Monday, September 27, 2010

REVISED Fleece Scouring Method

I had one bag left. With a whole lot more than that, you kind of feel the need to chomp through it, but just one bag? After scouring three big Romney fleeces and two 8-lb. CVM/Corrie Cross fleeces? It's easy to shine it on. But it was becoming an eyesore because I couldn't just stash it somewhere (and forget it for sure), I had to keep it visible so it would keep staring at me. The "one last remnant" is really hard to get motivated about.

It did look like a good bag though, it definitely wasn't dregs. Somewhere around 4-6pounds, but a big bag. I decided to take some liberties with it and switch things up a bit, trying some of the things that had constantly occurred to me, but you know how it is, you read the same conventions everywhere, and you just follow them.

Never again! I'm only sorry that I didn't try this sooner.

No more lingerie bag washing for me. Not after trying it this way.

Fill your container with hottest tap water (I get somewhere around 125-135 degrees, hotter as I go). Put the non-enzyme Dawn dish detergent in it, enough so the water tints blue. Add fleece. But this time, I didn't use lingerie bags. I just plunked a big glob of fleece straight into the water. It floated freely. Lots of dirt, grease, what you'd expect. Except more than before, it seemed.

Scoop fiber out (the trick now is to not get only half, but the whole blob, because you don't want connected fibers pulling apart just over this).

Onto floor of sink, use a wooden cutting board or some other thing to press evenly downward to squeeze out excess soapy, dirty, funky, very hot water. No mushing side to side.

Into equally hot rinse water. Same exit, same pressing.

Into fresh equally hot rinse water. Ditto.

Toss the whole blob, intact, into a bucket and leave it there. Trick here? YOU WANT IT TO COOL ENTIRELY BEFORE HANDLING. (No hot fiber into spin cycle.)

Keep processing batches, keep adding blobs to the bucket to cool. Or take them outside. Just make sure they're cool.

Once cool? THEN pack them into the lingerie bags, and put through the spin cycle.

Doesn't sound very different? Well, it is. Scouring fleece in lingerie bags is just bad. Think of what happens inside the bag at every turn (literally). First, the fiber has nowhere to go, it's contained. So it compacts. Lock upon lock. Next, lifting that bag out of the water. No matter how gentle you are, you still have hot, wet, heavy locks that WILL shift around inside that bag. What's that the recipe for? Felting. Curling. Getting pressed by weight into those curls.

Variation discovered along the way: Line the vessel with tulle so you can lift out the fleece, rather than using a scoop colander.

Variation #2: (I liked this also.) After the fiber is totally (and I mean totally) cooled, do a final rinse, this time in cooler water. A little heat added, but not much. Cool fiber, cool water. Let it float around, and now you can swish it around also.

Cool fiber, safer handling in terms of contributing to the matting (which will happen, not might happen, with any handling you do while it's hot). The goal is the least amount of handling possible WHILE IT'S HOT.

NOW it's great to put it in lingerie bags. And into washer's spin cycle. Then lay it out to dry, as normal.

The final product doing it this way was
1. Lock structure preserved SO much better. Beyond just noticeably so.
2. Way whiter, cleaner (did I say waaaaay cleaner?) fleece.
3. Softer. No soap residue.
4. Tangle free, and I mean to the nth degree that wetted loose locks can be. Pretty much tangle free. I barely had to flick it prior to carding.

One thing I do know regarding human hair. When you wash it, in hot water, you are opening up the cuticle (scales). If you do a final rinse in cooler water, you close the cuticle. For one thing, you will damage your hair less, just in combing it, if the cuticles are closed (scales are snuggled down tight against the strand).

Same with fleece.

I've never seen a more gorgeous, clean, soft, shiny, tangle-free result from scouring fleece as I did with that last bag. I sure wish I'd departed from the "conventional wisdom" on fleece scouring a whole lot earlier, because this fleece is a joy to card. The other (all 5 fleeces) from doing it the conventional way, just doesn't hold a candle.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Turquoise-Periwinkle and Drum Carders

I decided to put my Strauch Petite drum carder to work and try processing some locks on it rather than combing. I also did some color blending on it. I'm not getting the effects I want for some reason with the latter, at least with this blending attempt. It's possible that's because the colors are too close for the to stand out. However, I'd also dyed up a bunch of misc. solids last summer, a lot of which were in these same colors, so even though those were combed, I decided to spin close to all I had, and Navajo ply it (also something that's fairly new to me).

Navajo plying is interesting. It's a way to keep color changes together when spinning from rainbow-dyed roving, but it took a fair learning curve. Whoever invented Navajo plying was a genius, or else she got tangled up at her wheel, and then discovered that if she spun the tangle, or part of it, her colors would stay separated and she could call it Navajo plying.

I learned the technique entirely from a youtube video. Thank God for youtube videos. I've been actually learning pretty much everything I know about spinning techniques on youtube videos. Here's the best one I found on Navajo plying, by Sarah Anderson, with good sound, good photography and clear, concise instructions.

Unfortunately, my first skein in this colorway and technique, I spun the singles so that with 3 ply (Navajo), it ended up as a heavy worsted weight. On the next little skein, I narrowed down some (23 plyed yards) and got more of a regular worsted weight, bordering in some places on finer. Then what I did today, I narrowed up even more, and although more consistent, it's looking like this little skein (56 yards) will almost be a DK weight. That's an odd breakdown, but once I figure out about how many yards a hat will take (forgot), I think that's where I'll go with it. I like both the colors (a periwinkle wannabee and a turquoise), and I'm totally open to doing a scarf or cowl in the same or pick up one or the other colors, but spin it out of the CVM/Corrie mix breed fleece I have, which is definitely next-to-skin wool.

So here's what I ended up with (2 of the skeins, today's is soaking to set the spin).

I'm sure glad I'm not yet sick of this colorway, or either part of it, because Monday, Labor Day, my spin group had their annual Dye Day, and they were trying out their brand new humungous dye pot (it does pounds, and pounds at a time, a gigantic shiny stainless stand-alone pot, 2-3 ft. deep, mounted on its own burner). What color did they put in it, for everyone to dump whatever yarn or fiber they wanted into it? Turquoise. I stuck in 5 oz. of really nice grade locks from my Romney fleeces, or maybe it's more. Still unprocessed (not sure if I'll card or comb), but it's turqoise. Or maybe closer to Aqua. But at least it'll fit in, that's for sure.

I still have quite a credit balance at a LYS, and have had this huge flirtation with a Louet Jr. (roving carder - narrow drum) so bit the bullet and ordered one. A 4" wide drum, the teeth on the Louets are longer and of all things, flexible. They intermesh also. A totally different animal than my Strauch. It'll be interesting to see how that fits into my world. I don't know yet, only that I just couldn't seem to get that particular carder out of my head. That's what trade arrangements are all about though, yes? Buying something you couldn't justify otherwise.