Raw Shetland Fleece #2

 

I’m taking a break from scouring today.  Too windy and chilly.  This is the second white Shetland raw fleece.  Same sheep, different year.

This is most of the first fleece, sorted into long, medium and everything else.  I will be combining the two fleeces so the piles will grow.

I plan to just flick/brush the long and medium locks and spin from the lock.  Combing locks that long is a bit of a pain.

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Shetland Raw Fleece #1

 

The weather is finally starting to cooperate.  Tomorrow looks good to scour so I spent today sorting and bagging fleece.

This may be two year’s growth. About half the fleece is 12+ inches long. But I would expect a break if it was two years worth and there isn’t one. There are matted places and omg, all the tiny vm it can possibly hold.

It’s filthy as well.  I think I changed the cold soak water 5 or 6 times and it’s still pretty murky.

But underneath all the mess there is some pretty nice fiber.

I bagged up two loads (which is a comfortable amount to do in a day without working too hard) and soaked them.  And then bagged up 3 more loads since I was having…well it’s not exactly fun…but when I stopped for the day I realized that I was simply happy.  Sore, but happy.  Not extravagantly happy, just plain happy.  It’s a good place to be.  Having my hands in fleece makes me happy, even if it’s filthy fleece.  It’s really hard to explain.

Shetland Raw Fleece

I made the trip to the Shetland farm yesterday.  It went pretty well.  Got a tour of the place.  Goats (not fiber breeds), sheep, pigs, chickens and donkeys.  She has quite a few more sheep than I thought, 40 or more.  Peanuts are the bribe of choice there and the goats are greedy about them.  My husband had cashews in his pocket and one of the goats stuck it’s nose right on the pocket as if to say “What have you got in your pocket?  I wants it.”  After making sure it was ok, he fed a few to a couple of goats who then decided he was their kind of guy.

The sheep were more shy, except for Edith who is the oldest of the flock at 10 years old.  She wanted all the peanuts from everyone and was not shy about jumping up on you to demand more.  Good thing Shetlands are small.  I just treated her the same as a dog jumping on me.  I pushed her off and told her no.  Hooves hurt a bit more than dog paws tho.  The husband got it right in the groin by her, thankfully not too hard.

Then it was time to look at the fiber.  I’d already noticed that the fiber on the sheep didn’t look the greatest.  Lots of VM, plus she shears late and these being Shetlands, most had already started to roo (shed).  The fiber was in clumps, not full fleeces and matting was an issue, plus the vm and those little prickly balls that stick to everything (I call them thistles, but they’re not actually thistles.)  Still I can deal with all of that.  I picked out my fleeces, 4 lbs of black in two different fleeces and 6 lbs of white/cream from the same animal but 2 different years.

When I got home, I rebagged into pillowcases, just taking out samples from each fleece, which I scoured later that evening.

This is Yankee.  Washed on the left.  Flicked on the right. Some shockingly long locks in places.  I’d have sworn they were two years of growth and that there would be a break in the middle but nope, one strong lock all the way through, except for those yellow tips which came off in the flicking. Some places of seriously heavy VM.  Some matting in all the locks but mostly not too bad. But the loss ratio turned out to be pretty high.  4 grams of usable fiber to 8 grams of waste and that doesn’t really include the VM, which got flicked into the garbage can.

Next up are the blacks.  The darker one didn’t have a name on the bag.  The other is Panda.  These are very different in feel and structure than the white.  The left side locks had major matting but pulled apart fairly well.  Same waste ratio as the white.  The right side top chunk turned out to be almost totally unusable.  The matting was terrible.  I was hoping it would be better with the cute curls on the top.  The other chunk was a bit better but still had a lot of matting.  This one had 2 grams usable, 10 grams waste.

I paid $10/lb for this fiber and that was a mistake on my part.  This is $5/lb fiber at best.  The blacks are worth even less (possibly should have been free).  I can only hope that I just picked bad bits for my samples and the rest will be better.  I didn’t investigate enough on site and to be honest, my natural shyness makes it hard for me to put myself forward and say “This is really bad stuff and I’m not paying $10/lb.” as I should have.

On the other hand, if I had bought fleece online, I’d have probably spent $10/lb plus had to pay shipping.  I’d have gotten less fiber, although better quality.  It probably comes out even in the end.

After I get a chance to go through the rest of the fiber, I’ll probably send an email of observations and suggestions for improvement.  I do know she wants to have a self-sustaining farm and having good fiber to sell is part of that.  As it is now, I’m probably the only person who’d buy this stuff (aside from a group on Facebook who specialize in filthy fleeces.)  She did have some processed into yarn at a mill a couple of years ago.  Maybe that’s where all the good stuff went.  Still, from what I saw that was still on the sheep, there’s not a lot of good stuff.

Now I wait for the weather to improve.  It’s not bad now, mostly in the 50’s but I need 60’s to wash (so my washtubs aren’t too cold and cool the water too quickly).  I’m also not setup yet.  Need to get my sorting table out and rig up some sort of shade for me to work under.  Heck, we just unburied the washtubs last night.  It’s only in the last few days that we’ve had true signs that spring is here.  2 weeks ago we had a nasty snowstorm.

I spindle spun the usable fiber.  I need to ply and finish them and do all sorts of measurements before, after and inbetween.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  I like to let singles rest for at least a day before plying.

Progress and postponement

The good news is that my neck has healed enough for me to knit. I do need to be careful and I can’t knit as much as I’d like in a day but I’m knitting!  Or I was.  I finished the second blue-purple octagon today but I won’t start the third and last one until Monday.  I overdid it a bit today and can use the rest.

I’ve also been spinning a little.  I had some Cormo combed before this rash of neck strains/back injuries and I think it’s enough for a skein.  So that’s what I’m spinning.  It’s coming along nicely, even if my old wheel is being a bit finicky. I think she needs a spa day this summer.

I’m considering just flicking locks for the next skein and spinning straight from the locks, skipping combing.  I have to flick them anyway before combing.  Spinning from the lock would save time and work.

The fleece farm visit was postponed again.  This time they had something come up at the last minute (literally, the email was sent just before 5 am last Sunday).  We’ll try again this Sunday.

A bit of an update

Neck strains are the worst.  I’m past the stage of it hurting constantly but it still hurts if I move in certain ways.  I’ve been doing back stretches every evening and neck stretches whenever I catch the heat being on.  I sit in front of a heat vent and let my back and neck get nice and warm before stretching.  I’ve noticed that my neck hurts less if it’s warm.

I’m still unable to do much of anything but I’m beginning to wonder if some of this pain is psychological.  Yesterday afternoon, after not really hurting all day, I thought about doing some seam ripping on some clothes I need to alter.  I picked up something to inspect a seam, thought that if I was careful and only picked at it for a minute of two at a time, then I should be able to do it.  My neck immediately started hurting.

I’m also being very careful about how I sit.  I have a bad habit of slouching and hunching my shoulders so now as soon as I realize I’m doing either (or both) I correct my posture.  I wonder if in my efforts not to do “bad things” that I’m doing different “bad things”.

This Sunday is the trip to the Shetland farm.  I had to postpone it for a week because of a nasty snow storm last weekend.  I’m starting to get excited.  I’m making mental lists of what to bring and going over possible problems and what I should be looking for.  This is the first time I’m buying from what I suspect is not a spinner and therefore not a spinner’s flock.  Before, I could trust the shepherd to point out flaws and give me info about the breed, etc.  This time, I’m the one with the knowledge and I need to do all the tests and judgments.  I’m nervous and excited and all sorts of things.

I plan to bring my scale, in case she doesn’t have one, as I don’t trust my ability to guess weights.  I’m bringing my box of old pillowcases.  I know the fleeces have been vacuum sealed but don’t know much more.  They’ll go in the pillow cases once I get them home in any case.  It’s not warm enough to wash (although the forecast is promising to start warming – 50’s next week!) so the fleeces will live in the garage until I can wash them (unwashed fleeces are not allowed in the house – husband’s rule).  I want to suspend them from the ceiling via rope over a rafter to deter possible rodents.  Pillowcases will be easier to tie to the rope to plus will avoid condensation in the changing temps.  Plus it’s more pleasant to walk face first into cloth rather than plastic (in case of someone not paying attention while in the garage.)

Today I think I’m going to try spinning.  I’ve done a bit and it doesn’t seem to bother my neck.  I have some Cormo combed.  I’m not sure it’s enough to fill the bobbin but maybe by the time I’ve spun it, I’ll be able to comb more.

 

Random Ramblings

I went and messed up my shoulder/neck again.  Note to self:  DO NOT spend all day hunched over something.  This time it was the patchwork.  I tried to work through it.  Nope, not any better.  I rested for a few days and tried gingerly knitting.  Oh such a bad idea.  Rested another day and then finally remembered the stretches I did the last time this happened.  I’m on day 3 of twice a day stretches and I’ve seen such improvement.  Still not good enough to really do anything but much less pain/stiffness.

I can’t wait for Spring to finally get here.  I suspect that these back issues will go away with the warm weather.  They didn’t start until the weather got cold last year.  I just need to remember to avoid triggering them next winter.

About the only thing I’ve been able to do is trim locks.  Which is such a tease at times.  Touching all that wool and knowing I can’t do anything with it.  Especially the cormo.  It’s so soft and luscious.  On the plus side, when my body is ready, I’ve got a lot of fiber ready for combing or flicking or both.  It depends on how dirty the fiber is.  The Corriedale will need to be flicked before combing as it’s got tons of vm.  The Cormo can go straight onto the combs with just minimal tip flicking or possibly just finger teasing.

In other news the fleece hunt is nearly over.  I’ve got an appointment to go see the Shetland fleeces in just over a week.  If all goes well I should come home with at least 10 lbs of fleece.  She’s got the whole range of Shetland colors.  I’m hoping for a bit of black and then mostly shades of gray.  Maybe a Moorit if she’s got any that’s mostly cream/light brown.  The way the weather is going, I won’t be able to wash until late May or early June.  Temps need to be at least 60 degrees or my water cools too fast.  And no risk of overnight freezes so the hose can be hooked up.

So that’s the update on what little has been going on around here.  I’m so tired of straining one thing or the other.  And tired of being cold.  And the snow. We got 4 inches the other day.  It’s April….enough already, Mother Nature.

Victorian Crazy Patchwork

 

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I’ve always admired Victorian era crazy patchwork.  I finally found…well, not quite instructions but good guidelines in one of the Weldon’s Practical Needlework.

I grabbed a piece of cloth (cotton sheet, precut to be the lining of a project bag), a bag of fancy scraps, needle and thread and set to work.  First of all I had to cut my scraps into smaller bits.  Then it’s place and sew.  I’m just tacking them down, small stitches far apart.  They will really be held down by the embroidery later.  I’m folding edges as I go.  It would probably look better if I pressed down those edges first.  Next time I’ll try that.

After the first few pieces I started pinning a bunch of them in place and then going back and tacking them down.  It’s all pretty random, other than trying not to have the same fabric too close together.

This has been weekend work.  I do this in the mornings and sometimes evenings, before and after Nascar races (which is sweater knitting time).  This is about a month’s worth of work, although I did do nearly 1/3 of it this past Sunday since Nascar was snow delayed.

Once I finally get the white cloth covered then it’s on to the fun part.  I’ll embroider every seam with different stitches and different colors.  Maybe some embroidery in the middle of patches.  I’m planning for this to be a pillow.  I’ll just sew it up and the machine, stuff it and finish the seam by hand.

I’ve been thinking that this would be gorgeous as a project bag.  But then I realized that it’ll take me months to make just one and no one would be will to pay the price that I’d have to charge for so much work.  Maybe I’ll try one as a purse/project bag, with inner pockets.  People pay outrageous prices for purses.

This one is all shiny or slippery or fuzzy fabrics.  I think the next one will be cottons.  Half my problems this time have been fabrics not staying put.  Plus that’ll make pressing them easier.  Had I been pressing this one, I’d constantly be changing the iron temp with all the different types of fabric.

In other news, I’ve got octagons 3 and 4 blocking.  I’ve started octagon #5.  I’m still waiting for a reply to my last email about the Shetland fleeces.  I put an ad on Craigslist hoping to find some of the small flocks around here (and get them to bring the fleeces to me.)  I’m hoping to get them free or cheap and I can always give away or sell the ones I don’t want to use myself.