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Making Unexpected Memories

Making Unexpected Memories

For this article, I’m going to take you on an adventure, using your imagination. Sounds mysterious…possibly exciting! However, in reality it was poor planning on my part, and I had to figure out something on the fly. That’s real life for many of us, so let’s move on, and it will all work out.

My mother recently moved to a Senior Living residence, in the Memory Care unit. It’s a difficult transition for anyone, and it was especially tough on my mother. I wanted to do something that would help her, get to know those around her better. A monthly tea party, presented a good opportunity. My mother has always been a lady that loves her tea…the English way, with milk. When Prince William and Kate got married, I bought my mother a fascinator to wear to tea. I went early the day of the tea, and grabbed the fascinator, from my closet.

Marsha dressed up for tea

We arrived for tea, and everyone stopped what they were doing. The residence photographer took her picture, and she was awarded the “best dressed” prize for the day. Everyone was buzzing about the need for hats. I mentioned to the craft coordinator, Cindi, that I could help the Memory Care residents make felt flowers for fascinators! We started discussing our plans immediately.

Needle felting wasn’t a good fit, for the residents, even though I had the protective gear. The coordinator said they let residents put projects together, take a photo, and behind the scenes secure items in place. That would totally work for flowers, cut out from felt, they made themselves. Last Friday was the day we set aside to make the felt. I knew my article was coming due, and thought, this would work out perfectly, but I neglected to think about privacy issues. So this is where your adventure comes in…(I know, you were hoping for a trip, to some far away destination…and maybe an umbrella drink.🍹) This is a recreation, of how we handled this for a group, in a Memory Care setting. I have a photo, with no faces, to show results the residents achieved.

I have to say, this activity was a huge success. I’m hoping by sharing the story, others will volunteer to do a similar activity, in their own communities. We had 8 ladies decide to join us, and I was prepared, if gentlemen decided to join us. I really thought this out ahead of time and had everything ready to go: bamboo placemats, cut bubble wrap, small pieces of clear plastic sheets, 2 water containers, 2 ball brausers, and liquid dish soap. I used my electric drum carder to make, very thin individual batts, for each person. I can’t tell you how pleased I was at that decision: it made everything flow along beautifully. I was told the residents love anything that sparkles, so I knew Angelina and Stelina would be present in each batts composition.

Merino, and Blended, Rovings … with Sparkles!
I made a thin sandwich of Merino, the Sparkly blend, and Merino on top. That keeps my drum carder lickerin cleaner, and requires less stopping. I repeated this process until my batt was as thick as needed.
Thin batt ready to remove from the carder. I’m hoping this blending of colors will resemble a sparkling rose petal, when it’s felted.
Just before finishing, I carefully add additional blended fiber directly to the drum for added interest to top of the felt.
This is the batt, once removed from the carder. Pretty petals on the ready!

The beauty of using my drum carder, is no need to lay out, and layer the fiber. A definite plus for working with groups. We covered the tables with clean hospital blankets instead of using towels…when in Rome, use what’s convenient. We set up each place with the following (bottom up) 1. bamboo mat, 2. bubble wrap – bubble side up, 3. thin fiber batt, 4. piece of clear plastic off to the side.

Starting from bottom left (moving clockwise) photo shows thinness of batt about 1/2 inch – batt laid out, ready to go – covered with plastic, wet down, air pressed out, and light circular rubbing.

The residents did each step the best they could. We had to help a few with rubbing, after a while, but by that point a few aides dropped by. They were curious, when they saw all the people, crowded in the crafting area. Their help allowed us to move on to rolling. Everyone rolled at least a little: good movement exercises. After rolling was finished, we took everything away, except their bamboo placemat. We told them to “wash their windows” and they rubbed a bit on the placemat. The best part came next: after rinsing the first piece out I demonstrated “whopping” the piece on the floor. Big smiles came out of hiding! Many couldn’t manage that, but the aides sure had fun, obliging in the process. There were good times had at the the craft table last Friday. The best part was my Mom beaming, with pride, and telling everyone I was “a pretty good girl,” when someone asked a question. Mom was having a good day, and knew who I was. I will take that memory with me forever…as I break away from typing to shed a couple tears.

These are the real photos of felt made by the residents. We will begin making flowers tomorrow, after this article is published.
This is the felt I made for this article. It’s absolutely gorgeous in person.

I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers, we make with our felt. But mostly, I hope to see a glimpse of the happy faces, that watched me throw that felt at the floor.

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

It’s summer time here in Ireland and the living is, well, slightly more laid back than the norm.  Having decided to metaphorically kick off the shoes for the month of July, I thought it might be nice just to “see and share ” rather than “do” and this forms the basis of my post.

Before I start on the main focus of this post (my holiday in Italy),   I just have to show you a beautiful piece that totally blew me away.  Before heading off, I visited Dublin’s Botanical Gardens.  Founded in 1795, it is an oasis of calm for any visitor and I would highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.  While there, I noticed that there was a patchwork exhibition happening in one of their exhibition spaces.  This piece just caught me, so I want to share it with you.  The artist is Ethelda Ellis and the piece is called ‘Aoife’s View’.  The curator told me that Ethelda is a medical doctor by profession.  If you would like to see more of Ethelda’s beautiful creations check out her blog: http://ethelda.blogspot.com/

Now, to the Italian holiday.  We headed to Como mid-July and, in spite of the heatwave, spent our time sightseeing and eating!  Our base was Como which is to the north of Italy, right beside Switzerland.  Lake Como is totally dwarfed by the Alps – a really beautiful place.

We called into the Cathedral, the Duomo which was magnificent internally and externally.  I reckon that to appreciate all its beauty would take months observing 24/7!  I want to share with you a small area of a tapestry which was made in 1610 and which underwent restoration in 1990.  It was impossible to get a good photo of the entire masterpiece as so much detail would have been lost.  So I settled for a little!

One of our tours took us to the tiny picturesque village of Orta which is situated on Lake Orta.  It was recommended that we visit the interior of the local church which was situated at the top of a steep street.

My journey was interrupted by the sound of a piano recital and when I investigated I discovered a rather special textile exhibition happening in the same building.  The works exhibited were by Sergio Cerini.  The artist merges his early experiences in the Italian high fashion industry with his current artworks, producing beautiful pieces which are in essence a mix of paper mache and textiles.  The description does not do justice to his widely exhibited pieces and he was reluctant to allow me to photograph his work.  He did, however pose in front of one of the pieces and others can be viewed on his Instagram page @sergiocerini

Since the 1800s, the city of Como was historically the main producer of Italian silk.  When ultimately production was outsourced to China, the area was in danger of losing connection with its cultural heritage.  The large factory was bought by the Hilton hotel chain.  These photos show early paintings of the factory, what it became at the height of the industry and where it is now (apologies for the reflection on the glass):

 

Rather than allow the old machinery to be lost to history, a wise decision was taken about 10 years ago to set up an Educational Silk Museum to preserve these beautiful machines.  Along with displaying the machinery, some of which dates back to the nineteenth century, the museum offers interactive videos and exhibits of high fashion clothing.  Unfortunately this section was not open during my visit but I thought it might be fun to show you some of the many machines featured.  So please, grab a cuppa, sit back and I hope you enjoy the show.  I have included captions for ease of reference.

 

Processing a really dirty fleece, I mean really, really dirty…

Processing a really dirty fleece, I mean really, really dirty…

So many of us can’t resist a decent free fleece.  We all know that with a little work and water most fleece can produce some lovely fiber, right?  Early summer makes for full on fleece washing season.  I have two cheviot cross fleece that need to be washed before fall.  I use rain water as much as possible to rinse the fleece.  By rain water I do mean torrential down pours from thunder storms.  But lately we’re not getting rain unless it’s accompanied with horrific wind.

When I wash a fleece I leave it dry where ever I can find a space.  This fleece was particularly large, so it took up a lot of the deck.  I had to improvise by using net hangers.

Old lawn chairs that were past their prime

And a plant trellis I found at the local discount store which was particularly useful because it expands and then fold up for easy storage.

This cheviot is a cross with some other unknown breed.  It’s primarily for meat and was left to fool around in the fields and in the barn.  There is straw, and other bits of crud embedded in the top of the fleece, lots of lanolin protected the sides and under belly, so the majority of the fleece is decent condition. It was a lamb so there was amniotic tip damage as well as sun damage. But some of it was very nice, lovely and crimpy, as well as very soft.

Because the fleece was so questionable the only way I would ever consider processing this was with combs.  Combs have a tendency of breaking any fiber that is at all fragile.  This is exactly what I wanted to do with this fleece.  The combs would remove the damaged tips, trap the straw, manure, and other debris.  The major downside of using combs is wastage.  It would be huge on a fleece like this.  The other choice would be to hand tease the fibers from the debris, card and then spin the wool into yarn.  The end product would be a decent yarn, but I suspect it would be a bit fragile.  The fleece was just not worth that much work.  So out came the combs.

I have a few sets and am a firm believer in getting the best tools you can afford for the job at hand.  It won’t hurt you at all to get really beautiful tools either, its good for the soul. I did a test using my light combs, made by Roger Hawkins.  Sadly, these are no longer being manufactured, so I cherish the ones I have.  This is one of the reasons I only did a test with these little ones.  The wool was too dirty and too coarse for these combs.  The results were extremely good, but the output was tiny.

So I cracked out the larger set.  These need to be clamped to the table because they can take a lot of pulling and tugging when the combing gets a little rugged.  This set was made by Alvin Ramer, again these are not being manufactured anymore either.  One of the most important differences between the two sets is that the smaller set are relatively safe.  The tines are not sharp.  These are the ones I can safely and comfortably use while watching a movie or talking with someone.  On the larger set the tines are extremely sharp and must be used carefully.  Combing must be done at  90 degrees to the tines.  Some people think you comb down on the tines.  You do not; you comb across the tines.

This shows you the quantity of wool that can be loaded onto the larger comb.  It is locked into the block, which is clamped onto the table.  The other comb will be used in a downward motion to comb out the wool.  You can also see why this fleece is worth the work,  just look at that staple length!!

I did say there was lot of wastage – after three times getting combed this is what I threw into the compost, per combing.  So, I would comb once and there would be a tangled mess left behind.  That was removed and thrown out.  The wool was combed again, the tangle was removed and thrown out.  The wool was combed again, and once again, the tangle was removed and thrown out.  Finally the wool was dized off and turned into roving. The estimate for wastage is going to be 35% – 45% on the washed fiber.  The wastage on an unwashed fleece is anywhere up to 50% by weight. The final tally is wastage of approximately 65%.  I have to really estimate high because of straw, manure, lanolin and skirting.

The diz can be anything with a suitable hole.  Some people use buttons, I like this shell because it’s concave.  It needs to be turned as you diz to catch the little bits along the edge.

You need to see the difference in size between the two combs.  I have a third pair, but they are safely stored away.  They are the four pitch, sometimes called English wool combs that I used when processing Cotswold fleeces.

I really like the end result of combing.  It takes time and a bit of patience.  It also takes muscles that I forgot I had.  But it’s a wonderful way to salvage an unsalvageable fleece.  It’s a great way to enjoy a garden, park or private space while listening to birds, children playing in a pool, or a book, or music.  The fleece really was pretty awful, but the results are great.  I did a couple of test spins, singles, two ply and three ply.  The wool is resilient and bouncy.  It should dye nicely and ultimately be useful.

 

Shearing Day

Shearing Day

Sunday was shearing day. It is a very busy day as you can imagine. We had a friend come help but most of the setup work was done by my son.  This system is set up in the area we put the lambing pens in the spring.  This is a shoot system from the holding and crowding pens to where they get sheared. There is a gate part way to stop them from going backwards. On one side is a big pen for the ram lambs to be separated for weening. It will be a noisy night.

 

Here are some shots of the sheep being sheared. We have a wonderful shearer. He is calm and gentle.

 

This is a picture to show the difference between the outside sun-bleached wool and the cut side of the wool

I only kept 4 fleeces. These are 2 of them. I couldn’t resist the white one. I have to have a proper look at them yet I hope there isn’t too much hay chaff in them.

 

 

This is my Lincolns fleece. It looks matted to me but I will try washing it and see what happens.

 

This is a bad sheep complaining, between nibbling. She ran around and instead of going out the open gate to the barnyard she flipped open the wooden gate and ran out the opposite side of the shearing floor. She then complained that she was by herself for the remainder of shearing. We opened the gate to let her back in but she just stood there and yelled.

I tried to get a picture of naked sheep. when I went feed Storm they were all in the barn, too dark for pictures. I went back an hour later they are all in the old garden, great. I got one picture before they turned tail and ran for the gait to the field. This is the story of my life trying to take pictures of sheep. You have to sneak up on them or they at very least will all turn away and show you their tails and at worst decide you are a coyote taking pictures for a future dinner party.

 

This is 4 half bags of wool ready to go to the wool co-op. I get half bags because I am the bag stuffer and the big bags are a pain if you don’t have a stand and are bad at climbing ladders to stuff fleeces in. they are much easier to manage and transport too.

 

 

For those wondering how Storm is doing. here he is He is in the barn and is eating grass (cut for him daily) and grain and still gets 2 bottles a day. In the close-up shot, you can see milk all over his face from bumping the bottle and sprayed milk all over his face and the other one is just to show you how much he has grown.

  

 

I took lots of pictures but my iPhone kept switching to live and so it kept taking 3-second videos instead of pictures. If anyone knows how to permanently turn that feature off I would love to know it. What a frustrating feature. If I wanted a video I would switch to video. I don’t know how to grab one shot out of a video. It is probably simple but… And that’s my rant for today. 🙂

 

 

Wash a fleece with me

Wash a fleece with me

***This post should have been published yesterday but somehow the scheduling didn’t go through, apologies for the delay!***

The days are so much longer here in Scotland. When blessed with sunshine (which happens more than you’d think), this is the perfect time of year to wash fleeces.

I recently bought a Leicester Longwool fleece from a small farm that specialises in conservation of this rare breed. I’d bought from them before, so I knew I’d be happy with my purchase.

Now, for those of you who live in a house with a garden, washing raw fleeces might not be a somewhat mammoth task, but I currently live in a flat. Some creativity was in order.

I’m lucky enough to have a very generously sized kitchen, which is where the beginning of the processing begun.

part of a shower curtain is laid on the floor

I laid down this piece of shower curtain on the floor (it’s a leftover from my dyeing setup, I used the rest to protect the wall when working). I can already tell you I was naive and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

a bag with a fleece in it, with Muriel written on the outside

Here is the fleece, ready to come out and play. Muriel is the lovely sheep who grew the wool, she was so named because she mewed more than baah-ed 🙂
This fleece is around 6.5kg. You can already see where I was getting at when I said I was naive, don’t you?

Muriel's fleece is on the floor, ready to be unrolled

The owner of this flock was kind enough to send me some very good written instructions on how the fleece was rolled, and how best to unroll and wash it.

Leicester Longwool fleece on the floor, with human foot nearby for size comparison

If you’re laughing at my tiny plastic protection right now, I don’t blame you. I laughed too! I photographed my foot so you could have an idea of scale. Oh boy.

Time to sort the fleece according to body areas and discard the bits I didn’t want, which in the case of this particular fleece wasn’t much.
Sorting the fleece this way helps me know which parts will be more useful for different purposes. The wool on the back of the sheep (which you can see in the middle) will have better curl definition, and the bits near the rear end will be coarser and less curly. There’s a use for each part, but I want it separated so I can work quickly once it’s all washed.

I must give credit to the shearer, he did a stellar job. I had hardly any second cuts (tiny bits of wool you get from when the shearing machine goes through the sheep a second time, to even the “haircut” out). This person was definitely removing the fleece knowing it was to be used by a crafter, which I greatly appreciated.

closeup of the fleece with very dirty tips and extremely white cut ends

Have you ever wondered about how dramatic a Before and After can be in washing fleece? Here’s your answer. The end bits have been subjected to the elements, the part nearer the animal is pristine. Once I’m done, I hope it’ll look mostly like the white bits.

Next, I carefully roll up the fleece into sections to soak.

a rolled up section of fleece, ready to be soaked

What one does next with a fleece depends on personal preference. I like to soak it in cold water and change the water often, until most of the lanolin (the natural oils the sheep produces to protect its coat) is washed off. Once that’s done, I use very hot water a few times, and then add detergent to it. Once the water comes out mostly clear, I’m done. All that’s left is to rinse it, lay it flat to dry and then play with the lovely curls.

two fleeces soaking, one dirty and the other almost clean

Notice the huge difference! The one on the right already has some detergent in it, the left doesn’t as it still needs a few more cold water soaks.

I’m sure some readers will be worried about processing a fleece indoors. Allow me to share what I did to stay safe and clean:

  • Firstly, I purchased the fleece from a trusted high-welfare farm, which means the sheep are kept happy and are constantly monitored for health issues (thus ensuring the wool isn’t contaminated with pests or other nasties)
  • The fleece was always handled with gloved hands and I never touched other surfaces whilst doing so.
  • I never ate or drank whilst processing the fleece
  • Once I was done separating it into sections, they went into plastic bags and all surfaces were thoroughly washed, even the ones that the wool never touched, such as counters
  • The bathtub was thoroughly washed and sanitised before being used by humans
  • (Finally: if you have pets, make sure they stay away from raw wool! My cats are abnormalities and didn’t care one bit for it, so they stayed away on their own.)

On my next blog post, I’ll share how the fleece came out once dry and the locks separated.

Have you ever washed a fleece? How did your experience compare to mine? Let me know in the comments.

Update on Mr. Mer part 1

Update on Mr. Mer part 1

For those of you who have not met Mr. Mer, here he is last year as I was working on his anatomy.

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1-2 Mr. Mer 2021

Mr. Mer was underwhelmed with how I had left his basic under-structure of his fishy bits.  I agreed with him that he was not quite as pike-like as I would like. The fish part of the body needed to be thicker and more muscular when compared to my photo reference. How can you fight snapping turtles with such a scrawny lower body?  I still liked the vestigial knees but felt the idea had not yet coalesced into a good integration between man and fish.  I will think more on this as I add bulk to his fishiness.

3 parts of the green fibre collection.

I dug through the greens I had been using, I was almost out of one of the colours I had blended and will have to blend more of it! I was using the large ball of “Olive” Corriedale as the base and adding other greens to mottle and create the colour for the under-structure.  The darker top that I was blending with the olive I am pretty sure some was the Superwash I had bought from the Black lamb.

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4-5 blending wool to build up Mr. Mer’s fish body and tail.

Since I needed a reasonable amount of fibre to build up his fish end I used the hand carders to partly blend the colours. (Nature tends not to have flat colours.) Although I usually hand blend small amounts for details, using the handcards or even dog brushes is easier on the hands and wrists than working with the same amount of fibre hand blending.  When I take the fibre off the cards, it is still quite a long staple. For the under layer and blocking in the basic shape this will work. However, as I get closer to the final shape I tend to tear the fibre into pieces from half an inch to an inch long.

Although I started with the armature and adding shapes build-up of fibre as per Sara’s instructions I have deviated well away from her original Mer-Maid design. She tends to work by adding formed shapes, but for this one, she added a wet felted skin layer to put over her under-structure. I have had more fun using a more blended approach of both additive and subtractive sculpture.  (Adding pre-formed shapes and felting them into place is a lot faster than what I tend to do with using layers and small amounts of loose fibre to sculpt into the desired shape).

You can see I have moved from legs with a tail shape Mer-Man to the beginnings of a more human-fish hybrid.

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6-8 upgrading Fishy-bits underway

I like the direction but need to increase the height and a bit more width of the fish section. I am investigating the popliteal space (the area behind the knees).  I like the angle of the intersection but want to raise the fish spine a bit higher.

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9-10  Needs a bit more

Oh no,  he is not going to like the way that tail looks, it’s a bit bear. I over fanned the armature of the tail and then added wisps of full-length staple. I added a bit to each side using a variety of needles and finally the punch tool (fake clover tool). so when I adjust the tail to the correct position the webbing should ripple like partly closing a fan.

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11-12 Working on the tail

That seems a bit better so I switched back to the body again.

13 elevating the top line of the fish body

I have made both the top line higher and am investigating the angle of integrating behind the knees. Tomorrow Is Library Day for the guild and I will ask Ann what she thinks. So it’s time for Mr. Mer to get into his project bag (not that I expect to have any time to work on him tomorrow) but I am sure he will enjoy getting out of the house and Ann will like seeing how he is coming along.

14  On Library Day, Ann Checked out  Mr. Mer’s Progress, she had a few suggestions.

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15-17 Ann critiques him

As we got the library ready for book pick up, Mr. Mer took up position on top of a small 8 harness loom to watch for guild members wanting their requested books.

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18-20  Mr. Mer is watching for Library patrons

 I noticed he was having trouble bending and has to maintain a push-up to allow him to look out the window.  I have to see what I can do to help him. I will start with an assessment of his ROM (Range of Motion) particularly at his waist but that will be in my next post.

I will hope you are not getting bored with the fishiness of my posts and promise to try to work on something different, but the next post will be part 2. There may be surgery involved!

Have fun and keep felting!!

Recycling isn’t easy

Recycling isn’t easy

The idea of upcycling and recycling is enormously appealing given the situation we all face. But going back and undoing work from others’ hands is challenging.  For those of you who have come late to my adventures in recycling,  I am disassembling worn out silk kimono to weave into more modern type of jacket, still with an Asian look, but done in a rag weave. This is part of the Japanese tradition of using materials to their utmost, so I don’t feel too bad about taking these garments apart.

The process of tearing or cutting the fabric is boring, boring, boring and just for a change of emotion it’s frustrating too!  I have dulled blades on fabric cutters, dulled scissors and now I’m trying a combination of rotary cutter and ripping, but still I’m not having great success.

 

Sometimes the silk tears into perfect strips

Sometimes the silk tears perfectly and the strip can be used exactly as it comes off the fabric, then the next strip goes completely haywire for no discernible reason.  These are really old kimono so my suspicion is that they have started to shatter, but that should be working in my favour when ripping, so I’m at a loss.

I have pressed and folded the silk and laid it out on the quarter inch.  This is when the straight edge and rotary cutter come out.  The silk used here is very fine, from the lining, so the width of the ribbon is a little more than the quarter inch. The poor rotary blade was starting to sound pretty grim after eight deep cuts.  I’ll look for a small sharpener to try to extend the life of the blades.

The ribbons are joined into one long ‘thread’ using a split knot.  A small cut is made in each end of the ribbon about a quarter inch from the ends.

 

 

The right hand ribbon is threaded through the slit in the left hand ribbon.

Then the very end of the left hand ribbon is threaded through slit in the right hand ribbon.

And finally, they are gently given a slow and gentle pull until they come together in a little butterfly knot that will be a design element of the weave.  It will be random and just pop up here and there on the fabric.

I find doing this hour after hour nearly mind numbing, and can only do this for a few hours a day or two at a time.  I really want to finish this kimono project but it’s getting to be a slog so I have to take breaks.  I will finish it, but not in the original time line.  What do the rest of you do when you have a project that starts to pale as time goes on?

This time boredom prompted me to crack out the dye pot and do something vivid and cheery for a November day.

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.

 

Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed

 

It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.

 

Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing

 

Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)

 

Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks

 

Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.

 

English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs

 

You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.

 

Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing

 

There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.

 

A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table

 

I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

Spinning Poker Challenge

Spinning Poker Challenge

Every summer my weavers and spinners guild does a fibre poker challenge. You can choose weaving, spinning or felting. I am doing spinning and felting. This post is about the spinning challenge. I haven’t started my felting one yet.

In these challenges, they make up 4 decks of cards. The cards for spinning are Fiber, Colour, Type of Yarn and General Design. You pick one from each to get your poker hand. You are allowed to return one and draw another.

Mine are

Fibre: surprise us.

Colour: dark rich colours

Type of Yarn: thick and thin

General Design: include locks

I decided I wanted to try spinning some of the silk hankies I have. these looked like dark rich colours. Well, not that dark but not pastel.

I looked up what was the recommended way of prepping them for spinning. It was to poke a hole in the middle and stretch them out. Most of the drafting is done in the stretching out. I did 2 of each colour. They stretch quite far. I am sure I could have stretched them at least twice as long but I didn’t want my yarn that thin.

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I also have to do thick and thin. I decided the easiest way to do that was to use the required locks to create the thick parts. I think these are Bluefaced Leicester.

I don’t have a spinning wheel. I like to spin small amounts, so I use a drop spindle I have quite a few.

 

After I finished the 4 silk hankies I made it into a center-pull ball. My original intention was to ply one end against the other.

But then I changed my mind. I spun some purple silk top to use as the other ply.

I made it into a center-pull ball as well. I put one small ball on my thumb and one on a finger. I used a little painter’s tape to keep the outside thread from unravelling as I will be pulling from the center, then I can control how fast it pulls out. I like painter’s tape as it’s just sticky enough to hold but comes off easily without grabbing and pulling the fibres and doesn’t leave any sticky behind. If I was going to store the ball I would tie the two ends together instead.

           

Somehow I guessed right and had just a little more of the second simple single than the first fancy single.

That’s my laptop lid so as you can see there wasn’t much extra.

I wound it off into a skein. It looks a little wobbly at first but it needs to have a bath to let the spin show what it’s really like.  I used the small extra piece to tie the skein in 4 places. I wanted the 4 ties because I am very good at tangling skeins.

 

Here it is after its bath and hang to dry. I didn’t use any weight to try to set the yarn, I wanted it to be its natural self. I am quite happy I managed to get a nice balanced spin. I took to pictures flipping it over so you can see both sides.

I spread it out more and took a close-up. I am really please with how this came out. It was difficult to get the locks in because naturally, the twist wanted to go to the thinnest part.

 

I hope you like it too. It was a bit of a challenge but that’s the point, get you doing something you wouldn’t normally do.  I could have wished for some action shots but it’s hard to spin and hold the fibre and hold the camera. It puts me back to wondering why on earth my prehistoric ancestors got rid of the prehensile tail, it would be so handy.

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 2

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 2

In an earlier post we found out that 3 breeds of sheep were created by Agriculture Canada mixing existing breeds to create a sheep that would give; multiple births, fast-growing lambs and ewe’s with good mothering instincts. At first, their goal was to make a breed of sheep for research purposes but as the project continued they developed into 3 separate breeds; the Rideau Arcott, the Outaouais Arcott and the Canadian Arcott.   Since they have been bred mostly for their meat, the fleeces around here are variable often strikingly different between individuals in the same flock. The Rideau Arcott’s fleeces I have worked with before, on my highly technical scale, have ranged from OOOOH! all the way to Ick!

This being the first Canadian Arcott fleeces I have worked with I am testing their qualities and seeing what they may be best for. If you find a Canadian Arcott, it will likely be more lustrous than the Rideau Arcotts, and less variability between individual fleeces. (This is a strong rumour and your Canadian may vary a bit from the breed standard. It’s always best to look at each fleece as an individual)

Last post I tested Ram #2 (it’s ram number two because he was the second one out of the bag.) His ewes are employed as lawn maintenance specialists at a local solar farm.

We found that the fleece worked well with both combing and carding preparations producing a niece yarn from each. I had kept the combing waste and had carded up extra fibre to try the next set of experiments with it. So let’s see what I found out next!!

Comb waist needle felting test

Let’s see what the comb waist is like for felting (I have had very good results from some of Bernadette’s Combing waste fibre for both core and outer layers) she has very good fibre so even the waste is good!!

Ram 2, even in this relatively clean section I have sampled, had some VM (Vegetable Matter) which the combs separated brilliantly. This meant my sample section had VM amongst the fibre short bits and naps. This will be a good test of some of the lesser quality fibre from this fleece.

33 test with comb wast

This is not as fast to needle felt as a Shetland but it has springiness and lustre. For an understructure that needs to be relatively firm but have some give that springs back, it might be perfect. (A belly perhaps?)

34 close up of needle felted ball-ish shape.

I was using a courser needle I think it was one of the T-36’s for this sample. It created a slightly dented surface but if I had switched to a T-40 or paid more attention to how I was poking, I think it would have been able to make it a bit smoother but it was quite acceptable for an underlayer. I did notice a bit of a very fine halo that is more visible in the shadowed areas.

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Wet Felting with Carded wool

Now the last consideration, can it be wet felted. I have a feeling it may not be good since it shows signs of stubbornness with the lovely fine crimp. But let’s see.  There is always hope until it is crushed mercilessly.

 

So let’s try the carded fibre and layout a sample. To give it the best chance for felting I laid thin wispy layers in alternating directions North /south then east /west. I repeated until I had a puffy pile about an inch thick.

35 approximately 2.5 inches square

I had received a number of small bubble wrap bags with the larger needle felting tools (the 3 needle holders were all very poorly packed and had no bubble wrap)

 

36 bubble wrap bag that needle felting tool cam in.

I found one of the smaller pouches and placed the layered fleece inside with the bubble facing in. now to add soap and water. Hmm, maybe I better try and start it first in my hand then put it into the bubble wrap.

First, this wool is not a sponge. I used a lot of soap and warm water to wet the fibres, some of which collected in the bottom of the bubble wrap bag. I also discovered bubbles do not make good waterproof bags, they drip. So I put it into an extra-large sandwich bag to contain the wetness.

37 Ooops this bag leaks in the corners!!! need better waterproofing!!!

38 XL sandwich bag!! that will make felting safe!!

I started with gentle caresses across the bubble wrap then moved to gently rubbing it between my hands. I focused on working in both vertical and horizontal directions. The wool has spread out but doesn’t feel like it’s grabbing yet. Let me find a video to watch and I will keep going.

39-40 taking a quick peek

41 cant see what I’m doing too many bubbles!!!

As the soap built up I went and rinsed some of it out.

42 43  There does seem to be adhesion! But let’s see if I can get a bit more. I put it back into the bubble wrap bag and put that into the sandwich bag.  Now, to add more enthusiasm to the rubbing!

44 Now off for a rinse and see what we have and is it felt?

45 Drying, look how thin it is. There was some shrinkage as well as some migration at the edges.

46 Yes, that is defiantly felt! with the lateral migration, it is very thin.

47 no longer the about 2.5inch square I started with.

47 it certainly isn’t an inch thick anymore!

Ann wanted to know “Did it shrink at all? When I have felted some of the “nonfelting” wool before it didn’t shrink. It did stick together but as you say, you could pull it apart. It would make good sheets of batting to go in a quilt

I don’t think it would be a good one for quilting it flattened too much. I think it may have shrunk but it also spread so I think it spread about an inch but it is also a lot thinner than it started. It did shrink if you consider it vertically even with the displacement into extra width.

This might be effective when mixed with some more enthusiastically felting sheep and then used for a super thin light summer scarf or shawl.  It may be a good base to build up from. I may have to do another sample to see how it reacts with different sheep and other fibre

it is softer in texture than the spun yarn. I could probably tear it apart if I really tugged a bit.  It is holding to the pinch test but again if I was more aggressive I could likely pull off the uppermost layer.  So a bit more aggressive felting might have helped its cohesiveness. Even with that stated it is at the stage that it is definitely felt and not fibre. It kind of reminds me of cookie dough that looked thick as it went in the oven but when cooked spread into a puddle

I think this would not be a top choice for most wet felting projects but some of its properties may be useful. I think this may be more of a fleece to look at for weaving. Its low elasticity would defiantly be a plus when making a warp!

PS just got my second covid shot yesterday and it may be bright and sunny out but I think it’s time for bed. this time I got the Phyzer version and it’s much nicer than the AZ (i feel like I was kicked in the arm by a small mule then climbed a large mountain.) if I can avoid getting covid it will all be worth it!! have fun felting and I will chat more when I wake up.

 

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