Wednesday, January 28, 2009

processing a fleece

Some of you might remember eons ago (august, I think) that I got a Jacob sheep fleece from a cousin who has 2 Jacobs. I washing the fleece in three different batches during the summer and started flick carding it up. You might remember some of these pictures.

The full fleece
The "helper"
The first wash (ewwwwww)
Another wash (slightly less ewwwww)
Roving brains
Hanging out to dry

I started spinning up some of the roving at the end of summer but didn't get very far in the rubbermaid container which was almost full of light, airy puffs of wool. In November, I bought a second wheel (oh, how the addiction grows!). With the new wheel, a new determination to get through this fleece surfaced (also, the buying of 2 additional Shetland fleeces helped. Ooops).

So I started spinning the Jacob again. Jacob sheep have very distinct fleeces of black and white. It also turns out that this sheep has an undercoat of light brown with some darker and lighter patches. I didn't try to keep any sort of color separation going while I was spinning. If I felt like it, I grabbed some darker sections. When I got tired of that, I picked up some lighter ones. It made for an interesting experiment. Some of what I had already done was still on the Majacraft bobbins (my other wheel is a Majacraft Little Gem for those of you keeping track) and some of it had been wound up on a ball winder in order to free up bobbins. I decided to start filling the Kromski bobbins and, once I had enough to start, begin plying everything together.

I went into the woodworking shop at the barn one day and made myself a plying tool. This tool is basically a rectangle of wood with holes drilled in it. I made myself one with 4 holes so I can make up to a 4-ply yarn if I so choose. This easy little tool has been really helpful because I'm spinning this Jacob into a 3-ply.

The new wheel (seen here) is a Kromski Polonaise. It is a single treadle wheel and I've found that I really enjoy the single. I don't know how I would have done learning on it, though. The double treadle seemed much more natural to me. Having already learnt to treadle, however, made using the single treadle very easy.

After plying the first batch, it went into the sink for a soak in the wool wash and I dried it in front of the woodburning stove. Got to love those drying racks!

This is a picture of the first skein of yarn after its twist is set. My notes say that there are 230 yards in this skein but that really doesn't seem right. It is a monster of a skein and I probably just forgot to double my initial measurement. I have a 2 yard niddy noddy so you count the number of strands on one side of the noddy and double that number to get an approximate yardage on your skein. I could be more scientific about it all but I am lazy :)

I've already broken out the ball winder and swift so I can start knitting the yarn yup. Last week, I decided to make a pair of fingerless gloves/mitten combination for the cousin who gave me the original fleece. He lives in New Hampshire and is a pet-sitter. It always seems like you need your fingers when working with animals but who wants to wear a pair of fingerless gloves in the middle of a NH winter? Hence the idea of the mitten glove combo.

The pattern is based on the mitten and gloves pattern from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. This book is fabulous for figuring out basic patterns, by the way. I did a whole bunch of swatches and decided to cast on using a US 6 to get a nice and firm fabric.

It looks a little funny right now because I still need to rip back on the thumb and fix its length. I also then need to block the mitten and fingers inside of it. I'm almost finished with the second mitten glove. All that is left to do is the thumb and the mitten top (and weaving in the ends but we don't want to talk about that). I've been testing the gloves on almost every man who stands still long enough for me to get one on his hand. I don't know exactly how large my cousin's hands are so I'm going for a general fit here.

The colors of the fabric are really fun. I like the way it is almost like striping yarn but isn't.

Last night I finished plying and setting another skein. It looks pretty much like the first but has 380 yards to it. See? A much more realistic number than before.

I still have some roving puffs left in the rubbermaid container (it never ends!). Tonight, I'm going to try spin more singles to finish those off. After this, I'll need to card up some more washed fleece. Have I mentioned that I've only used up maybe a quarter of the fleece? I'm sure glad those Shetland are smaller than this Jacob!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Sorry I've been awol for so long. Things have been very stressful at work and I haven't felt like being in front of the computer to blog or even update Ravelry much (gasp!). I guess I'll start with a brief recap of what has been happening at work and then move on to the knitting and spinning.

I work at a public library. We have been cutting back for a long time: not filling open positions, not ordering office supplies, not ordering new books, taking one of the lightbulbs out of the staff area lights, etc. etc. In the middle of November, there was a library board meeting. We all thought that board meeting wouldn't bring anything good. That weekend, I took Friday off to visit a friend in Pittsburgh. While I was driving there, the assistant director called my cell phone (ominous, huh?) and said that I should check my work email and that there were many changes afoot but I wasn't being fired. I decided that I would have a good weekend with my friend and the only way to do that was to not check my email until Sunday evening when I got home. When I finally did check it, things were definitely disrupted.

That Friday, 8 people were laid off immediately with more layoffs in the future. Those included ALL of the part-timers by the middle of December. My library system has 5 branches, the main library, and a bookmobile. All of those places had part-timers. Main had the most. If that didn't balance the budget/lessen the deficit, 5 more people who had been hired after July 07 would be laid off, too, by the end of December. Needless to say, things are now like a tomb in the library. I also can't see how the branches can function with only 3 people at each branch.

One of the first 8 people to be laid off was my absolutely fabulous boss. I can't tell you how much I miss working for her. My other coworker in my department has been transferred out to a branch (ironically my former one) and I've been transferred into the reference department. I like the people there but I hardly get a chance to do what I love. Reader's advisory is my first love and reference definitely comes in second.

All of this made me not want to knit for a very long time. Everything made me sick at heart and so very depressed when I got home. For the first week, I didn't even do anything except discuss the situation with my parents. For the weeks after, I finally started knitting simple projects because that was all that I could concentrate on. Even though the situation still sucks, I've finally started knitting more complicated projects.

NaKniSweMo back in November went well for me. I probably could have gotten more done if the work news wasn't so devastating. I finished my feminized Cobblestone and absolutely love it. I finished it in plenty of time even without knitting for a week. Apparently I thought my arms were extremely long, though, because they ended up being 4 inches too long. I ended up snipping one stitch 4 inches up from the cuff, unraveling, and reknitting the garter stitch cuff again. I think I might need to do this on the neck opening because the opening is very wide. But I'll do that later.

I still am knitting on my Hey, Teach! in a natural O-Wool Balance. This sweater, however, has been pushed to the side thanks to Christmas knitting. I've finished the front and the back pieces and just started on the sleeves. I'm modifying mine to have 3/4 length sleeves (my favorite length) rather than having cap sleeves. My arms are always cold so cap sleeves just don't make sense for me. Hmmm, this makes me want to start working on this sweater again and get it finished.

Christmas knitting: Wow, there was a lot though there wasn't really a lot. I didn't blog about any of those projects a) because I wasn't blogging for a while and b) because some of the recipients read this blog. I'll post pictures in the next post. (I was going to be all picture efficient and have everything in one place but then I forgot the camera cable. Oops.) I really tried to stay with the homemade pledge this year. Most of the gifts were either made by me or made by someone else, not bought at big stores. I didn't finish one present for mom because the pattern for it sucks and I have to rewrite it all . She doesn't know about that one, though.

In non-Christmas knitting, I made up a cowl using some laceweight alpaca from Earthly Hues. I've been borrowing a cowl from mom for riding for the last year or so and it was more than past time for me to make one myself. This cowl is fantastically soft but I really thought I was going to scream every time I picked it up on the last 4 inches. Don't get me wrong, the pattern is well written. It was just the same thing over and over and over. I was really ready for something else by the time I was almost finished. I refused to let myself stop early because I wouldn't have been happy with the finished product.

I'm also working on a pair of plain vanilla socks in Austermann Step. The color of the yarn is Gras (grass in German). Amazingly, even though green is my favorite color, I don't have any purely green socks. This pair will fix that problem. They are my go-to simple project for when I'm not in the mood to work on any thing complicated. That means it will probably take a while to finish them because there isn't a push to finish them.

Well, that's all for right now! Hope everyone has been well.