coopworth fiber challenge


Saturday I received a little bag of this.  One of our guild members donated Coopworth fleece from her flock for a fiber challenge.  It was well skirted and ready to wash.  Each of us was given 3 oz.

  • wash
  • card
  • spin
  • knit

Sunday was cool and windy.  Perfect for washing my little bag of wool.  By Monday morning it was dry enough to run through the carder.  I'll bag the processed fiber until I finish my Rhinebeck sweater.  Any time spent at the wheel should be to fill the last two bobbins needed for that project.  Last sleeve, front bands and collar still to go.

summer days

There are three things to blog about.  Two for today, one is a teaser, and the third saved for tomorrow. 
1. After days of record breaking, unbearably hot and humid weather, Mother Nature delivered a couple of the summer's most beautiful days.  Mid 80's and dry.  With a breeze!  Perfect for getting a handle on the bags of unwashed fleece that have been hanging around.  I wasn't planning on washing fiber but Wednesday morning I got a phone call.  A friend had been phoned by an acquaintance, who just happpened to have llamas, or was it alpacas, and she was shearing them that morning and had no idea what she was going to do with the fiber.  Last year, she threw it away.  Oh my!  I bit, llama or alpaca, it was a lovely morning, perfect for a 15 minute drive to look at fiber.  To make a long story short, it was alpaca, and for various reasons, I didn't take it.  But it put the bug into my head to get moving on the alpaca that I already had. 
The first fleece that got washed was some absolutely gorgeous white alpaca.  Check this out.  If I remember correctly, there was about 6 lbs.  I washed it in four loads.


DSC_1306  DSC_1302

If you are looking for a great tutorial on washing alpaca, try this site

Then, I moved onto some brown Montedale I'd split with a friend last year at Rhinebeck.  No pictures, it is in the wash now.

2.  While I was busy doing the million things, the postman came to the door with a package. 


Want to guess what's in it?


Yep!  More of Ken Ledbetter's beautiful spindles.  Pictures as soon as I can get to it.  They'll go up on the Ball and Skein website.  Probably not for a week or so, sorry.  But they are gorgeous.  Of course.

Table Top Swift

round and round she goes..


  "Heavy Duty Table Top Swift"

I asked Chris to make me a heavy duty swift to use with my Electric Skein Winders.  I figured that reducing the drag on the winders would make re skeining much faster and save the motors from straining.  With that in mind, and that we already had terrific adjustable arm assemblies in production for the winders, I asked him to build a heavy base and fit it with ball bearings so that it would spin freely.  I asked for other things, like long, large diameter pegs for holding the yarn.  He did all of that and then some.  I wondered if there should be a clamp on it but he said he didn't think it was necessary, the base is pretty heavy.  After using it for the last 6 weeks, I think he's right.  I haven't needed one.  The other day I asked him to put a hook in the wall so that I could hang it up when I wasn't using it. That took some convincing.

weekend uummm... report.

Getting behind and having so many things piling up on the to do list doesn't make for an orderly mind.  In between doing the company billing and interviewing perspective employees, (on Saturday and Sunday) and laundry and housework and all the other stuff that goes on in a day, I fit in whatever fiber pursuits were in my path as I went from room to room.  In an effort to get the dye pot fired up tomorrow or Tuesday, skeining happened.  It's a good beginning.  Once I get started, I skein on one winder as I re-skein dyed yarn on another.

Sock yarn and the Merino & Silk 2 ply, ready to go.

Then, there is this.  Carded alpaca / merino / silk.  The alpaca hasn't been washed.  It will be very white.  I only added to this bobbin, and a little bit at that.


But try walking by this and not wanting to put your hand in it.


So soft.  It's hard to work with that in the next room.  The Hourglass has nearly 12" on the needles.  I had Jane Eyre, the BBC version on 2 dvds to watch, one per evening.  We're suckers for happy endings.  And then, there is the book.   Work , smirk.   


A new chirp greeted me from the feeder.  The Rose Breasted Grosbeaks were here.  The day was starting out in the best sort of way.  It had been over a week since the humingbird feeder was filled and the syrup looked a bit cloudy.  While water boiled for tea, more and with sugar, heated in the microwave.  I could feel it, today would be the day.  With the feeder refilled, I set out to wash the second load of the CorrieX fleece.  It is SO soft. The color is a lovely shade of grey.  It deserved a second chance.  I sorted through the washed fleece, careful to separate any with dander.  Then I carded the good stuff.  How could I know if it was worth the trouble without spinning it.  Oh my! 


As I passed by the kitchen window, something caught my eye!!!!!!   


I moved my point of operation out onto the deck for the rest of the day.  They were as happy to be back as I am to have them.  I  know, believe me, they were smiling.

washing fleece

The little fleece has been a disappointment.  Some of it has dander.  The fleece has enough gease that the dander doesn't show up for me to see until it is washed.  Then, there they are, specks of white throughout the wool.  How sad.  Perhaps more experienced eyes could spot the offending sections while picking.  Morro Fleece Works has this definition of dander on their site:

These items do not wash out at scouring so remain in the fiber through the processing. They act like sticky little pieces of  gum and adhere to the card combs and the exit rollers on both machines.  Then the fibers stick to these exit rollers also which then causes wrapping.   So where the exit rollers should be extracting a nicely combed and formed  roving, it is actually un-combing the fibers and wrapping them around the rollers. Not all lice or skin flakes create this problem but it occurs  in at least half of the cases, with some worse than others.

The stickiness is the problem.  Given that the fleece is a bit short, although very soft, I am not that in love with it.  Not enough to want to hand card it and certainly not enough to send it through my carder and risk getting it gummy.  Not all appears to be affected.  Today, I'll wash another load before I make my mind up.  It may be mulch.

Laurie and Kathy asked how I wash my fleece, how to make it smell sweetly.  Good question.  I don't like storing a stinky fleece, even in my garage.  Although a plastic bag helps with the smell, I don't think it helps the wool.  If you use the pastic bag method, make sure it stays in a coolish dark place.  You don't want the sun warming the bag, causing condensation to build up inside.  Instead, consider rapping it in an old sheet or pillowcase.  That will bring you right back to the smell issue.  It drives my cats crazy (as well as anyone using the garage) and I fear reprisals.  Been there.  I wash as soon as time and weather permit.

First thing, pick through and eliminate any um mm.. stuff you don't want.  That includes short cuts, hay (VM) mud and poop.  I like to use mesh laundry bags to control the fleece while in my washing machine.  Stuff loosely, as many bags as you want to wash at once.   I believe the bags save my machine from what I can only imagine would be a horrid death.  Remember that washing doesn't take up much space.  DRYING DOES!   Only wash what you can dry in one batch.  Fill up your machine with hot, hot water.  When you finish the fill part (I use the low fill setting) then add the detergent.  Do not add while filling.   You've seen what can happen in the movies, the suds monster??   Ask around, most people who wash their own fleece will suggest using Dawn liquid dish soap, preferable the original.  I always try to use it.  In a pinch, I'll grab the Palmolive from under the kitchen sink.  You'll have to use your judgment here.  I can't tell you how much soap to use.  More fleece, more water, more soap.  Let it soak for a while, say 15 minutes or so.  Then, SPIN ONLY!  Get that yucky water out.  Remove your net bags, refill you washer with the HOT water and repeat.  I do the wash step 3 times.  For the rinse, I do the same minus the soap.  On one of the rinses, usually the second, I add a about a 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water.  It helps to cut any soap left.   Then a final rinse. 

That's it!  Spread it out to dry.  It will smell much better, even sweet!