Thursday, June 25, 2009

First Combing Try - Lincoln Fleece

My scoured locks dried overnight, so I grabbed a big handful and lined up all the tips at one end, which is facing the camera.

After lashing them onto my stationary comb (clamped to a countertop), this is what it looked like after only two passes through the combs. One big poof!

The above being elongated into a sliver by pulling through a diz (little wooden block with a hole in it). The diz is halfway down the sliver, just to show the fiber before and after being pulled into a sliver.

Neat little slivers, wrapped into birds' nests. Very delicate. I could see immediately that I'd be getting some great fiber joining practice when spinning my own combed fiber.

My cute little mini-skein, spun and plyed. I discovered that Lincoln has a ridiculously long staple length (maybe 9 inches?) which took some serious getting used to. It's a coarse fiber in terms of staple thickness, yet amazingly silky. Scratchy next to skin, but silky. Odd seeming combination! I could see a rug made out of this, not a cowl.

So that's my first combing experience. The post below this one shows the greasy fleece the above came from. Pretty amazing transition, but way less complicated than I'd feared, all told. Thanks to Ravelry members and youtube videos, I had a pretty good idea built up on how to go at scouring and combing fleece in the grease.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deeper and deeper she goes! Where She Stops, Nobunny Knows.

Okay, this is a natural step I think. I was flirting with a drum carder, but as always is a risk with me, I saw something shiny and got distracted.

I bought some combs. These are hand made by father/daughter team in Canada, where she's the fiber person who comes up with the specs from a user's standpoint, and dad is a seasoned woodworker. Beautiful combs, expensive combs. Sharp combs. Lethal combs. My first, and I'm inexperienced, but I have a feeling these will turn out to have been a great purchase.

These come in various woods, but I was taken by the Applewood ones. I found out, in corresponding with the daughter, that Dad is making the applewood combs from a tree that was felled in her aunt's yard. Once all the wood is used up from that tree, they may not offer applewood ones anymore. Somehow that made them all the sexier. They're inlaid with maple.

Meanwhile, I just had to try processing wool from scratch. It's the natural next step to spinning, except it usually comes later once a person has some idea of the different kinds of wool. I know only a few from spinning experience, but it's all good. Some's just better.

My LYS only has two fleeces, both going on a year old, but not dried out at all. I bought test amounts, even though they're not the breed wools I'd normally be working with. 0.7 lb. of Lincoln (it felt quite soft, though Lincoln apparently isn't) and 1/2 lb. New Zealand, which had 2+ colors in its basket. I got some of both. The beige will likely wash out white, and I have no idea how the brown will come out, it's varying shades all the way to quite dark. Now this wool definitely feels more coarse.

I test scoured about half the Lincoln today. Here's the raw fleece in all its smelly, greasy glory, just as it was shorn. I actually adored the pre-scoured color. This must be from the phenomenal amount of lanolin that's in it. Too bad the color goes with the lanolin, but it's something that's gotta be done. Scouring is what washing raw fleece is called.

Here it is in the pot. That's a big spaghetti pot with a borrowed deep fryer inset from another pot and the fleece in it. Almost-boiling water with a glug of Dawn Dish Detergent in it. That's to melt out and eat up the grease! You can see the steam above the pot. Yup, that's how it goes.

After that, into a pot of almost-boiling clearwater for rinse it goes. Then drained it, then stuck it in my salad spinner to whirr out all the excess water. Then spread it out on cookie cooling racks.

Et voila! Some wet ends...

I love this. Look at the color difference from the raw, unscoured fleece. Wowza! I hated to lose that color though. A dye pot just couldn't duplicate it.

In a different, less harsh light

So next is combing, then spinning. I don't have the carder (YET!) but I think I'd comb this anyway. It's a very long staple length wool, so this might be a challenge for my particular combs which are actually meant for finer fibers.

Here's the New Zealand. This will be a whole nother experience, for sure! Way more coarse feeling, and a totally different texture. Lots of it is like dredlocks. This will be very interesting.

Next is dye-ing. My new spin group that I'm joining is having "Fun Dye Day" in mid-July. I might tinker with some Easter egg dye though in the meantime. At this point, I'm mostly curious how this fleece combs and spins. I don't think I'll be able to wait until mid-July. "Mommie, are we there yet??"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First Spin on Wheel - Fiber-to-F.O.

My first "wheel spin" was from 3 oz. undyed, boring-white merino I got for $1.00/ounce specifically to practice on. I got very bored, very fast with boring-white, but spun about 10 yards until I got the hang of it. Then I went to 4 oz. beautifully hand-dyed BFL that I bought in Connecticut from Painted Sheep. I found that when I had fiber I cared about, my spinning got way better. And during this first spin, I got on a roll where I was whipping along, I mean, at a very good clip! And my yarn was coming out more even then, than when I was being careful.

Here's the fiber.

Here's the yarn. But I plyed it on my plying spindle. I didn't trust my inexperience with plying on the wheel yet. (Still don't.) 109 yards, heavy-worsted/bulky BFL.

Here's what I made with it. I love this cowl. It's going to my everyday practical-wear cowl, because it's made specifically to (a) keep my neck warm; and (b) not make me feel strangled because normally I hate turtlenecks; and (c) cover any gaps between the back of my shirt's neckline and said cowl; and (d) lay flat under my jacket, and not be flipping up because it's being stretched too tight.

Pattern: (length is not complexity, this length is chat)
Inspired by "Simple Ribbed Neckwarmer" (free download on Ravelry) but wanting modifications, here's what I did after asking advice for what I had in mind on Ravelry's "Cowls" group.

Needles: Size 8, 9, 10-1/2 and 11 circular needles.
Yarn: 100 yards heavy-worsted/bulky weight in a next-to-skin yarn.
WPI = 11wpi (thinest) to 8wpi (thickest), most was 10wpi
Gauge: 4-1/2 sts./inch.

Cast on 68 sts. (or whatever even number your gauge will yield a 15-inch circumference) on 24" Size 8 circulars LOOSELY (I cast onto both needles, doubled). If you need to use a different size needles, jump sizes progressively accordingly, as below.
K1, P1 and continue for 2-1/2 inches, knitting loosely.
K1, P1 and continue for another 2-1/2 inches, knitting a little tighter. (That's your neck area's under layer. It makes T-neck fold over nicely.) Total 5" so far.
Switch to size 9 needles. Continue K1,P1 for another inch.
Switch to size 10-1/2 needles (technically 2 needle sizes). Continue K1, P1 for 1-1/2 inches or thereabouts.
You now have about 7 or 7-1/2 inches, maybe 8.
Switch to size 11 needles, continue in pattern for 2-3 rows.
Bind off LOOSELY using Elizabeth Zimmerman's "sewn bind-off" and I mean loosely. What I did was, every time a stitch went off my needle, I tugged on the completed bound off area, each and every stitch. Just give 'er a pull. It doesn't get any looser than that.

Finished Specs: Cowl ended up 8-9 inches tall, approx. 15 circumference at neck (ribbing stretches easily to go over head but snaps back to fit VERY comfortably at neck) and about 24" at bottom if no stretch applied to it at all. (With the 1x1 ribbing, there's plenty of give so it'll lie flat under your jacket.)

So that's that. Sheeesh. From the time I started this post to now, I went to the store and forgot to take the trash out. A big black lawn bag full of yukky trash. I came home to trash (and I mean the yukky part became very real since I'd cleaned out the fridge) and it was now ALL OOOOVER the place. Kitchen floor was covered! Family room got a dog-loved stash brought in there. My office got its share. This trash, among other things, had chicken bones (how stupid was that!)
Bad dog. Baaaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaad dog.
Stupid dog owner. Stoooooopid dog owner! Chicken bones? Forgot to take it outside?? I stand corrected, but it's now been 12 hours and she's fine. She did barf up a huge mass, and it included what looked like chicken bones. Whew.

Color Wheel Becomes More Than a 3-Note Song

I'm keeping up with a blog banner post ("Stash") which has photos and fiber specs on my stash to date, either still in the bag or spun and knitted. It's pretty much a quick reference that I use, and I just added my last 3 purchases.

One occurred to me deserves a regular blog entry ONLY because it's a little testimonial to how when I started spinning, I had really specific color preferences (another way of saying a lot of color prejudices). Well, I haven't veered from them much to date, but as time has gone on I've found myself gaining a little more appreciation of colors I'd banned from my world, and also leaning toward accepting color combinations I never would have even considered before.

This is a HUGE departure from my norm, but just bought it. I mean, I'm seeing purple (horrors!) and hot pink/fuschia (double horrors!) and even the neon yellow-green (shudder, shudder, triple horrors!) One of those would be a departure. But all three together?

This is downright... shocking!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My First, and Likely Only, Spinning Wheel

Sheesh, over a month has passed since I've posted to this blog, time flies! In that time, however, I got a spinning wheel! Squeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Gee, that really does explain a feeling, doesn't it.) Anyway, it's a sweetheart. I only looked at Kromski's. I know others are cheaper, but there was just something I didn't like about every one that I looked at, except the Kromski's. And I tried the Symphony (a gorgeous fairytale wheel) but found it awkward to feed yarn toward the orifice which is located on the far left of the operating space. My forward hand is my right, and I just knew that I'd start getting a crimp in my right wrist.
(The Minstrel has a center orifice).
Also, reality was I'd be spinning mostly in my kitchen, and there just isn't room for the Symphony's footprint.
(The Minstrel is an upright wheel, it has a very small footprint.)
Third, I want to be able to take my wheel with me. The Symphony scared me in that regard, plus it would be pretty awkward to carry.
(The Minstrel is an easy-carry, and lays down on its front side).

Get the idea? I was built for a Minstrel. Or the Minstrel was built for me. Or for somebody I have a lot in common with. I LOVED the Minstrel. I was very, very, very, very, very sad to say goodbye to the Saxony style, a/k/a fairytale wheel. But it just wasn't meant to be.

The only thing I did NOT like about the Kromski wheels is the factory finish. Now I know that's just wrong of me. And there've been exceptions, because I like Jenny's wheel's finish, and there's a Symphony in a store where I like its finish. And I LOVE the finish on my mahogany-stained Kromski niddy noddy. But I've seen Kromski factory finishes that I just don't like. And once you order a wheel in a particular finish, it's pretty much yours because otherwise it becomes involuntary stock inventory at a store that may not want to store it. So rejecting it because "I don't like its finish" when you ORDERED it in that finish, and the shopkeep sees nothing wrong with its finish... let's just don't even go there.

They sell the Minstrel unfinished. I ordered mine unfinished. Long, long story short, I could write paragraphs trying to describe what I was after in terms of finish, but I'd never get there. It's a feeling more than a look. I normally hate light-stained wood, too, but it so happened that the feeling I was after resided in a stain called Puritan Pine, which happens to be a light wood stain.

For the next step, I didn't want shiny. Nothing with Urathane (or poly-anything, or acrylic-anything). Well, I did a lot of research. I found out that tung oil yellows over time (even PURE tung oil which is not what you get from hardware stores, pffft, but the "real" pure tung oil, made by Milk Paint Co. Eventually I found that lo and behold, everything I wanted in a finish was in a product called Briwax. It's a combo of beeswax (soft) and carneuba wax (hard), it's mostly natural except for a solvent additive (which I CAN justify) and it goes on hand-rubbed, where you can dictate the patina. And you get PATINA. Not "shine." So I now had the feeling I was after.

This is just one part of it, but it's the only photo I got that captured the look and personality of the finish I was after.

This is the wheel, finished and assembled. Total time, a little over a week.

The color shown below is NOT accurate. In fact, it's nothing LIKE what my wheel looks like. It doesn't show the variations, it doesn't show the tone. But it shows the wheel's design and all its beautiful wood turnings. Straight from SmallTown, Poland where the Kromskis have been making spinning wheels for eons.

People tend to name their wheels, and I totally understand that. If I had never known that, I still would have wanted to name my wheel. Well, there seems to be a big tendency toward the name Melissa. I can't tell you how many times I've read "I named her Melissa." Well, unfortunately every friend Jenny had growing up whose name was Melissa was a snitty little brat. Then there are people who name their wheels something like Victoria. Oh, I could see that for a Polonaise, you'd almost have to name a Polonaise something like Victoria. Victoria is elegant, she's aloof and slightly untouchable. She's complex. And you'd never throw her in the back of your minivan.

I named my wheel Annie. I can take Annie with me. I don't feel compelled toward (drum roll) "I must take off my shoes" when I spin Annie. From the very first git-go, Annie was meant to be friends with scuffs and scratches because Annie might even get taken camping. But once finished and taken to Jenny's house for unveiling, Jenny said Annie looks like a comfy, very old Western saddle. And that's Annie, because scuffs and scratches are supposed to ADD to Annie's patina and personality. Annie is meant to be a comfy friend. If I ever get a Polonaise (and I admit, a huge attraction), then maybe we'll consider Victoria.