Archive for May, 2012

Experimental Spinning

May 19, 2012

I am working on a commission job, a pair of historically accurate pair of handspun, handknit socks for a gentleman who does mountain man rendezvous. I started with about 9 ounces of washed locks from a Romney cross fleece. It was a pretty gross fleece, not at all skirted and full of veg matter, but it makes good sock yarn. I’ve been sitting and picking it by hand for a while, then ran it through the Patrick Green carder in 2-ounce batches.

Recently, I saw a Youtube video on pulling roving off the PG, so I decided to give that a try. As long as I was playing, why not see how the different preps spun off compared to each other, right? I prepped 6 ounces, and did one as a batt, one as roving drawn off the carder, and one as a roving pulled into roving by hand from the batt.

     I know, boring pictures. I spun them all on my electric spinner. Not as fun as the wheel, but the bobbin is much larger, so it’s no problem spinning and plying a single large skein.

 This is the single, and this is the yarn plied 

My observations are pretty straightforward – I couldn’t see any differences in the finished yarn. Most of that is probably that I’ve been spinning for a long time, and fine yarns are a specialty of mine. I did notice a few things though.

I started with the batt first. I spin from batts a lot. I rarely bother pulling strips off the batt, just manage how the fibers enter my hand. In a very colorful batt that may require paying a lot of attention, depending on how I want the colors to blend (or not). Color was not an issue with this trial, of course. Veg matter was easily flicked out with a tap of my finger as I spun. This took the longest to spin, but there was no prep time after the carding.

Second up was the roving I pulled off the carder. Granted that this was my first time doing this, but I was not impressed. There were a couple of things that I didn’t like. First, I don’t clean the drums on my carder every time, so there is always a bit of stuff left over from previous batches. Not a problem when I’m taking off batts. I may get a fiber or 2 that lift off with the batt, but they are easily removed later on. When I was pulling off the roving, I noticed that a lot of the those base fibers were coming off in the roving, and they were pretty firmly imbedded in it. The second problem was how long it took me to pull the roving off. It wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if I could have done it sitting down, but I had to stand, which really made my back unhappy. Thirdly, I could not get a consistent size roving, and it broke in 3 places. This may just be a matter of experience, but given all the other problems I don’t know that I’ll work on getting better. The last problem showed up as I was spinning – the veg matter was firmly imbedded in the roving. I would have to stop and pull it out.

Years ago, I learned how to pull a batt into roving, and this was my favorite of the three preps to spin. I can pull a consistently sized roving fairly quickly, seated in my comfy chair in front of the tv. Because I pulled it off the carder as a batt there were only 2 fibers that didn’t belong (both angelina), and the veg matter flicks out easily. It was the fastest to spin, but if you figure in the time spent pulling it out I don’t know that it saved any time over just spinning the batt.

Now on to the knitting. These are going to be big, boring socks – size 13 and calf high! But I’m getting a ton of hay out of the deal, delivered, so it’s worth the work.

This morning when I took grain out to the creep I tried getting fleece pictures from the lambs, but they weren’t having any of that. This is the best picture of the lot, and you can see how fuzzy it is. The babies were not at all cooperative!

 I’ll try again when I halter break them all after weaning.

But I did get some decent shots of lambs. At one point all the lambs were in the creep. I am no longer the big, bad boogeyman their mothers told them. They don’t all come up for cuddles, but I can scratch everyone from behind at least.

 It’s hard to get a good picture of Merlin, since he is sure I’ve got a bottle hidden somewhere. He’s down to one bottle a day, but he is an optimist every time I come out.

 When I first poured out the grain, Malcolm had the farthest bowl to himself, while 7 lambs were trying to fit around the nearer bowl. Silly children!

 Then they all shifted, and the 4 blacks lambs had this bowl to themselves.

 Mary is the last one to one to get the hang of the creep, at least in my presence. Not that she really needs the grain; she is the biggest lamb of all.

 Manny is the biggest boy (also the oldest). Pretty sure he will be going to fairs for showing this summer. Love when they naturally set their feet nicely. Still haven’t decided who the 2nd ram will be to show, but there’s time for that later.

Keeping out of Trouble

May 15, 2012

Last week was uber-busy. By Sunday I was beyond exhausted, and I am just now recuperating.

So what had me so busy, you might ask. Well, my friend Kellie is a baker. Actually, her husband does the baking, and Kellie does the decorating. I have offered to help for years, and she has continually turned me down. Finally, last weekend she asked me to come over and get things prepped so her husband could catch up on baking after he got home from work. When I showed up, she asked me to bake a few things. My baking based muster that evening with her husband, so I ended up spending part of 4 days baking, splitting cakes, filling the layers, and simple frosting. Kellie and another friend also just moved into a new shop, and Mother’s Day weekend was the Grand Opening. I made the banner for that too. Rip stop nylon and great iron-on interfacing, so I’ll be working on a new farm sign before fairs. Saturday morning I also helped set up one of the 3 wedding cakes due that day. Working in the bakery is hard on my back because of the cement floor, but it means a little money coming in so that’s good.

 This is before the flowers were added. Pretty, isn’t it? And the nicest thing is that it tastes as good as it looks. She does amazing work.

Another of my discount amaryllis bloomed for Mother’s Day. Love the colors on this one! A third is getting ready to bloom also, but it’s probably a couple of weeks out. Definitely getting my money worth on these.  I may have to look at getting some more after next Christmas. They do brighten the room. 

The County had gotten a complaint from one of my neighbors about the dead cars in the yard. Now, they have been there for years (one of them was the first car Daughter had bought for herself in high school, which died within a few months. So it has been there at least 9 years). I have dragged my heels about dealing with them (mostly since the last time I had scrapped one, it cost me money). A couple of weeks ago, a guy showed up looking for scrap. Today the last 2 dead cars went away. My yard is emptier, my wallet is a bit heavier. Good on all fronts.

I’ve got two weddings coming up, friends of the Daughter. I was worried about one of them, since I thought I would have to drive by the accident site in Eastern Washington, but it turns out that it’s a little farther up the road. Kid the Younger is probably going to come with me, and we may decide to go visit it, but at least we have the option. That makes the idea of going much easier. The other one is in Montana, and we’ll hit the corner of Yellowstone on the way home. Lots of driving on the agenda early this summer. Hope gas prices don’t go up too high.

My biggest news of the week was an e-mail I got from one of the organizers of Black Sheep Gathering, asking if I would be one of the judges for the Spinner’s Lead. I am extremely excited about the prospect. I’ve entered it a couple of time, and the wedding shawl I made last spring won last year. The prizes have gotten much better recently, so if you’re in the area think about entering. You get more points for leading in an animal, but a lot of the exhibitors are willing to lend one out for the parade.

Finally, today the big sheep all got treated with pour-on meds for external parasites, and the lambies all got wormed and got shots. No one is happy with me, but I managed to get everyone treated and can mark that off my to-do list. Next up is a call to my shearer to get a few of the ewes shorn. I’d like to be able to show a couple of fleeces at fairs, and having her do it is the only way that can happen. My shearing is good enough to get a fleece off the animal, but it isn’t show worthy when I’m done. I had fun looking at all the fibery goodness that the coats have been hiding, and I’m really looking forward to getting them up on the skirting table. I’ll be weaning the lambs before Memorial Day weekend, so it’s going to get noisy around here.