Friday, May 28, 2010

Washing o' the fleece

Since this is my first fleece washing experience, I had lots of mistakes to make and things to learn. This post is not an all-inclusive how-to about how to wash a fleece. It is a post about my misadventures one hot, steamy day in May.

The yellowish blob of fiber tucked in the blue sheet was the Coopworth fleece in such dire need of a bath. So early one morning, I girded my loins, rolled up my sleeves and dove right in. With my handy dandy Spinning Bible in hand, I heated the water, added the soap and plunked a lingerie bag full of fleece in the water. It was sent through two baths with soap and 3 or 4 rinses (I can't remember how many now), all according to the proper procedures and instructions in the Spinning Bible.

Mistake number one: Must open up the fleece and fluff it up or it won't all come clean. This first bag of fleece was washed and rinsed completely, then taken out to the deck to dry when I discovered all kinds of VM and dirty tips hiding out inside. So a good half hour was spent fluffing it up and picking out the debris before sending it back to the tub for a whole new cycle of washing and rinsing.

Since subsequent rinse water is not as dirty, I was sending bags of fleece through in a train. Basically you just add soap to mostly clean rinse water and start the next batch through before draining the tub, refilling and rinsing the first batch. With organization, you can train quite a few bags of fleece at a time, draining and refilling only as needed. This conserves water and energy because each tub of water is used multiple times.

Mistake number two: Don't try to wash too much fleece at once. Bag #2 was bigger than the first and it didn't get clean the first time through, either. So it had to be divided into smaller bags and be sent through the process again. So much for saving energy and water because two batches were now having to go through double washings.

I eventually had a good system down to get everything through the washing and rinsing cycles. I'd learned my lesson on the first two bags of fleece and was making steady progress.

Mistake number three: Don't over agitate the fiber, trying to get it clean. After having to rewash the first two bags of fleece, I got a little more aggressive with my swishing and the last few bags came out slightly felted. Not so much that it is not usable but enough to make fluffing it for the drying rack more difficult. So much for saving time by getting it clean the first time.

In spite of it all, I was pleased with my progress. Approximately half of the fleece made it through the first day and now that I know a little more, the second half shouldn't take quite as long, nor as much water and energy. I guess you could say it was well worth the effort in the end.
And isn't it so pretty and white now?

Now to get it carded up before July 3. Yikes! Guess there will be a few mistakes lessons in that little process, too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I'm just having so much fun here. So many fibery things going on so I'm going to play the random paragraph-ish/bullet post thing (with pics).

*TUSKAUFOFE #4/Dead Simple Lace Socks are now done. These are going to be gifted to a dear friend who is battling ovarian cancer and is starting an intensive round of chemo on June 1st. I figured some lovely socks would be just the think to keep her tootsies warm while laying around in a hospital bed.

*TUSKAUFOFE #5 is on the needles and going strong. Another super simple lace pattern, already memorized, so I don't need to refer to the book. However, I am mulling over the idea of re-printing the basic heel shaping instructions onto 3x5 cards and laminating them. The only time I have to refer to the book at this point is to memorize the chart and to turn the heels. Since I don't like carrying around books all the time (I already lost one copy of this book and had to buy a second), it would be a sweet and simple solution. Still mulling though. Haven't followed through. Too much other stuff going on.

*The Go Green Recycling Project has become my UFO project of late. I started cutting up old sheets a long time ago, with the thought of using it as yarn and making rugs. Well, I loved the Beach Bag I finished so much that I've started a Go Green Sock Tote. I'm nearly half way done now (further than the picture shows) and loving it, loving it, loving it. I have a huge pile of sheets to recycle and am on the hunt for more pattern ideas to use even more of this recycled yarn.

*I even have a few ideas about how to spin these strips into some fun and funkier yarn. Stay tuned for more later.

*I have also signed up for my first Tour de Fleece competition on From July 3 through July 25, you spin every day (except for 2 designated rest days). I have pulled out my full stash and started making plans so I'm ready to go on July 3. First step is to scour and card the fleece I bought at Shepherd's Harvest last year. Then I need to finish plying some bobbins of singles I have on hand so I can free up all my extra bobbins before July 3.

*I've joined 4 teams so far: Rookies, Stashbusters, Knitgirllls and Knitter's Palette. It's a lot of spinning to do but July will be the perfect time to do it all. I am so excited, I can hardly stand it.

*Besides all this fibery activity, I'm working on a plethora of other creative projects. I'm currently sanding and painting some old cedar deck furniture, planning on building a headboard for our bed with Hubby and preparing to create yet another huge flower garden bed in my back yard. And I'm trying to train for a Sprint Triathlon in my spare time.

*On a sad note, The Girl Formerly Known as Dancing Diva Who Has Yet to Find a New Passion So Will be Called Big Sister For Now participated in her last dance recital as a backstage helper last weekend. It was a highly emotional time as she said goodbye to her life as a dancer. She is still wrestling with the ramifications of the arthritis diagnosis and struggling to find a new passion into which to pour her very considerable talent and energy. Whilst I would love for her to share my passion for fiber arts, she is very different from me in temperment and personality. I am encouraging her to pursue acting and singing and music in some form or another, she has yet to latch onto anything yet. A few prayers sent in her general direction would be greatly appreciated, so she can move through this dark time into a new life path.

Am I a bit insane? Probably but I've decided that after the crazy year we've had that as a family, we are going to go for the joy this summer. Do what is necessary but find the time to go above and beyond the mundane and have a fabulous summer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shepherd's Harvest Swag

Woot! Had a great time at Shepherd's Harvest again this year. I didn't take any classes this time and spent most of my time volunteering at the information booth in Building B and manning the table.

I did manage to pick up a few things, though. The red yarn was on sale for $10 a hank. I got enough yarn for a short sleeved top for $40 dollars. Silver Creek Cabin was the booth where I scored that little bargain.

The buttons are hand-made buttons by Jennie the Potter, as is the yarn bowl. I've been eyeing the yarn bowl for several years. It has a curved channel carved in the side to thread the yarn through. She was featured in last summer, if you want to see more of her work.

The bag of fleece was purchased from Dakota Carding & Wool. It is called Opalescence and the color is Caribbean Blue. It has just a touch of glittery angel hair carded into it, so it has a very subtle sparkle. I can't wait to free up a few bobbins and spin this lovely stuff up.

The braid of wool was a gift from River's Edge Weaving Studio. I volunteered to organize a Ravelry Bingo/Vendor Crawl for members who were attending Shepherd's Harvest. The lovely ladies from River's Edge not only generously provided gift certificates for the prize basket but also gave me a personal gift of Hand Dyed 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool. What a sweet thing to do!
The line up of little finger puppets was picked up at a vendor in the back corner of Building D, next to the Yarn Garage booth. I forgot to pick up a card but I knew the little girls would be thrilled with these little guys. Bubba is especially fond of putting on shows and often makes her own puppets.

The black headband was a gift for Elder Sister (formerly known as Dancing Diva), since her new passion is snowboarding. It is an alpaca headband from Alpaca Treasures. They show a website on the Shepherd's Harvest Vendor list but I can't get it to work right now.

The Sea Turtle was purchased from Saori Free Style Weaving Studio, mostly because the packaging was entirely in Japanese. Hockeyman has been trying to learn Japanese on his own and I knew he'd get a kick out of trying to translate the packaging. Again, the Shepherd's Harvest Vendor list shows a website but it doesn't seem to be up and running at the moment.

I also managed to finish my Go Green Tote bag just before leaving. It was very helpful as a shopping bag at Shepherd's Harvest. I inherited a bunch of double bed sheets from my mother in law. Since all our beds are singles or queen, I decided to recycle them into "yarn". I cut 1.5 inch strips on the bias and then crocheted them into this extra sturdy tote. It will be perfect for beach days because it is porous enough to let sand filter out of it and yet large enough for numerous beach towels.
Well, it is time to get back to the normal routine of life - sort of. We have our home swim meet this weekend, so I'll be working hard at that from Friday through Sunday. Then next weekend is Peeps dance recital weekend. THEN, only then, will things slow down a bit.
Then again, there is a new garden bed just begging to be laid out and dug up. And all the wonderful fleece to spin. And of course TUSKAUFOFE which is in full swing.
Guess "slow down" is a relative term, eh?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Shepherd's Harvest is coming!

I am giddily preparing for Shepherd's Harvest this weekend. I will be leaving on Friday and spending the weekend camping and wandering through all kinds of fibery wonderfulness.

I am also in charge of the Ravelry Bingo/Vendor Crawl for our Shepherd's Harvest Ravelry group. If you are a member and haven't checked out the group, click on the Ravelry link and check it out. We have a nice basket of goodies that will be given out to some lucky participant in the game.

In the meantime, have a very happy Mother's Day!