Life is Too Short for Bad Yarn!

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I cannot fathom why anyone with the skill to knit would spend so much time knitting a sweater – only to use sub par yarn that will wear out – rendering their hours/days/weeks/months of work inane! Michelangelo used hand crafted pigments for his paints and monks created their own inks from beetle nets or iron gall – these items would not be around for the length they have existed if they got their pigments/inks from the discount bin at the local walmart!

Working on hubbies sweater again…. If that man wears this sweater out within the next 10 years, I give up. I can’t imagine putting all this time and effort into something that won’t last. My only saving grace is I KNOW this hand spun, real wool, will last through wear and tear and repeated washings.

I understand hand spun (mine and others) may be more expensive than discount yarns, but it’s well worth it! Good hand spun, or a similarly well spun small mill yarn will outlast a discount yarn and enable you to learn a new stitch, make a sweater for another deserving family member or *GASP* make something for yourself – before you have to re-make that sweater that wore out after 2 years.

Start a revolution. Value your time as skilled crafters and use a yarn worthy of your craft! Repeat after me: I am worthy of great yarns!!

Fiber Friday – Merino

Since I have sooo many ideas of things to blog about, and just not enough time to do it all, I’ll be posting each Friday about a different breed of fiber that I’ve spun with, showcase the fiber, the yarn, a finished product if I’ve got one and it’s attributes!

So, to start it off, today I’ve chosen Merino.

This is one of those yarns that most people know about, and a safe one to choose if you’re just getting into using hand spun yarns. It does have a range of softness measured in Microns (the lower the number, the softer the yarn). I’ve never met any merino yarn that isn’t safe to wear next to the skin.

It’s difficult to find raw merino in my area as they have huge dense coats and I don’t believe they fair very well with our drastic temperature differences – from -40C in the winter to +45C in the summer. They live in wonderful places like Australia and various small hobby farms in the US. Please, if you’re a local hobby farmer and have merino fleece, PLEASE let me know!

Here are a few examples of merino yarns found in my shop. Clicking on the photo will direct you to the etsy page with information about each yarn.

 

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The fiber of these sheep is white, so careful washing and preparation are essential to achieve a good color in the finished yarn.

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Merino sheep Photo via Internet

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Merino fiber on sheep prior to being carded Photo via internet

Merino is great for items which softness is required. It’s a wonderful yarn that combines sheen with loft – perfect for baby items, next to the skin items, dedicates and of course, toys!

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Wild pony – hand knit from hand spun yarn.

Happy Friday everyone. What’s your favorite fiber??

Sweater project nuts and bolts

For hubbies sweater that I wrote about earlier, I’ve been working on the yarn.

As I’ve said so many times, the prep work for the yarn takes the bulk of the time in processing.

ImageThis sweater requires 1800yds of DK weight yarn. So far, I’ve made up 4 skeins (5th is on the wheel) with 750yds completed. In total I’ll need approximately 9 skeins and 2.25lbs of raw wool. ImageI’ve enlisted hubs to card, since this is his sweater, he can do some of the work…. People in the fiber community rave about drum carders, how about a carding husband? They cut down on pain in the fingers and once you get them started, it’s just a simple check every few hours to ply with beer and fresh wool – It’s a great system! You just can’t tell their friends to take any photos. Pretty good trade for some free, painless carding! I’ve estimated that for a full bobbin I’ll need approx 4oz/20 carded rolags. That means hubs has to card 180 rolags.
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About half way done!

If you’d like to see other knitted items from my hand spun yarns – check out our etsy shop!

The sweater project

knitting a sweater. No big deal you might think. Or, if you’re like me, HUGE deal… especially an adult sweater!! How many rows + weight in the knitting + yarn + OMG how many stitches in a row?!

For as many crafts as I do and have, I have very little patience. I don’t like crafts that run on for years and take constant attention. I could never tat a beautiful table cloth or for instance knit a sweater.

I can knit socks with my eyes closed and love knitting other things, but the largest project I’ve ever made is a sweater for my son. About a size 4T.

My lovley indearing husband thinks I have the skills to knit him a cabled sweater. For all the hundreds of hours that would take, we’ve met in the middle and I will be making him a sweater, plain. Keep up to date with the project on Ravelry

Now, knitting a sweater might not seem a big deal to some, however – as the name of this blog has hand spun in it – this of course will be made from hand spun yarns. If you’ve had the chance to read any of my posts, you’ll know the time and effort that goes into even producing the yarn for a pair of socks, let alone enough yarn to cover the upper portion of a man!

My brave husband thinks I am superwoman and also wants me to spin, dye and weave enough material to make him a pair of iron age Pict leggings…… another post for another day…..

So, because the prep work for yarn takes so long I’ve enlisted my DH to help. It’s his sweater after all! The fleece in question is a Romney, named Ginger and comes to us from a local farm. She was brown last year but turned grey over the winter and offers such a beautiful fleece/color. In total, approximately 3lbs will be needed, this is 10skeins at 4oz each. He’ll need to card about 200 rolags (fluffs of carded fleece) for this.

The natural color is so pretty that it wont be dyed.

I spun 1 skein last night and will be doing another today amongst everything else I have to do! Only 9 more skeins, 1616yds, 2.25lbs left!!

UGH.

Fermentation update – 16 days

The fermentation has been going for 16 days now. I’ve not updated as things remained pretty stinky and gross. I’ve checked on it every couple of days. It’s stayed in my basement and hasn’t smelled unless the lid comes off and the water is disturbed.

A uber gross scum is forming on the top of the water and bubbles are a-bubblin. The water color hasn’t changed much.

I’ve preiodically grabbed a few locks and each time they look whiter and whiter after rinsing – my hands however, take some cleaning to remove the rotting poop smell!

I”ll post some pics later today – it’s been sitting for 2+ weeks, I’ve not moved a muscle and used hardly any water. seems pretty great to me!!

Give Away!!

Because it is spring and here in the cold, bitter north we’ve had a horrible winter…. I’m holding a giveaway to celebrate the arrival of spring! For a little extra excitement, I’ve added levels of prizes for the number of entries that we get. Want a chance at a bigger, better prize? send it to all your friends, acquaintances and anyone else you meet on your daily walk.

Giveaway

To get your chance on this awesome give away, enter here!

$5 Gift Card – 50 entries
Skein of Sari Silk ($15 value) – 150 entries
$25 Gift Card – 300 entries
$50 Gift Card – 550 entries
Knitted rooster/hen ($60 value) – 1100 entries
Over 1500 entries – a special surprise prize!!
There are multiple available entries, therefore, you have the possibility of winning more than one prize.

 

Fermentation or Suent method

I’m all about fermentation or many things, sugar – corn – berries – GRAPES – anything really…. but fermenting wool?

With washing the volume of raw wool that I work with on a yearly basis, I do not understand how I have no been doing this. In case you’re blisfully un aware of the tedious process of washing a raw fleece – it takes forever. Takes up all the hot water in the house and did I say forever? To wash a fleece, it must be skirted and as much of the vegitable matter removed. This takes time. Then it’s divided and I put mine is laundry bags – then fill the wash basin with scalding hot water, some of my hand made wool wash and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then it drains, fill the sink and let it sit. Then drain, fill, sit. Then drain, fill, sit, thendrainfillsit, thendrainfillsit… you get the idea. It can take and exceed 10 rinses before the water runs clear. Image
In skirting the fleece, everything that is caked, really icky, full of poo or choked with VM is discarded. A LOT can go to waste. When you’re paying per lb or even per fleece, it can be a bummer seeing it go to waste. With a lot more work, this stuff can be used for stuffing or other fun projects – or into the compost bin.

ImageWith the suent method, a large tub is filled with rainwater, the fleece deposited and….. it sits on it’s own for a while. no drain, fill, sit x a million. The natural enzymes on the fleece mix with the water to make a primitive soap and cleans the gunk, grime and grease off the fleece. easy, peasy and not too much work!! The greater thing about this, is once the initial fleece is cleaned, the same water can be used (with less of a sitting period) to clean more fleece. Similar to a sour dough starter, once the soap is started it’s ready to use on other batches.

From all the reading I’ve done here are the simple steps –

1. Fill bucket with rain water (or tap water that’s chlorine free)

2. place fleece in bucket of water. Poopy bits, greasy bits whatever.

3. ensure the bucket either has one or two holes to relieve the pressure of the gas build up or cover with a blanket and garbage bag.

4. The initial sitting is approximately 2-3 weeks. Do not allow to freeze.

5. Remove fleece, let drain over bucket and put drained suent water back in original container

6. Rinse fleece in water that is same temp as suent fluid. Do not shock your fleece with drastic water temp changes or it may cause felting or damage

7. Let fleece dry and put another fleece into the suent bath. 

8. cover and repeat steps 2-8 as many times as necessary.

 

I’ve started my suent bath this evening (April 10th 2014) with 2 North County Chevoit fleeces. I’ve had them for a year. They came from a herd which was used for meat so the fleeces are not prime spinning fleece, lots of vm, unskirted and TONS of grease. I’ll be posting once in a while to show how things are progressing and to monitor if it works or not. If it does, whoo mama!! It will drastically cut back on my hot water bill and time it takes to clean! I’ve got lots of this fleece too, so less waste, less energy and more time to drinking yummy fermented things!

Here are a couple pics  for visualization

 

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A portion of the fleece before it went in. Notice the earwax yellow greece and general ickyness of this fleece. Much of it would be garbage if not for this method.

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The fleeces in the bath. There is room for them to move a little, don’t pack it too tight.

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You can see some of the grease and bubbles starting already. This is one icky bath.

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to prove the ick factor, my hand is just under the water, and completely covered in the gross water. It’s been in there for 5 minutes. gross.

 

It’s not covered and sitting in the basement. I”ll update in a few days!