Friday, March 27, 2009

Combing Shetland

I thought you guys might like to see some pictures of processing that Mocha Shetland fleece I mentioned a couple of blog posts ago. I invested in a set of Alvin Ramer mini combs a short while ago. Combed fiber seems to spin so much better for me than carded. If you are ever looking for mini combs, take a look at the Ramer combs. He is definitely a craftsman! He even created a holder for the combs that is easy to pick up and safely stows the sharp tines so you can't injure yourself.

The diz was created by drilling holes in a necklace disc thingy that I found on etsy. When it isn't in use as a diz, I do use it as a necklace. It's really nice because that means I haven't had a chance to lose it yet. I haven't figured out how to get a continuous strip of combed top so instead I've been making little balls of top.

combed mocha shetlandYou would not believe how soft this stuff is. I can't wait to spin some up!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

In which I sound like a farm extension agent

The spring is a really bad time to be all resolved about not buying another fleece. I mean, shearing just started. (I'm betting at this point all of you can guess what happened.) Julia, a woman in my spinning and knitting guilds, sent out a message to the spinning guild saying she sheared and had fleeces available. I was going to resist until a) I remembered that Julia coats her sheep, b) she has CVMs and Cormos and c) I saw the pictures. I mean, how can you resist that? (Sorry, everything is sold now.) This one is the one I bought. I seem to be going through a dark fleece stage.

Romeldale/CVM or California Variegated Mutant is a very interesting breed of sheep. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, "The Romeldale is an American fine wool breed, and the California Variegated Mutant, or CVM, is its multi-colored derivative. Both the CVM and the Romeldale are unique to the United States and are endangered." Romeldale sheep are usually white in color. The CVM emerged when lambs with color started showing up in the Romeldale flock and then Glen Eidman, the original breeder, started breeding for that color mutation. If you would like more information about the history of the breed, this website is very good. The National CVM Conservancy reports that there are fewer than 500 registered CVMs. Interestingly enough, as the sheep gets older, its colors become darker rather than lighter like most other breeds. Julia also said the fleeces get softer. Keep in mind, sticking your hand in one is like petting a cloud (albeit a cloud with hand softening lanolin but you get my point) so it is hard to imagine how the fleece could get even softer. ***eta: I just listened to the 18th episode Yarn Spinner's Tales podcast from August '08 (I'm catching up!) and she mentioned the CVM/Romeldale in her sheep breed segment. It was a very informative segment because she also talked about spinning from prepared top as well as processing a pound of raw fleece. She also had more information about the breed history than I've written here.

Cormos are another interesting breed. They originated in Australia and are a cross of Corriedale and Merino. The breed's name is also a mix of Corriedale and Merino. These sheep are soft and have a micron count of 17-23. What's a micron count you might ask? Well, get ready for a slightly technical discussion. Listening to Yarn Spinner's Tales and researching for this post has definitely been informative. This blog has a very good post about micron counts and Bradford counts. I'm going to be quoting from it for the following information. "One micron is equal to 1/1000 of a millimeter. This means that if the micron count is being used as the system of measurement, a lower number means a finer fleece." Bradford counts, on the other hand, "measures the fineness of a fiber by determining the maximum number of 560 yard skeins that can be spun from one pound of combed fiber." To me, that one seems a little bit more problematic/objective.

Now, you might be wondering, OK, what does this all mean? Well, it gives you an idea how fine the CVM and Cormo fleeces from Julia's flock are. Merino is a good comparison because many people know what that nice wear-next-to-your-skin fiber feels like. The Merino is known for its fine, soft fleece and "has a Bradford count of approximately 60-70, and a micron count of about 24-18." CVM has a Bradford count of ~60-64 and a micron count of ~22-25. Cormo has a Bradford count of and a micron count of 17-23. My Shetland fleeces, on the other hand, have a Bradford count of 50-60 and a micron count of 20-30. The Jacobs have a Bradford count of 44-56 and a micron count of 28-39. Before the Jacob felt soft but I'm guessing that, after working with the CVM, it is going to feel extremely scratchy!


I remember back in 2007 when I said, "I'm not taking up spinning. I can just see the fiber stash growing exponentially and taking over the house." Silly me. I mean, I was only thinking about prepared roving. I hadn't even considered the fleece stash and how easy it is to acquire *cough* 4 fleeces. Well, 4 sheep fleeces. I'm not counting raw mohair or alpaca. Though the alpaca really shouldn't count because I have less than a pound of it and the mohair shouldn't because it is is only 2 pounds. See I don't have a problem. Not at all. Nope. Not at all.

Jacob fleeceraw Jacob Fleece

Mocha shetland fleeceraw mocha (aka dark brown) Shetland fleece

Mocha shetland topCombed mocha Shetland fleece

Tan shetland fleeceraw light tan Shetland fleece (this monster is 7 pounds!)

raw alpaca fleeceraw dark gray/black alpaca (only a couple of ounces)

mohair fleeceRaw mohair fleece (2 pounds)

But then spring shearing started. . .

To be continued!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obsessive much?

I've been dreaming of the Morning Surf Scarf. I liked the pattern (here it is free) when I first saw it in Spin-off but didn't think much about it. Then I started spinning up this BFL and it was the absolutely perfect yarn for the pattern. So perfect that you really couldn't find a better yarn anywhere. I didn't dye this specially, the colors just patterned like this.

I was originally intending this yarn for socks. The plan was to divide the yarn into 3 equal sections for a 3-ply. I was going to weigh the fiber but then realized the batteries for my scale were completely dead. So I ignored the 3 separate sections and just spun all of it up and navajo-plied it. Once I was finished with the yarn, I decided I liked the navajo-plying a lot more for this dyed roving. It kept the colors together which really made the yarn beautiful.

I'm just amazed how thin this yarn is. When I checked it on the WPI gauge, it said the yarn has 18 wpi. 18! That is technically a lace weight yarn. Now, I think that is a little off because I might have pulled the yarn a little tight in my enthusiasm but the yarn is definitely a light fingering weight. I had 385 yards of this, hopefully a good amount for a scarf.

Now, I should know better than to start a pattern when sick. I mean, really, nothing good comes of it. The first time I cast on, I couldn't get my numbers correct for the life of me so that first attempt was ripped out. I started again and, this time, the numbers worked and everything was going well until I decided I didn't like the fabric and wanted to go up a needle size to a US 5. More ripping. I started again with US 5s and the correct numbers and flew along. It went so quickly that I had about 5 inches done by the time I went to the knitting guild meeting the next night.

I knit all through the meeting a little bit at home afterwards. The following morning, I looked at the scarf, looked at the remaining yarn and went "Huh. That doesn't look like there is enough yarn left." I weighed (after finding batteries) the yarn, 2 ounces left. I weighed the scarf, 2.25 ounces used. I looked at the scarf length and said, "That is going to be the shortest scarf on the planet if I keep it the same width." So once again, I ripped. Seven inches of scarf was gone in minutes. Ugh.

Once again, I was strong of heart (and high on cough medicine!) and cast on with fewer stitches, US 5s and the correct number of stitches. A couple of days later. . .

. . . I have a finished scarf! I absolutely love the way the colors patterned up. There is only one section near the end where the colors weren't as vibrant and didn't quite pattern up like the rest of it. That is something, though, with which I can live. I hate doing scarves but I loved this one. Go figure.

Pattern: Morning Surf Scarf
Source: Spin-Off Summer 2008
Yarn: My handspun 100% BFL, 18 (ish) WPI, Navajo-plied
Needles: US 5
Notes: <3 this yarn and pattern combination. No modifications to the pattern. Cast on 66 stitches.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sew many FOs

Hehe, I couldn't help myself. It always amazes me how quickly sewing projects can go. Sometimes they don't but this project definitely did. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased oilcloth by yardage and in finished project form from two etsy sellers, oilclothaddict and RickRackQueen. RickRackQueen has finished projects and some lunchbag kits. I bought a lunchbag kit which comes with enough material to make 2 bags. The lunchbags she was selling with contrasting side panels really looked striking. So when I bought the kit, I decided to get complementary fabrics in order to do the same thing. I also got some pre-made sandwich bags; one trio of which complements the lunchbags.

Oilclothaddict has oilcloth by the yard and fat quarters in fantastic colors and prints. I got a couple of fat quarters and one yard of fabric. One of the fat quarters was this print which I absolutely love.

It's already been used up :)

I've finished 4 lunchbags this evening and cut up materials for 2 more. I'm a wee bit obsessed. Is it too soon to have your Christmas gifts finished? Sewing is wonderful for finishing things quickly.

These sandwich bags are all mine! Anybody else watch Psych?