Category Archives: Wool

Podcasts I like Part 1

While working on the ebay stuff I like to listen to podcasts.  Some of my favorite podcasters talk about knitting, spinning, and books.  I keep “discovering” new ones because each podcaster likes to mention and discuss the podcasts THEY like to listen to.

In no particular order:

Crafternoon Tea with GrannyG – From New Zealand!  (I can’t believe spell check doesn’t recognize that Zealand is a proper word).  “A fibrecraft podcast from NZ featuring interviews with inspiring people.”  And recipes.  Cooking yummy stuff!  She even prepares fiber for spinning – I love messing with wool.

The Knitmore Girls – “A Mother Daughter Knitting Production”  Jasmin and GiGi share their knitting projects and errors, spinning, sewing, and reviews.  I really enjoy their respect and love for each other that comes through each discussion.  Makes me cherish the memories I have of my mother even more.  Of course,  she would never record her voice because she sounded “too southern” as do I.

CraftLit – Heather O discusses her knitting, life, cooking, and comments on the book portion.  She serially presents a book in audio form from Librivox and discusses the themes, plot, and other information that enhances your understanding and enjoyment of the book.  It is like sitting down with your friend the English teacher over her/his favorite books.  I got hooked on her with Jane Austen and stuck around for Mark Twain A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  It is not a book I would see myself reading (so many books, so little time…) but I am enjoying  the commentary and a few chapters each podcast.  The reader is fantastic.   I am looking forward to going back and “reading” some of the previous books with Heather.

CogKNITive – A Knitting-Psychology Podcast.  Dr. Gemma is a practicing Psychologist in California in both private practice and the prison system.  Each podcast includes a discussion about knitting, crochet, spinning, aspects of her job, and a life strategy.  She organizes a small fiber festival each year at the beginning of October and I wish I was close enough to go.  I love her common sense approach to living life.  Knitmore Girls mentioned her, and I am so glad they did!

Knitting update

It is nearly time for my personal realization that Christmas is coming and I have gifts to make.  Not quite yet because Thanksgiving is the panic button day.

So I am doing general knitting and spinning.

I started a shawl (Blue Jeans Lace Leaf Shawl) with my own handspun, a single ply, and it is not going well.  I don’t spin well enough yet to skip the all-important plying step to help hide some of my way too thin parts.  Grey wool on silver knit picks needles?  Not so easy for my eyes on the cobweb weight parts.  I will persevere!  The parts that are done look nice, so that is encouraging.  At the rate it is going I will still be working on it 2 years from now.
Since I wrote this draft, the above shawl is no more.  We made it to row 30 and I was spending more time tediously tinking back than I was knitting forward.  Some yellow baby yarn was in my stash and I began knitting with it to see if it was the pattern or the yarn giving me problems.  It was the yarn.  The lovely gray has been ripped out and wound carefully back into it’s ball to await further inspiration.  Even though the yellow is kind of bright and squeaky acrylic it is fun knitting.  The pattern finally MAKES SENSE!

The sock yarn blankie is going well and will have a lot of blue.  I had never noticed how many of my knitterly friends liked to make blue socks.  He (the blankie is a He.  For some reason I have begun to refer to IT as a HE) has been a traveling companion and dr’s office calming device.  Quite a few people commented on how serene I looked knitting while waiting for my eye surgery.  Knitting makes a great socially acceptable pacifier for a medical procedure wienie.

Socks are on another pair of needles and actually got about an inch or so done on them today. 

The all important heel is coming up and the anticipation is daunting.  I need an easy to engineer heel that can be readily altered for large ankles.  Very large ankles.  I’m trying to decide between Widdershins (a kind blogger even broke it down farther for some of us) or Fleegle heel (Fleegle fine tuned the method in another blog post).

Spinning is chocolate cherry wool from my VA shepherd(ess?) friend and I am TRYING to make a thicker singles.  I would love something I could ply 2 together and get a sport weight.  Or even go whole hog and 3 ply!  wow!

Take Care!

Adventures: Fleece

Well, I did it.  Bought a whole fleece.   I found a farmer with a spinning flock selling an uncoated registered romney ewe fleece for $3 a lb.  She was kind enough to ship it to me parcel post and I have been messing around with it for the last week.

A coated or jacketed sheep wears a coat to protect the wool from dirt, hay, poop, and sun damage. The resulting fleece is much easier to process by either the craft person or the mill and brings higher prices.

Grannie is the name of “my” sheep, and she is about 6 yrs old and one of the first sheep acquired when the farmer started raising sheep again.  The clean wool I’ve achieved so far is mostly white,  shiny, and soft for a romney with a nice wavy crimp.

When the box arrived I cut the tape and excitedly pulled out a handful of greasy, dirty fleece.  A definite “sheep” aroma drifted from the plastic bag and was bundled into outside storage.  Only my sample came into the house.

Scouring or washing raw wool is an art form.  I wanted something simple and straightforward I could do NOW.  Burrito method!  Placing individual locks on a square of fabric and then folding over on itself to encase the wool in a fabric bundle about the size of the plastic tub for washing.  Hot tap water, a bit of gentle soap (Johnson’s baby wash) and the fun began!  At this stage most of the work is preparing the burrito  and changing the wash water.

My wash water wasn’t as dirty as some of the pictures I’d seen, but I drained the water and added fresh before it cooled.  Before heading to bed I unwrapped the cloth to check on the progress.  The butt end where the locks were sheared from the sheep was a pretty white darkening to an icky sticky yellow towards the tip.  My assumption was lanolin, so the next day I heated water in the microwave for soaking.  Another spinner was emphatic that shampoo was the preferred soap, so I used some Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.  The water turned a bit yellow and the wool grew lighter and lighter.

Encouraged I went back to the fleece, spread it out and took a few pictures

The whole fleece

before ripping off from the upper right and place in net lingerie bags for washing in the washing machine.  A washer full of HOT water and Palmolive (another goof – got the one with Oxyclean, a no-no) soak, spin, and repeat twice more ending in two rinses.  A few bits were cleaner, others still nasty.  Sigh

I started going through the bags to check the progress.  The dirty parts were clumped together.  Maybe THAT was why so much dirt remained.

My solution was to pull the clumps apart at the locks and tease open the tips, hoping it would come cleaner in the next experiment.  Success!  Some did come clean enough to spindle spin a sample. That was fun and I quickly spun up a couple yards of singles to ply back on itself. The yarn size looks about like a dk to sport weight, and I’ll know more after it is finished.

Since only SOME came clean I thought I needed another approach.  A sample of the separated locks was brought inside for the next experiment.  A friend mentioned some of the processing tutorials she saw recommended soaking in cold water.  OK – good idea!  Just soaking in cold tap water it turns as dingy as it did in the hot water and soap. Interesting.    When dried, they look better but still not good enough.

I bought some Kookaburra wool wash and added that to the cold water and let the bag of locks soak. The water looked a little more dingy than it had before but the dirt was thick on the end of the locks so I began to get impatient and gently rubbed the dirty tips while submerged in the wool wash/cold water mix. The dirt just whooshed out. Visible Progress!  Still dirty looking wool, though.

Even though the tips were pulled apart and then rubbed in the wash water, each clumped strand was dirty.  Pet comb!  After drying I combed out the tips of each lock.  The cloth protecting my lap was filthy and the dirt fell out along with most of the VM (vegetable matter).  Progress.  I set aside the cleaner locks for spinning trials and went back to cleaning.

Clumped and dirty lock before combing

Same Lock after combing

At this point I appear to have two problems.  Physical dirt and yellow.  I am assuming the yellow is lanolin (Oil of Olay, anyone?).  The research identifies the lanolin as a WAX that can be removed by hot water.  OK.  I can do that.

So dirt.  since the wool tips clump when wet, maybe the dirt isn’t falling out.  I can’t believe I did this – I stood at the sink and swished the tips of EACH combed lock around in a basin of cool water.  MUD fell out of the locks and collected on the bottom of the container.  Wow.  That much dirt!

By this time I have emptied several more of the machine washed lingerie bags.  Physically combing out the dirt-caked tips, swishing in a basin to remove the loose dirt and then replacing in a net bag for soaks I HOPE will result in some spinable wool.

Two more lingerie bags of the first batch needed to be combed and it was a beautiful evening.  It took about 3 hours to separate into locks, comb, grade, and place into baskets for washing.  Here is the result – the waste is in the cardboard box to the right.  Some locks are 6 inches, some 4, and some even shorter.   The shortcuts are sad.  Here is a clean, white, gorgeous bit of wool and it is only an inch long.  Sniff.  Toss in the waste box!

Please ignore the dirty carport, and spring is when live oak trees shed their leaves.

And a close up…I am so proud of this basket of fluffy wool!

I’m toying with the idea of taking the combing waste to see if it can be carded.

I think I am going to carefully place back in the bags and soak in cold water to get out the loose dirt.  Ummm…how clean is clean enough?  Should I stop now or continue?

Next batch?  Shake the fleece so the second cuts and whatever loose dirt fall out.  Then beat the darn thing with an broom (I think this is going to be satisfying) to break up the encrusted dirt (and it is dirt, not sheep poop.  For the most part) and shake again.  Place into lingerie bags, lower into buckets and add cold water.  Let sit there a day…two…or more.  (If I can stand the smell).  Allow to drain and plop in the washer filled with hot hot water (will have to turn up the water heater) and Original Blue Dawn dish soap.  Soak for 20 mins, spin, repeat.  Rinse.  Check for mud.

And HOPE HOPE HOPE that works!