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Year 2 Flax Study Group, The Violent bit’s at the end!

Year 2 Flax Study Group, The Violent bit’s at the end!

A review of year 2 so far

This year the flax study group planted the seed we had harvested from last year. We had enough to double our planting and had 2 rows planted this year. We had 2 covid-modified weeding parties at 4 to 6 inches of growth but without the wonderful cake to celebrate successful weeding!

 1-2

The first part of the summer was very dry and hot so the flax was ready earlier than anticipated. We left the harvested bundles of Flax resting against the garden fence to dry.

 3-5

Then the weather turned and it rained and rained and rained. (I should not have been trying to wash those fleeces in the side yard! See the blog post about sentient weather.) The flax started its retting while it tried to dry. Once it had finally dried enough, we were back out (August 29th) to extract seed from stock. The seeds this year are MUCH smaller than last years, and lighter in weight. The seed pods were definitely ready to pick but the dry weather was hard on the plants (shorter in stature and smaller seeds). We used a number of seed extraction methods.  The double rakes were great and the pillowcases and rolling pins were effective too. Unfortunately, winnowing (using the wind to seperate chaff from seed) was not working, not much wind and the seed was as light as the chaff) we had the best success with Henrys Sieves from the grain silos. (Brilliant idea Henry!!)

6-13

Next the Flax, now de-seeded, went to the spa. (large trough of water with therapeutic cinderblocks to hold it under!) With the retting complete, we were ready to move on to the violent part of the process; Brakes, Skutching and the lovely Hackles! We set a date in November that we hoped most of us would be available to meet again at Cathy Louises’ coverall barn (the part the cows don’t live in! They are very cute cows but I don’t want to have to share the flax with them)

 14 supervisors

Now that we are all caught up again, let’s get to the best part of Flax processing; the vicious violent bits!

11/07/2020 Covid canceled our Guild sale but that leaves the Saturday free to start in on the flax. We met at the coverall barn on a fabulously wonderful un-fall-like day. It was so nice we worked in front of the barn, enjoying mild weather, the sun and no rain!

  15-16

Step 1 Braking;

The first step was braking the flax stocks to loosen and start the removal of the outer stock covering (the boon) from the long inner fibres which will become the linen. Bernadette, Ann and Cathy Louise experimented with hand braking before sending it to the brake but that was not as helpful as we had hoped.  If you did not have access to a flax brake this may be an option for you but it would take a lot of working the stocks to loosen the boon.

 17-18

Glenn and Gord were our main brakers this year. Glenn’s knee has been bothering him (postal work has not been diminished by Covid) so he quickly gave up on standing and has perfected the seated braking position.

 19-20

We had a couple of flax videos posted on our OVWSG flax study group Facebook page they were unfortunately in German (about Hackling) and in Russian about braking. From the video, Glenn modified his technique on the second Saturday to add scraping movements to the end of the braking. This seemed to make the next step a little easier.

  21-22

The technique seems to be to hold the root end, start at the tip (where the seeds were) and brake towards the roots flipping which side of the bundle is facing up. This first pass was done vigorously. Then work from the tip towards roots a little at a time still flipping the bundle but scraping gently each section as it is finished. Then flip and work the roots, which often broke off.

  23 the fibre is handed off to the next step

Step 2 Skutching;

As we got going, we had two primary brakers and 2-3 skutchers and the rest of us were on Hackle duty or taking photos. Skutching is a percussive movement hitting or flicking the stocks to loosen and remove as much of the outer layer as possible. The Skutching team were finding that splitting the bundle (by gently tugging on the ends) then reorienting the stocks parallel and continuing to skutch was effective.

  24-29

   30 fibre is sent to the next step

There was an intermittent breeze that kept depositing fibre into the shrubberies. (Sort of like pre-Christmas tinsel) I am sure the birds were sorry we didn’t do this part in the spring.

 31-33 Early Christmas tincil

Step 3 Hackles!!

The next step is my favourite part, the Hackles. They’re like a very sharp multi-pitch Viking comb that is clamped to the table. The flax is dragged through the top of the sharp pointy bloodletting teeth, removing even more of the boon. I watched the German video about Hackles, it was highly informative even with my only random words of German. He definitely was adamant about the angle, I think? I tried to mimic his diagonal pull through with change of direction on exiting the hackles. I also tried the flipping one side up then the other for each pass. This left the flax quite clean.

   34-36

   37-43

The hackling starts through the coarsest teeth then moves to finer and finer. Each step removes more boon. I was able to take out a few stubborn bits by flicking at them with a fingernail. We also were drafting off the hackles as the tow built up in it. The remnants still trapped in the comb, we bagged to process with the drum carder next week.

 44 some of the line

Just so you don’t think we were horribly overworked, we did break for Pizza

  45-46

We did quite well today but only got about half way through the harvest, well we did double the planting we did this year! So far, the flax is short but very fine. We bagged the tow for next week and made little stricks of the line. We did do a lot of work but it doesn’t show from the pile remaining!

   47-50

Some of the flax has a distinct hue of green.  The rest looks very familiar.

   51-52

11/14/2020  Day 2, similar in process to day 1 but with less sun or good temperatures.

It was much colder today, still no fluffy solid rain or serious cloud dandruff, yet (Yeah!!) so we moved into the coverall to work. The hacklers were by the barn door, while it provided great light there was a cool breeze. We continued to work on the braking and finished it off, leaving one bundle to compare with last years. We continued working on the skutching and hackling and added making batts with the tow.

  53-61

Our tow team today was Deborah and Cathy Louise.

       62-66

Deborah and Cathy Louise worked together to make batts of the tow.  We tried one pass but decided to try a second pass which was markedly improved.  They tried a third pass, but it was deemed very similar to the second pass. We found the waste from the drum carder to be very soft and have kept it.   We tried hand combing it with small 2 pitch hand combs with a good test result. We will collect the carding waste and comb it later.  Using the drum carder caused a lot of the chaff/boon to drop out underneath it.

    67-68 first and second pass

    69-70 Second and third pass

  71-72 Drum carder waste combed

We compared last year’s plant after retting to this year and saw a difference in height and this year’s plants are much finer in the stock. They were planted about 2 weeks earlier, but also harvested earlier than last year. We did not harvest too soon since the plants had flowered and were producing seeds so it was the correct time to harvest. It was extremely dry this summer until we harvested then it rained, a lot!

   73-75

We got most of the skutching finished today too.

 76

We bagged up the batts of tow we created today. We will be weighing the amounts of line and tow we have created likely next week.

 77

We will be back to work for our last day of processing this year next Saturday. There is a bit more to hackle then all the tow to process. When we are done, we will weigh out the tow and line and see what our yield was this year. Although the flax was definitely reduced in height the fineness of the fiber is spectacular, even the tow is soft and quite nice. I am looking forward to getting one of the flax wheels upstairs and put to work spinning part of this year’s harvest.

   78- 79

The spot we had the flax growing this summer is turned for winter and garlic has been planted there. It has been an amazing experience working with the flax team. Next year is a bit up in the air, we will hope to be changing planting locations or we may wind up taking a summer off.

 

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

The last time I wrote, I talked about dyeing yarn. As an indie dyer, my job is to create colourful yarn that someone else will turn into something beautiful. That’s pretty much the norm.

Now, what if I turned that regular idea around and dyed the finished item instead? What would happen? Let’s find out!

I had some very lovely 4-ply yarn at hand, plus some mohair lace that was just coarse enough to be uncomfortable if used alone. Paired together they would make the perfect DK weight yarn for a cardigan I wanted to knit.

 

Fast forward 2 or 3 days, and here’s the finished cardigan, minus the buttons.

Let the experiment begin! I wanted a red base. I had to add that to the dye bath first. It looks very much like a murder scene, so let me tone it down by inserting a cute photo of my cat Marshmallow next to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I wanted the red to be soaked up slowly and evenly, I started with cool water and no acid for binding. This will ensure the colour is seeped up gradually and has time to get to the whole garment. I then added the wet cardigan, turned on the heat to medium-low and kept an eye on it.

After 15 minutes, the water was warm and I could see that the red was all over the cardigan. Time to add citric acid gradually. Then turn up the heat, simmer for 10 more minutes, turn it off and wait for the water to clear up and cool completely.

A good sign that you’ve used the right amount of dye and acid is that the water clears up completely once cooled. This is also a great sign of minimal bleeding in future washes, the bane of any dyer.
(If your water isn’t clear, try adding more acid and simmering for another 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely and see if things aren’t better.)

I really liked this colour, but a rule of thumb is, if it looks perfect under water, it’s too light when dry. I also wanted a bit more dimension to the red, so some dark grey was needed.
I didn’t want this new colour to soak up evenly, so I didn’t remove the cardigan from the bath water as I added the new dye, and I kept the same acidic, fast-absorption water from before.

And here she is afterwards in all her glory!

I know the “scruffy look” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like a long-worn cardi, something my nan might have passed on to me. The vintage buttons complete the look.

Now, the important question: is the end result the same as dyeing the yarn in the skein? The answer is a resounding No. Depending on how tight you knit, you might end up with a lot of areas that the dye won’t get to because the stitches act as a resist. You can see lighter areas in the photo below, something I fully expected, even though I’m a fairly lose knitter. I actually like this feature because it’s very different from what you normally see.

I had never done anything like this before, and you might be horrified to know that after this, I’ve knit a shawl and now have a second cardigan on the needles, and both will receive the same after-completion dye treatment…

I wore it for the first time yesterday (at the time of writing) and it kept me warm all afternoon indoors.

I hope you enjoyed this experiment. Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this before, and what the outcome was! If not, what dyeing shenanigans have you been up to or would like to try?

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your day.

 

2020 Weather is suspicious! I have a Hypothesis!! lets test it!!!

2020 Weather is suspicious! I have a Hypothesis!! lets test it!!!

In the summer of 2020, I went into full fleece washing mode. I set up a skirting table, got the RV hand washing machine ready to spin out most of the water and set up the fleece drying racks in front of the garage. You have already seen some of the results. Over the next couple of months, I began to notice an unsettling trend of wetness occurring speciously in conjunction with putting washed fleece on the drying racks. Very Suspicious!!! how can this be a coincidence having happened so many times this summer? I think the weather may be out to wet me! (or maybe it’s just after my fleece)

My hypothesis: 2020 weather is sentient. (And is offended by drying fleece)

Equipment necessary for this experiment:

  • One Icelandic fleece,
  • Many strainer buckets,
  • Three soaking big buckets,
  • A small amount of soap (sunlight dish soap – not detergent),
  • One RV hand spin washer (like a very big salad spinner)
  • Three umbrellas on standby

Test of the hypothesis: Take exquisite Icelandic fleeces that had been put aside to wash later and wash now. (Also this first fleece may be perfect for Mrs. Mer’s Hair.) Watch for a reaction from local weather.

1 Part of Icelandic fleece waiting in the strainer bucket

I divided the first fleece into six small amounts in the fleece washing strainer baskets. Washed out and filled the three fleece washing buckets. Started the soap soak on the first three fleece strainer baskets and got them to the rinse stage. No sign of rain.

 

Today, a bit overcast with tiny patches of sun, I went out to check on the rinsing. Looked clean, felt clean, OK on to draining, spin-drying then laying the wool out on the drying racks to finish drying.

2-3  Fleece placed on the dryer rack

And it started to drizzle, so I pulled out the umbrella and continued spin-drying as well starting the next three into their soap soak.

 4 next half of fleece in soap and soak stages of washing

Drizzle stopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Filled one drying rack and pulled out the second.

And it started to drizzle again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulled out the second umbrella, looked at the overhanging and which way the rain would fall. Drat. Need a bigger umbrella, well if I move the spinner over to the skirting table and put the bucket over it

6 two umbrellas up and… it has stopped raining again.

Got all of the first fleece washed and onto two of my three drying racks, and pulled out the third rack (all from Ikea). I did a quick division of the second darker fleece and got the first part of it soaking in soapy water. With a bit of wrangling, I got the three drying rack set up and under the umbrella. As I went to check the soaking fleece and give it a sloosh and it started to Rain! Heavily raining….. I quickly through the fleeces into the strainer buckets and got everything under the tarp end of the dog yard. well now the weather is just laughing at me and I am soaked too.

7-8 wet, very wet

I came in to complain about the unfair and possible vindictiveness of weather to Ann. (Ann is very patent with me.)  I sat down at the computer, ready to type and the sun came out…..

 9 Sun coming out on my Tie basil plants in a broken pot, I will be trying to overwinter.

I waited a bit then went and laid out the fleeces again to dry…..maybe dry.

.

 

 

   10-13 all the wetness was worth it, look at that fleece!!

14 The first part of the second Icelandic fleece is trying to dry.

Any bets on where it will rain today? Don’t take that bet…..

 

 

 

15 it rains again

 

 

 

Conclusion; 2020 Weather is sentient and it is offended by fleece drying.

 

 

 

 

Post Scrips:

The Icelandic fleeces are now well washed, extra rinsed and finally dry. I have washed two more fine fleeces, which I got last year from the Wool Growers Co-op originally from Alberta, again with many extra rinses in the “Drying” stage. They were a lovely dark chocolate colour until I washed them and discovered they were a nice shade of grey (the wash water did remain a very dark brown).

    16 the drying racks

Unfortunately, I have two more large fleeces to wash before the snow arrives!!!! One is the large ram I got at the same time I got the Shropshire and the second is a fleece I just bought from Beth. It is a long black Shetland who was ether hiding from the shearer in the straw or was rolling in it. I have never seen so much vegi-matter embedded in a fleece! As bad as it looks there was only one sheep self-felted section. the rest, if I can get the straw out, will be fabulous. After pulling burrs, straw does not look as daunting!

17-20 Beth’s Black fleece of straw, the top section of the strainer bucket is self felted.

I still need a solution to the continual extra rinse step I don’t think the fleeces really require.  I have bought strapping and ½ inch welded wire fencing to make drying racks I can hang under the tarped area of the side yard. I will get over to Dollerama (what a great source of fibre and felting related equipment) and buy a couple of clear table cloth covers and some extra strong laundry clips to block the wind and rain along the dog fence. Maybe I had better not tempt the weather too much or it may escalate its intensity, we did have a tornado go through Ottawa two years ago! But that may have been to thwart someone else’s fleece drying endeavours.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Fiber – Identify It, Felt It, Take it Further

Mystery Fiber – Identify It, Felt It, Take it Further

Hello all.  My name is Arlene Toth and I am a Fiber Artist.  It sounds like I am owning up to an addiction, and I am.  I am addicted to working with wool.  If you don’t know me already, I have a blog called Adventures in Felt.  I took up needle felting in March 2019 where they were giving a demonstration at my local haberdashers.  The first thing I ever made was a bumble bee from a kit.  From then on I was hooked and it just snowballed from there.  As with any addiction, I eventually got hooked on the hard stuff, wet felting.  The first thing I ever wet felted was a very tiny vessel.  I used to paint for 10 years, but painting hasn’t had a look in for over a year.  I wonder at times how I have lived so long and didn’t know about felting until now.  I feel I have a lot of lost time to make up for.  Starting any new hobby is an adventure and I am always up for one of those.  I love this so much that I have immersed myself in it completely.  I have amassed a library of felting books, watched tons of videos (good and bad), and taken online classes.  I am so grateful to those out there that share their knowledge.  So I blog about what I learned.  As far as I’m concerned, it is all an experiment, and like painting, not everything is going to be a masterpiece.

One of the things I have learned is that making samples is important.  Most of the time I just jump right in, but there is value when making small samples especially if you are unfamiliar with the product you are using or the method you will be felting.  For instance, I bought some Botany Lap Waste from World of Wool.  I ended up with a lot of fiber that I thought was merino as it was so soft and felt like superfine merino, but turned out to be alpaca.  How do I know that?  Well, I initially felted with some of it, but it didn’t felt like the merino.  Fortunately, the item I was making was mostly merino, so this mystery fiber did ultimately felt.  I then decided to make some samples as I had a lot of mystery fiber.

Firstly, you need to identify your fiber if it isn’t labelled.  The first way to check if it is animal hair is to burn it.  Yes, burn it.  I used a fire lighter and took a piece of the fiber and it singed and smelled like burnt hair.  If it does that, it comes from an animal.  It doesn’t matter at this point which animal, but an educated guess reckoned that it was alpaca.  Alpaca is a lovely fiber, but some types will felt and some won’t. I have a lovely knitted alpaca hat I bought in Peru which is so soft and warm.  So either way I am going to be a winner here.

Now that you have determined that your fiber comes from an animal and it isn’t synthetic, you will then need to felt a sample, step two.

I had three mystery fibers in grey and the black is merino that I used for my control.  I laid them out with two layers.  I wet them out with tepid soapy water and started the felting process by sanding on boths sides, rubbing and rolling.  This is what they looked like.

B was looking as it should for merino, but neither A, C or D passed the pinch test.  I kept working at the samples and I finally got them to do a little something.

I can honestly say that if you want to become a good felter, you need tenacity as this is not a quick craft!  Not only was this fiber slippery and hairy, it was also squeaky!  You can see my lovely control Fiber B doing what merino is supposed to do.  Neither A, C or D is suitable to felt on its own.  D looked like a complete disaster!  Now, some people might think D was superwash, but superwash will not felt, at all, with anything.

So, I completely wasted my money right?  No!  You can stop right here, but if you know how to spin, you can spin with alpaca to make a lovely yarn.  I don’t know how to do that yet!  I was going to give some to a friend, but then we had lockdown, so I just labelled the bags as alpaca and put them away.  However, if you are like me, you will take it further, step 3.

How do you take it further?  You add wool to it.  Something you actually know is wool that will felt. People in the feltosphere suggested that.  So I did.  I got out the blending board and blended the alpaca with merino.  I used the black merino for the dark alpaca and natural grey merino for the other two.  Here they are all laid out as before.

I then wet everything out and felted as before.  As you can see below, adding the wool made a huge difference and made for a better felting experience.

Here we are above drying out in the sun.  They felted better than expected, especially D.  Here is the final outcome below.

Sample A) From 9 squares to 6 squares square, took the longest to felt, hairy, and has some fine holes in it.

Sample B) From 9 squares to 6 squares square, was the quickest to felt.  Sturdiest and best felted of the three.

Sample D) From 9 squares to 7 x 6.5 squares.  I couldn’t get it down any more than that, but considering it was falling apart on its own, this is a good result.  Has some holes, but more like superfine cobweb.

This is the condensed version of 3 blog posts regarding this mystery fiber.  My conclusion is that I shall only keep sample C as it felted the best with the merino.  The other two will be used for spinning, once I learn how to do it!  So, if you get given some fiber that you are unfamiliar with, make a sample and see what happens!

What goes into hand dyed yarn?

What goes into hand dyed yarn?

A few days ago, Ruth had the courtesy of sending me an email reminder about my upcoming blog post (this one). I mentioned I was sparse on ideas, so she suggested I talk about my dyeing process.

This ended up being serendipitous, as yesterday I received a custom order request for a new colourway I launched as part of my new collection. Voilá, I’ve got a blog post!

Now, this isn’t meant as a How To on yarn dyeing, so I shan’t go into too much detail (although, if you’re interested, I’d be happy to write a more in-depth post in the future – let me know in the comments). I will, however, mention a few basic things you definitely need to dye yarn/fibre safely if, like me, you’re using acid dyes:

  • The hardware you use shall be for dyeing only. So don’t use that fancy pot if you’re even thinking of making Sunday roast in it ever again.
  • Always, always wear a respirator mask when handling dyes, especially when in powder form. Dye particles travel far – I’m all for fluorescent green wool but not in one’s lungs.
  • Gloves are a must. You don’t want bright pink fingers for a week (ask me how I know), and you also want to avoid absorbing pigment through your skin.
  • No food or drink near the dyeing station, and you’ll need to clean everything before and after if dyeing in the kitchen.

Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff.

This is the yarn I need to reproduce. It’s called Mossy Moggy (moggies being what we call non-breed specific cats in the UK, do you call them the same in the US?). I needed 3 skeins.

If you want to be able to reproduce colourways in the future, you need good note taking habits. I have a dedicated folder where I keep all my cauldron inventions. If you think you’ll remember how you created something months later, trust me, you won’t.

This is my dye sheet. I leave the space on the upper left corner blank so I can attach a photo of the finished item to jog my memory.

Now on to the dyeing itself. Since I mentioned how important it is to wear a mask, allow me to show you myself in my best Breaking Bad impersonation.

You’ve no idea how hard it was to procure this mask and filters. I needed a new one during the pandemic and everything was sold out. For the life of me, I never thought particulates masks would sell out, but I guess some people want to be extra careful.

There’s plenty of ways to hand dye fibre, and endless techniques. Each will yield different results, and it’s a lot of fun to play around. In this particular case, I’m doing low immersion dyeing: this means I’ll be using just enough water to cover the fibre, on a stovetop.

I’m using a Gastronorm pan, which might look familiar to you if you’ve ever been to a buffet in a restaurant. These are super handy, large enough for up to 6 skeins, sturdy, and fit my electric stove perfectly (over two hobs). There’s several standardised sizes to choose from, this being the largest one.

Mossy Moggy is created by dyeing part of the yarn first, without pre-soaking it first. As it sinks, the first colour gets absorbed gradually and allows for differences in depth. Then I add another colour to the top that has remained undyed, and after it’s all exhausted (meaning all the dye has been taken in by the fibre), it’s time to add sprinkles.

Sprinkling yarn is a favourite activity of mine. Wearing gloves (and donning my respirator), I scatter some dye powder over the yarn here and there. Less is more. The water here is fairly acidic (I use citric acid, you can also use vinegar to get the dye molecules to bind with the fibre) so the sprinkles stay relatively put. I love seeing those little dots of colour.

As I write this, the yarn is cooling down in the pan. I always let the water get cool before I remove the fibre, it allows for more vibrant colours. If I manage to remember to come back to this post before it’s scheduled to publish, I’ll add a photo of the drying skeins.

One interesting thing to remember if you’ve never dyed: colours always look one to two shades deeper whilst wet. If you’re trying to reproduce a certain colour and think it’s spot on in the pot, it’s probably too light.

Once these beauties are done they’ll be heading over to California. I’ll be very excited to see them reach their destination and even more if my client tags me on social media once she starts knitting with them!

Let me know if you have any questions, and if you’d like a more in-depth post on dyeing in the future (and what you’d like to read about the subject). Have a great week.

 

 

Flax Study Group 2020 –Seed removal Part 1 (from the stocks)

Flax Study Group 2020 –Seed removal Part 1 (from the stocks)

This is the part I missed last year, so was particularly interested in photographing and participating this year.

When we last left off we had had a very hot dry summer, the flax had matured more quickly than anticipated and we harvested early. We considered a second planting but there were a number of health issues in the group this summer so we decided against it. The flax was picked, bundled and stacked along the fence. Once dry, it would be moved inside to await the decapitation. We decided on a date Aug 29th when most of us could attend.

Well, that was the plan, between harvest and getting dry enough to put in the barn there was a distinct change in the weather. All the rain we would have liked earlier arrived now that we had harvested. Thus, the flax took longer to dry than expected and it looks to have started to do a bit of field retting.

1-2 the dried flax

3 3 Aug 29th, 2020 everything is wet but it’s not raining at the moment.

The day arrived for our torture of the Flax and it was overcast and looked like rain. We gathered in the coverall barn while the cows nibbled the stocks of the picked cornfield.

4 4 the cows were only mildly interested at this point

While I waited for the flax to be moved from one barn to the coverall, I admired the corn protection devices. There were a number of beech balls with eyes bobbing away and a cool black kite that went up and down in the breeze. It was fascinating, I think I need one for my garden if it works on chipmunks I might get a few strawberries!!

 

5-6 garden guards

Gord used his pickup to transport the harvest. Even with the stocks being shorter this year, there is a lot of flax! I had nice white new tarps in the car and we spread them out to place the flax on as we slowly worked our way through the pile.

7 7 flax arrival

There was a bucket of seed heads that had fallen off in the other barn which were also collected and brought to the coverall.

88 floor sweepings from storage

We had a number of experiments with seed extraction devices this year.  Last year the pillowcase and rolling pin method was most effective. This year we had that, a fish thwapper and a blank for a baseball bat to crush the seed pods releasing the seeds. We had a funnel to try a different form of winnowing and  Cole had brought a nasty implement with blades. He also re-tried the double rack used also like a hackle that had been suggested but had not been effective last year. This year the rakes were secured together with elastic and Velcro.

The funnel was interesting, it was used to swirl the crushed seed pods and chaff. We expected the seed to fall to the bottom and the chaff to migrate towards the top. While we could see a bit of this happening, we suspected that the seed this year is not as heavy or large as last year’s, so it is not as effective as we had hoped. This may work out very well next year so we will try it again.

9-12 the funnel separator

1313 this years seed are small and light (not just in colour)

The next implement was the fish thwapper.  Its basically like a rolling pin without the handles for hitting fish with. The unsuspecting flax was stuffed headfirst into the pillowcase (a small amount worked better than a large amount). When the flax was well incased in the pillowcase we brought out our weapons of choice, with either the thwapper, bat blank or rolling pins we rolled or beat the now blinded and unsuspecting flax till it was decapitated.

 14-19 rolling and hitting method

All this violence left us with the decapitated stocks, crushed seed heads and a few very tiny light cloured seeds. Most of us were using this method. You can check out Gord’s roller, which is a blank to make a baseball bat!

 20 21 more rolling

2222 Gord was flax-covid-coordinated with his mask matching his pillowcase!

The tarp at the back of the picture has the flax that has not been decapitated yet. The near tarp with the pile closest to the front of the picture is the fibre we had worked on.

2323 making progress

We are still under halfway there but already had a large number of flax stocks, chaff and hopefully some tiny seeds in amongst the chaff.

24 24 Chaff and seed collection

As I said earlier Cole brought a homemade implement to torture the flax with, it had blades set at an angle and he was drawing the flax through. It was working to separate the seed heads but it was taking some of the stock ends with it. It was also vary sharp and a bit scary (even for me).

25-28 blade implement

Next, he tried the two mettle tine racks Velcroed and elasticed together. This had not been effective last year but I had not been there with my handy elastic and Velcro tie downs!

29 29 This method seemed to be less harmful to both the flax and Cole.

30-32 the two rake method

Seedhead removal was very quick compared to the pillowcase method. There was still some stalk damage but not as much as the blades.  if you had to do a full field of flax this would be appealing.

Partway through the morning, I noticed the clean-up crew that Cathy Louise had on call.  One was working the aria under the wheelbarrow and another pair were covering the area where Gord had backed up to unload his pick-up.

 

 33-36 Barn cleaners

We continued working while keeping an eye on the clean-up crew in case they got over-enthusiastic and went for the flax.

37-38 chaff and seed

You can see bits of seeds in with the chaff. There will be a lot of work for the winnowing basket but with the seed so light and small, it too may disappear in the breeze

39 39 We have about 1/3 -ish left to decapitate.

40 40 The finished pile is growing too!

41-44 rolling thwapping and raking continued

4545 We can see a bit of seed

4646 artsy shot

Through the day, we had herd intermittent rain on the roof but this was getting to be waves of heavy downpours. Looking out the cow end of the coverall we could see the rain pelting down.

4747 More Rain!!!

4848 We finally reached the end of the pile!!

All that was left to do was crush the seed heads Cole had been separating. For that, we used the shovel to add the seed head to the pillowcases. Now back to rolling and thumping

4950 49-50

Just as we started the rolling  Henry returned from his quest. I think we should leave that for next week! you will have to wait to see what a brilliant idea he had!

2 New Ram Fleeces

2 New Ram Fleeces

While I have been working on the Mer-Project, I have been up to other things. To give you a bit of a break from “OH no another fish thing!!” (Sorry there is a bit more fishiness to come), but for now let’s have a peek at one of the other things that happens in the summer.

I spotted two ram fleeces for sale on the guild Facebook page from Shady Creek Lamb Co. I picked them up at the same farmers market Ann sells butter tarts.  They pasture the ewes under solar panels! Great self-mobile lawn mowers!!! Unfortunately, there are many burrs under there too. The Rams were kept elsewhere and claimed not to be as fond of burrs as their girlfriends.

1  1 Barrhaven farmers market at the log farm (they don’t farm logs.  It’s all very confusing)

You may have seen the short needle felting interruption where I picked them up and re-bagged them (they didn’t fit in the new bags well but they will not get wet if it rains! But this is August.  We don’t usually have much if any rain in August.

2 2 Miss Manta is blocking your view of the new fleeces

The one I was most interested in was the large grey fleece.  It may be hard to tell from this picture, but He is a BIG boy!

I need a sorting table!

3  3 the Ram in question (I think he is a Shropshire?)

Yes, I need a Big sorting table!

I don’t have a sorting table but I have a metal frame from my neighbour, Valerie, who moved a few years ago.  She left it for me, she used to grow cucumbers on it!  It has been sitting behind the metal bench in my side yard studio waiting to be useful. It will now have its chance!

44 Wire frame

I pulled out the metal frame and propped it up on the water barrels and a 2×4. I added extra support with a group of S-hooks.  It was a bit rusty and the spacing is a bit large so I used an old sheet that I use in the fall to cover the tomatoes saving them from a September frost.

5-6 the new sorting frame and quite dirty wool

As you can see I have thought ahead and had gloves ready, which you can see I will need. This fleece and his friend, have not been skirted! If you have not bought a raw fleece before they are usually pre-skirted. This means getting rid of the wool that is on the belly, lower legs, and especially the messy bit around the butt. This wool is worn, matted or particularly filthy.  (Sheep are not usually neat bathroom users. It may be due to their lack of toilet paper or just the lack of thumbs to operate toilet paper effectively.)

77 port-a-shade

It was again a lovely hot day so up went the umbrellas, Instant shade!! Oh that’s much better.

8910118 – 11 skirting and sorting into strainer bins

When I skirted the giant Shetland last fall, I sorted for colour. This time it seems mostly the same colour and from what I could feel similar fibre size. So, I divided more by cleanliness.  I kept skirting and sorting until I had mostly even buckets full of similar filthiness.

12-13 sorting done starting soaking

I pulled out the fleece washing buckets and moved the newly sorted wool to the table.  I also pulled out the remaining Shetland still to wash from last year.

 

Although I was dying of curiosity I started a batch of the Shetland as well as a bucket of the new ram

14-15 wool drained water filthy, on to next rinse

Hanging the strainer buckets up between rinses. The water is still filthy so I change it and soak them again.

I added another one of the giant soaking buckets and got a third strainer bucket going. This is going to take all summer at this rate!!

19-21 first batch out and second batch in

As the first batch was drying, I started the second batch.  Continuing the process of; soap soak, lift buckets gently and then replace a few times, drain and change to fresh water was going along wonderfully, ….. And then it Rained….

2222 UNFAIR!!!

Weather? Is this a snide comment that I am rushing and I should soak it longer? Or are you suggesting It needed another rinse?

and it stopped raining so it may dry, but no the sun didn’t last long and its back to raining, so let’s just consider this as well rinsed.

2323 soak

Showers intermittent continued and I decided it was a sign to work on something else. I am Back to felting inside.

It’s sunny this morning, well at least at the moment. I am getting suspicious the sun knows when I’m out here!  The wool is back out drying and I am working on another project in the outside studio. (I moved the wool buckets over so I could sit on the bench). The lighting was getting a bit darker and I was just about to go check the fleece when the sky opened up yet again! ok  let’s just consider this one more rinse….. positive thinking! positive thinking!

242524-25 Rain Again!!! (Is this some comment on the topic of my summer theme of Mer’s?)

Just to show you how much water we have been getting the farther 2 buckets are under on the umbrellas the nearer one is not and is now a lot deeper than I had filled it.

2626 the amount of rain we got covered the fleece strainer

The sun is just tempting me I know by this time but I will fall for his evil machinations again, by draining and putting out the fleece to dry.

2727 there is sun

Yes it was all a plot and Ann messaged me that we have a tornado warning happening, I took down the umbrellas, put the fleece away , it was getting So Much close to dry!!, back into bins and stuck them in zip lock bags away from  the  incoming storm. We had greenish tinted sky and cloud layers moving in different directions and speeds but luckily no tornado. On the western edge of Ottawa, One of our friends lost a Very big tree who’s aim was luckily poor and just missed their house. We were glad to hear she was safe.

Next morning Glenn picked up a couple knocked over pots and I put the fleece back out to dry… Someday dry fleece will come… maybe tomorrow?

28-29 OK trying again to dry wool

If anyone needs a bit of rain, you are welcome to have some of ours, the rain barrels are full and I don’t have to water the garden (which is actually helpful). That includes Ann who lives south of the city and has not had nearly as much rain as we have gotten!!! Why not rain on her sheep? Hers must be much cleaner sheep than my fleece is. Oh well it looks like it may be worth the work, if I can get it clean and dry. I am looking forward to seeing how it will felt and it should spin up some spectacular sock yarn, now I just need to figure out how to knit socks.

 

The Mysterious Package! Is it a wool bomb?

The Mysterious Package! Is it a wool bomb?

As Ann mentioned in her post we caved and succumbed to our basic default settings, BUY MORE WOOL! There was free shipping if you ordered enough.  We both wanted footwear and Ann spotted these lovely colours natural and unnatural!! Did I mention there were colours and some were BLUE!!! How could I say no? ( Please don’t buy all her blue I would like to get a bit more!!!)

 

We spent a long time debating amounts and colours eventually settling on Grey, Really Dark Grey, some more Grey and some natural cream in the large 500gr batts as well as a Purple and a Blue, both over-dyed on Grey.  What can I say? There was a sale, we got excited. We spent a lot of money at the on Etsy.com. (Remember don’t buy all the blue please.)

 

I got an email (Hotmail is sometimes intermittently working and then sends mail the long way around the planet) a couple of days after we had placed the order, requesting a phone number for shipping. I seemed to have missed that in the order instructions.  3 days later, while working in the side yard studio, a nice man from Fed-X came up the driveway looking a bit confused by the potted trees and the rest of the garden. Sharkette and I put on masks (you saw the photo of her mask not fitting her well) and received the mysterious black taped package…insert spooky music here… OOOOH! Now I have to wait for Ann so we can open it together!!!!