Friday, November 30, 2007

Spinning but not yet a spinster.

One of the reasons I was interested in Sonya's spinning wheel, was last May, I acquired some fleeces.

(don't bother to look, I didn't blog about it!) And I have a good hope of acquiring more fleece from the same source next May. It only made sense with all this free wool around, I would want some way of turning it from raw fleece into spun wool.

I proceeded, in the early summer to wash/scour the wool with no directions.. (except—don't agitate, Use lots of detergent, and warm, but not hot water.) I now know there are things I can do that will result in easier to spin wool--but another spinner reported that she once washed a fleece in a washing machine in a laundromat—so I wasn't obsessive about how I scoured the wool the first time I tried—my bad!

I have no idea of what breed the sheep are.. (they are just sheep)

I am a city girl, born and bred with in NYC's 5 borough's.. What do i know of sheep? Actually I know one breed.. Jacob's sheep. (a breed that looks like sheep described in the bible.) These can be found in the Children's Zoo of the Bronx Zoological Gardens.. The only sheep i know, are zoo animals!--(likewise, I only know cows)

In NY State, (both on Long Island and upstate) there are plenty of dairy farms, and there are cows..(I suppose there is an occasional bull, but mostly what you see from a car (going past fields at 60 miles an hour) are she cows.

It is udderly clear they are she cows! Same is true for most of New England, and New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Every once in a while you pass a farm that has a sign, “Angus Cattle” (they are short legged, stocky black cows) and I know Angus is a breed that is used for meat, but in NY State, herds of Angus are herds of cows!

Dairy Farmers often have Notices.. “Pure Bred Angus” on this farm,(black cows), “Pure Bred Jersey's”(reddish cows)on an other farm, or “Pure bred Holsteins” (black and white cows) elsewhere, but sheep farms are less common--and “Pure Bred X” (where X is a variety of sheep!!) are even less common!

My sheep (possessive aren't I?) are communal sheep. They live a life of leisure, eating grass, apples, (there is an old apple orchard where they live-- and they get to eat all the wind-falls) and sweet hay. There primary occupation is to entertain children. (Well they might not think so.. they think it's to eat and have fun.) When they die, they die of old age, (not at butchers!).

The down side? The pastures are sometimes weedy (there is a lot of burdock in the fleece!) and the fleece are filthy. (I easy washed several pounds of sand out of the one fleece I washed, (plus vegetable matter, and all sorts of sheepy things (lanolin, 'dandruff', etc), though the fleece were pretty well skirted (and there wasn't too much dag). (-->first attempt!)

So starting with my home scoured, and simple carded, and not the best wool in the world to work with, my first attempt at spinning is, well not very well spun!
(<--details of first attempt)

I am still learning How to:
Consistent, evenly treadle (in the right direction!)
How to adjust the tension –so the fly wheels whizzes, and the bobbin follows at a slower pace
How to draft.
Watch not only the draft, but the bobbin.

Right now, I've spun all the wool I've carded, and I have to go back and find some good lock of wool, and card them (and clean out the vegetable matter) and try again!

Come the new year, I think I'll take a spinning class--and buy some roving. I am sure better materials will help! --Not that practice isn't needed! But I suspect my home carded wool would be challenging for an advanced spinner.

In the meanwhile I have 2 more fleeces, that still need to be washed, and combed, and carded and I think I'll follow Yarn Harlot's detailed delicate process for these----I will still be working with an unknown variety of wool, but it will be easier to work with, if I treat it better!

(<--second go)


Robyn said...

I am so happy that you are spinning! Very addictive, even in the early stages....

Your yarn looks perfect for a first skein. Knit it up--the knitting is very forgiving. My first skein became a hat for my daughter and no one would know that it was absolutely the worst spun yarn imaginable--it looks like designer yarn.

About scouring the wool--the key things are hot water (lanolin needs temps of 120 and over to be removed) and lots of detergent but no agitation. FWIW, here is my routine: put hottest water that my tap allows into a basin, add dish detergent, such as Dawn to the point where the water feels slippery (that should be the last time your hand touch the water--use gloves! Ask me how I know this...ouch), add fleece--I have to admit I am not as fastitious as the YH but I can see why one ought to be. Let soak for 20 minutes. Carefully gather up fleece and drain water. Add fresh hot water to basin (or have several basins) and let soak a second time, without detergent, for another 20 minutes, carefully remove fleece and drain water. Prepare another basin of water and add about 1/2 cup vinegar, let soak. Then do a final rinse. With two or three basins going, I can scour a whole fleece in a relatively short time--an afternoon. It is also important to let it dry completely before carding and spinning.

Have fun!!

Rebecca Clayton said...

A kind friend gave me half a pound of nice, commercially prepared wool to start spinning with, but it wasn't long before I too was trying to figure out what to do with the wool from my local sheep. (I never would have suspected a New Yorker would have local sheep--shows what I know.)

It sounds like you've got fiber very much like what I have Our sheep hereabouts are Sussex and Dorset breeds, raised for meat, not wool. There's no advantage to the farmers to produce clean, fabric grade wool (which is why they've given me some odds and ends), as all their fleeces are sold for industrial felt.

Robyn's procedure sounds like what I do, (except I'm going to try the vinegar rinse, next time). Burdock is the bane of my spinning, and I've found a little trick to help with it.

Once I've washed the wool and let it dry, I dye it in the crock pot using acid dyes. By heating it slowly, then adding vinegar and simmering it for a good long time, you pickle the burdock bits, softening their tiny spines so that they come out in the carding process much more easily.

Then I have colorful stuff to card and spin, and it's fun to see how spinning affects the color.

Sonya said...

I will echo the call for blue Dawn and the hot water seems counterintuitive, but it works. As far as your first yarn - throw some colored mohair locks on that, people pay good money for that stuff! Oh yeah, if you haven't done so already: oil the wheel.

Karen said...

Helen is spinning!!

Great first attempt. Mine looked awful. I've still got it somewhere.