Monday, July 25, 2011

Tour de Fleece comes to an end

as all good things do.

I feel like I spun very little yardage for the Tour this year, but I accomplished a great deal for the little time I had available! I washed 4.5 pounds of raw wool in 51 different breeds. I carded, spun and plied a total of 1,488 yards in 8 breeds: Brecknock Hill, California Red, CVM, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot, Clun Forest, Columbia and Coopworth. A little more than half of that was spindle spun - 810 yards.

I have Corriedale and Cotswold carded and ready to be spun, and Cormo picked and ready to card on fine hand cards.

And all the rest is washed and bagged and waiting to be prepared for spinning. I made a new set of sandwich sized zipper bags with new labels, so that I could store the finished skein and clean lock in a clean bag. I had been using the bags the raw fleece came in, but some are those are pretty greasy.

So I have the fleece samples organized like this - each washed fleece is in a half gallon zipper bag along with a small bag with the name of the breed. When I pick the fiber it goes back in the big bag, same when it is carded. Once it is spun and becomes a skein, it goes in the small labeled bag. And I'm trying to remember to save out a clean lock to store with the skein. I guess the next organizing task should be to go through and replace all the small greasy bags with these new clean ones and go ahead and pull a clean lock at the same time. Then I won't be relying on my memory!

Now that the tour is over, I need to do some house cleaning and have a movie/ironing marathon. But I would like to keep working on the Fleece Study. I think I will set a goal for myself of spinning up at least one skein a week and see how that goes. I'll keep you posted! I will also post in a little more detail about the breeds I have already spun.

I did finish weaving up my summer & winter samples - more details and photos later this week. The Linked Birdseye towels are still waiting to be rethreaded, but I also beamed & threaded a rug warp to take to the Jason Collingwood class I'm taking this week. Somehow, I'm going to go to class and spend some time at work for the next 4 days. For some reason the proximity of class to work makes me believe that this may actually work out - the class is one block from my office!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fleece Study update

I have 5 little skeins to show for all my labors so far - Brecknock Hill, California Red, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot and Columbia. I also have 4 breeds carded & ready to spin, and 39 breeds washed, dry and ready for picking & carding. These all started out as approximately 1 ounce of raw fleece - the dry weight ranges mostly from .5 to .8 ounces.

I got out my drum carder because the hand cards were irritating the arthritis in my wrist and carded up Clun Forest, Coopworth and Corriedale. I'm going to spin up the Coopworth even though I broke off all the tips when I opened it up for carding. The sheep was clearly rather stressed at some point in that year of growing the fleece.

Then I hand carded the CVM on my fine cards - it's very fine, but also very short - the staple is 2" unstretched and 3" stretched.

I was concerned that it would be difficult to spin this short fiber on a suspended spindle, but it is drafting beautifully on my Bosworth Moosie. It's a real pleasure to spin, working up to a lovely, very fine yarn. I can't wait to see the finished 2 ply. It will be perfect for lace.

I had considered trying to spin all the fleece in this study at roughly the same grist, but I decided to spin them at what I think is an optimal size for the particular fleece. This may complicate how they are used in a final project or projects, but it makes me a happy spinner at this stage!

Oh, and I ordered 4 more breeds from The Spinning loft - 4 ounces each of:
Coopworth to replace my broken tips sample
East Friesian, Ile de France & Oxford - to expand my Fiber Study to 51 breeds!
These are washed and drying slowly in the current high humidity.

I did finish threading up the summer & winter - I did a bit of sampling with treadling sequence - there are so many options for this weave structure! This first sample is one of the easiest to treadle, but I will do large samples of some other sequences. This design comes from an old manuscript - isn't it lovely?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A little spinning, a little weaving

OK, I finally got to the wheel last night and spun up the North Country Cheviot - a nice, crisp & even skein of 52 yards. No photo yet, the skein is still drying.

I have two more breeds carded & ready to spin and I think I'll try to do a session with the drum carder on Saturday to get more samples carded. I've had trouble with my right wrist since the winter and I think I could get more carding done comfortably with the drum carder.

I'll choose something for spindle spinning at concerts - I'm working two great concerts this weekend, The Hot Seats Friday night in Winchester and Rumisonko Saturday night in Warrenton - check the Bluemont website for details if you are nearby.

The humid weather has broken again and it was lovely this morning, so I took advantage of the pleasant weather to work in my wee studio. I beamed the warp for summer & winter samples - these are for the Weaving Study Buddies group and the samples are due to be mailed by July 31st. It took me a long time to decide what I would weave and now I can't wait to see how the pattern works up.

Here is the warp all tidied up and ready to start threading the heddles.

I also wove a little more on the linked birdseye towels, enough to cut off & cut up as samples to send my 18th c. Linens class from MAFA, as promised. I discovered some threading errors at the class, and in the quiet of my own studio I had another look and realized that I would have to rethread 3/4 of the warp to correct the errors, so I went ahead and put the lease sticks back in, cut off and tied off the correct section and tied off the rest in inch bunches, ready for threading.

Here you can see the small piece of finished cloth and the loom ready to rethread - the small area of threaded heddles to the right and all the empty heddles waiting in place.

When I find a problem in my work, I've found that it is a good idea to give myself some time to think about possible solutions. It's always good to sleep on a problem, if you have the time and let the ideas percolate. But once I've made a decision about how to proceed, I really like to get the project to a stage where it is ready to make new progress - to rip back my knitting to before the error, or in this case, to cut off the warp and prepare it for re-threading.

Then I feel that the work is ready to begin again when I find I have time to come back. It's so easy to put obstacles between ourselves and our creative work, so when the solution to a problem is clear, it feels good to take action and leave things ready for action.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Carding Away

Here is what I did last night - carded three breeds, North Country Cheviot, California Red and Columbia. It continues to fascinate me to note how different each breed is. I like all three of these, but the Columbia makes the most beautiful rolags! It's so, well, wooly, and they hold together so nicely.

Here is what I have produced so far - I know, it's pitifully small, but keep in mind, I have also washed 48 individual ounces of fleece and picked a dozen, hand carded 5 breeds and spun 2. The mystery grey was already a singles, so I just plyed that one.

I'm hoping to get some wheel time in, which may increase skein production, but I'm working long hours at the office - July is always a very busy month as we are producing 6 or 7 concerts each weekend in July and then there is the little detail of our fiscal year rolling over on July 1st. So many little details go into closing one year and getting started in the new one. But I will persevere!

And just in case you want to know just how much of a Yarn Geek I am, here is a peek at the spreadsheet I'm using to keep track!

My apologies for mostly cross posting from ravelry, but it's almost 9pm and I am still at my office. We have dial up internet service at home, so this is where I do any real internet work and play. Time to head for home!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MAFA weekend & A Little Progress

First, I want to say that I had a terrific weekend at MAFA! I haven't been to a weaver's conference before, mostly because my work schedule in the summer doesn't usually allow it, but I decided to make it work somehow this year and I'm very glad I did.

My class went very well, I had a great group of weavers who were all excited to learn about linen and we got along just fine. Almost everyone in class wove a sample on each of the ten looms, they followed the Round Robin Rules with grace and good humor and they let me tell them stories and talk about history and books and so on. What fun!

I did not, however, get much spinning done - it was a very busy weekend! I did manage to finish spinning the singles of the Cheviot, and when I got home Sunday night I wound those off the spindle and started plying, also on the Bosworth Moosie spindle. Finished plying Monday night, skeined the Cheviot and put it in a bath.

This morning I double wound and then plyed a mystery light brown wool singles that was on the Moosie when I got it out for the Tour. Hopefully someday I'll find the fiber this came from and maybe identify it.

Before I left for MAFA, I washed the last of the 48 fleece samples - here are the last ten, drying on a bench in our sunroom. I am very pleased to have completed the washing and had a look at each breed. Now on to more picking and carding and spinning!

I am looking with longing at all the beautiful colorful big fat skeins that other people are posting on my ravelry TdF groups (Team Superfleece 2011 and Team Peace & Solitude 2011), while I plug away with my tiny white and sometimes brown skeins - but that being said, I'm really enjoying handling all these different breeds of fleece.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pickin' & Grinnin'

As I mentioned, I am going in about six directions this week and I just couldn't find time to spin last night until about 11:30 at which point I thought I was too tired to spin properly, so I just picked two more ounces of fleece - Clun Forest and Coopworth. I figure anything that keeps my fleece study project moving forward can count as progress.

This morning I was in my wee studio, packing for MAFA and pulling various class notebooks - there is an Open Studio night at MAFA where instructors hang out in their studios and students come by to visit and see what the class is doing but also to meet & talk to the instructor. They said this was a good opportunity to network with guilds about teaching classes, so I will bring my teaching brochures, some John C Campbell Folk School catalogs and I thought I should bring my tartan notebooks, my Acadian weaving samples, etc. to show off some of the classes I offer.

Anyway - long story short - I found a notebook for the Fleece Study! A page for me to fill in details about each fleece sample and at least one page about the breed, lots of information including the source of each fleece sample. I had completely forgotten that this came with the Fleece Study - oh, the age of mental pause! So I have another resource for my study.

This morning I weighed all the washed samples. I don't have grease weight but I felt that the raw fleece was so old that I wanted it to go straight from the baggie to the scour pot! It will be interesting to see how much weight some lose in picking - a few have hunks of second cuts, not many, but at least two. And the tips on the Coopworth were damaged - I broke off every tip as I picked. That sheep must have had a bad patch health-wise that year. But there is still enough left to spin.

I will have to figure out tomorrow how much fleece to bring with me to MAFA - I have a loom to thread up while I'm there, so I won't have much down time during the class even though the students will spend a lot of time weaving.

I wanted to bring a bonus warp for the class and I was quite pleased to settle on a 4 color modern adaptation of a goose-eye twill - Linked Goose Eye from Handwoven magazine's Winning Towels e-book.. I warped it up in 8/2 cotton/linen for kitchen towels on my new Wolf Pup. I had planned to have it ready to weave on but time ran short and then I realized that it would make a great warping demo for my students.

So, here's a question - I'm trying to decide what I should do with all this yarn I'm going to spin from the Fleece Study. I could, of course, make a ring of labeled skeins and use it as a reference and a class resource. But wouldn't it be cool to make something out of all this and have that as the reference? I could knit a scarf with the softer yarns and use purl stitches to mark a number or roman numeral for each breed... I could weave something with the coarse yarns, a kind of check so that there would be an area of the same breed interwoven, like a color gamp.

What do you think would be a good way to use these yarns?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tour de Fleece update

I had a very busy weekend without much time for spinning, but I did manage to card & spin a little each day so far. This is me sitting at a welcome table at the Bluemont concert in Warrenton on Saturday night, carding in between customers. By the way, the band that night was Furnace Mountain and they were wonderful, as always.

I started at the beginning of the alphabet (actually, I skipped Black Welsh Mountain - it feels like steel wool!) with Brecknock Hill, which as I learned from my reading in the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook is a type of Cheviot. I carded this fiber and spun the singles on a Bill Hardy spindle and then plied it on my Bosworth Moosie.

So, on the third day I have my first finished skein - a whopping 50 yards and I haven't weighed it yet, but it should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 ounce. I washed it this morning and I'll weigh it when it's dry.

As it took me three days to card & spin one ounce, I have my doubts about getting through all 48 ounces in the three weeks of the Tour, but I am delighted to have started this project and I hope to see it through no matter how long it takes.

I am still washing fleece - the last pair was Polwarth and Rambouillet. I have used up my two little sample sized packets of Power Scour and now I'm trying out Kookaburra Wool Wash.

I decided to card & spin the Cheviot and North Country Cheviot next, so as to compare the three Cheviots. I started carding the Cheviot yesterday and may get to finish this evening.

This week is going to be very challenging. With the July 4th holiday it's already a short week, and I'm leaving Thursday around 1pm to drive up to Gettysburg PA to teach at the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association conference. So I have to get everything packed for my MAFA class (I'm teaching 18th & 19th c. Linens), get work organized to be away for 4 days (we have 6 concerts this coming weekend) and card & spin!

I'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, July 2, 2011