Creativity · Felting · Fun · Knitting · Memoir · Sewing · Spinning · Yarn

Woolly Preparations and Experiments

I think now would be a good time for some woolly updates, eh? You might be wondering what has become of my beloved three fleeces so far?

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Well, guess what? I now have two out of three CLEAN fleeces. One is already dry and stored away, and the second one is currently drying on the rack. I’ve set up a small heater next to it to help it dry a little faster in this damp weather we’ve been getting.

Previously, I had been cleaning my fleece a few ounces at a time in my soak bucket, but it was suggested by Stephanie Wilkes, a local sheep shearer and instructor of the Sheep to Sweater workshop I attended last month at Imagiknit, that I go ahead and wash all the fleece sooner rather than later. Her reasoning was that the longer I wait, the harder it will be for the lanolin to come off the fleece when I wash it.

So, after washing a few more small test batches of fleece, I made my decision. I went for it. A couple weeks ago, I soaked the remainder of my CVM fleece (Bianca) all at once in our tub with Unicorn Power Scour and hot water, and I repeated the process with one of my Cormo fleeces (Isa) this week.

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After washing the first fleece and then having to fish out the wool a handful at a time to dry, I decided to utilize some netting for the second fleece. After filling the tub, I lay a large piece of netting at the bottom and then submerged the fleece on top of it. Once the fleece finished soaking (about an hour and a half or so) I was able hold the corners of the netting together, creating a sort of big garment bag, while the tub drained. This made things a LOT easier and faster.

The final fleece to be cleaned, another Cormo fleece (Willie), is the smallest and fluffiest of the three fleeces. My plan is to wash it sometime when I get back from my Boston trip after Easter.

Another suggestion Stephanie had was to store my fleeces in cardboard filing boxes with lids. She lives in the SF Bay Area as well, so she is very aware of the kind of damp/foggy weather we tend to have. She explained that filing boxes keep out any dust or bugs, but they also allows the fleece to have airflow, which prevents mold and mildew from forming. I have started storing my fleece this way, and I have found that the boxes are a whole heck of a lot easier to access and put away than giant plastic bags. So, I am sold.

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Now you might be thinking what the heck I have been doing with this this fleece besides washing it, right? Have I started spinning or crafting with any of the wool?

Yep! These skeins of yarn are my babies. They are my first two skeins of single ply yarn, which I spun with some of the CVM fleece.

The top one I spun on my spinning wheel and the bottom on my drop spindle. I think it’s really cool how how differently they came out.

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As you can see, the yarn I spun on my drop spindle has a lot more twist and definition.

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While the yarn I spun on my wheel has less twist and looks fluffier. So, that means that I could have adjusted the uptake and speed on my spinning wheel to create a higher twist yarn like the bottom skein.

I’m still getting the hang of both techniques of spinning, but I am really pleased with what I’ve created so far. My next goal is to make my first ever 2-ply yarn!

In addition to the spinning, I’ve also tried my hand at a bit of wet felting. Here’s a little test piece I made with some of the CVM fleece that I hand carded and some dyed Merino roving and yarn scraps, which I already had in my stash.

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It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s fun. I’m not 100% sure what I am  going to make out of this two-sided felt project, but I am toying with the idea of sewing the sides together to create a laptop case.

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Also, I finished up my Dotted Rays shawl at a knitting group in West Portal last night! This isn’t the greatest photo or representation of the colors. I will try and get some better pictures of it this weekend. I followed the pattern until I ran out of the darker color and then did the I-cord bind off in the lighter color.

There was quite a bit of crocking, that is color coming off on my hands, while knitting with this naturally dyed Cormo yarn by Sensible Sheep. I joked with some ladies at knitting group that my hands looked bruised after I knit with the yarn for a while. Since I didn’t want any dye to come off on my clothes or neck while wearing my new wrap in the future, I took some extra care before blocking it. I first soaked the shawl in some lukewarm water with a small amount of Unicorn Fiber Wash in my soak bucket for about ten minutes. I did this twice, and then I rinsed it several times until the water ran clear in the sink. I filled a final bucket of cool water and added a small amount of white vinegar and soaked the shawl for a few more minutes before rolling the shawl in a towel to get out the excess water.

Even while it’s still damp, I can already tell that the yarn is softer than before. I can’t wait to wear it. Here’s hoping I can get the shawl to dry completely before I leave for my trip Saturday evening!

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