Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spinning, Spinning

OK, more updates on my Tour de Fleece progress:
Day 6: I finished spinning and plying the Cotswold lamb top, carded the Hampshire and the Hog Island and picked the Blue Faced Leicester sample. The BFL was a pain to pick, very clumpy and lots of short bits. I have handled better, but the fluff that remains should spin up nicely.

Day 7 & 8: I was pretty busy performing for the Bluemont summer concert series with The Flaming Shillelaghs. We played at a nursing home each afternoon before the evening concerts, and I got to do a little spindling at the nursing homes and while we were warming up before the concerts.

I mostly sing with this group, but I also play a little concertina. This is my Wheatstone English Concertina and my Bosworth Moosie spindle with the Finn sample in progress.
Day 9: I finally finished spindling the Finn sample just before our third evening concert began then came home and wound it off on the nostepinne, rewound it into a plying ball and plied it up! 90 yards, lovely stuff. I foresee more Finn in my future. A very white, smooth fiber with a lovely soft feel.

Day 10: I had no time for spinning, so I am calling this my rest day. Between the heat and giving 6 performances in three days, this weekend was absolutely exhausting.

Day 11: I spun and plied up my Hampshire sample (the skein) and re-plied the Debouillet (on the niddy noddy). Quite a study in contrasts! The Hampshire had a very short staple but spun easily into a wooly, springy yarn. The Debouillet is a very fine wool and spun into a fine, smooth yarn.

I had spun the Debouillet last fall and plied it on my Moosie spindle, but when I took it off the spindle I wound it off the end of the spindle onto a weaving spool and I took out part of the twist. Dumb. So I ran it through the wheel to add more twist. I love the way this fleece spun up, so very fine. I can’t wait to knit it up into some lace.

I am thinking about knitting up two samplers with the fleece study yarns, one of lace weight yarn worked with a different pattern for each breed, one for the thicker yarns - I think there is a lot of DK weight yarn here - maybe in gansey type stitch patterns. I may weave up the long stapled hairy breeds - I will see how they spin up.

Day 12: I spent the day sitting with a friend at the hospital, waiting for news of her husband and spindling my Blue Face Leicester sample. At home this evening I spun and plied the Hog Island sample. The Hog Island looks very consistently stained - I don't know if that is a typical color for this breed. It was a pleasure to spin, drafted easily and is a good medium grade workhorse wool.

I also wound the BFL into a plying ball. I will ply it on the spindle the next time I am away from my wheel.

Day 13: no spinning, but I picked one ounce each of four samples - Brown Coopworth, East Friesian, Isle de France and Oxford. These are all extra breeds that I bought last summer, 4 ounces of each from The Spinning Loft. Most of my samples are between one half and three quarters of an ounce, so I decided to weight out an ounce of the each of the new breeds to work up for my study.

Time for more carding!

Day 14: I was too tired to spin at the end of the day, but I carded three samples before I went to bed - East Friesian, Isle de France and Border Leicester.

Day 15: We had a very damp outdoor concert tonight, but I did get my BFL plyed. I also ordered some more fleece from The Spinning Loft: Ryeland, Teeswater, Warhill and Wensleydale.

I did a little administrative work on the project: I am trying to save a clean lock of each sample, but sometimes I forget. So today I went through most of the rest of the bags and pulled a lock for the small labeled bags. I will finish this tomorrow. I also started washing the skeins I have spun during this Tour. The yarn isn't done until it's finished! Between washing and blocking, wet finishing handspun wool can make it really bloom and settle.

Here is how I wash my handspun: I put a small amount of a wool wash in a mixing bowl, add warm to hot water and soak one or two skeins in each bowl for at least ten minutes. Then I rinse twice, squeeze out the excess water and take the skeins outdoors. I hold each skein in one hand and swing it around and snap it in the air to release more water and to snap the plying into place. Then I roll it in a clean towel and step on it and hang it up to dry. I usually hang a weight on the skeins - I use little loops of string to attach a small hand weight or a niddy noddy to help block the yarn as it drys.
Day 16: I had the day off but I was limp from the heat & humidity most of the day. I did do some spinning in the cooler evening - East Friesian and Isle de France. I finished pulling a lock from each sample for my records and I ordered a few additional fleece samples from two Etsy sellers from England: Portland, Hebridean Black, Manx Loughtan, Romney Marsh and Zwartbles. I washed more skeins and updated my spreadsheet.
Day 17: I washed four samples this morning, spun and plyed the Border Leicester this evening and then picked the Montadale and Perendale samples. Now I have 3 ready for carding and only 2 skeins unwashed. I will wait until I have four skeins and wash them in a batch. I confess that I skipped over the Merino sample for the moment - it has a lot of what spinners refer to as Vegetable Matter (vm) and looks like it will be fussy to pick.

Day 18 is a rest day on the actual Tour de France, and we spinners also take rest days. So today I went to work, ran some errands, met my daughter Lily for a pedicure and then went for Chinese food - does that sound restful? Parts of it certainly were. And when I finally got home, I caught up on my blog posting!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tour de Fleece rides again!

I am participating once again in the Tour de Fleece, a group of international spinners who form teams and spin daily during the Tour de France. Last year I began working on my 50 Breeds Fleece study, and while I had hoped to continue this study over the winter, it has languished since the end of the 2011 tour.

So I am back at it, and we will see how much progress I can make in these three weeks. This is particularly challenging as I often work 7 days a week in the summer months, but I have managed to fit at least a little spinning in every day and have been pleased with what I accomplished during the last two Tours.

So, I pulled down the box of fleece samples and took stock. I washed all 46 of the original samples last year, along with 4 or 5 that I added to the original Fleece Study kit from Jackie Bland. This is a 50 Breed study much in the spirit of the 4 member Dixie Power Trio. It's a good title and I'm sticking with it.

Last year I spun up 10 sample skeins - Brecknock Hill, California Red, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot, Clun Forest, Columbia, Coopworth, Cormo, CVM. I had the Debouillet started on a spindle at the end of the tour, and I know I finished plying it while teaching a workshop in October. I found the Corriedale and Cotswold picked and ready to card and all other samples clean in their labeled bags.

Day 1: I spun and plied the Corriedale and the Cotswold.

Day 2: I spent two hours looking for the paper copy of my spreadsheet with all the notes from last year. I found lots of other things and tidied up a very messy corner of the den, but no spreadsheet. Yet.

I made a space for the drum carder, brought it in and got it set up, then ran out of time before work.

Work on this day was helping run an outdoor concert. In spite of the 100 degrees F and about 85% humidity, everything went smoothly except for the power supply. I spun a little on some silk/merino that I already had going on a spindle but my hands were really too sticky for spinning.

Day 3: a wee skein of Horned Dorset carded, spun and plied after a long workday. I also carded the Polled Dorset and picked & carded Finn and Gulf Coast Native. Picked a tiny sample of brown Finn and some grey Gotland, but I have decided to card my way through the white samples before turning the drum carder over to colored fleece. Or possibly hand card them, depending on logistics.

Day 4: I spun and plied the Polled Dorset and Gulf Coast Native. Two very different types of wool, the Dorset is a down type, short and springy. I much preferred spinning the Polled Doset sample, it was easier to draft but both had lots of second cuts. The GCN is a longer stapled wool with a light crimp and more sheen. It carded to a light, fluffy batt and drafted very smoothly in a long draw. I look forward to seeing the skein after washing!

Day 5: I went to Gretchen's and got her started on a suspended spindle - a Bosworth Midi to be precise! I spun a little on the white Finn and she gave me some Solitude Cotswold lamb top to try, so I started that on the wheel when I got home, after spinning up the tiny sample of Brown Finn. Gretchen said that the mill found the top spun up thick and thin, and I am finding it very slick and quite a challenge to draft smoothly.

I also picked the Hampshire, Hog Island, Blue Faced Leicester and Masham samples, and I sorted the bags of fleece into those for combing and those for carding. Once I got to I for Icelandic, there is a whole group of long wools and primitive double coated fleeces that will be better combed than carded. So here is where I gave up working in alphabetical order.

So - it's still a big project, but it's also still very interesting! I will try to blog every few days to keep up with all the action here at the Burrow. I am going to be very busy this weekend as I am performing with the Flaming Shillelaghs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, but I will try to get a little spinning in.