sock porn for knitting voyeurs.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

crochet chain roving braiding

the first time i bought chained roving i was !!! ... so much easier to pull open and start spinning than when its braided. i'm surrounded by a bunch of superwash rovings and barknknit asked how i was chaining them up-- a few pics of the steps (and a minipreview of the new dyeing idea i had to try out)...

take one end of the roving, lay the long end over the top of the short.


reach thru the loop, grab a length of the long end...


...pull thru...


...making another loop.


keep pulling the roving thru and making loops til you run out...


...insert end into last loop...


...pull taut and you're done!



this and nine other superwash merino rovings will be listed in my etsy shop tomorrow (may day!) at 9am (pacstandard). i'll have previews up in my flickr stream later-later today and can hold/reserve colors-- just send me a note.

[8pm: all photos uploaded]


happy spinning and dyeing!

Monday, April 27, 2009

fleece storage

There is a monster in this house.

It is my utility closet, burping up fleeces.


(I told you it was bad Karrie! :))

It started out innocently, washed bags of lovely wool stacked in the back of the closet... there was space, and the fleeces filled it happily. Soon they started spilling out of their little corner and onto the floor of the closet between the shelving-- in boxes waiting to be washed, in oversized Ziploc XL and comforter bags, in shipping containers. It got to be where I was just stacking boxes on boxes, where I would forgo grabbing the toolkit or other non-fleece things that were TIC with the fleeces because it was too much of a hassle to reach them.

I know a lot of the problem was the boxes-- I have been storing unwashed fleeces and pindraft rovings in the cardboard homes they were shipped to me in, but still. So last nite, armed with an empty house and a bunch of new zippered storage bags from Cleaner's Supply, I went to town and repacked everything.


I feel a million times better! The bags from Cleaner's Supply (15x18x9 "blanket bag") are awesome. I read about them on Ravelry (mine are a different size) and bought 2 dozen-- they're on sale thru April but still at full price are a steal for their fiber possibilities. Yarn storage, anyone? :)

I repacked the pindraft fleeces from Morro Fleece Works...

(about 2# each with plenty of room to spare/squish)

Sidebar-- have I shared pics of the cormo I just got back from Morro?! I sent 2 partial fleeces for blending together, 2/3 weightwise was a steel grey and 1/3 weight a black brown and Shari sent back this amazingly heathered roving...


Eee! :)

Meanwhile back on the farm... I repacked all of the washed locks I had in the blue Ziploc XL bags too. The Ziplocs were great but too big and awkward, and these are perfect for being able to easily see the naturally colored rainbow at a glance.

(flickr has notes for each)

From the tops, too...


They're holding a good 4# of washed locks, the fuller bags. Unless they were monsters, I'd guess this size bag could hold most washed fleeces. They're a lighter gauge plastic than the comforter bags I've been keeping, but I'm really happy with these. They also have breathable side panels-- no squishing the air out of these and sealing, but I actually like the idea of a breathable bag (I'll be putting lavender/cedar sachets in each eventually as well.)

I even repackaged the unwashed fleeces, keeping them in their shipping bags and putting those inside a CS bag. (I want to be able to reuse the blanket bags for scoured locks... don't want suint and grease rubbing off on the insides.) I didn't realize how much washing I have ahead of me-- 4 fleeces! One new one came this week, over 3 pounds in this teeny tiny box...


Schacht Matchless bobbin for scale (with some gorgeous Dyeabolical Yarns superwash merino I can't stop spinning!). Inside...


Velveeta! :) Another lamb's fleece from Whitefish Bay Farm.


Off to go admire my empty closet... I'll pull a winner for the merino/silk Verb for Keeping Warm spinning fiber contest next Monday (5/4) since the project is done and should arrive by its destination by then (don't want to ruin the surprise :)) Miss you, til then!

ps, longshot but does anyone want to trade their copy of Aran Knitting for Poetry in Stitches: Clothes you can knit **AND** Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves? email/ravmsg me if yes :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

drowning in silk

I applied for a SOAR scholarship based on the writings I've done on this blog, and Friday received a kindly rejection letter from Spin Off. Admittedly I was bummed, but by the afternoon it was time to get over and into something else. My heart's always reminding me of my ability to compartmentalize-- my foolproof method is to throw myself into something new, or at least really interesting. I grabbed my Matchless and 2 ounces of indigo dyed tussah silk from A Verb for Keeping Warm and went to town.


I'm not a really big fan of 100% silk yarns, to me they mean lace or summer. I didn't want to card the silk into a wool like last time, so instead I laid out the length of silk (dyed in large color sections) and pulled off lengths in color order for spinning over the fold. I haven't spun over the fold since first teaching myself to spin, and I do like the control it gave me in handling the silk.


I mention I used the Schacht Matchless (aside from Michael, the only one who's spent time with the Joy in a long time is my son) because I have wanted to try Irish/bobbin led on it-- another one of those new, distracting things. I've spun in hybrid double drive since its arrival, and used to spin in scotch tension on the Ashford, but had never tried bobbin led before. It was an easy setup and actually a lot better than I thought it would be-- I really like a strong takeup and I certainly got it this way :)

Originally I was going to spin another handpainted single of Verb's merino/silk for plying with the tussah, but went off the rez with a white merino/cashmere top instead. I think the white really shows off the long stretches of color Kristine dyed that I tried to keep intact.


Another reason I chose the white was because it is superwash-- my baby sister just had her baby and I wanted to weave her a large nursing wrap/coverup that could be easily washed when my nephew invariably does a baby blowup near or on it. I changed my mind though (like usual)... the yarn is just way too soft for weaving; not that it wouldn't hold up to it but that the crazy softness just wouldn't translate to a woven fabric like a knitted one would.


I kept trying to take pictures so I could choose the one that looked the softest :) I don't know if it worked but eh, I could look at the shine of the silk all day.


I ended up with about 400 yards of a light worsted weight and already started on a little something :) Any guesses? Leave me a comment on what you would make and I'll randomly draw a name once I finish the project and post pictures (a week? two?) The winner will receive the aVfKW merino/silk I didn't spin for this project...


3 ounces in the exclusive Ultra fiber club colorway, "Roman Numeral." Don't spin? Never a better time or better fiber to learn with ;) Or, tear it into strips and knit with the roving, use it as mitten thrums, make a CoCoKnits fleeced earflap hat, felt something beautiful, replace the pet rock on your desk... it's up to you :)

Miss you!

Monday, April 13, 2009

differences in carding and combing romeldale fleece

This was going to be part of my last post, but it got way too long! If you hadn't seen it, I took this wonderful Romeldale fleece from Peeper Hollow Farm...

(actual photo of Hartley the sheep whose fleece is in the bag!)

...separated it into pieces and scoured it, intending to handcard the fleece for spinning into a heathery grey. I was hoping the handcards would leave me with a evenly colored, airy, squishy yarn to take advantage of the crimpy life in the fleece-- but I had a lot of problems with evenness and bumps. After a few rolags on the handcards I decided to comb a sample on the big combs, and unfortunately both cards and combs weren't quite right. I did find the difference between the preps interesting though and figured it's always fun to share :)

Rolag from handcards pulled into roving, left; sliver pulled off of combs, right

It's easy to see how clean the sliver is on the right with all of the waste fibers removed-- it's also easy to see the "jumbly" nature of handcarded fibers (along with shorter and longer bits and bumps) as well. I prefer a smoother fiber prep (using combs)-- but combs aren't always going to produce exactly what you want, either.


Notice how the sliver gets darker towards the center? The Romeldale staples were grey and white... apparently, the whiter fibers in the fleece were longer than the grey and pulled off the combs first. Even after I planked and relashed the straightening combing back on for additional combing, the fibers again pulled off white to dark.

I try not to buy variegated fleeces as it is hard to keep the colors consistent on the combs, but since the Romeldale staples were half white, half grey I didn't think I'd have that problem. Wrong ;)

So I ended up with a few rolag-to-rovings and a spectrum shaded sliver (five times fast!)... for fun I spun each on a spindle and navajo plied, just to keep the color gradation intact.


It's easy to see the difference-- the carded prep on the left is less smooth, has more bumps and neps where the combed prep on the right spun very evenly and at a finer weight (same spindle). Usually when spinning I would try and pull out large bumps in the fiber or try and even them out-- but kept them in the carded yarn both to show what was left in the fiber once prepped (vs combed) and also because I'm less able to stop and start when spindling :)

I honestly don't think one is better than the other-- I like how airy the carded prep spun and its rustic, evenly colored look, and I also like how smooth and effortless it was to spin the combed prep. It is just kind of fun to see the difference, same fiber in but two different swatches out.


I steamblocked these instead of wet finishing, I think the carded prep may look even more cohesive once wet blocked. Looking closely at the carded swatch, you can see towards the center where I changed rolags and one was browner/less grey than the other... small batch even blending can be difficult on both handcards and combs.

Best of all though is the light to dark transition the combed swatch takes, with the bulk a mix of white and grey.


Easier to see the difference with the edges folded together :)

I buy fleeces with the longrange intention of spinning for a sweater with them-- but not variegated sweaters. Sampling like this has given me a few insights: I need to practice more on the handcards because I don't know if it's me or the technique that is the problem when carding out a reasonably smooth rolag/roving from fleece. I also am now considering how to deal with spectrum colors in this Romeldale sliver-- I could separate the white from the grey when pulling off of the combs, leaving me with two distinct colors from one fleece. I could also try and handcard the slivers pulled off of the combs for an even color, maybe eliminating both the problem with waste/bumps and uneven color.

I actually love ending up with more things to think about :)

Til then, miss you.

kookaburra scour versus dawn in raw fleece wool washing

Lots of pics and words today, sorry! Cutting this post into two parts-- check back for carding and combing differences with the washed Romeldale later today.

So! There's a lot of raw fleece around these parts, and I get this little nervous feeling thinking about it. I don't like the idea of unwashed wool calling m@ths, lanolin hardening into crackly bits, all the spinner nightmares :) Coincidentally, Kookaburra Co. has been dipping into the social media fray and found my blog after a (positive) comment I made about their Wash product... I offered to test out their Scour fleece wash if they wanted to send me a sample and here we are :)

Kookaburra Scour (and sample sizes of their Delicate and Power washes)
"A natural, raw wool cleaner that is free of enzymes, phosphates, peroxides and alkalis"

As with the Unicorn Power Scour, I didn't pay for the product but was upfront that I would only review it fairly and honestly-- Kookaburra was adamant that I do so. Just wanted to be upfront about all those grains of salt :)

I had already decided to take the lovely Romeldale from Peeper Hollow Farm ("Hartley") and wash it in large pieces rather than by lock formation when the Kookaburra WoolScour arrived. For "in pieces" washing, I lay out the fleece, keeping it as intact as possible and separate large sections out, keeping those intact as well. They look like fleecy rectangles if it works out :)


I use my mesh laundry bags as a guide-- I try and separate a piece that is larger than the bag on all sides, so when it's squished in there and wet in the wash, it doesn't float apart or lose how intact it is. Being very careful when loading and washing means that the formation will still be there to separate locks from it I wanted to comb/flick card it later.

It is also very fast loading bags like this, especially with fleeces that want to stay together like the Romeldale does... I had these loaded in less than half an hour!


I put half of the bags to wash with the ultra concentrated blue Dawn-- same method as before (adding extra hot water, timing, etc.) except with 2 washes and 3 rinses. The Romeldale wasn't greasy greasy like the Cormo, but it was definitely more barnyard smelling :)

After the Dawn-washed fleece was dry, I set out to wash the remaining half of the fleece in Kookaburra Woolscour. Kookaburra's instructions are simple-- use 1-2 ounces of Scour per pound of raw fiber.

Kookaburra's excellent measuring tool built into their bottle
(their entire lineup comes in this handy packaging)

It was almost a little too simple for me :) since I feel most comfortable with my Dawn washing (several washes, several rinses)... and I didn't quite know how I could fit it into my washing routine. I had about 2 pounds of raw fleece left to wash, so I decided to use 1.5 oz of Kookaburra Scour total: an ounce for the first wash, a half ounce for the second, and two rinses.

first wash-- see the yellow water? lanolin!

I also decided to keep using an extra stockpot of nearon boiling water added to the sink for each Kookaburra washing-- I know from last time my tap gets to be about 135deg on its own, and I always use extra hot water with the Dawn and am happy with the result. I only used two plain water rinses instead of 3 I used for the Dawn-- Kookaburra says that rinsing is optional, but because I think the extra hot water of rinses helps melt any residual grease, I kept with it. Honestly I think even one rinse would have been adequate, the second had almost no lanolin clouding come off of the fleece at all, just clear water.

I did notice, after the first wash in Scour, that after draining my sink had a discernable bathtubish ring. I've never had that happen to me but it was neat-- felt like a very soft wax, wiped off easily. I'm guessing that it was some of the lanolin carried off and away from the fibers by the Kookaburra Scour-- really interesting! It didn't happen after the first wash, either.

The million dollar question-- how did it work?

Kookaburra Scour washed fleece on left, blue Dawn washed fleece on right

Perfectly! :)

My bar for how a wool scour works is how it compares to blue Dawn (that always gets all the lanolin out, and leave soft ready-to-prep fiber behind)-- and I can't tell the difference in cleanliness of fleece. I can tell you I used much more Dawn liquid by weight than I did the Kookaburra, like I said before I get the water bluish with Dawn (several ounces per wash) and used only 1.5oz of Kookaburra total for the same amount of fiber. I realized writing this I should have probably used at least 2 (an ounce for each pound of fleece), but I can't tell the difference :)

Going very carefully over the Kookaburra-washed fleece I did find one patch of locks that was slightly... draggy feeling, same as with some of the Unicorn when I did the same blind feel test. I am never so careful when going over dawn-washed fleece though-- I'm beginning to think there are a few locks that either don't get rinsed out totally or product is left behind when using any of them, probably including Dawn. It isn't enough to warrant rewashing, just a slight... drag and definitely not a dealbreaker (just honest).

I do appreciate that Kookaburra's packaging states I can use much less water than I'm used to-- now that I've seen Kookaburra work well under my normal washing methods (several washes, several rinses), I will need to try theirs (washing once with all the scour required and not rinsing). That'll be an interesting test for another day, and honestly I'm more scared of that one (not rinsing! don't know if i can handle it!), but I'll keep you posted :)

Kookaburra Scour's scent is really appealing-- I have no idea what it is ("all natural, plant-based") but it smells familiar and very clean. Since I rinse the fleece, no scent is left behind-- which is actually a plus because this Romeldale was so sheepy smelling and doesn't smell like ANYTHING anymore!

Would I use it again? Definitely. I really do appreciate the concentrated aspect of Kookaburra Scour since I can use much less product weightwise (and throw away fewer packages) compared to the Dawn. I know that I can use less water rinsing the woolscour out than with Dawn; I have to use SO much Dawn that it takes many plain water rinses to let the soap out of the fleece, and avoiding that is a good thing. Kookaburra Scour is also economical in actual product cost-- I used 1.5 oz for 2 pounds of fleece; the 16 oz bottle retails for $10.95 so it cost a whopping $1.03 to wash the 2 pounds clean. (If I used 2 ounces like I should have according to the package, it would have cost $1.37.) I didn't weigh the blue Dawn I used this time, but I'm 99% sure it was actually cheaper to use the Kookaburra as compares to the Dawn-- which I find mindblowing for a specialized fiber product.

Another plus is that Kookaburra is already widely distributed in local yarn/specialty stores (my favorite bay area yarnstore, Article Pract, carries Kookaburra Wash), so I'd guess that you could ask your LYS to order it for you and support them with your purchases at the same time. If you don't have an awesome LYS like I do, you can purchase the scour direct from Kookaburra Co.

Kookaburra Wash has been my favorite woolwash for a long time, and I'm excited to have found another excellent specialty fleecewash from them I can continue to use and enjoy.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

fleece parade

It's kinda hard coming back and pretending everything is the same-- I had a really good driving trip thru Utah (stopping to see dad in Vegas), on which I got my rented 4x4 stuck in a surprisingly deep snowdrift and had to sleep in the 25deg car wrapped in a sleeping bag while preparing myself mentally for a 16mi hike back to the nearest smalltown the next morning. We made it 4 miles before being picked up by a set of kindly retirees from South Dakota-- and it's still very hard to wrap my mind around and talk about, the fear I had and how it was tied to my son. I don't want to talk about it-- but I don't want to forget either.

But that's where I've been! And I've been unpacking and washing the fleeces that were waiting here for me to try and bring me back to the real world...

I try and name all the fleeces in my closet (if the sheep didn't have a name), it's silly but I like when sheep have names. This one I've nicknamed "Mistake"...


I was sent this Polwarth on accident and decided with the shepherd to go ahead and pay for/keep it-- the chalky black color and crimp is beautiful! It is an uncoated fleece though-- and I'm thinking I will send it to a mill for carding since I just have an aversion to even innocous VM in fleeces.


Silly though-- I could easily wash this in pieces and just use the combs to get it clean, no skin off of my nose. Haven't decided yet... It is beautiful wool though-- from Nancy Ortmann in Montana (ad in spin-off, no website). I picked up the 3 partial colored cormos last year from her flock and they went out for blending/pindrafting to Morro Fleece Works. One batch came back while I was away, too.


It's a 55/45 cormo-baby alpaca blend, a little over 3#. Morro did SUCH a good job-- I sent 3 packs of dark brown baby alpaca Handspinner's Dream combed top from Alpaca with a Twist to be blended with the cormo and the resulting blend is just heaven-- spins both fine and to a heavier weight with ease, and is this rose-ish brown/grey color that is better than the parts put into making it.

I'm also really excited about this color...


When I opened up the box this fleece came in, my son asked if it was wool from a different animal-- he's used to the crimpy fine wools pouring out of the cardboard boxes. Instead it's a naturally colored Blue Faced Leicester, "Shelley" from Tumble Creek Farm. Yall know how I feel about colored fleeces, and that color is a recessive gene in BFLs/more white than anything to be found, so I was really happy when Robina from TCF let me know she had this one fresh off the hoof for sale. It is very different than anything I've tried washing before, so I'm not sure what I'll do yet-- but it will be fun! :)

I did decide to wash this Romeldale from Peeper Hollow Farm in pieces rather than by lock formation...


"Hartley" is a coated lamb's fleece, a big baby girl at around 5# and a gorgeous medium to dark grey. The fun thing about CVM/Romeldale (that I first learned from Sarah who raises covered CVMs and will probably be talking about HER fleeces for sale soon ;)) is that their wool gets darker with age-- not lighter like most sheep. Hartley here started out white with brown spots and over the year grew grey, and will probably result in a tweedy, deeply complex yarn once spun up.


The staples are more indistinct/don't fall into locks as easily like previous fleeces I've washed, and have so much more loft! Even though she has a long enough staple for combing (3.5-4.5"), I may handcard her to take advantage of the loft/life in the wool. Told you I really liked handcarding lately :)

That has to be it for now, I have no more storage for raw wool 'round here :)

Missed you.

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