Sunday, 24 June 2012

Spinning Experiments

Today I got to play on a Great Wheel or Walking Wheel and a Canadian Production Wheel.  Wow!  What fun that was!  I spent about 4 hours on the Great Wheel, spinning up a quill full of Blue Faced Leicester fibre which was dyed with Dyer's Knotweed.  Blue, Blue Faced Leicester?  giggle   There's a bit of a learning curve there and I'll have to practice a few times to become proficient.  It's a lovely way to spin though, somewhat rhythmic and dance-like and very relaxing.   The blue skein weighs 27 grams for my efforts.  I'm sure with practice, my longdraw will become more proficient and I'll become more productive.  The Great Wheel was in fabulous shape for it's age.  I was told it was from about 1850.  It was nicely balanced, with a huge wheel and very, very pretty with it's dark wood and detailed turnings.

Then I switched to the Canadian Production Wheel.  The closest I'd ever been to a CPW is to be within droolable distance.  This was a much lighter coloured wood, with a bit more obvious wear.  If I thought the Great Wheel had a learning curve, I was wrong.  The CPW was totally different.  We had to back off the drive band to allow for a bit of drive band slippage to slow it down a tad, so I could draft fast enough to keep up with it.  Despite that, I had to do a long draw, nope, a very sloppy long draw in order to even try to match it's speed.  But fun!  Oh yeah baby.. a CPW can come home with me any time.   It's not a beginner's wheel by any means, but with some practice, it could be a dream to spin up quantities of fine yarn.  In the hour that I spun on the CPW, I spun 31 grams of brown Romney yarn.   That's a huge difference in time for the same quantity of fibre spun.
Next weekend, I get to do it all over again.. oh how sweet it that?  Maybe I'll remember my camera too!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Washing Perrendale locks the hard way

Yesterday, I was having a bit of a brainstall when it came to spinning.  What I was trying, wasn't working in the least.  I was frustrated.  I walked away from my wheel and took a break.  I decided to do something totally different and picked up the bag of Perrendale fleece I'd purchased earlier this spring.  There is only a pound of it, but it is in lovely, long locks.  I've put off washing it as I wanted to wash it so it kept the lock structure.  That is a fairly time consuming job as I don't have enough space or supplies to do the whole pound at once.    I gently pulled a handful of fleece from the bag and separated each lock, laying all the tips in one direction and the ends in the other, on a square of fibre glass window screening.

I laid several layers of locks over one another.  If one is gentle with washing, the lock structure will hold, despite layering.  I pinned the packet together.  I did this 3 more times as I have only 4 pieces of screening.  I filled the sink with hot water and a squirt of dishsoap, soaking the packets without any swishing or agitation.  I did this 3 times and followed with 3 hot water rinses.  Then I laid the packets outside on the deck benches to dry.  It was hot out and muggy, but it should have still dried.  Later in the afternoon, the packets were still a bit damp, so although the weather had gotten hazy, we ran into town, with me totally forgetting my packets of fibre outside.  On the way home, it was obvious that I had misjudged.  The sky darkened, the winds picked up dramatically and we had thunder, lightening and a torrential downpour.  You could barely see on the way home from the heavy, blowing rain.  It was too wet  and too late to go salvage my poor little packets of fiber.

When the rain stopped, I rescued them.   They were flattened from the intensity of the rain and soaked through.  I pressed some water out of them with a towel and let them dry overnight inside.  Today, it's breezy, cooler and sunny. They spent the better part of the day outside drying, with me worrying about unwrapping a felted mess, since drying had left the packets flat and airless.  However, the first packet is dry and looks to be fine.  The long locks are clean, a bit lighter than I'd anticipated, but a lovely colour, even with the sun bleached tips.   It will take me  a number of days to get through washing the whole pound, but seriously, this will be used for some awesome project... I just am not quite sure what yet :)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Eight and a Half Weeks

Exactly eight and a half weeks ago, I popped into the local feed store to pick up the chicks that I'd ordered. We only ordered  meaties this year as we decided that the layer flock was big enough for the moment.   They are such cute, delicate, fluffy babies.  Noisy though for sure!  Somehow it always surprises me that a chorus of those tiny peeps adds up to such a big noise!

We were lucky this year with a number of factors, which helped with good growing conditions.  The weather was warm enough that I could turn the heat lights off earlier than I normally do.  This meant the beasts had to actually sleep at night, rather than have enough light to eat all night.  I'd ordered unsexed chicks.  This means that they tend to get along better.  The females are smaller and some of them don't grow as quickly.  We had two who were really active and kept stirring up the rest, so they got a bit of exercise.   Healthier birds for all that.         
  This morning, at stupid early, we loaded them up for the drive to the processing plant.  It's not a horribly nice thing to think about, but they have lived a good life for their time.  I'll admit that by 7 weeks of age, they become work, eating, drinking and pooping an awful lot.  They grow so crazy fast it's almost scary.  You can see why warnings go out about the risks of the chicken industry relying on too small a genetic pool, should a disasterous health issue arise.   However, you can also why has come about.  In order to feed people, chickens need to be grown quickly and efficiently.   This cross breed is very food efficient!  We let ours grow larger than the industry standard, cause well, we aren't an industry, just filling our freezer for the winter ahead.   Tomorrow morning, that freezer will be filled and we will have chicken on the barbeque for dinner.

Monday, 11 June 2012

More Practice

 More practice skeins.  I'm trying to get a consistent twist per inch as well as a consistent grist.  It takes a more refined drafting technique than I'd used before.  It's starting to get a bit easier, the more that I practice.  Fibre prep sure shows in some of these skeins.  They are all using commercially processed rovings and top.  Some are much nicer to work with than others.  There are samples here of both short forward draw worsted style drafting and a woolen style longdraw.
Before I set out for the course, I sewed up one block of the quilt I was planning for a Christmas present.  I knew that if I had even one block done, it would be the incentive to keep at the quilt blocks.  I did 3 more the other day.  They are 10 1/2 inch blocks, which will then be cut in quarters, to make a Bento Box quilt.  The light and dark centres will be set opposite each other, creating a bit of an offset optical illusion.  It's not my personal favourite pattern, but I know that several of my kids will like it.  I've a couple of other sewing projects which I'll work on as well, but it's a good break from spinning practice, both mentally and using different muscles and body positions.

Between times, I've gotten some gardening done, most things planted for now and even some weeding done!  I'm also on the second red/black sock.   While I like the finished sock, I will be happy to have these ones off the needles.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

I took a couple of days off from spinning after the Master Spinner course.  I was tired and needed a bit of time to compile the near overload of information.  On Monday morning, I dug through some piles of stash, deciding that it was time to use up some of the weird things I've been hoarding saving for future use.  Out came the black Shetland lambs fleece.  It cost an enormous amount of money to have commercially processed as it was so full of veg. matter and chaff.  It still is for that matter as they couldn't get all of it out.  It also has a lot of short bits in it. Obviously, I didn't catch all the second cuts and weak tips before sending the fleece out.  However a lot of the v.m. flicks out when spinning, some is easy to pick out before spinning and the rest I am learning to live with.  It spins up to a nice yarn, despite the "rustic" additions.  

I spun up a small skein to practice the long draw, using some North Country Cheviot  and some of the R.H. Lindsay 56s.  I don't have a photo because I put the small skein aside.  It seems I put it aside with several other small skeins of similar weight, diameter and fibre, and can't tell the difference from one to another.

Last night, I pulled out my fine carders and some ginned cotton.  Having spun cotton for the first time in class, I know I will need a bit of practice, before I can produce an acceptable homework skein.  Cotton is a very short fibre, compared to wool.  It requires a long draw technique in order to keep one's sanity while spinning.  Ginned cotton, is full of neps and little plant bits.   It needs to be carded into thin, little punis before it can be spun.   This is the result of an evening's work, carding and spinning 10 punis.   Note to self, use contrasting colour of thread to tie up the skeins, as the white on white just looks like I've spun some very thin areas, and while it's not all that consistent, it's also not that badly inconsistent. 

Today, after I finish up some weeding and planting the rest of the garden - 2 Rosemary plants, 3 Cosmos and the Weld to still go in, I shall pull out my wheel and start practicing some more.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Making Silk Hankies

This past week was the Master Spinner 3 course, which was an off campus course, taught through the Olds College Master Spinner program.  We had an amazing group of gals registered and our instructor, Michelle Boyd, was a whiz with teaching technical intricacies of spinning.  I had wanted to photo document all sorts of things, but of course, that didn't happen.  Mainly, we were too busy writing notes, watching demonstrations or trying out those skills for ourselves.  The two days I forgot the camera didn't help either :).

One day we made our own silk hankies.   Michelle showed us how much washing soda and soap  to add to the pot of water.  As well, you have to remember to let the water come to temperature before adding the soap, add it gently and not agitate, so as to not have a pot overflowing with bubbles.  A lot of soap was added to that pot.  It was easy to have a cartoon vision of soap bubbles flowing out of the pot, if enough care hadn't been taken.

The cocoons are simmered in the soapy, alkaline water.  Here Michelle is showing us that they are still floating on the top of the water.  The sericin or sticky substance that the caterpillars use to hold the silk strands together when making the cocoons, is still keeping the cocoons shape.  When it softens and dissolves, the cocoons will flatten and sink.

Here is the yummy part!  When the cocoon is flat and soft, there will be dark spots in them.  Well, actually, a large dark lump and a small dark lump.  The large dark lump is the caterpillar and the small dark lump is caterpillar poo!  Once the bug and its poo are removed from the cocoon, we were shown 3 different ways to spread the cocoon over the frame we needed to bring with us.  I found the easiest way was to cut a slit in the soft, white mass, flick the bug and it's droppings out with my scissors, and then stretch the soft, white mass from corner to corner, diagonally on the frame.  Then it was easy to put the other corners on and attach the sides to all the little pins.

Here is my frame, with 10 cocoons spread on it, laying out to dry.  It dried quite stiff and a quick dunk in a sink of water, with a bit of vinegar added, quickly washed any residue off and left a very soft silk hankie to dry.  It's hardly thicker than a sheet of paper and really difficult to believe that there are so many cocoons in there.  I only know, because I counted that many bugs on the counter, beside me!