Fiber Laundromat

My fiber laundromat is in full swing.I washed two batches of fantastic alpaca fleeces - all three from Allie and Phil at
from three different alpacas.

Nikko is a lovely butterscotch sort of color. Actually, his fleece ranges from ash blond to deep butterscotch. I just love it - lots of color variation - it'll be fun to play with this fleece.

Valley Girl is a wonderful cinnamon color. (This photo is NOT the correct color! She's more reddish.)Oh My Gosh, her fleece is super super fine. It's such a treat!

Calamity Jane is Black-Hole Black. Wait 'till you see it washed. Here it is, straight off of Calamity's back, and it's rather dusty. Once I wash the dust off, then you'll see how viciously BLACK this is. I can't wait to spin some.

I like to sew the locks into a length of netting, so that everything stays in locks and stays nice and neat. It's a handy way to handle a batch of fiber like this. This sack contains about 3/4 of a pound - I could have gotten more in to the sack, but you know, alpaca is so dusty that I wanted the bits to be on the thin side for adequate water flow.

I personally vacuumed each and every alpaca on that ranch - I personally emptied the vacuum cleaner, numerous times throughout the day - so I know that our vacuuming job was actually removing dust and debris - - just how much dirt does an alpaca carry around every day? Look at this water! This is from an animal which had been cleaned!!! An added bonus to alpaca - hardly any smell, really. Nothing like sheep, nothing.

I fill the basin with warm water and a generous squirt of hair-shampoo. I let it soak a while, then lift the fiber out, and I just pour the water out into the yard - the grass loves it. I keep refilling the basin with warm water and letting the fiber soak until the water runs clear. In the last basin-full of warm water, I put in a generous squirt of hair-conditioner and let the fiber soak in it for a little bit, then I let it drain out. I don't rinse this conditioner out - it really helps control the static electricity that my desert climate can cause.

My high tech water heater - I let one basin-full soak until another hose-worth of water heated up. It worked really well. Let me tell you - on a sunny day in Colorado - this hose heats up pretty fast and amazingly HOT. - my high tech dryer -
Why do these spoiled brat animals assume that I'm washing fiber for their comfort and enjoyment?

Pure potential.

Dreaming of becoming a neck warmer? A scarf? A lace shawl? What do you want to be when you grow up? This black is blacker than black.

I spun a little bit of each one - fine and thick - here's Nikko's swatch. Oh yes, this is going to be fun. I have lots of ideas... which one to start first?


I also washed a bit of Coopworth, which I purchased from Sandy in California. This Coopworth fleece is truly beautiful. It's from a young sheep named Sierra Silver. I hope to spin and knit the sweater named Moonlight by Kim Hargreaves - the pattern appeared in Rowan 34. So, my sweater already has a name - Sierra Silver Moonlight. Ahhh... I can hardly wait!

I laid out the locks -

Pinned them into place --and then washed with my standard washing procedure - warm to hot water, shampoo, rinses, conditioner in the final soak. Hang to dry.

Washed and dried and take a look at how lovely. This sheep is many shades of grey from the lightest pearl to a very dark charcoal. If I'm a smart spinner, I'll be able to graduate the sweater from light grey at the shoulder to dark grey at the waist - won't that be nice?

I spun up a bit and got gauge (as noted on the pattern) on my first try, waahoo! Here is a test swatch - this wool fairly sparkles - it almost looks metallic - - there are some locks which are just about the exact same shade as pewter. If you make the photo large, you can see that there are some really dark fibers in there - this gives it a richness and depth to the color - I just love it.

I'm thinking of cutting off the yellowed tips to make the overall color more of a cool grey - the tips warm the color, and I'm not sure if I like it or not. Must experiment. (I've never cut tips off of locks before, and truth be told, I'm sort of chicken.)

A note on the pin job - - this was a minor fiasco. I don't think that it will matter in the long haul, but this is the last time I'll use pins. Take a look - rust - eek. Even the so-called "brass" pins - - yeah, right, brass, heh heh heh. It's such tiny spots of rust that I didn't have a full blown panic attack, only a minor case of the jitters. I need to find some rust-proof pins because this is just too quick and easy. I'll probably always sew alpaca into it's little sacks, but wool can get pinned.

Now, I washed enough fiber to get started spinning. I made a bunch of spindles, and improved my junky-garage-wheel. (I also bought a mountain of dyed rovings for other projects.) There's nothing stopping me - Let The Spinning Begin!

I can hardly wait!

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Washing more Ancient Suffolk Fleece

Ahhh... summertime! This time of year, my thoughts turn to washing fleeces, in preparation for the hot hot months when all I want to do is spin.

I had so much fun with my old ancient shorn-in-1972-Suffolk-fleece the first time around, that I decided to wash some more, and spin a nice pair of gloves. (If you are interested, here are links to that other project, explaining how I came to own such an OLD bunch of fleece - Click Here, and Here and Here for more info.)

I arranged the locks on my netting -
Check out this crimp!
Check out this DIRT!!!
I like to sew the locks in place, so that everything stays all nice and neat and tidy.
Ummm... Dixie, no, this isn't a nice new pad for you. Silly dog.
Urk. This is the first dunk in some hot water - this dunk is only water, I'll add shampoo to the second dunk, the first dunk gets rid of the majority of 37 years of dust and dirt and who knows what else.After a nice hot soak in some shampoo - check it out! Pretty clean, yes?Here it is - all nice and washed and clean and fresh smelling and just plain old NICE. This is that super crimpy bit.
EEK! Do you see it?

Maybe you can see it in this picture -...and this one -

It's a 37 year old sheep ked!!! Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww....... By the way, I have some friends who raise meat sheep, and they were once donated a box car full of onions, which they gave to their sheep. They maintain that it got rid of the keds. Just for your general edification, lol.

Most of the wool isn't this crimpy, most of it is like the portion on the bottom, fingers added for scale.

Spinning has begun.

Can you believe that this lovely, clean, poofy, boingy wool came from that old skanky stuff? So if you have an old sticky stinky fleece hanging around, and you are thinking of using it for mulch - why not wash a lock or two and see what you discover. You might be surprised.

I use Tammy Rizzo's Navajo Ply on the Fly - my all time fave spinning method - and I think I'll make a pair of gloves with traveling stitches - a different pattern on each finger? I can think of patterns while I spin. Or, maybe I'll just think about sheep keds. eeeeeewwwwww......

I have a new head!

I'm getting ready to do a whole lot of spinning, so I wanted to make a new head for my junky-garage spinning wheel. While the old one worked very well, it was loud, and the spindle was stuck in place. I wanted to reduce the noise, and to make it so that the spindle was interchangeable, so that I could work on more than one project at a time.

Here it is - while it isn't a thing of beauty, gosh, it works great.
Back side - notice the strips of plumber's tape to reduce friction. These strips also reduce the noise - this head is soooo quiet.

I put a little guide for the drive band - it's a bit of bicycle innertube, held in place with two O rings. That's it. It works great - it provides traction for the drive band, and it keeps the needle/spindle in place. Without this guide, the needle wanders back and forth, and there is much slippage as the needle is pretty slick.

Wheel side -
I don't know what the strings are - something from in the junky garage. They seem to be some sort of nylon? I'm not sure. I can't find my bag of cord locks, so I improvised with these T pins, with the thought that I'd use the cord locks, once I find them. Forget that - these pins work a zillion times better! They are infinitely adjustable, and they hold really well. (I have no idea why there's a knot in the string on the right. It was there already, and I just didn't untie it.)

I can loosen the strings, remove this spindle and replace it with another one. This way, I can have more than one project going at once. Nice, yes?

The clamp works like a giant clothespin - it makes for quick adjustments. When I'm taking a break from spinning, I take the drive band off of the wheel, and point the needle straight up, so that someone won't run into it. When I quit for a longer spell, I just take the head completely off of the upright portion, in the interest of safety.

I am going to make one change - I'm going to wait until the strips of teflon tape (aka plumber's tape) wear out, then I'll replace them by wrapping the tape around, horizontally, all the way around the little upright bits of wood, going across the string-holes. I'll poke holes in the tape, and then fish the strings through the holes. I think that this will work better, although it does work well the way it is now.

I still like using Pony Bead Lacing for my drive band, but I was at the hobby store the other day, and I couldn't resist this acid green S'getti String lacing - it works great and I love the color! It seems more durable than the Pony Bead Lacing but it's too soon to tell, as I've only just started with this green drive band.