There’s been a lot of crafturgency going on lately. Frankly, it’s been difficult concentrating at my day job, especially when I work in front of All Teh Internetz, basically. I mean, weaving drafts, knitting patterns, colors, dyes, how to make [insert thing here]… I’ve been fortifying myself with tea and chocolate, quietly determined to cross things off my work diary list, but man. Just… man.
Maybe I should just post some pictures. That should get things started.
The week of Valentine’s Day, I wove two bath mats, washed and dried the cloth three times for maximum shrinkage, hemmed one, and gave it away just last week. The other is for sale! When I get a chance to get some more blue thread, it’ll get hemmed and can be packed up and shipped. It’s 20″x 30″ almost exactly. (If you’re interested, please leave a comment!!)
Sunday, February 19th, I went to visit a shepherd friend of mine with another friend and I bought two fleeces, fresh off the sheep 24 hours earlier. The one on the chair turned out to be huge – that’s from sheep 420. The smaller fleece is from 807. I started washing 420 right away, and you can see the lovely grey locks I got! I was sort of hoping the yellow tips would come off with carding, but they mostly haven’t. Of course, as soon as I had some dry wool, I spun up the tiniest bit – so shiny!
So, this wool. This particular fleece from 420 was large to begin with (5 or 6 pounds?), but after I washed it all, it pretty much doubled in volume:
The bag in the back is only a tiny bit less full because I combed some.
Which means I had to buy combs so I could comb the wool. Which was fiiiine. I’ve been wanting a pair of combs for a while. For some reason, I’d been taught that a flick carder was all you needed, and I hated that stupid thing so much. No one told me about combs until kind of recently – it turns out that combing not only lets you produce a greater quantity of ready-to-spin fiber, it also gets more of the crap out (you thought your wool was really super clean? Comb it and watch what else falls out!), AND you have much better control over the quality of yarn you’re spinning.
But before I get to the combs… last weekend, I had to go back to see my shepherd friend and buy 420’s sibling’s fleece:
Yes, 421. 421’s fleece is perhaps slightly bigger, but also greasier, so it was heavier – 7 lbs. I love it so! It’s still waiting in the queue to be washed as I’ve started washing 807:
The fleece on the floor – darker brown, but there were some surprising greys in there too! I am currently very carefully working out of buckets. Two cold soaks, then a hot soak in slightly soapy water, then a hot rinse, and dumping all the water outside so dust, dirt, and dissolved lanolin don’t affect the septic system. I read something about someone using a dash of vinegar in the rinse water to restore the pH to the fiber, which I thought was a good idea. I think it also makes the fiber shinier and softer, which would make sense according to other things I’ve read about shampoo and conditioner for humans. And my experience dyeing silk, which is also a protein fiber, includes a lot about a mild acid restoring the pH. In the same place, I also read that adding a few drops of clove oil might repel moths, though there’s no proof. I liked this idea too, so I’ve been doing that. I love the smell of wool – raw, clean, wet, dry – but this new smell is really good too, if extremely subtle. And hey, if it repels moths, I’m all for it. Plus, I just happened to have clove oil from a previous project. So.
I’m not done washing 807 yet – I’m about 2/3rds of the way through. Hopefully, I’ll have it done by the weekend! There’s still so much to get done, but I really would love to have 807 off the floor at last.
Last weekend, I also started a hat (finally). This hat had a very long start. I think I cast on four times and had to rip it out, threw the pattern in the corner for a while, pointedly ignored the hat, then had to finally get a new set of double pointed needles because OMG the circular one I’d tried using, the one recommended in the instructions, was too long. I nearly gave up. I’ve knitted two sweaters, countless pairs of socks, even cabled socks before I learned to read a pattern – I just made the cable up, and fingerless mitts. A hat shouldn’t be difficult. It’s a hat. I should be able to bang one out in a weekend, but noooooo. Murphy and I have a very special relationship. Easy? Then for Kate it will be difficult. I persevered. There’s a mistake in it, but I’m not ripping it out. I didn’t notice until about two inches past it, and this hat needs to go to it’s intended recipient (where it should have gone two months ago, dammit). I have strong feelings about this hat. Strong feelings.
It’s coming along. I’m calm. Honest. Calm. I’ll knit two or three more after this.
…there were pancakes. I had a bunch of things that were going to go bad, mostly buttermilk. But also some eggs. And I had the dry ingredients left over from a cake that wasn’t to be (the wet ingredients didn’t make it, but the dry ingredients were set aside for a couple of weeks). And there was a half of a container of sour cream left. And hey, oh, hmm. Here’s some almond meal that’s been in the fridge for I don’t want to think about that. Smells okay. What else? Orange flower water. Sure. Oh! And some fresh blueberries that somehow made it through the week without getting eaten or going bad. Huh. Better use those up. I might have added a bit of cornmeal too.
I literally poured things into a big bowl, added more baking powder, and stirred, then ladled it out onto a buttered sauté pan, and voilà! Pancakes. Some with blueberries. Two with chocolate chips (turns out, I’m not much of a chocolate chip person when it comes to pancakes). There are still quite a few in the freezer. They’re delicious!
Yeah, so while the hat was happening, this is as far as I’ve gotten on my cardigan that I really wanted to be done for April. Yeah. Um.
Then there was the local Orchid Show! I finally, finally remembered this year and got myself down there nice and early. Alas, I did not buy a single orchid (such restraint, don’t you think?!), but admired all of them, and checked prices for next year. I have three phalaenopses that I have not only NOT managed to kill, but they’re actually growing (one has decided to bloom again from the same stalk it put up last summer without me having to do anything). I think another orchid or two would not be out of place at my abode one day. However, I’m saving to buy a house, and that comes first. sigh
In the meantime, I did a little more spinning. I think this was while 420 was still drying and my hands were just itching to spin some wool. (What about weaving? I know! I wanted to weave too! Such is the curse of crafturgency!) Last year, I bought a couple fleeces – Scottish Blackface, in fact – from this same shepherd, and having done some pre-purchase research, had decided to spin yarn to weave a hearth rug. See, wool doesn’t burn well at all. Linen and cotton go up like crazy (and honestly, you should try dryer lint in the fireplace or woodstove one day – just try it, it’s mostly cotton, it’s pretty and makes you take those warnings about dryer fires a bit more seriously), but wool just smoulders and goes out, which is why traditional hearth rugs are made of wool. (YAY WOOL!) Sparks can fly on them all the want, the wool will save your floor. (Further experimentation is required to see if a burning stick or log can burn the wool, however.) Plastic fibers will melt. Linen and cotton, as I said before, will very happily burn very brightly and quickly. Wool won’t at least where sparks are concerned.
Anyway, weaving. So, this particular breed is special because it has three particular types of fiber: tog, thel, and kemp. The tog is the long hairs, the thel is the fine undercoat of squishy, soft wool. The kemp is dreaded by all spinners: it’s a weak, crunchy fiber that doesn’t really contribute (that I’ve found) to your yarn, breaks and gets everywhere while you’re spinning. You can sort of see a bit of it sticking out from the yarn on the bobbin in the picture above, but some of that is also tog. Some spinners separate the tog from the thel and spin them separately, but you can also spin them both together, which is what I decided to do. I experimented spinning both ways last fall, but ultimately decided that any rug I wove would be nicer with all the fibers incorporated into the same yarn. (I might do a whole post on this breed and a bit of history…)
Mostly, I kind of thought I’d try to get this wool spun up before starting to spin 420, but OH! I want to spin 420!! Crafturgency!!
But first? I have to comb the wool. With those new combs I went on about earlier. Behold!
They’re really sharp, and really good at getting all the fibers lined up nicely! I’m so very happy with them! Yes! I did already stab myself and bleed all over them! Here are the results of combing:
The top bag of nests is 420 – I can’t believe how full that bag is and how little of a dent I made in the fleece. The bottom bag is of 807. Because I’m still not done with washing that fleece, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Though, this morning, I decided to spin a little 807 just to see. That wool is just so soft. And isn’t it beautiful?? I’m surprised at how dark it came out and how shiny and soft the resulting yarn is, though 807’s fleece is a bit softer than 420. Did I mention that 807’s wool is soft? I’m so very happy with it! I’ll take that yarn off and probably Navajo ply it so I can see what a three-ply yarn looks like. Then I’ll likely carry it around with me, taking it out to see it in the light, petting it, oh yes, my precious…
Ahem. Yes. Wool. We loves it.
So, Projects Also Planned!
These four cones are of mercerized 10/2 cotton, and they were purchased for a commission. I am to weave some dishtowels for my friend Lee who needs a gift for someone later this month. I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to arrange the colors or what sort of twill I’ll do, but there’s enough yarn that I could likely do another three sets of four (I think), and that will give me Options. The weaving draft next to it isn’t necessarily related, though it might be interesting to do this pattern (Gothic Cross) with these lovely pastel colors. Otherwise, I’m definitely weaving this pattern with WOOL. I think it would be really beautiful in a single color wool, not fulled as much as that sample from my last post so that the pattern is super subtle, but wows you when you see it. I had thought that Gothic Cross was only for 8-shaft looms, but came across this (the voice in the back of my head said, no! Surely a 4-shaft loom can weave this! It’s diamonds!), and quickly saved/printed it out. I. Can’t. Wait. I want a shawl in a medium to dark spring/willow mixed green. Right. Now.
I told you. Crafturgency has set in pretty firmly these days.
Oh! I nearly forgot! There are a bunch of black birches in the yard where I live. Up until yesterday, I had thought there was only the one huge, tappable one, but once I wandered around in the woods a bit, I discovered at least two more. Three black birches! I have one tap and bucket. I shall buy two more taps and buckets, and just maybe I’ll be able to get some sap and boil it down and make birch syrup. Maybe. Cross your fingers!