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. 🙂 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. 🙂
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. 🙂 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.