Blast from the past.

I’ve started working on cleaning out the basement after all of these years and made a pleasant discovery today of some sweaters that I’d thought that I’d given away to charity. They were tucked into a blue rubbermaid container and I’d forgotten they’d been put there.

I tend not to give my younger self credit for the knitting skills I had back then but the reality is these are probably just as good as anything I’d knit today and I was probably more fearless back then as there were knits I wouldn’t be bothered with attempting now.

assorted fair isle sweaters from early eighties
Assorted sweaters from the early 80’s.


Washing a Shetland Fleece

Last Friday I received my shipment of fleece from Bob and Vickie. They are a couple I met in a group on Ravelry – Raspberry Hollow’s Mohair and Wool appreciation society group and as the name suggests it’s a bunch of like-minded people who appreciate all things mohair and wool. Bob and Vickie raise mohair goats and different breeds of sheep to sell the fleeces to spinners. They can be found at Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow if you care to look.

Anyhow I had reserved a shetland fleece from a little ewe called Monkey and another fleece from an ewe called Sis. Today I finished washing Monkey’s fleece and thought I’d show some photos of the process. First off however are a couple of pictures of a sampler yarn that I spun in the grease. One of the ladies I know on Ravelry suggested I try spinning in the grease so I did just to say I had. Some things I found about spinning in the grease were:

1. You can spin a very fine single, this is because the lanolin in the wool helps to hold the fibres together so it’s easy to get down to a fine yarn.
2. Because I wasn’t really worried about the fibres drifting apart I found it easier to spin a bit faster.
3. It’s easy to overspin especially when plying. I found because the fibres stuck together I didn’t have a good grasp on how tightly I was plying. I’m sure it’s just a case of practise but a tip was given to me that if you ply in the grease then having a small bowl of water to dip the ply in to clean it would help the spinner to see what was happening.
4. Dirty wool is kind of gross but that’s my own personal opinion. It was kind of neat to spin in the grease but that feeling was offset by the ugh factor.

Greasy hands from lanolin on wool.

Single on the bobbin.

Plied yarn.

Comparison of washed yarn and fleece, some people have said that it’s hard to wash out all the dirt and lanolin so I thought I’d do a comparison.

Next up are a series of photos of the fleece being washed.

Rolling the locks into a piece of tulle.

Set up on the bed.

Spreading apart the tips. This fleece was a coated fleece so very clean and I found that by spreading the tips the Power Scour did a better job of cleaning the lanolin off of them. Time consuming but worth it because the tips got clean the first time around.

Three puffy tubes of wool pinned shut with stainless safety pins.

Wool settling in to soak in a container of very hot water with a squirt of Unicorn Power Scour.

Foaming action of the Power Scour, this stuff does a really good job of cleaning with no suds.

Rinsing the wool.

Fibres with lots of crimp.

Different part of fleece and different crimp.

Locks drying on a rack.

What two and a half pounds of wool looks like on the bed, notice the kleenex at the foot of the bed. In the middle of that is the waste I had, two turfs of wool that had some seeds and then other bits of seeds and alfalfa.

The fleece was a coated fleece and you pay more for that but when I washed it I kept marvelling over how clean the wool was and how easy it was to get the lanolin out of it. I dont’ think there was any dirt in the tub just residue from the grease. I’ll have to see how Sis’s fleece washes up as I have the blanketed portion plus the uncovered bits as well but I’ll save that for another day.

The one thing I found interesting about this fleece is that it isn’t strictly white there are some grey parts of fleece in there. Some of it looks grey and some of it is white with black hairs so it looks grey. I’ll have to see how it spins up. Other parts of the fleece are white. I found teasing apart the tips of the locks time consuming but it let me see the different parts of the fleece close up. I’d read that a fleece isn’t the same all over and spinners will sort through a fleece to get similar locks of wool to spin for a project. That was certainly true for this fleece, parts of it were more coarse and other parts finer. Then there were the different shades of of the fleece as well. I’m going to have to go through and sort out all the like bits and then decide what to spin.

Post Edit: Something I was reading tonight in the forums is the fact that sheep live in the barn and as such can be exposed to parasites, bacteria, poop etc you get the idea so it’s a good idea not to wash your fleece in the same area that you prepare your food and eat, just a thought. Gloves might be a good idea as well, definitely not spinning in the grease any more. Also got told tonight that pouring disolved lanolin down the drain is bad for the pipes because it’s a grease and could clog them so I guess it’s washing the fleece outside now for me.

I’m just blogging about my experience not saying it’s the correct way to do things so anyone reading this do your research. Hmm, did I just print a disclaimer, yeah I think I did.


Spinning Fun.

Well I finished spinning up the last of the Shetland fleece I got from Jamieson & Smith. I had Jonathan take a picture of me wearing it just for some fun. I have no clue what to make with it. I thought it was a lot of yarn but at 767 yards it’s not enough for a large sweater so it might get turned into a toddler sweater but I’m not sure. I’m not sure I want to waste it on a small person who may or may not wear it.
Myself wearing my Shetland homespun yarn, around 767 yards of it at 354 grams, it was warm.

I have also been working on my Hillswick Lumber. This is a wonderful cardigan by Ann Feitelson from her book The Art of Fair Isle Knitting. Progress is slow at one row every 20-25 minutes so it’s going to take a few months to finish. The progress so far:
Hillswick lumber section 1
Hillswick Lumber, body section.

Aside from the spinning and knitting I haven’t really gotten anything else done around here. Spring is coming though so once it gets a bit warmer I can envision doing some spring cleaning. I have a couple of wool fleeces reserved so hope to place the order this weekend for them. Once they arrive I’ll be washing them up; apparently raw fleece attracts moths more readily so I’m paranoid about that so you might see some more fleece cleaning photos in the near future.


More Navaho-ply.

Well I finally had a go at dyeing up some wool using one of the Easter egg kits I got on sale last year. I think I ended up paying 25 cents or something like that. LOL, it’s taken me that long to get up the nerve to use the dye.

I pre-soaked the wool top in some water that had a bit of vinegar added to it, I’d tell you the amount but it was more like a glug. I let that soak for about 30 minutes then added the wool to a pot and put it on the stove to simmer. When the wool was steaming I and the two grandsons added the dye tablets to the wool along with a couple more tablespoons of vinegar. I let the wool steam away until all the dye was taken up, then let it cool and rinsed it out.

Shetland roving dyed with Paas Easter egg dyes.

Here are a few pictures of the wool being spun and a picture of a Berkley’s fish line counter that I jury rigged to the base of a candle stand. I ran the yarn through this as I was winding it into a yarn cake. The cake was a bit too firm so I rewound the yarn but the counter did the trick and it only cost $13.99 at the outdoor store.

Easter egg skein
Single on spinning wheel bobbin.

Berkley line counter
Berkley fishing line counter clamped to candle base.

Easter skein on black
Skein on black background.

Easter egg cake
Wool wound into a yarn cake.

Here’s another little item I picked up from the thrift shop, it’s a sock loom with dvd and book. I don’t need a loom to make socks in fact I can knit faster than using this loom but it struck my fancy to give it a go. I guess I was reminiscing about the little wooden cork tool that I used as a kid to make those circular tubes of wool that then got sewn into placemats.

Sock loom
KB Sock loom.

As I expected it’s easier for me to knit socks but it’s been interesting to try this out and if you can’t knit then it’s an alternative.


Rainbow Dyed Wool Roving and Navaho-plying

Thought I would post what I’ve been up to lately. In my Ravelry groups there are always some type of monthly projects going on and this month’s project for my spinning group was to spin up some Easter coloured wool and then learn how to Navaho-ply the single. The reason spinners will Navaho-ply is to preserve the colour runs that they have spun into their single (one ply yarn). So you take your roving, spin it all up into one ball and then ply it back on itself. The single thread ends up being a 3-ply yarn.

Navaho-plying is very similar to crocheting in that you pull your single through a loop but at the same time the wheel is turning adding twist. So the trick is to pull a loop, twist, pull a loop, twist. The hard part is not letting to much twist into your working threads otherwise you won’t have a loop big enough to pull more single through. The other trick is to do this in a manner that you’re not over-plying the yarn. It took me almost the entire 100 grams of single before I caught on and made an even ply. What worked for me was learning to keep the hand that grabs the single through the loop still and close to my body at the top of the plying motion. The other hand controls the plying motion of bringing the thread to and from the wheel. Kind of hard to explain but once I learned this trick my plying became smoother, looser and it was like I was doing a 2-ply motion.

Anyhow here are a few photos of the dyed roving and finished yarn. One of these days I’ll remember to take pictures while I’m dyeing the wool.

roving rainbow
Shetland top dyed with Jaquard Sky Blue, Fire red and Yellow.

rainbow single
Single ply on the bobbin.

Easter rainbow skein
Navahoe-plied in a skein.

Easter rainbow cake
Final layer cake.

It was a good learning experience this March SAL (spin along). Not only did I learn to Navaho-ply but I also learned more about dyeing wool and what happens when I spin up coloured roving. Next time I dye some roving I’ll make sure I have more of a separation between the areas of colour. I wanted to blend the colours to get some green, purple and orange but what I found was except for the blue area in the roving I lost a lot of the original colour.

I thought having a couple of inches of colour would be enough to show up in the spinning but what I found was the twist moves into the wool about four inches at a time so it’s grabbing not only the first colour but it’s pulling in some adjacent colour as well so there was a lot of blending going on. This is great if you want that effect and it was quite pretty. The thing is Navaho plying combines thread so you get a 3-ply yarn and this really blends the colours so it does muddy the colour.

My final colours in the yarn were surprising to me because I didn’t expect to get them. I thought I was going for Easter rainbow and I ended up more or less with autumn leaves and blue sky. It’s nice just not what I wanted. I think the way to spin the purest colour is most likely just grabbing coloured top and spinning up a handful of this and then switching out to a handful of that. It’s fascinating really the countless combinations of colour that can be achieved through different dyeing techniques, carding and spinning.


Aunt Grace Baby Quilt and more…

I have a few more things to post since the last time I wrote. I finished dyeing up the bulky yarn that I’d planned to turn into a hat for John and then I knit the hat.

shetland bulky overdyed sapphire blue and jet black
Shetland homespun yarn dyed with Jaquard’s Sapphire Blue and over-dyed with Jaquard’s Jet Black dye.

hat side view 1
Shetland bulky homespun knitted into a hat, the pattern is called Jason’s Tweed Hat by Melissa Thomson of Sweet Fiber Designs.

Next up is another baby quilt that I finished for the daughter of a good friend. She is expecting her first child come spring so I was invited to the baby shower and this is what I came up with. The fabrics that I used where from a charm pack of Aunt Grace 30’s reproduction fabrics. I chose to pair the fabric with plain white and then picked out some green homespun to match for the backing. Usually I dye my own backing but somehow with these prints I didn’t think funky tie-dye would work so I settled for the more muted green and I’m glad I did. Kind of scary that I’ve had this sitting in the closet since 2006, it just seems like yesterday I bought the charm pack. The quilt was made from a quilt tutorial put out by the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Go over to the right of the web page and click on Tutorials to find a listing. Zipper Quilt

aunt grace baby quilt in playpen

Aunt Grace baby quilt

Aunt Grace “Scrapbag 2006″ – Marcus Brothers textiles.

One of the girls in my Ravelry forum groups posted a cute little scarf and I immediatley thought of my mother-in-law who likes this type of scarf where you can put one end through the other, I think it’s called a keyhole scarf. Anyhow this one was a quick knit that I did while watching the Olympics. I just used a simple acylic for the yarn as she is allergic to wool.

Miss Marple scarf
Miss Marple Scarf by SusanneS-vV, done in Red Heart Supersaver.

This looks like the bulky yarn that I spun for John’s hat and it is wool from the same fleece but this time the yarn I spun is finer more of an Aran weight yarn. I’ve spun up two of these so there is about 360 yards. I was going to spin two hanks and then dye them together but I’m not sure what project I’m going to use the yarn for. I was thinking of an Aran sweater for one of the grandkids so I guess I’ll research the yardage needed and go from there but meanwhile here are two hanks of Shetland White.

2 skeins aran weight shetland
Shetland White homespun, Aran weight approximately 360 yards.

Finally I thought I’d share some fiber that I have sitting out ready to be spun into something (at some point). Some pretty eye candy, I always like seeing fiber on blogs so here is some of mine.

The Great Pumpkin Patch dyed by Vickie from Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow, This is a Coopworth/BFL wool fiber.

Northern Lights dyed by Karen Burren Stained Glass Art. This is a merino/silk blend.

That’s all for now. I’m not sure what I have planned next but I’m sure it’ll be more spinning and maybe some more quilting as well. Now that I’ve done the two baby quilts I realize just how much fabric I have so I need to get some more sewing done.


Projects galore…

I’ve done a lot of work since Christmas but I haven’t blogged it. I’d thought I’d only done a few things but went back to check the photos and surprised even myself so here goes…

First up is a headband that I knit using Kate Davies pattern WWWW #1. This is a free pattern that can be found on Ravelry so if you aren’t a member I can highly recommend joining as it’s one of the best databases out there with tons of patterns, yarns, forums, etc.

The thing that is special about this headband is that it’s the second finished project that I’ve knit using yarn that I’ve handspun myself. The headband is a bit tall in these photos but that’s my own fault because I thought I was off gauge so tossed in extra rows, I should have left the pattern alone. This is the first time I’ve knit a lining into anything and picked up a provisional cast-on. The white lining was alpaca for softness.

WWWW #1 with lining showing

The next project I worked on was a cowl I started while on vacation in Florida. We went down at the beginning of January and I took the headband pictured above to work on along with a spindle. I also took a lot of books but ended up knitting and watching reno shows inbetween walking the beaches. Well I finished off the headband and then had to go out and find something else to knit so I picked up a ball of Berroco lace and started in on this cowl. It’s a nice drapey cowl and while it took a lot of effort to finish it I really like how it drapes and folds in on itself. The cowl will go to Dan’s girlfriend so I hope she likes it. The cowl is called Willow Cowl by Amelia Lyon and is another free Ravelry pattern.
Willow cowl head shot

willow cowl

I belong to the Bliss Spinning Wheel forum on Ravelry and the girls decided that this year will be one for the beginning spinners (there are a lot of us) so each month of 2014 will feature a different type of fibre or method of spinning. For the month of January the featured fibre was BFL – Blue-faced Leicester. I have some superwash BFL so decided to try my hand at dyeing again only this time using the Jaquard acid dyes I bought for Christmas. Unfortunately I’m not sure where the photos of the dyepot are, maybe I forgot to take them, oh well the pot was half blue and half yellow but mostly green by the time it was done.
sky blue sun yellow superwash bfl
Fingering weight yarn in BFL superwash.


sky blue and yellow sun braid bfl superwash

Well before we left for Florida my chiropractor of eight years informed me that he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby in February so while I’m congratulating him I’m thinking that doesn’t leave me much time to get a baby gift ready. I see my chiropractor each week so he’s like family to me so I had to make something. Well we got back home and a week later I’m getting ready for my appointment when the office phoned to cancel as he was in the delivery room – three weeks early awk! Anyhow after thinking about it and going to my stash I settled on a very simple quilt with lots of colour and this is what I came up with – hand-dyed backing of course.
Finished bright colours baby quilt

Front and back view bright colours baby quilt
Backing dyed with Procion MX dyes in Lemon Yellow and Turquoise.

Finally, another handspun project for February’s challenge for the spinning group. This time the lesson was to try and create a big and lofty type of yarn, which usually means spinning woollen. I carded up some of the Shetland fleece that I had washed a couple of months ago into four big batts and then spun it up woollen. I didn’t fuss about what happened so the resulting yarn is quite rough but I wanted that look. I’m hoping to knit it into a hat for my husband John, something simple and guy-like that he’ll want to wear. I’ve decided to keep it natural for now and I can always dye it later if need be.
carded shetland fleece

Shetland bulky 104 yards

shetland bulky

Well that’s all for now. I have another baby quilt to finish by February 22 and I haven’t started but I have an idea for it so that’s half the battle. I also have the hat to knit and then I should be free of projects for the next little while. I bought a new pressure canner while down south on vacation, saved myself about $200 so I was pleased and I’ve been reading up on pressure canning soups and meats so we’ll see how that turns out.


Ice Storm 2013

It rained yesterday overnight so the result looked like this and we woke up to no power.

close up iced branchesa

ice storm 2013a

iced trees fronta

icy screena

Hopefully the ice will melt somewhat today because it’s supposed to get down to -17 C in a couple of days and I’m afraid that if we get wind there are going to be a lot of damaged trees. Several of our trees have branches down already.


Almost Christmas

Well Christmas is almost upon us and I really haven’t gotten much done to show for it. I found out that I have the beginning stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis so have been mired in the Internet for the last three weeks trying to figure out what happens with this disease. I did start some knitting today but I have to admit that as far as getting homemade gifts ready for Christmas this year was so-so.

I did make some more oven towels.
christmas towels
The tutorial for these towels is over at the right-hand side of this blog.

I also spun up a little hank of the wool I had dyed (shown in previous posts).
black boysenberry tangerine starfire
Shetland black, dyed shetland boysenberry and tangerine.

I also managed to do a low-water immersion shirt for my son.
Jaquard Jet Black, ProChem Intense Blue. The grey/brown was the jet black separating in the water.

I also bought some stuff from KnitPicks.
enchanted lake sock yarn
Enchanted Lake sock yarn.

enchanted lake closeup
Close-up of the sock yarn because it’s so pretty.

Jaquard acid dyes to experiment with my wool after Christmas.

Some baby alpaca yarn on sale.

Not much else going on right now. I need to clean the dining room and put up the tree (I hate doing this but the grandkids will be here) so I can’t see blogging again before Christmas so I’m wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :)


Kettle dyeing with MX dyes.

I tried dyeing some of the Shetland fleece I was given with some of my mx procion dyes. I’d read something about being able to use exhausted procion mx dyes on wool or silk you just need to put an acid with them to make them work. I know the colours don’t always come true but given that I have two tubs worth of mx dyes I thought I’d give it a shot.

The fleece I was given is a very fine (as in micron count) fleece. The only problem I had with it was that the rise or break in the fibre occurred about 2/3 – 1/2 way down the tips so there was a lot of wasteage. I decided that I was going to card all of it together and just spin it woolen and not worry about what I got. I consider this a practise fleece. The first practise was in washing and cleaning the fleece. It was very full of peat and the amount of dirt that came out of the fibre incredible but I did pick most of it out.

Next I decided to practise my woolen spinning skills and make big fat yarn, which came out not too badly with the hat and cowl I made my granddaughter Charlie. Here’s a picture of her wearing her hat. Bad grandma disturbed her lunch to get it so she’s not too happy with me. LOL, plus she’s wearing her spaghettio’s on her face.
eating spaghettios

So figuring the fleece owed me nothing I decided to drum card up a couple of batts and try dyeing them using the paint method. I didn’t bother taking pictures of the process (meaning I forgot) but this is where you lay out your pre-soaked fibre on sarah wrap, paint it, wrap it up and then steam it.

I really don’t know what I’m doing or how long I should be steaming the packages but the last time I tried this with the wilton’s food colour I just steamed until the water ran clear. This didn’t happen with the procion mx dyes. I’m not sure if it’s because I used too much dye or because they are procion mx dyes and they don’t run clear. Anyhow the eggplant when used on cotton gives you a beautiful dark purple, that’s not what I got. On the other hand the tangerine came out vividly so go figure.

Next I decided to dye some fleece that hadn’t been carded to see what happened. Again I decided to try using my procion mx dyes because I have some nice colour combinations so I used Intense blue, boysenberry and golden yellow.

ultra blue bosenberry golden yellow
Fleece in dye pot with blue, boysenberry and yellow.

In the pot the dyes started to mix so I could see the green and purple starting to show. Of course it didn’t stop there and to my dismay the blue and boysenberry totally took over the yellow.

Blended dyes

Well needless to say the dye didn’t totally absorb into the wool or the water run clear. I tried simmering the wool for about 50 minutes and left it to cool quite a bit before I rinsed the whole thing. Lots of dye went down the drain and I also found out that none of the blue dye took. I was left with boysenberry and a boysenberry-golden yellow type of orange. Not sure why the blue didn’t take but I have a feeling blue takes longer to absorb into wool.

rinsed fibre still wet
Rinsed fibre still wet.

Next morning the wool was dry and it hadn’t really lightened like fibre is supposed to. If anything it seemed darker to me but then again I dyed this late last night so the lighting wasn’t that great.

dried boysenberry mix
Dry wool, actually more purplish than pink in real life.

Anyhow the mystery of the blue yarn with the barber pole effect (previous post) was solved as the tips of the fleece turned out really dark. When I washed the fleece there were a lot of dark dirty tips that didn’t come clean in the wash. You’re really kind of helpless to try and get these tips clean unless you want a felted mess from disturbing the wool to much so I just comb them out when the fleece is dry. So the tips were still dirty and I guess my hair-dresser was right when he said dirty hair absorbs the dye better.

Darker tips.

Then I carded up some of the dyed wool into a batt. It was really kind of pretty but I carded it a third time so most of the pretty streaks from the orange were lost into the batt but the batt needed an extra turn through the drum carder to make it more uniform so I lost the variation.

Here is a picture of all three batts.

Eggplant, Tangerine, Boysenberry.

And here is a picture of what I woke up to this morning.

winter wonderland
Winter wonderland.

Next, what to do with the different coloured batts?