fleece!

Last summer/fall I had acquired a fleece, a whole fleece from a lady in Alberta.  She was able to get them from a farmer local to her.  I ordered one.. since I was just getting into processing wool to spin into yarn.  

The breed of sheep is a cross between Rambouillet and Rideau Arcott.  Now that probably won't mean much to most people, yet if you've ever heard of merino wool, it's frequently touted as one of the softest wools available.  Truth be know, their heritage is from the merino sheep... see their history here.

Now the Rideau Arcott has a really interesting history in that it originated right here in the Ottawa Valley.  This was a research breed created by Agriculture Canada's Research Center.  It is a mish-mash of several breeds, and I mean several!  See the history here.

I don't know specifically what the fleece of a Rideau Arcott sheep feels like, but I can tell you the combination of the two.... is absolutely dreamy!  It's definitely next to skin soft, we're talking baby clothing soft!

The photos I'm going to show you are a brief sampling of what it takes to get this fiber from being on a farm animal to a product readied for spinning into yarn.

Here's a picture of the fleece, laid out on my laundry room floor.  Now remember, the farm it came from does not coat their flock (put light cotton covers over the majority of the body of the sheep during the year - which typically have to be changed as the sheep grows and their fleece gets longer). If I remember correctly, it weighs close to 5 pounds.

Very dirty fleece.  The blue dye/marking is how the farmer tells which ram has has some fun with this ewe.. so that they know which breeds are contributing to the subsequent lambs.

Here's a handful of locks.  The "hair" wool grows in compact little groupings.  The cleaner ends (right side) are the sheared ends. They were right against the sheeps body.

From this stage, I weigh out the amount I'm going to clean... in most cases it's no more than 500 grams because the drying rack I use in the backyard won't hold much more than that.

Firstly, I soak it in a bucket of hot water.  I want to loosen up the tips and the dirt that's stuck in them.  I may do as many as 3 or 4 soaks, depending on how dirty/brown the water still is.

Then it get's shampoo'd!  Yes, I use a specially formulated wool shampoo to clean it.  Originally, based on research and educating myself, I was using a traditional scouring process, using Dawn and other cleaners and lots of waiting times soaking that way.  Once I found the Dirty Rotten Bastard wool shampoo... I changed my method!!  and will not go back to the traditional ones.  I've included Natalie Redding's link in case you want to check it out.

As with any shampoo, wet the fiber thoroughly, drain most of the water, apply shampoo, massage it in, let it sit like that for about 10 mins, then rinse.  There have been a couple times where I've had to shampoo twice, but rarely... if I've soaked it enough beforehand, it's not an issue.

Then, it's out to the drying rack.

After drying, with this fleece, since the staple length (length of the fiber) is in most areas over 3 inches, and it's full of vm (vegetable matter, ie. hay, straw, grass, etc from the farm), I'm combing the fibers on my hackle and comb.

This is just what it sounds like... combing hair.  I lash a good portion onto the hackle, and then comb it out.. where most of the fiber is transferred to the comb.  Then, from the comb, lash it back onto the hackle.  If it's fairly free of vm at this point and most of the fibers are aligned, I diz it off the hackle.... meaning to pull it in sections creating a long thin rope of fiber, which I then wrap around my hand and snug into a nest.

Unfortunately, this fiber is very very fine, and super soft and the vm just doesn't want to leave... easily.  But with perseverance and elbow grease, and pretty much three passes from hackle to comb and back (and a couple beers don't hurt), it's finally to the point where I can pull it off.

A few of the nests for you to see, and some of the individual locks for illustration purposes.  The nests can be easily unwound and are ready for spinning.

See the little ripples in the lock? Tiny little waves?  This is called crimp.  These are really fine and look so delicate... and they'll provide some bounce and elasticity to the yarn when I spin it, as the crimp will want to go back to being in it's original state.  That will add minute air pockets which means this wool will keep you nice and warm.

These have a small curly tip.  Other fleeces I've worked with, the entire lock is curly.

Pictures from today.  You can see the drying rack in the background, and I have my hackle clamped to the table - which seriously looks like a tool from a torture chamber with all it's sharp tines...  and beer :)  (only my 2nd one of the summer)

This is a close up of the fiber, after I've made 3 passes with the comb to get as much vm out of it as possible.  Nice fluffy clouds!  Ready to diz off to make another nest.

I have approximately 100 grams of prepared fiber from this already... barely made a dent in the kg of fiber I've washed so far.

As you can tell, this isn't for the faint of heart.  It's a long drawn out process to go from sheep to yarn to finished garment.  A lot of hours and a lot of hard work.  Most people are happy to go to a yarn store and purchase what they need... but I find this, from start to finish, really rewarding.  

In addition to this, there's also the dyeing process.. which I've done several times already with other fleeces.  

But that's for another post.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stash Enhancement and Ex-Smoker Update

I've put a bit of my new savings to good use.  One of the Ladies on Ravelry wanted to destash some yarn. 

I saw the post several weeks ago and inquired how much it would be to ship to our postal code.  Well, her price for the box of 18 skeins of yarn (several of which I know cost $20 - $26 each to buy), was $100 for the whole box, including shipping!  

Now, we're talking some expensive yarns here... Malabrigo, Yarn Indulgences, Fleece Artist, etc.  Avid knitters know what I'm talking about.  Here's the full list:

Contents are: 
3- Martha Stewart 100% Merino in Poppy 
3- Martha Stewart 100% Merino in Pewter 
1- Malabrigo Rasta in Oxido 
1- Malabrigo Rastita in Glitter 
1- skein of We Will Tell You All of Our Secrets 4ply Alpaca dyed with Fennel 
2- Yarn Indulgences MCN DK in Apples 
1- Yarn Chef Chateau in Buttercream 
1- Malabrigo Worsted in Garden Gate 
2- Fleece Artist BFL Sock in Chocolate 
2- Mirasol Hacho colourway 323 
1- Knit Global sock in Purple Haze (approx 1/3 skein knit, and frogged, then re-caked)

Can you say HOLY CRAP!?!  LOL  

Definitely worth more than $100.  This Wonderful Lady agreed to wait another week until I got my next paycheque for me to purchase.

A few pics:
The box

Malabrigo Rasta in Oxido

Yarn Indulgences MCN DK in Apples 
Note:  I'm going to make this with these 2 skeins

Mirasol Hacho colourway 323
I see a few cup cozies being made with this... to start

Yarn Chef Chateau in Buttercream 
mmmmm... lace weight - I've never knit with lace weight before

Fleece Artist BFL Sock in Chocolate
soooo squishy, soft and YUM!

We Will Tell You All of Our Secrets 4ply Alpaca dyed with Fennel 

And just because she's a wonderful fellow knitter, and as a treat for quitting smoking... she threw in this as a gift!  Have I said she's wonderful?

Yarn Indulgences - fingering weight in Early Bloom colour
I see another shawl!!

How nice is that? Crafters are the greatest people!  Sarah... You are Wonderful!  Thank you so much!

There are others but I don't have pictures for them yet.  I'll be posting them all in my Ravelry stash pages.  And I already have several projects in mind for a few of these skeins.

I want to cast on NOW!  :)

Alrighty Then!  Time for the ex-smoker update as of today:

My Mileage 
Smoke-Free Days: 35 
Cigarettes Not Smoked: 490 
Amount Saved: $186.20 
Life Gained:  Days: 3 Hrs: 21 Mins: 6 Seconds: 2

I know I'm amazed.  

And Kim (the administrator at my chiropractor's office) and I were chatting this morning. She quit 2 weeks before me... and is still smoke-free.  Both of us remarked how stupidly easy it's been.... but with the caveat that it's probably because we were more than ready to quit.  

It's a dead end that your mind comes to when you finally quit and it tells you there's no going back... you're just ready to be done and over it.   At least that's the way it feels for both of us. 

Either way, I'm glad... and that means I have not spent money that went up in smoke... literally!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

One Month as an Ex-Smoker!!

I honestly can't believe it's been 4 weeks already.

According to the Smoker's Helpline Online, my stats for today are:

My Mileage 
Smoke-Free Days: 28 
Cigarettes Not Smoked: 392 
Amount Saved: $148.96 
Life Gained:  Days: 3 Hrs: 2 Mins: 41 Seconds: 6

and... Happy St. Patty's Day!  :)

I know it helps, and has helped to keep my hands busy.  I've been sewing and knitting, spinning and playing with fiber like crazy in the hours that I'm not at work.

All of these activities have been great distractions from the few nicotine cravings/urges I've had.. which really, haven't been that many.  I guess it was just my time to quit.  I've been told by several people - that your mindset going into it is a major component to success or failure.  I'm a success!!  :)

When I get home this evening I'll post some pictures of the items I've been working on and/or completed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Busy with Bags

Along with quitting smoking, I've thrown myself whole-heartedly into knitting... to keep my hands busy, when I'm not crafting something else of course.

Oh.. Stats for today: (3 week mark)

My Mileage 
Smoke-Free Days: 21 
Cigarettes Not Smoked: 294 
Amount Saved: $111.72 
Life Gained: Days: 2 Hrs: 8 Mins: 38 Seconds: 7


Now, back to knitting... with so many knitting projects on the go... I don't own even one project bag.... but you know me!  I can make one - or six!

Here are 2 I've made so far.

The purple one is holding my current March 2015 SKA MOCK (mystery sock project).

The red one is a little larger than the purple one and currently is housing my Paw Print Triangle Shawl project.

I think I have about 3 or 4 other knitting/crochet projects on the go.. so I'm going to make a few more bags.  Maybe some taller drawstring types as well. 

These are so nice though.  Very handy to have around - and will make nice additions to some of the swaps I'll be participating in this year.

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