Saturday, July 25, 2009

Finally done

These are the socks that I've been working on....and they are finally done. They were a test knit for a designer in Colorado, so I'm not sure when the pattern will be available for sale. They did knit up rather nicely. And the pattern was very easy to follow. It was my first attempt at doing a short row heel and toe. Both were easy to do once I got the hang of it. Picking up those wraps with the stitches can be a bit on the tricky side. I had read somewhere that if you simply put the wraps on the needle and then treat it as if you were knitting multiple stitches together that it would be easier and look a bit neater. Well, I gave it a try. One side of the heel layed really nice. The other side looks like the wraps/stitches are just a bit tight. Looks like I will definitely have to practice that technique a bit more. :>)

The yarn I used was a Targhee/Merino/Corriedale blend. Lovely yarn to work with. It was spun semi-worsted so it wasn't overly fuzzy. Wish it would have been a bit more consistent as far as thickness, but that's okay. This was a really great pattern for the yarn. Really hid all the inconsistencies very nicely. :>) I have enough yarn left to make another pair of socks.....which I will be doing.....and which will be going to my mother-in-law. My father-in-law will get the pair that is already done. This way they both will have a pair of wool socks hand knit from handspun yarn.....only in different patterns so they can tell them apart.

Fiber Fun!!

I've been having fun playing with fiber. Lots and lots of fun!! Yesterday I finished washing up the last of the 2009 fleeces that I kept for myself. Wow! There were some beautiful fleeces this year! It was amazing.....especially considering the winter we had and the acquisition of a new llama (Levi) who insisted on eating over the sheep instead of next to them. It was also challenging to keep washing until all the fleeces were done. With each newly washed fleece, I just wanted to drop everything and play with it. :>) With all the shetland fleeces washed, I only have a bit of alpaca and llama wool to wash. Then I can finally settle down and enjoy it all. :>)

Pictured below is the batts that I carded up in between washes and rinses. The first set of batts pictured are a shetland/llama/soy silk blend. I used moorit shetland (this was skirtings from a fleece that sold....mostly britch) with this lovely red llama that I purchased.....and added a small amount of soy silk (for strength). This will be spun into sock yarn......someday. It was a lovely, lovely blend. One that I would love to repeat some day. I think I ended up with 8-9 ounces in all.

I've been spinning quite a few sample skeins lately on my drop spindle. Just too impatient to see what the finished yarn will look like. :>) Anyway, the skein on the left is shetland/llama/soy silk blend (from the batts pictured above). The skein on the right is shetland/alpaca blend. The shetland used was a light cream color, while the alpaca was a lovely red color. The sample skein came out incredibly soft!! Even the shetland/llama blend came out feeling soft. Not as soft as the shetland/alpaca blend....but still quite a bit softer than what you would expect from britch. Both sample skeins were spun woolen on the drop spindle. The fiber was carded on hand cards.

The last batts pictured are of a shetland/llama/icicle top blend. The shetland is shetland black.....the llama is gray (that I purchased).....with a touch of icicle to give it a bit of sparkle. I had blend the shetland and llama together and really didn't care for the way the finished batt looked. Kinda dull. So I added a touch of icicle top and was amazed at the end result. The picture on the left shows the coloring of the batt, while the picture on the right really shows the sparkle of the icicle. Only half of this is carded up. I want to do a total of four batts....enough for socks. Then I would love to use the remaining shetland and blend it with either with white llama (also purchased) or with some red alpaca. Haven't decided which yet. All I know is that I'm more than ready to finally see the last of the black shetland. Even with gifting some of it, there was still quite a bit left. That was one pretty large fleece!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Disappointment..... when the fleeces you thought were so pretty turn out to be something entirely different. Disappointment is when you have to toss those same fleeces because there is simply nothing to work with. Disappointment is having someone tell you " I told you so" when you were hoping for something else.

I finally decided to wash a couple of fleeces that I had purchased back in May. I was so excited when these fleeces had arrived. They were of breeds that I had never worked with before....which was exciting in itself. I had opened the bags upon arrival. Everything looked great! Even took pictures and then shared them on my blog. Couldn't wait for the weather to turn nice so I could wash them. Well, the weather turned nice and I pulled all the fleeces out to wash. The smell that hit me when I opened the bags was horrible!! " So they are dirty" I thought and continued on. Pulled the smaller of the three fleeces out and put it on the table. Went to open it up, but there was nothing to open up. It was a piled jumble of mess. My hubby said it looked more like a bagful of skirting than a fleece. There was dung tags, second cuts, dirt, vegetation, and poo (not sheep either). The few locks that looked good were not. Upon closer inspection they were matted with giant burrs. So out the fleece went. The second fleece went up on the table. Same smell. Same pile of mess....only more of it. This one followed the first....unsalvageable. My hubby simply wanted to toss the final fleece, but I wanted to see if something was salvageable. Even if it was only a few ounces. After all, I had paid for these and didn't want to feel as if I had thrown money in the trash (which I basically was doing by tossing the first two). So the final fleece went up on the table. It was a white Border Leister fleece. Or at least it was supposed to be white. It was actually yellow and brown....and stunk real bad. We did spend the time and picked through this one.....all six pounds of it! It was totally disgusting. I think we ended up salvaging maybe a pound of it. The fleece was in the same condition as the other two....only with less burrs and more poo. I honestly don't know how much of it was matted with poo. It was so bad that you couldn't even pull the locks apart. You were literally tearing the fiber itself. What little we salvaged I proceeded to wash. The first wash.....Yuck!! Not only was the water this disgusting color, but it stunk really, really bad! The second wash was a bit better. Still had to toss a few locks that were beyond hope....but not too many. The little bit we salvaged went through 2 washes and 3 rinses before the water was finally clear. I was hoping to end up with a small pile of white locks....but I didn't. Instead I ended up with a small pile of yellow locks with a bit of white near the cut ends. It will all be dyed.....probably a nice shade of blue. Of course the washing also revealed all the dirt that was hidden inside the locks. Little tiny granulars of dirt. I'm hoping most of this will fall out when it is put through the picker.....and the rest when it is carded.

Learned alot with those I will most likely never buy a fleece online again. This wasn't the first not-so-good experience I have had.....which puts me in a tough spot. I sell my fleeces online and don't want to discourage anyone from buying online. It's a wonderful resource. I'm just a bit sad that not everyone who sells fleeces online makes sure that the buyer is getting a nice fleece. Makes for a lot of very wary buyers....which is not fair to those of us who do put the effort out to insure that we only sell nice fleeces. It also made me take another look at my own fleeces. Wow! The ones that I feel are bad and won't sell (usually keep these for myself) really aren't near as bad as I think they are. :.) They don't have poo of any type in them.......or dung tags.....or burrs. Just a bit more vegetation than I would like. Sure makes me very thankful that I do take the time to go over each and every fleece before I sell them. At least I know that whoever buys a fleece from me is getting something that they can use all of....and not have to throw half of it out. And I also know that when they open that bag the smell coming from it is of sheep and nothing else.

Yes, I have had some good experiences buying online as well. I just purchased some very lovely llama wool from a breeder.....and have really enjoyed using it. I enjoyed the fiber so much that I ordered another pound of it. It's this beautiful red color. I also purchased some amazing alpaca wool from another breeder....and just recently ordered more from them. The fiber was that lovely. :.) I guess buying online all hinges on trust. Trust that the seller (or breeder) will have nice fiber. Trust that you will truly get what you ordered. Trust that the photos you see are indeed of the same fiber (or fleece or animal that the fleece is coming from) that you have actually purchased. And that is all I have to say on this topic.

Moving my last post I had mentioned some of the sample yarns that I had been spinning.....and had requests for pictures. So here they are! :.) The top picture is of a sample yarn that I spun from a single lock from Jack's fleece. His fleece is this amazing color (pictured in my last post). It was hard getting a picture of the yarn since I hadn't really spun all that much up. It will be such a pretty fleece to work with. I have a pound and 14 ounces of this wonderful fiber to play with. :.)

The next sample yarn pictured (on the right) is a blend that I've been carding up. It's a shetland/llama/soy silk blend. The shetland fiber is moorit in color.....the llama is cinnamon red....and I used a honey colored soy silk. This sample was spun from the leftovers on the drum carder. Not the most perfect yarn, but it gives me a real good idea of what the yarn will look like spun from the batts. I'm almost done carding it. Only three more batts to go. :.)

The final sample yarn was spun from wool from one of my guardian llamas. He has incredibly soft fiber.....but also get incredibly dirty. I ended up spinning it really fine so I could pick out all the teeny tiny bits of vm as I went. The singles were really soft. Plyed it and then didn't care for the way it looked (or felt). So I plyed it again and ended up with my very first cabled yarn. :.) The yarn turned out much nicer. Feels soft, but not as soft as the singles did. It also has a bit of weight to it. I really can't explain how it feels. Heavy, but a soft, silky heavy....if this makes any sense. I have a couple pounds from this spring's shearing out in the barn. I'm going to play around with cleaning and spinning to see if I can finally spin a yarn that I am completely happy with.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One sock done....

The first sock is done. Yea! Didn't turn out too bad. Unfortunately it was a bit snug for my hubby, but fit his father beautifully. So the socks will end up going to his father. Then I get to knit a second pair for his mother. Will most likely use a different pattern they can tell their socks apart. :.) I will be using the same yarn.....which is nice since I have enough for a second pair of socks.....and since she really likes the yarn used in this sock.

As for the second has been started. The cuff is done and I've got a good start on the leg. I'm hoping to have it finished in about a week. I have to finish it in about a week. If I don't, then I won't have enough time to get a second pair of socks knitted before hubby's parents leave. And I really want to finish up that second pair before they leave.

Switching gears....from socks to are pictures of Jack's lamb fleece. I know I've shared pictures of this fleece before, but I just couldn't help myself. It's so pretty!! I washed his fleece up a couple of days ago and the colors are even more vibrant. It's a very stunning fleece. In fact, I was so excited about it that I washed up a single lock and then spun it on my drop spindle. The yarn turned out amazing! All that color variation came through in the yarn. Now I have to decide how I want to spin the fleece. Do I want to spin the entire thing lock by lock? Or will I blend some of it with another fiber? I just got some very lovely true black alpaca fiber in the mail. It would look stunning blended with Jack's fiber. Or do I card it and hope the colors don't blend so much that I end up with an all gray batt. Decisions, decisions, decisions!!!!

One the drum carder is a lovely blend that I hope to get pictures of soon. The wool is from my ewe, Willow. She is this lovely soft moorit color. Her fleece tips tend to get lighter...almost a honey colored blonde. Very pretty against the soft moorit coloring. Well, her 2009 fleece was one of the first ones to sell this year. As I was skirting it I noticed that all the skirtings were really clean....and rather pretty. So I set it aside for myself. Washed it all up and have been playing with it. It's mostly britch, so it's not as soft as the rest of her fleece....and will end up being made into socks. I recently bought some very pretty cinnamon colored llama wool that I decided to blend with Willow's fiber. Thought the red would make for a pretty accent against the soft moorit coloring. Then I decided to blend in a bit of honey colored soy give the finished yarn a bit of strength since I know it will be used for socks. What I didn't plan on was how pretty the completed batt looks. The llama picks up the red coloring the wool while the soy silk highlights the honey blonde tips. Really , really pretty! I can't wait to finish carding up the rest of it so I can start spinning. There's nothing like being pleasantly surprised by a blend. :.)

Friday, July 10, 2009


It's been a while since I've posted to my blog. Life got busy for a it tends to do from time to time. While I haven't gotten much spinning done.....or been able to play with fiber very much.....I have managed to squeeze in some knitting. Pictured above is one pair of socks that I have finished recently. These are for me. The pattern used was a Broad Spiral Rib.....which can be found in the book "More Sensational Knitted Socks". The yarn used was Lorna's Lace Shepard Sock yarn. It was a lovely yarn to knit with. I had started knitting with it using a different pattern, but was not happy with the way the colors were pooling. Love the way the yarn and the Broad Spiral Rib pattern play so nicely. :.) The socks fit beautifully and will be a dream to wear....once it gets cool enough that is.

This second pair of socks is still on the needles. The pattern is called "Fear Not the Cold" by a designer in Colorado. I'm a test knitter for this pattern, so it's not available just yet. I opted to use one of my hand-spun yarns for this sock. The yarn I'm using is a Corriedale/Merino/Targhee blend (natural color). The yarn is about 14 WPI. After doing a swatch using different sized needles, I finally decided to knit the pattern using a 3.0mm needle (US size 2 1/2). I just really loved the way the swatch looked. Gave me a nice tight knit while still retaining the stretch. This is knitting up at 6 1/2 inches per stitch. The pattern gave the choice of either continuing the leg stitch pattern on the foot or switching to ribbing instead. I chose to switch to the ribbing. It's a feels a bit softer and should be more comfortable for wear. The finished socks are for my hubby who will wear them with his hiking boots. So I want to make sure they not only fit him well, but are comfortable as well.

It's been a definite learning experience. The heel on this sock is a short-row heel with wrapped stitches. Something I have never done before. The toe is will also be done the same way. The pattern is written to where you have to have specific measurements so it can be custom fit. You figure out your cast-on and all the other things needed to knit a pair of socks. Another first for me. I'm so used to following a pattern and only having to do minor adjustments in order to get a nice fit. :.) I should have the first sock finished in a day or so. Hope to start the second sock soon after. It should go much quicker since I already have things figured out.