Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Combs photos

I exchanged the big 2-pitch Valkyrie's for a set of his Mini combs, and bought a 2nd set for Jenny, both with stationery bases. The big Valkyrie's were just too much comb for my shoulder and wouldn't suit the finer fiber I'm likely to be working with. I LOVE his Mini combs!

2 pitch, tines approx. 3/16ths dia (maybe a smidge under), set 3/16ths" apart, 4 inches long, WITH bend, super well balanced and not heavy. LOVE these combs! Amazingly, the least expensive out of all of them and they'd be hot contenders if I could only have one set.

Here are the Indigo Hound English combs. 5-pitch, "Fine" (as opposed to "Standard" or "Regular)". Vicious looking little bastards. With these, and the non-visibility of the back tines from where you're working, it's not a matter of whether you're gonna poke yourself and break skin, it's when.
Gotta be incredibly, overly, ridiculously careful with these. But I am definitely going to renew my tetanus shot. Soon! I've already poked a couple times, just haven't broken skin yet.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making heads or tails of a fleece?

03: Whole Fleece spread out as best I could keep the given shape. It's easy to assume the head is A and the butt end is D. However if I stood back looking at it from the side (B and C closest to me, A off to my left and D to my right) I could almost picture how the head and butt end COULD be on the B/C sides. I simply don't know what I'm looking at. Or for.

Note: The fleece IS longer from A to D than from B/C to B/C, if that helps.

04: This is a close up of A on the main photo.

05: This would be from the left side of B, you can see where the smooth fleece begins and match up this photo with the "whole fleece" photo.

06: This would be about the center (around B)

07. This would be between B and C or it would be C

08: Texture break - comparing adjacent locks

09: Would be from other side of C

10: Would be from one side of C

I skipped numbering "11" somehow so there are two possibilities as to what we're seeing. I'm listing both as were written in the notes.

11/12 (likely this is A locks up close)

12/13 (A locks up close OR B locks up close)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vacuum Pack Fleece Storage

I'm slowly working my way through scouring four Romney fleeces (40 pounds of fleece in the grease) and separating it into locks according to fine-ness.

A fail-safe storage system is becoming pretty important to me. Moths, moisture, and also the space that gets eaten up storing fleece which is extremely fluffy, hence a space hog.

I'm experimenting with vacuum-packing. This first is with my Foodsaver. I have Space Bags at the ready in case this works well. Based on what I'm seeing, I think this might be a great solution, both to the potential of moths and also to moisture. Now add it taking up virtually no space.

Experiment: A little over 1/2 oz. of scoured fleece. Clean, but still uncombed, so you'll see twigs and other vegetable matter in it at this stage.

Here it is vacuum-sealed. This Foodsaver bag was 8" long by 11" wide. The fleece was stacked in the bag 3-4 locks deep on one side, not on the other. Pretty much as you see it above. The thickness of the vac-sealed bag was maxiumum 1/8". It was by no means packed to capacity but way thicker packing would only add a little in vac-packed bag thickness.

Here's after cutting open the bag, letting air in. Fleece untouched.

Here's the fleece as it came out of the bag, I haven't yet touched the locks.

Here's the locks, as I would lash them onto my combs. They look exactly the same as what I've been lashing onto my combs after scouring. And I didn't need to do anything different than I would have gathering them off the drying sheet.

My conclusion? It was only stored this way overnight but I see nothing whatsoever about time being a factor here. No moisture can get to it, there's minimal if any air in the bag. Moths wouldn't smell it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dye Momma, Dye!

Oh, man. I am just so freaking excited I can't see straight! Yesterday my new spinning group (new to me, old to them) had their annual Dye Day. It rained some, but no big deal. It cleared up, and for a while was purrrr-fect weather. It started getting hot not long after lunch, but by then we were winding down.

Emily, the woman who kindly contacted me through a fluke of finding out there was another spinner in town, just to let me know there was a local spinning group, pretty much took me by the hand, knowing I knew ZERO about dyeing. Nothing. Nada. Zilch! I'd brought a total of 8 oz. of scoured locks (four very sadly too-loosely packed sausage rolls wrapped in tulle that all but came apart in the process) and also 2 partial balls of Romney commercially-combed undyed top. She showed me the mason jar method, and that's pretty much what I used for the top.

OMIGOD! LOOK AT THESE! I can now DO this... myself!

My very first. AND absolute favorite. A trilogy of plum, caramel and yellow

And my old standard color combo that I just can't resist. I just had to see if I could get it myself.

But there isn't enough of it so I can combine it with another for this. Either spin some of each alternately for one consistent colorway or spin them separately and stripe them (same colors, opposite dominants).

And I decided to break my boycott of purple 2 weeks ago. This is my first purple thing. I've always hated purple. But dammit, playing with fiber just makes every color something you just have to have!

Here it is with some of it unbraided.

And then there's this. Not really enough to do anything with, but okay, a few stripes in something, maybe even the purple. GO MAD!!

And even this, which isn't my favorite. But it's just fine!

Dye Momma Dye! Here it all is on the washing machine. I have a feeling it's not entirely dry inside, and I probably shouldn't have braided it yet. But such eye candy!!

The loose locks? Well, the locks we just dyed in vats (solids). A "hunters beware" type orange, a knocked down more golden orange and flat out serious, historical royal family, Joseph's Coat type purple. The fourth? THE most amaaaazing hybrid of the orange that I think we overdyed in some sort of salmon, and it came out either an intense watermelon or a perfect balance within coral. But Jenny came unglued over that color. I mean, it was like showing something shiny to a blonde. She just gazed into it, or maybe through it, but she just looked totally hypnotized by it, so I gave it to her. (I kept one lock just in case someone might someday know how the heck to get that color again.) But she's working with something in an almost companion color and I had the feeling she'd work this into that.

What a FUN day that was. Sheeesh. I hate to say it, but my treasured canner is going to be forfeited away from food use VERY soon. When I go to Hanover at the end of the month, I'm hitting the LYS (an hour from here) and it's going to be dye buying day, because no WAY am I done with this!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cheating on my English Combs... Already?

Thanks to the noticing of an ad by one very nice Spinwyn on Rav, I connected with a set of used Indigo Hound 5-pitch English combs. Yet to arrive and the seller lives in Canada so it'll take a while. They happen to be the "Fine" and not the "Standard" but due to a 5-month illness, Indigo Hound is so back ordered at this point that it could be a couple of months before my LYS can get an order filled. Meanwhile, with 40 pounds of Romney fleece, I'm going to need something more than my PackFlats.

The choices of more "serious" combs have been pretty much either multi-pitch English combs (straight tines) or 2-pitch Viking combs (curved tines), both made by Indigo Hound. The Vikings started intriguing me also, but again, Indigo Hound is pretty much the only game in town for either. Well, other than Forsyth combs --$400 but oh so lustworthy!-- which have BOTH curved tines AND multi rows (4-pitch). I'd read very good things about Volkyrie in the 2-pitch curved Viking combs, but always with the parenthetical note, "no longer in production."

Well, along then, comes a new Rav poster -- none other than the maker of Valkyrie combs! He's been thinking of coming out of hybernation and going back into production. I was curious to see his Viking combs but I'd been also very intrigued with getting a hackle for blending. That's another thing that's just not out there. And in one of his posts, he mentioned still having an 18-inch hackle from 5 years ago that he'll sell.

So I connected with him yesterday because he just happens to live nearby. And I bought his 18-inch hackle. Can we say "serious, fearsome piece of equipment"? Yes, let's say that. Five-inch-tall, 2-pitch tines, but 18 inches of them. I see great possibilities for this thing in blending colors from dyed locks by lining them up in the final pass, one color next to the other, and dizzing off one or more continuous color changing slivers. With 40 pounds of Romney fleece (which will eventually be dyed for just that purpose), a hackle could be a terrific tool for that.

So here's what that tool looks like. The extra space on the ends are for C-clamps or bolting it down permanently to a work station.

Meanwhile, again still waiting for my English combs which might very well do everything I need, I just had to try his bent-tine Viking combs. And ohhhh, did they EVER feel great in my hand. Terrific grip size. Plus if those IH English combs prove to be too heavy to wield for my arthritic shoulder, the Vikings are what I'd be buying, most likely. So jumping the gun since he's not producing them yet but had a set or two left over, I bought a set.

Here's a shot of them from the side. Such a nice bend! Not overdone, just enough to avoid tine catches.

So not for casual storage, that's for sure. Time will tell if I'm going to be able to use either the Vikings or the English because of a bumb shoulder, but I've decided there's pretty much no way to know which kind I'll find works for me, if either, without just working with them more than an on-the-spot test combing.

So that's my tool stash addition, from a very expensive yesterday.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First Quickie Color Blending Test on Drum Carder

Two unlikely colors combined...

Teensy Staple HELL

I'm afraid to go through the entire HUGE bag of dark brown in this fleece for fear it's all going to be like this, but here's what I have an awful lot of in the last lot that I scoured of that otherwise gorgeous New Zealand natural colored fleece. Obviously some of it just has to be dumped, I can't help but think this is a ton of 2nd cut (the balls). However, as for the tiny staples that are intact staples, that just doesn't seem like 2nd cut. It just seems like teensy, teensy, teensy staples. Maybe head fleece?? Maybe a LIMITED amount of head fleece???

And this, below, is what I actually have been lashing on. The only upside is that I'm finding that if I look carefully, some of these tend to come in groupings so I can lash on a mass of them. Doing them individually though... that's when I start thinking of Barbie sized wool combs. I separated these out.

This is DEFINITELY training in careful lashing on!

Hmmm, just noticed. The perspective in the photo makes them look bigger than they are. The pen is farther back than it should be for reference, and I was close-up enough so the foreground looks magnified. So some of these are an inch long. Actually, some are under an inch long. In the first photo, some of those little blobs are just that, blogs. But some of them are curled up TEENSY miniature but otherwise perfect staples, butt end to tip end, perfectly intact.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lanolin Soup

Well, I thought since I've brought home another 16 lbs. raw fleece (see post below), I'd better finish scouring the New Zealand I bought earlier this week. Between two stovetop canning pots of water at about 150 degrees and my washing machine (tap water gets to 125 degrees), I just scoured about 2 pounds. It's gotta be more than that, but that's what my numbers say.

Meet Lanolin Soup...

The question was, where to dry it??? Well, after considering on a blanket spread out on the lawn (bah humbug, we have groundhogs and squirrels, plus a barn cat, this could look very appealing for nesting material to say nothing of wind), and no places in the house that would work very easily... what the hey.

This gives a whole new meaning to the term "Auto Dryer." Hey, why not? It's parked in the sun, it gets hot in there, and I don't keep the back seats in it! I'll just have to remember to keep the front window closed when I drive anywhere. (Photos lie, there's way more in here than it looks like, but I love the potential I'm seeing for that little minivan as a drying place in the summertime!

Insane Amounts of Fleece and Other Finds

As part of an estate sale, a guy had about 40 fleeces he's been selling. His late mother has sheep, and was very much into the fiber arts. He's been selling various fiber-related equipment as well. He sold a loom, still had another, and as of the day I was GOING to go he had an antique spinning wheel which he sold that night, so by the next day when I went, that was gone along with a 2nd pair of hand carders, which I'm sorry about. I'm probably best off that he didn't still have the antique wheel. If it had appealed to me on looks alone, I'd have bought it.

I was interested in the fleeces because the per-pound price was really good and my understanding was that his mom's fleeces were really well-regarded by people in her spinning guild. They are Romney, Border Leicester and Cotswold. Unfortunately I don't know much about any of those, but have done some research and decided to pass on the Cotswold, but was split on which to buy of the Romney and BL.

I ended up buying one of each, a 7.3-lb. BL ewe fleece and an 8.5-lb. Romney ewe. All the 2008 fleeces sold out quickly because of ridiculously low price, and these were shorn about a month ago, so are fresh, fresh, fresh! My only experience with raw fleece was the New Zealand (post below) which I knew was at least a year old, maybe more. Man, you stick your hand into one of these fleeces and it comes out glistening! Fresh, pure lanolin.

The Romney Ewe


The Border Leicester Ewe


I also bought some misc. things he still had. A set of Clemes & Clemes hand carders which Jenny really wanted ($40) and while looking at those, noticed an Ashford flicker brush ($5) that she hadn't mentioned wanting, but figured she'd want also. Great deals, but man, were they ever gunky! Little balls of neps but looked totally fixable. I went at them with this weird little tool I'd bought sometime back. (Picture a fan-style leaf rake, except this is tiny and the fan tines are very fine metal.) Voila! I spent a good 45 minutes and enjoyed doing it. Every last spec is gone, and Damn Sam, both the hand carders and the flicker brush are in amazingly perfect condition. Not a tooth missing or bent. So great deals.

I DO wish I'd taken a picture before I cleaned these, but here they are. Mecca!!

The flicker brush.

ALMOST last (but not least!) there was this HUGE basket. His mom had LOTS of baskets! Some a little unusual, many not. But this one just caught my eye, bigtime. Dusty, dirty, cobwebs even. Loom parts were in it along with other miscellany and it looked very interesting, but its impact just didn't hit me until I got it home and cleaned it up. It did have a tag on it. Mom had a tendency to leave tags on things. This tag looked very, very old. A little generic paper tag like what people would use in a marketplace on the off streets of St. John. Scrawled on it was "hand woven in Africa." And on the other side, a price that nowhere in my memory could it have possibly sold for in the U.S... $29. Well, maybe in the 40s when physicians' expensive houses sold for $40K (which were always called "homes" when other houses were called "houses"). If she traveled at all, I suspect she brought it home from somewhere where street vendors lurked. She was 76 when she died.

I don't know what the two loops are at the top on either side of the leather wrapping on the handle, maybe just decorative or an artistic finish of ends, but the basket actually looks like it was built for actual carrying things, albeit beautifully made. Not just for tabletop decorating. One only wraps a handle in leather on a working basket, I'd think. Nor would you typically use leather wraps around where the handle joins with the basket body. And it was also a leather type I've never seen before. It has a totally unusual feel and look. The basket flops to 20" long, 12" wide when on a surface. More circular when being carried.

I wish I knew when and where she bought it, just to know the story behind that. Let's just say her basket found a home where it'll be loved. And it will live on the cedar chest and hold WIPs.


I also bought two hand spindles, kind of "just because." Price was right. He said someone told him the first one is a Navajo spindle. I thought you twirled those in a bowl or something. Well, it looks like the bottom tip has been twirled. There's a teensy but very, very strong hook on the top which I think wouldn't be there on a Navajo spindle, but may have been added because I'm thinking one could twirl it on its top too. I can't find a youtube video on Navajo spindles. Otherwise it just looks like one humungous drop spindle. It's 16 inches long! Center-weighted, there's no carve-out on the underside of the whorl. And it weighs 3.4 oz. This could make a great plying spindle for a LOT of yarn if wrapped football style.

The other, I know is a Turkish spindle but this one has two separate pieces going in each direction, which must have a purpose. No clue what though. The only other Turkish spindle I've seen only had one in each direction, curved downward. (Since writing this post, I found a youtube video that has what looks like the exact same spindle! Same big size, same shaped head, same flat cross bars. But hers only had one crossbar in each direction, so the two remains a mystery.

So that was my estate sale day. I started scouring the rest of the New Zealand (a measley little 4-1/4 pounds by comparison to these two fleeces) and could see right away I'm gonna be scouring fleeces for a LONG time. The New Zealand is my prize though. Luvit, luvit, LUVIT!!