Friday, November 10, 2006

New Hats
I finished a hat and entered it in the Spindlicity Hat Contest. I used fiber prepared by Linda Diak of Grafton Fibers. She has the most luscious color blends. I wanted to use every color I had, so I spun each up on my Bossie spindle and planned out a pattern that would show off each color. First, I knit 9 points which I joined, then used a combination of Fair Isle patterning with pin tucks inbetween. At the end, I crocheted little curlycues which I sewed on top. It was such fun to create my first pattern by myself. Now I may try and design my own sweater.........
I am continuing to process my Corriedale fleece. It is better now that I can see the end. I figure it is taking me about 1 and 1/2 hours per ounce to wash and card (not counting soaking or drying time). Flicking open the locks to prepare for the carder is the most time consuming part, but I love the pile of fluff I am creating. I have gotten hooked on the possibilities of starting with raw fleece, so I have already reserved a Coopworth fleece from Deer Run Farm for spring.

My son thinks I am crazy, but he is reaping the rewards. Here is a picture of a hat I made for him (he wouldn't model for me). I used the first of my Corriedale fleece (the bright yellow/orange) with some of the Totally Tubular mix made by Crosspatch Creations and Three Bags Full of wool and silk. I love their creations. I just ordered another from Amelia at The Bellwether. I love all the little bits of color and the nebs from the silk noil. My son actually wears this hat, so I know I finally got it right!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Never Ending Fleece

I bought a 12 pound Corriedale ram fleece at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May. It was my first fleece purchase. What was I thinking? The bag was huge! It was so soft, I could not resist, but it is taking me forever to process. In my initial euphoria, I washed and dyed four lots. I am only able to wash about four ounces (weight after washing and drying) at a time, as I do not wish to put the lanolin down the drain, so I use a small drainer and tub in the kitchen sink, then dump the lanolin soaked water on the ivy in my backyard - nothing kills ivy. I wash twice in very hot water, then rinse once in hot water, trying to agitate the fleece as little as possible. Corriedale is very high in lanolin and felts very easily. After washing the first four lots, I let the huge bag of fleece sit under my diningroom table for months (small house, no other place to put it!)

Last month I joined a fiber exchange from the Yahoo Spindler's list called a Breed Exchange. There are 32 participants each with a different sheep breed. I, of course, chose Corriedale, hoping it would force me to work through this fleece. Each participant includes 1 ounce of processed fiber, one lock and a one-yard length of spun yarn for every other participant. Also, we have each researched our breed and this will be put together in a binder for each person. At the end, we will each receive a binder of information with the lock and yarn sample, and 32 one ounce samples to spin!

I have been picking and washing and picking and washing.............
Here is a photo of my drying technique: a net spread between chairs in my screened gazebo. Unfortunately, the next few nights in the DC area where I live will be below freezing. Ummm...frozen locks. I will bring the almost dry ones inside to finish drying.

Today I will finish picking the last of the fleece. I have washed 12 batches and probably have from 8 to 10 batches to go, which I am determined to finish this weekend. I will dye what remains after I package up the 32 one ounce samples. I am also participating in the Twisted Knitters Knit Along where each participant is dyeing, spinning and knitting a project of their choice. See:
I hope to have enough fiber left to knit a sweater. I figure I will get about 6 pounds of usable fiber out of this fleece. I have already dyed 1 pound, will use two pounds in the fiber exchange and will therefore have 3 pounds left - plenty for a sweater. Now what colors to use........

Lessons Learned
When I chose the fleece I chose for softness, but did not examine the whole fleece properly. Early Saturday morning at the MDSW festival is a madhouse and I rushed myself. I later discovered that there were huge areas of scurf - flakes of skin caused by mites that does not come out in washing. I have spun some of the dyed fleece and found that the scurf falls out while spinning. The areas without scurf have a fair amount of vegatable matter (VM). After picking through as carefully as I can, I will use the better parts of the fleece for the exchange.
Now, back to washing............