Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Off White Album

Today's post will consist of a series of beige blobs, each representing a significant landmark in my education as a fibre artist (honest).

You may remember that I bought a fleece at Woolfest. I asked the very helpful women at the Woolclip to advise me and help me choose a good beginner's fleece. They came up with this 'mule', a cross breed of a Blue Faced Leicester Ram with a Swaledale ewe.
According to In Sheep's Clothing; a handspinner's guide to wool by Nola and Jane Fournier ' The fleece is semi lustrous with a fine, wavy crimp that gives good loft...The comparatively light, airy feel of this long wool fleece makes it a good choice for the production of hard wearing but warm knitted and woven outerwear.' In other words, merino it ain't but it's robust enough to stand up to the heavy paws of the novice fleece processor!
And here it is, in all it's unwashed glory. When they rolled it out on the table, and rolled,and rolled.... I could see that this was a clean, open fleece. when you plunge your hands into this they come out feeling all coated in lanolin but not in an unpleasant way. The corner of my hallway where the fleece is currently sitting, smells vaguely of sheep.But not in a bad way...
Having heard a whole range of opinions on how best to wash the fleece I took the softly softly approach and separated out some of the nicest, cleanest looking fleece, zipped it up in a lingerie bag and poured very hot water and washing up liquid all over it and left it to soak till the water cooled and repeated the process. I did it once more with clean hot water then hung it on the line to dry.

May joy be unconfined, it turned into this!
There are still some yellowy, lanolin filled patches but to my delight most of it has turned into this white, fluffy cloud.

Out came the hand carders that I bought at last year's Woolfest and hadn't yet used and after a few tangled moments managed to produce these rolags. Now, I'm not pretending that they in any way compare to the beautiful basketful that I saw the other week at Woolfest but I love them as only the person who made them can.

Then, out came my largest Bosworth spindle and soon we had yarn. The book was entirely correct. This wool has a very robust, woolly feel to it. I am spinning at what, when plied will probably be a good DK or Aran weight so maybe a hat for one of my least sensitive friends?
I find it very difficult to express the intense pleasure I have in looking at this little scrap of spun yarn. I am quite overwhelmed that I made it from the rawest of raw materials, straight off a sheep's back!
Working with this fleece has given me the courage to tackle my Romney shearling fleece. I have some drying as we speak so I'll tell you how I get on with it shortly.
As this is an entirely spinning related entry I thought I would share with you my continued progress with my spindle spun Flutter scarf. Here is another small skein of merino tencel, spun and navajo plied on spindles ready to be knitted up into the scarf. I've now used up the skein in the photo and am half way through the increase rows to create the fluted edge of the first half. I should finish that part with the next mini skein so I will show you how it's shaping up them. Right now I thought you might like a bit of colour before this blog started to look like studies of clouds by J M Turner.

Finally, I have another 'first' to share. Here is the first yarn spun on my new Little Gem. 100g merino bamboo roving by Bonkers Fibres in the colourway 'Pavoreal'. I think it the best bit of spinning I have ever done and am also pleased that the fibre and colours come together to form such a 'grown up' skein of yarn. There are about 400m of a light fingering/ sock weight yarn which is a bit too drapey to use for socks so I will probably make a shawl or wrap out of it.
I have another couple of skeins of this roving so I could do quite a large project if I wanted.
Any suggestions?


sussexyorkie said...

If you have enough yarn how about this. Simple but it would show off the yarn well.

Queen of the froggers said...

That fleece has come up lovely, it does look so boubcy. The spinning is just great too. The Bonkers Fibres colours are nice.

picperfic said...

you are so exciting to get to the spinning stage with the fleece off a sheep's back! I am impressed! I love the pink yarn and can't wait to see the finished result of that. The bottom yarn looks so special, I am jealous ok? I want to spin, scared to make the plunge because I know it will take over my life for a while and my work life is starting to get busy on the photography front!!

natalie said...

Jane, I am seeing you in a whole new light.... you are the owner of a lingerie bag.

kaet said...


I went to a Tudor re-enactment last week, and the woman demonstrating carding was saying how soft the lanolin made her hands, so it has its benefits!

Karen said...

I'm marvelling at all this - it's wonderful, and you should rightly be proud of your work!

knit nurse said...

Well done, and I can totally empathise with your thrill at your first 'proper' spinning!

Mandella said...

That's really lovely. And thanks for the tip, I hadn't thought about adding the water to the fleece instead of vice-versa.

Terri said...

The post title made me think of the Beatles, the white album was always my favourite!!!!!
The spun yarn looks gorgeous, I'm very envious of your skills:-)