In the last week I’ve come to a realization: I’m far more experienced a knitter than I thought I was. First it was adjusting the Rose Harbour shawl pattern to suit my own preferences better. Next I realized that the Jacob shawls, while I am using a pattern for the basic shape, could have any stitch pattern I wanted (if I wanted a stitch pattern. I actually want those to be all garter stitch). Then I was looking through my queue and then newly released patterns trying to find something to knit. I’m rather in a cowl mood and after looking at a lot of patterns and remembering what I’ve knit recently, it occurred to me that many cowl patterns are simply an edging (garter or whatever) to keep the edges from rolling and then a stitch pattern and then the edging again. I have stitch dictionaries so what’s to stop me from designing my own patterns?
So that is my goal this fall/winter. I will design some cowl patterns and put them up on Ravelry for free. Perhaps move on to hats and mitts later on. Eventually, in a year or two, I might be able to design more complicated things or stitch patterns, which I would then charge for.
I suppose at some point I’ll have to start my own Ravelry group and have test knitters and whatnot but I think I can manage with just test knitting the patterns myself for now.
I’ve already copied a couple of stitch patterns into a word processing file. Next will be editing them to be knit in the round and then knitting and taking notes as I go so I can write up the pattern afterwards. I think the toughest part might be admitting defeat and frogging. I hate undoing all that hard work.
I’m about 2/3 of the way through the grey on the Jacob shawl. 2 more colors to go.
I have 1 row left on the second repeat of the lace of the Rose Harbour Shawl. I did the first repeat as written but it’s got an awful lot of purl rows which hurt my hand/wrist. I sat down and sketched it out and by moving one row, changed most of the purl to knit with very nearly the same look. You really have to look hard and know what you’re looking for to see it and it’ll likely not be noticeable once it’s blocked. 3-4 repeats left, maybe more.
I started a stockinette cowl out of Malabrigo Yarn Lace that I bought for my birthday in 2013. This yarn is oh so soft and fuzzy and a total pain to knit with. It’s so light that it doesn’t want to stay on the needles. I tried several patterns with it with no luck. I managed to knit one scarf with one skein back in 2014 but I still had one skein left. I’ve been meaning to do a simple stockinette cowl out of it but never got around to it, until now. It’s still a pain to knit with but more manageable as I’ve got more experience now. Still, I think this cowl and the scarf will end up in my sale/gift box. I love the color and as I said, it’s so soft but I have such bad memories of the knitting that I’ll never wear them.
*Links will take you to Ravelry project/pattern pages.
I’ve made good progress on some of my WIPs. I’m nearly done with the second color of the Jacob shawl. I’ve gotten to the lace part of the Rose Harbour shawl.
And therein lies the problem. This part is a lot of purling which is hard on my hands/wrists. I’d like a second everyday knitting project so I can alternate them to give my body a rest. (The Jacob shawl is a TV knit. Everyday knitting is done in my workroom.)
So I went to my Ravelry queue to find a project but somehow, even with 143 projects queued, I still can’t find anything to knit. To be fair 58 of those patterns are what I classify as “complicated” knits and I already have 2 of those going which is 1 more than I should have in progress. Another half dozen are “someday” knits – techniques I’ll try someday, such as brioche or entrelac. And a couple are bulky weight, which I don’t have on hand. A few more are paid patterns for which I don’t have the funds right now. Still there has to be at least 25 patterns I could knit right now.
I don’t want to knit socks or cables or colorwork or laceweight. Some of the lace is not exactly complicated but more than I want to tackle right now. Maybe some mitts but then I have to find a pattern that fits the available long circular needles (I always do mitts 2 at a time or the second one will never be done.)
Maybe I’ll just find something to watch on TV and knit on the Jacob shawl on the alternate days.
This is how I scour fleece. This is by no means the only way but it’s what works for me.
- Separate the fleece into locks. Stack the locks and tuck them into mesh bags. I use lingerie bags and mesh laundry bags. I also sew (weave) a thread (crochet cotton) after each row of locks to keep them neat. How much goes into each bag? It depends on the size of the bag and the fleece. I use large metal washtubs which fit 4 small bags or 1 large bag. For my CVM fleeces, which I’d say are in the middle in terms of how much lanolin in them, I had about 1.25 lbs raw fleece per washtub. But the Merino, which was high lanolin, it was just under 1 lb per washtub.
- Soak the bags in cold water. I have buckets for this. I generally try to soak for an hour, change the water, another hour, change the water and then overnight. Sometimes its just the 2 one hour soaks. It depends on how dirty the fleece is and if I’ve had time to think ahead. Dump the water in your garden. My tomatoes love it.
- I heat water to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit on my stove and carry it out to the backyard to dump in the tubs. Then I add a good squirt (maybe 1/4 cup) of cheap, no enzyme dishwashing soap. I squeeze as much water as I can out of the fleece that’s been soaking and dump it in the hot water, using a spoon to poke it gently under the water. It’s fine to go from cold to hot. It’s hot to cold that might felt the wool.
- Let the fleece soak. For me it’s 15-20 minutes or as long as it takes to heat more water. I won’t let the water go below 130 degrees Fahrenheit. I use rubber gloves to lift the bags out of the water and usually just put it in an empty tub and squeeze out the excess water once it’s cooled a bit. In the meantime I drain and rinse the first tub and fill the second tub with water. Sometimes, if it’s cool outside, the tubs of water cool faster than the water heats on the stove. I’ve found that I can remove the fleece and let it sit out of the water and the lanolin doesn’t resettle on the fleece. It stays in the water.
- I drain the still hot water into buckets and dump those into a larger container (a trash can) to cool. Once it cools it goes on my garden too.
- So the next step depends on the fleece. For high lanolin fleece I will repeat the soap step with perhaps 1/8 cup of soap this time. For medium lanolin or less I go right to rinsing. If i’m just rinsing (no soap) I’ll often lower the temp to 170. Again, let it soak, gently poking it below the water now and then. The soap tends to make it float. The water from the rinses also goes into the big container to cool.
- I rinse 2-3 times, lowering the temp by 10 degrees each time, which results in shorter soaks too. It’s done when the water is mostly clear and the fleece sinks below the surface of the water. It won’t drop to the bottom but most of the fleece will be below the water. Remove the fleece from the water, squeeze out as much water as you can and lay it out somewhere to drain more. I have a sorting table that has chicken wire panels so it goes on there.
- When I’m done scouring for the day I’ll roll the bags up in a towel and walk on it to get out as much water as possible. Then it goes inside to wire racks in front of a fan on high. I remove the fleece from the bags and lay it out on the racks. It generally comes out sorta attached in long lines (the size of the compartments you sewed into the bags. It looks felted/matted but it’s not, I promise. It will fluff up as it dries and once it’s dry you can easily pull the locks away from each other. I dry for 24 hours on the racks and then pile the fleece in bins and let those sit out for at least a week just to make sure it’s totally dry before putting it into ziploc bags. If I want to start combing, I just wait the 24 hours, maybe less since I tend to spritz with water while combing to keep down the static. Doesn’t matter if it’s still a bit damp.
- Overall you want a large water to fleece ratio. The fleece should float freely. Don’t over stuff the bags either. You want the locks to stay in place but also for the water to easily flow all around them. Generally my stacks of locks are a hand width tall and wide, perhaps half as tall for high lanolin fleeces.
- When squeezing out the water, be gentle. Don’t rub or agitate, just squeeze. Fold the bag so it fits into your hands better.
- Always use rubber gloves to remove the bags from the water. It’s hot! And sometimes it’s too hot even with the gloves so don’t be afraid to just drop the bag of fleece anywhere that’s not in the water. I keep extra washtubs nearby to drop the fleece into until it cools enough to squeeze the water out, with the gloves on.
- How do you know when the water in the large container is cool enough to pour on your plants? I usually wait until the next morning or when I can dip my bare hand in the water comfortably. The lanolin will float to the top and solidify some. I suppose you could scoop it out and purify it but I’ve never bothered. Don’t worry about the soap in that water. It won’t hurt your plants. Actually diluted dish soap is a deterrent for some pests and bugs on plants.
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- Blue green braid from Broadway Creations 100% superwash Merino. I’ve been spinning this since April 2015. All spindles are my own handmade.
- Red-black mystery fiber from a facebook destash. Spinning just as long as the braid. I only spin on the spindles when I’m away from home or out in the backyard having a firepit.
- Box o’ grey fiber is Patrick the CVM 2016 I’ve just a pound or so left to comb, plus the combing waste to card. I did much of this spinning during Tdf, all on the wheel.
- Purple and blue is Violette the Corriedale 2015. I love this fiber. It’s super soft but also a pain in the but. Violette was sick the winter before this shearing and died the winter after. The fiber is fine and will felt/mat if you look at it hard. But it’s worth the work. It was also my greasiest fleece to date and I didn’t scour it enough the first time. So I’m scouring again and dyeing at the same time. Then prepping (flicking and combing). About half the fleece is now purple and the other half will be blue (about 1/4 left to go.) I’ve spun some and it makes for gorgeous yarn. I also dye again after spinning/plying to even out the color (and perhaps change it, in the future.)
- Hawaiian Merino There is a shepherd in Hawaii who has not had a place to sell his wool in years. His house is covered in fleeces. A lovely woman is helping him sell it. It’s dirty stuff and a lot of work but fairly cheap. If you want some here’s the Ravelry thread about it. I’ve only spun one single from the combing waste but that turned out so nice. I’ve got to get around to spinning some of the combed nests.
- Piper the Romney X Teeswater 2014 is oven dyed, finger teased and spun however it wants to from there. Then I’ll ply it with the gold thread. I’ve discovered that I don’t like longwools for my normal smooth, thin spinning but it’s fun to dabble in art yarn with it.
- Hampshire from 2014, my first fleece. Dyed as locks after flicking. Spindle spun from the lock (don’t ask how long it took. I didn’t keep track but it was over a year for the 2 singles. Much more off than on.) I need to ply and then this will be weaving yarn.
*Links will take you to Ravelry project pages.
I save up my plying to do all at once as my wheel needs a special drive band set up to ply. I’m still recovering from TdF so I’m knitting more than spinning right now. Plus my wheel is in need of a spa day with boiled linseed oil and the weather has not been cooperating. I’m hoping a good soaking in the oil will help with some issues I’m having. I love having an antique wheel but sometimes the quirks are quite frustrating.
Top left: Alla Moda scarf in unraveled cashmere and wool
Middle left: The second of my Jacob wool handspun shawls
Bottom left: Rose Harbour Shawl in unraveled cashmere
Top right: Dressing gown in unraveled cashmere/merino/wool
Middle right: Gordian gloves in unraveled cashmere
Bottom right: Dracula’s Bride shawl in unraveled cashmere/merino/lambswool
*Clicking on links will take you to my Ravelry project pages.
These are just my active-ish WIPs. I have a half dozen more in long term hibernation. Alla Moda, the Jacob shawls and the dressing gown are all TV knits, although the dressing gown has sorta been hibernating since last winter as it’s too hot to have that mass on my lap. Dracula’s Bride and Gordian gloves are both complicated knits so they don’t get worked on all that often and even then it’s only a row or 2; Dracula because the rows are so long and the gloves because I can’t seem to knit a row without making a mistake and giving myself a headache while fixing it. Rose Harbour shawl is my in-between knitting, or will be once I get into the lace part. Too complicated for TV knitting but not as complicated as the other two. It’s what I knit on most of the time.
I’m going to try to update my progress once a week but don’t hold me to that.