Sock Selfies and Spin Time

Knitting-wise, there’s a lot of secret magazine designing and knitting going on which I can’t show. 😦 boohoo. But I did finish two pairs of socks this week too, one in Drops Delight and one in Bendigo Woollen Mills Sock, using my standard top down 60 stitches with fish lips kiss heels.
   
    
 I am also slowly work on setting up the ‘fibre room’ in the train. I have made room for my spinning wheel finally, and have one comfy corner just for spinning and a table for fleece processing. M and I rescued my wheel from oblivion in the top shed, cleaned it down, rubbed back all the metal and oiled it up. 

   
 Mine is a small wheel, purchased about 15 years ago from the loveliest little old man in Littlehampton, South Australia, who handmade them to his own design. The original rubber drive band died ages ago (to be replaced by upholstery buttoning twine), but other than that I have never had a problem with it.  

   
 When I started spinning, I actually thought there was something physically wrong with me, I just could not get it. I was frankly pretty shocked by this. I’ve taught myself many things from books, and did not expect to fail. The pictures all made sense, but my various appendages refused to cooperate with each other. After actual tears of frustration, I finally worked out I spin left handed. (I am right handed but I do the odd random thing like skateboard and chop firewood left handed too, so a more astute person would have probably spotted that earlier.) The joy of finally coordinating everything could not be described. πŸ™‚ And a stroke of luck is that my wheel is fairly symmetrical and so ambidextrous.

I like imperfect spinning. It’s a combination of personal taste and lack of motivation. I know there are the most amazing spinners out there. For me though, spinning is about self sufficiency, reminiscent of the seventies, mud brick and stone houses, wood stoves, sheep out the back, a tyre swing. Handspun jumpers were rough and lumpy and occasionally smelly and very warm. That’s the feeling I go for. And I also can’t justify investing the effort and time to make yarn that looks like the bought stuff. Or why wouldn’t I just buy it? I like my handspun to look like handspun. And fortunately, my lack of ambition (and skill) means it does. πŸ™‚
Many of my spinning tools are now missing after a lifetime of moving, so this weekend the lovely M whipped me up a niddy noddy out of dowel, and has plans for a Lazy Kate. 

  
For many years I kept alpacas, goats and sheep and still have copious quantities of fleece. But that does not stop me buying more if it is GREY. πŸ™‚ I picked up this fleece really cheaply two weeks ago on eBay, a grey merino, lovely and soft.

   
 For some reason, Atticus Finch has a fleece obsession, it’s like catnip to him. Last time I left a fleece still packaged in a post bag on the coffee table when I went to work, I came home to find the bag completely shredded, and him asleep in a nest in the middle of it. So now he is not left unsupervised with fleece.
Everyone has their own way of preparing a fleece for spinning, and I thought I would share a staccato version of mine.

  
I find a big fleece a bit overwhelming, and I know I don’t do as good a job when I try to wash in bulk. So usually I just do a little a day over the course of a couple of weeks. That’s not everyone’s idea of a good time, I know, but I’m more of a ‘process’ person rather than a ‘product’ person, so I don’t mind if it is slow. 
I grab a couple of handfuls at a time. Before washing, I open out the matted ends. You can do this with a flick carder, I use an old dog brush. 

   
 If your immune system is a touch dodgy too, and even if it isn’t, always bear in mind the sheep germs. There should be a lot of hand washing and disinfecting. Don’t touch your mouth. Also tetanus shot should be up to date (she says, realising hers isn’t. Whoops. Hypocrite.).
I fill the sink with hot water, it should be hot enough to need gloves on. Some people add a kettle of boiling water too. The heat melts the lanolin. A big squirt of detergent comes next, sometimes I use wool wash but I usually find Fairy works the best.

  
Submerge the fleece but don’t agitate. The steam smells awesome! If you like the smell of dirty sheep, that is. Which apparently I do. Leave for twenty minutes or so. Don’t leave it forever or allow to cool down or the lanolin will reset and make a dirty mess.
Drain the water (use a sink strainer). Handle the fleece as little as possible. This is easier said than done. All I want to do is scrunch and swirl and play with it. But then you just end up with a lump of felt. 
If the fleece is very dirty, I repeat the washing step. Then it’s on to the rinsing.

 Refill with sink with hot water and soak a few minutes. Repeat the rinse once more. There should be no more bubbles.

  

I roll the wet fleece in a towel to blot, then hang it in this thing to dry. I have no memory of what this is or where it came from, but for as long as I have been spinning, I have been using it to dry fleece.

  
I have an Ashford drum carder which is always fun to use, and occasionally I use handcarders so I can say I made rolags. I love that word. Rolag. Rolag. Rolag.

  
Then I spin the fluff.

  
That’s as far as I have gotten this week. Next week I’ll ply some up. πŸ™‚
B

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52 thoughts on “Sock Selfies and Spin Time

  1. Thanks for taking us through the process – I’m sure that if I spin, my yarn would look home made – hahaha. Have you heard of the Back to Back competition when teams of contestants had to shear a sheep, spin the wool and knit a jumper on the same day? I used to wonder why they took all day; now I know.

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  2. Phew, there’s a lot of hard yakka between the sheep giving up the fleece and the skein of lumpy wool!

    Now, I know what a niddy noddy and Lazy Kate are. I think I understand how you’ll use the former, but how about the Lazy Kate? Will you use that to my the plies of wool?

    I like your socks, I made a pair very like the top pair. I like the asymmetry of their colours.

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    • Thanks Yvonne πŸ™‚ yep the whole process is certainly a bit of a fluff around πŸ™‚ yes the lazy Kate is just a bobbin holder for plying, fancy ones have tensioners on them but I don’t need such things, I only ever do two ply so nice and easy πŸ™‚ i like asymmetry too, that’s about the fourth pair I’ve made in that yarn too! It’s one of my favourites πŸ™‚

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  3. I tried spinning and weaving in the 70’s – I would have made you proud! My spinning was lumpy, bumpy and thick ……… I wove myself a poncho with the stuff and ended up using it as a floor mat – it was that thick and heavy. I gave up soon after that realising I did not have the touch or the patience to acquire it. The local weavers probably drew a collective sigh of relief as I wandered off to try my hand at pottery πŸ™‚

    I adore your second pair of socks, the yarn is fabulous and your socks actually fit your feet. I am so impressed! πŸ™‚

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    • LOL thanks Pauline, I read your comment to M, that is so funny, a poncho floor rug…that’s awesome, exactly what I was talking about! πŸ˜€ (my friend’s grandma in Nimbin used to spin without washing the fleece first, so my friend had to wear super heavy jumpers that stretched down to her knees full of lanolin and who knows what else…she would have liked to use them as rugs too :)) thank you for the sock complement, only took knitting about forty pairs till I worked out how to make them fit me well πŸ™‚ I fully recommend the Bendigo sock yarn, it is always good and I put them through a normal wash cycle every week, they hold up really well! πŸ™‚

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      • I just had to comment on what you said here about sock knitting, Bianca. I’ve made 2 pairs of socks both done with the expert guidance of my sister, an avid – possibly even rabid – sock knitter. I am usually in tears at least half a dozen times in the process. I officially gave up sock knitting in June when I finished the last pair. But it sounds like if I make 58 more pairs I might actually enjoy it???

        As for the rest of this wonderful post, I stand in awe of your determination to knit from scratch. What a process! And, as a newish follower, I LOVE the train car knitting room. What a brilliant idea! But where, I must ask, does one acquire a used train car?

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      • Hahaha yes I think you either love or hate sock knitting, they were the first thing I ever tried in the round and felt like I was wrestling a porcupine but yes, I think after you start having a few successes that fit well the obsession kicks in…I always have at least one pair of socks on the go because I can take them with me everywhere easily and they just seem to keep getting finished…I had a goal to have only hand knit socks and have accomplished that now, so many are now gifts πŸ™‚ the train is a total blessing and a bit of an ongoing restoration project, not sure how to link in comments but this might work:
        https://ravensridge.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/train-renovation-halfway-point/
        it is an old Queensland rail carriage and was here when we arrived fortunately (this place is an ex commune)…it is forty feet long with 5 rooms, which I’ve arranged for fibre, sewing, painting and writing, I’ll do another post soon about the renovation progress! πŸ™‚

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  4. Beautiful socks. Love the colours. πŸ™‚
    Your train is stunning. How I wish for space and a place like that. (haha, the joy of a city dweller) I love the country, but work in the city. Live just outside the city but not quite that far out to have the beauty of the country all the way. Enjoy a bit for me each day as I follow your days of spinning and knitting here.
    Hugs from a doggie mommy in Johannesburg, South Africa to you and your kitty!

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  5. I see your yarn is very fine,
    It weaves a pretty web,
    And I read your story once again
    So as not to lose the thread.

    This was fascinated, Bianca. I understood nothing about all this. There’s a llama (as opposed to alpaca) farm next door to me. They’re bigger and spit! I could watch them all day!

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  6. Wonderful post and very inspiring! I’ve learned only enough spinning to keep my walking wheel functioning. I’m sadly remiss in my duties lately and also worried that I’ll begin collecting fibre at the same insane rate that I collect yarn! I love working with handspun, it feels more… real. Knowing the sheep or alpaca that your sweater has come from is a rare treat πŸ™‚
    Your socks are so pretty too – I love the “fish lips” – and the train… what a neat idea!

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    • Thank you Karin πŸ™‚ I share the exact same fear as you with the fibre collecting!! πŸ™‚ I pull myself back all the time from developing a spinning obsession, trying to keep it basic and rustic and never ever buying those beautifully dyed batts or roving, only using raw fleece. So far so good! πŸ™‚ ps love your new pic!

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  7. I love your post! Your socks look awesome and your spinning has me smiling. I own three wheels and have quite a bit of fiber tucked away, You would think I would be busy spinning but haven’t touched a single wheel in a very long time. Now I’m inspired to do so 😊

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    • Thanks very much Tina, glad I helped to inspire you! πŸ˜€ (and ditto, you have me looking at all the great cardigan patterns and I think I might try a featherweight after all)…I have phases with spinning too, it’s definitely not the consuming obsession that knitting is but now and again I get fixated for a while…I love that you have three wheels! πŸ™‚

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  8. Very interesting post, thank you πŸ™‚ I ve been wanting to get started with spinning, so it’s very interesting for me to see the whole process step by step πŸ™‚
    although i feel bad, because when I handle raw wool, I don’t always wash it and disinfect my hands etc… If it’s the wool I have collected myself in fields or in the forest it’s usually not dirty. I use it for needle felting straight away… But if it comes in a bag bought from my local farm then yes I wash it… like you, in small batches πŸ™‚
    I love the socks! Im amazed you can knit 2 pairs in one week! I do like…. one sock a week! πŸ˜€

    So for a beginner spinner would you recommend getting started with a drop spindle? if so, which one would you recommend? ?:)

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    • Thanks Noemie! πŸ™‚ I don’t know if you have the same type of risks over there, here the major one would be tetanus from using all the sharp metal things that spinners use, I am forever stabbing myself! I used a drop spindle in Poland as a child but not since so I couldn’t really recommend any sorry 😦 however in my experience everything Ashford makes is great, so maybe try them! πŸ™‚ ps the socks were partly finished already πŸ™‚

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      • Thanks πŸ™‚ I have casted on my metallicus tee last week πŸ™‚ your instructions are very clear, it makes you feel that you can just fly through it πŸ™‚ although when joining in the round my new stitches got so tight on the needle that the yarn broke… Hem I should have followed you advice and KFB onto dpn… Oh well… πŸ™‚

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      • I love your designed! it’s simple yet elegant with a nature feel about it, it;s gorgeous! I love your top with the tree embroidery on it, altho I find it a bit intimidating as I’m not sure i could do a very good job with the embroidery….. πŸ˜€

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  9. What a process. I had no idea and it’s very interesting. I do love your socks. Regarding handedness, I write with my left hand, eat (unless cutting something up and then the forks and knives get all switched) left handed and am generally a bit more dextrous with the left. Much else, including all sports things, I do right handed. Sometimes I start to do something and it isn’t working and I have to stop and switch hands. If I were a pure left or right hander, I wouldn’t have to think about it. But I also wouldn’t be able to switch hands in a tight spot in a game of pool…

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    • Thank you for your comments Lisa, and that is very interesting about your handedness! Sounds like it could be a very useful ability in the right circumstances! πŸ™‚ i imagine it took some time to work out what was going on…I must remember to bear it in mind next time I am struggling with something that should be ‘easy’. πŸ™‚

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  10. Thats really interesting.. I haven’t seen wool being made this way from scratch.. A lovely informative post.. M looking forward to see what you make out of it and in between I just loved the pinkish multicoloured socks.. πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ

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  11. This is fascinating!!! Thank you so much for posting about this, I’d often wondered how all this worked.

    I’m with you on the process, it’s really why we should make things, because its awesome and it’s fun. Or at least this is why I have whole weekends devoted to making soap πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you Maggie! Lol I do soap weekends too! :)) even as a non-chemist I find the chemistry really interesting πŸ™‚ I haven’t done the whole wood ash – lye process yet, just caustic soda, but it’s on the list to try….(one of my pet peeves are ‘soap -making’ kits available everywhere here which are pretty much just grated up soap and a mould :/ urgh. Drives me nuts lol, wouldn’t be much good in the apocalypse! πŸ˜‰ )

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      • I know right?! That those kits exist is beyond frustrating. Soap is just the thing to enjoy chemistry as a non-chem and perfect when you just want to practice good chemistry with or without the geeking out πŸ˜‰

        I thought caustic soda and lye were both sodium hydroxide?
        Anyway, you are a brave soul for trying the whole wood ash thing – I’m a bit too meticulous with my process to end up with that as a variable – but I am really curious and totally want to hear about your process! If my memory serves me correctly, the wood ash process gives you a potassium hydroxide solution, that makes for excellent liquid soap precursor or a softer bar that’s a bit easier on your washing machine if you make your own detergent…. Okay, now I want to try it… Maybe during my Dead Of Winter soap day (usually late January to replenish all the soap I gave away as gifts for the hols) – for no other reason than I feel I have great soap mojo during that time πŸ™‚

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      • Oh that’s interesting, fun times ahead! πŸ™‚ Love the dead of winter idea, though I’d have to wait for July 😦 Yeah I think lye is just the name for the general alkaline solution, though I could be wrong. I read the soap would be softer made with the wood ash, also that different woods do different things πŸ™‚ hopefully one of us can try it soon! πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Johanna! Oh I empathise, isn’t it frustrating?? I want to try every craft and make every possible thing too, I would like three lifetimes to do it all in!! But at least we wholeheartedly love what we do manage to fit in :)) xo

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