Archive for the 'Fiber Production' Category

Ivan Hat

I mentioned a while back that our fiber mill had finally sent us the spun yarn from Ivan’s first shearing (well, aside from my awful attempt). A couple months ago I used some of it to knit hubby a cabled hat:

The pattern is Knotty but Nice, which hubby chose himself. I used 2 strands of the (sport-ish weight) yarn held together and went up 2 needle sizes for the cable portion to avoid the tightness others had mentioned. The project is Raveled here. It fits pretty well, although I think I might go up 3 needle sizes for the cable section if I knit this again.

In other news, we very recently got back our spun yarn from BOTH Ivan and Hamlet’s Fall 2010 fleeces from the wonderful folks at Central Virginia Fiber Mill. Both turned out very well – I’ll post photos soon!

Ivan Yarn!

Hello again, dear readers! As many of you know, my husband and I keep two fiber goats on our farm: Hamlet, a full angora goat, and Ivan, a pygora goat (pygmy + angora). We’ve had them since Fall 2009, though Spring 2010 was the first time we had them professionally sheared. [I previously attempted to do it myself with poor results.] After shearing, I washed and packed away Hamlet’s fleece to process on my own later, but I decided to send Ivan’s fleece to a fiber mill because there were guard hairs that needed to be removed.

This post from late-April 2010 has photos of the goats before and after this shearing.

I spread out the fleece to skirt it (remove the bad parts) before shipping to the mill – this photo is from May 2010:

A closer look at the the guard hair I mentioned. It’s actually pretty soft, so I asked the mill to do a “regular” dehairing, as opposed to a more thorough Cashmere dehairing:

After 5 months of waiting, we received nearly 2.5 lbs of lovely sport-ish weight yarn. My wonderful husband included several skeins in a recent package to me in Norway. Here are a couple of them:

Isn’t it gorgeous?! I hate to sound like that-crazy-goat-lady, but I’m so proud of my sweet Ivan for growing such nice fiber! I can’t wait to knit this up into something cozy.

The goats received their Fall 2010 shearing in October, and hubby sent both of their fleeces off to a different fiber mill for processing. [I hate to speak badly about folks in the fiber community, and I certainly won’t name names, but I was less than impressed with the communication and customer service at our last fiber mill. The fiber turned out beautifully, but I couldn’t handle a repeat of our last 5 month long ordeal.] Just a few days after we sent the fiber, the new mill called hubby to say they had received it (!) and to chat about Ivan’s fleece in particular. They said they would begin processing it immediately, so I imagine we’ll have more yarn soon. I hope it turns out well, because from a customer service standpoint, they’re already wowing us. Stay tuned!

More Handspun

I just finished washing & drying my second batch of handspun. I used the “clover” colored merino / tencel roving I purchased at the Orange, VA Fiber Festival from The Drafting Zone. Boy, what a different experience from those “sheep tails” – this stuff drafted like butta! I spun it kind of thickly (probably Aran, though I haven’t checked the WPI) and got 70 yards from the 8 oz I started with. Holy cow, it takes a lot of roving to make a garment! Fortunately, I bought plenty of roving in colors and fibers that coordinate well together; my plan is to spin everything up and mix & match to make a…well, I haven’t exactly decided what yet 🙂

Clover Merino / Tencel handspunLooks kind of blue-ish in the photo, but it’s really a light, minty green.

Spinning Lesson

Last night, I had my first crack at spinning on a castle-style spinning wheel. I was connected with its lovely owner (who graciously invited me to her house to try it out) through a friend from my Tuesday-night knitting group. And let me tell you, dear readers, it’s not as easy as it looks! I had quite a time trying to draft, spin (but not over spin), and remember to feed the spun yarn onto the bobbin – all while making sure the wheel was turning the correct way. Yikes! I wasn’t actually successful in spinning the merino / tencel roving I brought with me, but it was a valuable learning experience, and my new spinner friend offered to let me return and spin with her another time (she actually has two wheels).

If nothing else, I’m more determined to figure out how the hell people spin so nicely. And so, of course, I’m scouring craigslist & Etsy looking for an affordable spinning wheel of my very own (hopefully hubby isn’t reading this!). There’s so much to consider – tension mechanism, drive ratios, etc. I need to sit down sometime and figure out the physics; right now it’s magic. And maybe, just maybe, if I can figure it out exactly how it works… I could make my own? Getting ahead of myself, as usual.

Anyhow, after my spinning lesson, I went home and pulled out my drop spindle to get some of the spinning satisfaction I had been looking forward to all day. It’s MUCH slower, but I get the feeling that practicing on my little spindle is going to be tremendously helpful in learning to spin with a wheel.

Spindling Merino / Tencel

My Very First Skein

Over the weekend, I washed and dried the wool I  skeined last week. It kept twisting up on itself – pretty sure I over spun it! Oh well, it’s my first try.

For the washing, I placed the skein in a clean bucket and soaked 4 times: 1 with soap, 1 rinse (water only), 1 vinegar (1/4 cup) with water, and 1 final rinse – 10 min per soak in HOT water with no agitation.

For drying I devised this setup (the ‘T’ weighing down the skein is part of the PVC niddy noddy):

Skein drying

It was dry after 12 hrs (or so) of hanging and MUCH less twisty. At one point I rotated the skein 90 degrees, so that the yarn under the ‘T’ could dry properly.  Here’s the final hank:

Finished Hank

Finished Hank Closeup

You can see that some sections of yarn are all curled up on themselves, definitely overspun but not too terribly, I think. I also didn’t spin very even yarn thicknesses – they range from sport or fingering to bulky – so I’m going to take an average and say it’s Aran weight. I should probably knit a swatch to confirm this…but it seems a little silly, since I barely have enough yarn to make one!

So the next question is what to make with it? I’m leaning toward this To Go coffee cup cozy. It says it requires 25 – 50 yds of yarn. Hopefully it’s more like 25!

Niddy Noddy

As I recently found out, niddy noddys are devices used by spinners to wind their handspun into skeins for finishing (washing & drying to set the twist).  They are typically made of wood and often cost $15+. Here’s an Ashford model:

ashfordNNWhen it came time to  skein the wool I spun with the drop spindle, I decided to make my own niddy noddy using PVC pipe from the local hardware store, instead. For a grand total of $3.18, I came up with a good working model that gives me a skein circumference of 5′ (1.5m). I used 3 pipes of ~18″ length and 1/2″ diameter (I asked the hardware store to saw two of them in half) and two 1/2″ union cross couplers (I couldn’t find any union tees). Here’s what it looks like:


PVC NN Closeup

Next I’ll finish the yarn by washing in hot water (no agitation): 1 soaking with soap, 1 rinse soak, 1 vinegar soak (1/4 cup) and 1 final rinse soak – 10 or 15 min each.

There are 15 wraps of yarn around the niddy noddy, which means I have 75 ft (or 25 yds) of fiber. Not very much… I’m not entirely sure what I’ll make with it. It’s a little scratchy for baby items, so maybe an ipod case? Beer cozy? I’m definitely open to suggestion!

Washing Hamlet’s Mohair

Last weekend, I washed the fiber I had just sheared (shorn?) from Hamlet. I spent a good deal of time beforehand reading as much as I could about the washing process – most of the literature is written for sheep fiber, but I assumed  it was pretty cross-applicable.

One of the major drawbacks of having used kitchen scissors is that the locks of fiber are mostly individual, rather than being tucked inside a large fleece of interconnected fibers. For this reason, I decided to put the mohair inside a sweater washing bag for the process. This is what I used (Tide should pay me for this):

Fiber Washing bag

I did the washing in my laundry room sink – very hot water and about 1/4 cup of  soap (I used Palmolive Free & Clear). You can see (between the bubbles) that the water started out VERY dirty:

First Washing

I let the fiber soak for 20 minutes at a time, then I’d drain the water squeeze out the excess water in the fiber, and refill with water & soap. By the 3rd washing, the water is looks much more clean:

Third Washing

The fourth and final washing I did without any soap – only hot water.  After I was finished, I squeezed out the extra water from the fiber bag and began spreading the locks of mohair on the tiers of a hand-washing dryer rack so that it would dry over several days (yes, I have a pink laundry room):

Drying rack

A close-up of the fiber after washing – It’s just kind of a wet mess…I think I may have partially felted it when I squeezed the water out of the fiber after each wash:

Wet fiber

After two full days of drying (with a fan in the room to help the process along), it looks much better; not nearly as felted as I feared:

Washed Mohair

This fiber is RIDICULOUSLY soft – I have the urge to rub it against my cheek every time I pick up a lock. I can’t wait to spin & knit it! I’m planning to find some raw sheep’s wool and some carders to blend them together at the Fiber Festival in Orange, VA in a couple weeks.  It’s REALLY hard to restrain myself from ordering some online before then…but I know I’ll be much happier with the selection of these items at the fiber festival.

In the course of this washing experiment, I’ve come up with a list of things I’d do differently next time:

  1. NO agitation; not even to squeeze the water out of the fiber between washes.
  2. Reduce the amount of soap used in each successive wash (1/4 cup 1st wash, 1/8 cup 2nd wash, none 3rd wash).
  3. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the last washing (I read – after the fact – that this helps to neutralize the alkaline soap and get the fibers fully clean & residue free)

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I love hearing from my readers! Feel free to contact me via comments or at this address:

rambleonrosemary [at] gmail [dot] com

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