Monday, May 11, 2009

Wool gathering isn't so bad after all

Oh, I know, ha ha.
I have a growing addiction to fiber and it all started so innocently! Firstly, I've been crocheting longer than I can remember, honestly. I've always crocheted. My great-grandma taught my mom, and in turn, she taught me. I do remember getting pointers from Great-grandma, "Keep your tension even, don't rush." Crochet doesn't always translate well into clothing however, so at about 10 I started my (unknown at the time) very long battle with knitting. At 13 spinning looked like something fun and my bought my wheel. An Ashford Traditional, unfinished, some practice fleece and a Jacob's coat fleece. I wanted the finish to age over time and with use, so I finished it with a linseed oil finish. I still remember the days I took doing that! To a 13 yr old, it seemed to take forever and I had wool to play with! You know, someone should have seen the signs right there and stopped me, for the sake of my future children and husband. Of course, little was known about the symptoms and signs back then, I guess they can be forgiven.
After what seemed an age, my wheel was dry and assembled (yep, did that all my own self too). Ha! Darn, you know spinners make it looks so easy. Time after time, the wheel just sucked the wool in. I don't think you could even classify my first attempts as super bulky, they made super bulky look like laceweight. Anyway, I hung in there and started to see some results. My mom signed me up for a beginners spinning class, she was probably tired of all the 13 yr old female weeping I was doing at the time. Over time I found my groove, then I found a husband. Mom had started spinning by that time and the wheel stayed with her for the next 15 yrs. The Jacob's coat sits in splendid heathered skeins she's made along with a couple that I did all those years ago.
This last winter, the wheel followed her over during one of her visits and has stayed. The last 15 years have witnessed my battle with knitting and my victory. My crochet has been allowed to park in the "fine" department, and has no other obligation than to create visual beauty for my home. In wanders the wheel. I love my wheel. I'd also like another wheel, I've had it picked out for almost 6 yrs now. ;) Of course with the arrival of the wheel, has come the arrival of the need for fiber to feed the wheel. Spinning Wheels seem to have large appitites, just a warning in case you were thinking of buying one. Luckily, Mom brought over some fiber she'd had kicking around for some years. It lasted about a month, it bought me a little bit of time at least. I did buy some roving to hold me over until the Spring shearing.
Spring arrived and I asked at the feed store if they knew of anyone in the area that sold fleece. That's how I met a very nice man. He did have fleece, lots of fleece actually, which he ended up giving to me. I filled the Suburban, and while entertaining the thought of a second trip...Justin, very nicely, told me no. I don't hear that very often from him either. I'm so glad he said that. I'm still processing it. There's enough here to feed that wheel for some time. I have enough to experiement with dyeing, which I've started already.
So for all those curious, I have pics. :) These are Targhee X Suffolk, Targhee or California Red. The fleece in the following is one of the "lesser grade" and a Targhee/Suffolk. I put quotes, because this wool drafts and spins like butter. It just melts into yarn, oh so wonderful!! Well now, onto what I've been playing with for the last month.

Not the best picture in the world, but this is the dirty just sheared fleece. At this point, little did I know.
I wash my fleece in Orvus, and weather permitting dry it outside, otherwise it dries in the kitchen, which my very wonderful husband is permitting.

I spent a couple of days washing and drying. It's been 15 yrs since I've done this and chose a culled fleece to practice on, the top fleeces are still waiting. Here, it's time to flick the locks. I use a dog brush, it works and is less expensive than official Flick carder. This helps seperate, fluff and get out any remaining matter in the fiber. This is one method, my mom usually teases, then there are combs, nasty claw looking things. Honestly, this is my least favorite step in the process.

So it's all flicked and picked, time to send it through the carder. This is a drum carder that my mom picked up, fairly soon after she started carding wool with the hand carders. ;) I really appriciate this device! The purpose to this step, get all the fibers pointing in one general direction. Usually any little bits that have survived will come out in this step also. I'll send the wool through at least twice or three times, depending on how it looks. This is also a fun step from the aspect of blending colors. There's all manor of things you can do once you enter into the world of colors, fiber and carding.

As I said in the beginning, this all started so innocently!

Oooo, yes, I've been having fun. The penny is for size reference, but these are fairly standard singles for me at this point. This is the bobbin that I have on at the moment, will be plying it as soon as I'm finished writing this up, chest cold permitting. I don't weigh my yarn, I probably should start, but I do measure. On average I get about 200-300 yards, plied. This bobbin took me a few days, Spring prep and all that. A cold has decided to vacation in my chest, so I spent yesterday filling up the last half. If I stay in the habit and spin an hour a day, my speed picks up and I can fill one up in a few hours. I'm still not a speedy spinner though. ;)

....and now it's yarn! Here it is, three ply. Okay I cheated, this is the last skein I finished, but the singles are similar. This one came out 320 yards. Again, penny reference. There's still a lot of twist left in this one, I'm working on getting that figured out. Right now, I let my yarn relax in the cupboard. I'm not washing them to relax them since I'm not sure what I'm dyeing and what I'm keeping natural. They do relax over time, so either way it works....for now.

Here's one of many ends. I made a mobius head scarf. It's a quick project, I love the twist and watching it knit up. This was out of a skein I did quickly and the yarn is slightly thicker than what I'm doing right now.

There you have it in all it's wooly goodness!
I do love this craft, more than I thought I would really. It's very practical, which appeals to my "multi-task, make the need feed the want" philosophy. Beyond that, oh there's so much. During the winter and the cold, the sound of the wheel going with the crackling fire in the background, they combine and create a very comforting atmosphere. It relieves the days stress and worries like nothing else, better than a hot bath some days. There's also the deep sense of satisfaction, of looking at something that I've taken from dirty, sticky fleece to (fill in the blank).
I will draw the line at raising sheep (if I didn't, Justin would!). I don't really care for sheep, okay I don't like sheep past the lamb stage. While I'm entertaining the idea of keeping an Angora goat or two, maybe some rabbits as well, they aren't sheep. There are sheep people in this world, who love to raise them. I'm perfectly comfortable with the fact that I'm not one of them.

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