Regardless of what the weather is outside. It is snowing as I write this and has been doing so on and off for the entire weekend. I am of two minds about it; we need the rain and precipitation, but I also need to get my back yard cleaned up from last season, fill in holes left from the javelina devastation, and prep the beds for all my seedlings.
I have been very busy! I am so very addicted to fiber arts. I’m not sure what happened, but 2009 was the year I got serious about knitting, spinning, and dying. In addition to going back to school, getting very serious about gardening and preserving, making my own (of whatever I can) and overall just biting off more than I can comfortably chew. I’m not choking (yet) but I’ve definitely got a mouthful…in fact it’s a wonder I can say anything understandable at all some days. That however doesn’t stop me from trying.
What this picture is, is about 5 pounds of Cotswold wool. It is from my friend’s ram Franklin, but was purchased from the farm he was born at on the day my friend brought him and two of his flock mates home. Believe it or not, it all fit into a pillowcase with room to spare when I bought it! Much like the genie in the bottle, though, after washing it threatens to take over my living room. The cats are fascinated by this, and if it weren’t for the fact that it was dripping wet (there’s a blanket under the screen) they would be camping out either under the wool or on it. It took two good washings as Arizona has DIRT. In quantity. It gets everywhere. Two rinsings, and two days on the screen to dry and I have my work cut out for me for the next set of days off.
Cotswold is incredibly soft, and gets very long. These fibers, while not as soft as merino, are still good for next-to-the skin type projects and was renowned even in Roman times as an excellent fleece.
This fiber still has an incredible amount of VM (vegetable matter) in it, and because Arizona has thorny plants in abundance, it’s even more important than it might be elsewhere to make sure it’s very clean. Now, in the past it has literally taken me over a year to pick a fleece just because it’s so tedious. Which brings me to my next photo:
THIS is a Patrick Green Triple picker. I was doing research on how in God’s name to get all that VM out of my fleeces without sending it through the drum carder a million times and possibly ruining the fiber in the process; I hate hate HATE hand carding the fleece because it takes so long, and hurts my elbows and while it does get the VM out pretty well, and is more delicate on the fibers, that wasn’t gonna happen because I wasn’t gonna do it. So…I came across combs: Viking combs, English Combs, all sorts of combs. And pickers. Both of which piqued my interest but after reading more on the carders it seemed to me that if I wanted to do a whole fleece quickly, and do a reasonably good job of opening the fibers so the VM could be picked out more easily, a picker seemed the way to go. The problem with that is the price. Holy Mother of God those things are expensive!
Enter my local crack dealer — I mean, fiber store. I was in there searching for a second package of merino/silk blend to go with the stuff I had purchased earlier as the project I chose used more than I had. No luck on that, but we did get into a discussion on the merits of combs vs. pickers. Again, combs seemed to do the job better but a picker is faster. When I mentioned that I now have a back room filled with about 12 fleeces–which weigh about 8 pounds each, and you can make 5 sweaters from each one, they said DEFINITELY the picker as it is so much faster. Well….they happen to have this picker on the top shelf; it’s been in the shop every since I can remember. I asked if it was for sale; it was. Price: $100. Not bad at all! Still out of my budget to plop down all at once, being the only one working full time at the moment. So, I asked if I could make payments. Sure! In fact, take it with you, we just want the space back! So I ended up taking it home. I had not the slightest idea, really, how it worked, but with Mr. TF’s help we figured out. My. God. I processed about a pound of fleece through it in about 5 minutes flat. Un-freeking-believable.
So then, I was able to sit with my trusty drum carder that my friend Dean repaired for me (another killer bargain):
Which is 2 pounds of Fozzie’s fleece, all nicely carded into bats and ready to spin. Fozzie is another of my friend’s Cotswolds. It is from Fozzie’s first shearing, and is lovely. What would have taken me over a week took one evening; even though I already had about half this done, I would have had plenty of time to do it all in the evening.
I am so excited about my newest tool! I am getting to be a good spinner, I am making a sweater from my own handspun (pics later) with fleece that I chose specifically for the project, and I am actually looking at possibly being able to market my stuff. This excites me.
I also played around with Kool Aid dying:
Oh, and I wrote a paper, worked, went to the Spinner’s and Weaver’s Guild meeting, spent time with my husband, and transplanted much of my starts into bigger containers.
Yep. Spring’s here.