maryland wrap-up

We made it home from the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in one piece. It was an interesting weekend followed by wisdom teeth extraction on Monday morning from which I am still recovering. It is going to be difficult getting back into the groove.

At four hours, the drive was quite pleasant and the weather couldn’t have been better. We stayed at a fancy golf resort complete with schmaltzy piano music blaring in the lobby. Saturday morning we headed out to the fairgrounds early to get a close spot and even though the event officially opened at 9 am, no one was stopped from milling around before that. My first stop was Zeilinger’s tent to drop off fleeces and the fleece sale to find a few more. Ana took the photo below while standing in line.

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They let in 25 people at a time so we wouldn’t be crushed or elbowed, but it was still close quarters. I had to crawl under a table at one point just to get to the other side. With 800 fleeces to look at, it was basically impossible to see everything and incredibly hard to decide what to buy. After searching, I found two that I was ready to take home. One a Bluefaced Leicester/Shetland cross and the other a Border Leicester cross. However, after waiting in line to pay, I was told I couldn’t take the BL because it was supposed to be in the silent auction. That left me with one fleece and a very bad mood. By that point I had no interest in going back into the chaos and just left.

I moped around most of the morning, feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and disappointed by the fleece debacle. Eventually I came out of in the afternoon, but I didn’t really buy much all day. One jumbo bobbin, one gallon of Kookaburra wool scour, a pound of random fiber, and soap.

In the evening we met up with some friends and had a great dinner. I have to admit that was my favorite part of the weekend. Cosmos! Hummus! Sunshine! Laughter! It was a good end to a somewhat rumpled day.

Ladies night out.

The next morning I was ready to start over again. Corespinning started at 9:15, so I was there at 8:30. Things went well enough that I didn’t feel utterly crushed or hopeless. Not to say I am an expert, but I am excited to keep trying. My yarn was incredibly lumpy, while all the other ladies made theirs so even and relatively thin. I don’t quite know how they achieved that. Also, I thought this was sort of an “art yarn” technique and the point was for it to be funky. Whatever. If they are happy with the results and so am I, it doesn’t matter.

Corespinning class in action.

Over all it was a good weekend. I just can’t see myself making this event a regular stop on my schedule. Honestly, I don’t need that much selection, especially when you can’t get in the booths to look at anything! It did successfully keep me from thinking about my impending oral surgery the following Monday morning. Now that is over too and soon I will get to experiment with corespinning!

MD here we come!

Ana and I are heading out to Maryland tomorrow afternoon. When we first planned this adventure back in February, it seemed so far away. But here we are. Scrambling around to get ready for the weekend. The forecast earlier said rain, but now it’s just 60s and clear, so hooray! I won’t need shorts, which I hate fervently. Or an umbrella, which is awkward.

In the end there are only two washed and ready fleeces. The last one, Tootsie, will have to wait for Great Lakes at the end of the month. I can’t say that I won’t go bonkers at the fleece sale and snag a few more for good measure. I have to bulk up for the fall season and next spring (hint: my business takes a lot of planning ahead).

Last week I had Rock the Vote sitting outside on the porch to dry, but every time I went out to check on it, the Mama Robin who is now living out there would get agitated, so I tried not to bother her. And then of course it rained, causing everything to feel damp, so I left it out a few days more to really dry out. The locks are incredible! Such beautiful little curls, I almost hate to process it. And quite soft too for a Romney cross. But I need some roving and this fleece, despite it’s lovely structure, has a lot of tiny VM that I don’t want to deal with on my own.

rock the vote

To be honest, I don’t know what to buy this weekend. Not sure if it’s better to go there with or without a list. Probably with. If you don’t have something in mind, you might just buy everything! But the thing is, I don’t really need anything. Believe me, I have heard the “I don’t need anymore fiber/yarn” line plenty of times and I always think that it’s a stupid thing to say when you came all the way out to a fiber show. Nobody needs any of this stuff. We all have crazy stashes and yet we keep going. I’ll probably buy something unrelated like maple cream or cheese. However, I’m not just there to browse, I am attending a class  and dropping off fleeces. Plus it’s just awesome to get out there and see all that stuff! It’s a great way to feel insignificant and lame and unaccomplished and lame.

winnie

The weeks are quickly melting away before the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. In fact, it’s only A WEEK AND A HALF AWAY. I have three fleeces that I want to leave with Zeilinger’s for processing, but they need to be washed first. It was difficult to decide who would go to the mill since each fleece is so lovely. The individual lock structure tends to be lost when turned into roving, but I can’t sell only locks.

Out of eight recently purchased fleeces, I chose Tootsie, who is from the same family as Molly, the Border Leicester/Corriedale cross that I’ve been working on. I’m also planning to take two of the four fleeces I just got from Digging Dog Farm in Virginia. Rock the Vote is a Romney/Border Leicester cross and Winnie is a Coopworth/Border Leicester cross.

I started with Winnie on Friday. The fleece weighed 6 lbs. Originally I had planned on washing one half at a time, but in the end just through it all in together. It wasn’t an overly greasy fleece, so it came out fine. There are a lot of tiny pieces of VM, so I hope the mill will be able to remove them. She does have lovely curly tips!

winnie's fleece

winnie's fleece

more molly

Took another swing at washing Molly’s fleece this week. I used the bags again and I let each row overlap, tip over cut end. It actually seemed to help keep things in place better. The locks came out nice and squeaky clean. I think it helps that I’m not putting 8 lbs in the washing machine at once.

Our weather has been back and forth between wonderful and awful, but today was beautiful, so the locks went outside to dry. However, the gale force winds blew everything across the porch, so I collected them all up and took them inside. Ended up with 2 lbs in this batch. Now they are sitting in the living room to finish up drying.

molly

a little experiment

Orange

I purchased this Border Leicester/Corriedale cross fleece last June at Woolfest. A hefty, 8.5 lbs, I washed it in the usual way: throw the whole thing into the washing machine with a bit of Power Scour, wash again, rinse, dry. Nothing special. But it was greasy and I should have been a little more attentive.

fleece

After dyeing a bit, I could see just how greasy it still was, so much so that I could hardly separate the locks after they dried. I didn’t feel good about the state they were in, so I decided to do a little experiment. I put each color in a wash bag, filled the washing machine with hot water and a few squirts of Power Scour, and gave the dyed locks a bath. After rinsing and drying, they were much easier to deal with. I’m glad that I went ahead and washed them again for a few reasons: 1) It is a better product for my customer 2) Now I know that washing the locks after dyeing does not effect the color. I have been asked in the past whether washing dyed locks would take out the color. I felt rather confident saying “no”, but now I know for sure! If you have locks that are too tacky, go ahead and give them a bath. Just be gentle so they don’t start felting.

harvest moon

follow up: molly’s fleece

molly's fleece

I went back to Target and got several more of those lingerie bags. Then I sat on the floor and carefully loaded them up with locks (lined up in rows, not just jammed in there). When I was done I had filled 18 bags, but it was such a small amount compared to the size of the fleece! Next I went downstairs to my washing machine and, using the hottest setting I could, filled the machine up along with three squirts of Unicorn Power Scour. Finally I stuffed all the bags into the washer. I let it soak for about 10-15 minutes, spun out the water, filled it again and added two squirts of Power Scour. I let it soak again for about 15 minutes, spun it out, and then filled the washer again without soap. After giving it a final spin, I emptied the bags and laid the locks out to dry.

Negatives

  • The bags took up a lot of space that could have been filled with more fleece.
  • Since the bags were vertical, some of the locks ended up smooshed into a corner instead of staying nicely arranged.
  • The bags looked nearly empty once the locks were wet and compressed; seemed like I could have gotten more in there
  • The tips were not as clean as I would have liked.
  • Packing the bags was very time consuming.

Positives

  • The fleece was very clean. I have been having issues with tackiness even after washing. I think it worked better this time because I didn’t over-stuff the washing machine.
  • The locks were not jumbled up or messy. They are individual and have maintained their crimp and curl.
  • The bags were easy to maneuver.
  • I will have less picking and sorting to do after dyeing.

I went back to Target and found these stackable, foldable sweater drying racks. They were $5.99 each and quite helpful, especially since I had thought about making something similar myself.

molly's fleece

molly’s fleece

molly's fleece

This beautiful 8 pound fleece came all the way from New York. I bought it along with three others (two of which are relatives of Molly). The breed is Border Leicester/Corriedale cross. It has a fantastic staple length with lovely subtle waves and pointy tips. I can’t wait to see how it dyes, but first I need to wash it. Since I couldn’t wait until spring, I got out my trusty “old sheet” and laid the fleece out in the living room. It doesn’t really smell bad. Thankfully the fleece was already skirted and it’s incredibly clean. Hooray for jackets on sheep!

I’m trying something new with this fleece. Often I have seen people line up the locks and place them in mesh pouches before washing. This helps to keep the locks lined up rather than getting tangled. Usually I don’t bother, especially if I’m sending the fleece to a mill for carding. However, this time I plan on dyeing the locks and I want to keep them tidy.

Instead of cutting and pinning my own mesh pouches, I picked up a few lingerie bags at Target for $1.50 each. My time is worth something, right? They are the perfect size to fit three rows of locks and easily reusable. I just don’t know if the fineness of the mesh has any effect on the washing process.

bagging locks

Although, it’s pretty obvious three are not nearly enough! I’ll get some more this week when I’m out. In the meantime I can continue to separate the locks and make piles ready for bagging. I’m excited about this. Usually I just dump the whole hefty fleece into the washing machine. It’s a bit of a pain to maneuver, especially once it gets wet. With the bags, I can easily work in smaller batches, move the bags around to refill the washer, and the locks are already arranged for later. Stay tuned to find out the results…

molly's fleece

prepping for Indie Knit & Spin

I glanced at the calendar yesterday and realized there are only about three weeks until Indie Knit & Spin! After the Autumn Fiber Event last weekend and a busy (not with fiber) September, my inventory is rather low. I have high expectations for this upcoming event, so there is a lot to do to get ready.

  • Spinning yarn
  • Carding 30-40 batts
  • Sorting and picking Corriedale/Border Leicester fleece
  • Dyeing
    > Falkland top
    > Shetland roving
    > Cotswold locks
    > Corriedale/Border Leicester locks

And then it’s nothing for three months! Maybe I’ll finally have a chance to paint the bathroom and practice wet felting and get all that custom yarn spun up. It’ll be a good time to hibernate and get stuff done.

Check out our Facebook page and Ravelry group to get more information about the event.

Undyed locks will make their debut at Indie Knit & Spin! Here is the beautiful Corriedale/Border Leicester cross I found at Woolfest. It has lovely wave and a great staple length. After a wash and dry, I’ve been picking through it, separating the locks and pulling out VM. The locks fluff easily, so you could just pull them apart and spin them without further processing necessary.

measuring a lock

hand picking a fleece

Orange

 

two unrelated things

Happy first day of October everyone! Is it really here already?

On Saturday Ross Alpaca Ranch had an open house for the National Alpaca Farm Days. I spent the day spinning and talking to the visitors. I got pictures of my sample table, but when I went out to get pictures of the animals, my camera died. Immediately. So I have nothing else to show. No photos of the angora goats, the ducks, the alpacas, or the llamas. Nothing.

samples

Today I picked up three bushel baskets from Hobby Lobby. In the spirit of going “natural”, I will soon be offering undyed locks to go along with the undyed yarn. I decided that instead of bagging it for you, I’ll put the whole fleece in a big basket and you can buy as much of it as you want. For $2/ounce. I tossed this Romney lamb fleece in one basket to see how it worked. Seems to work fine, wouldn’t you say?

bushel o' wool