There has been lots of crafting going on around here lately, despite the time crunch from the commute (or perhaps because of it – being busy has a way of focusing my energy and getting a lot more done in less time).
The fall colors are starting to appear on the trees all around us. Just this week, the edges of the highway have gone from green to reds and yellows. The tree in front of our house is an explosion of gold and orange. I’m delighted to say that some of those colors are also showing up on my spinning wheel:
That’s the “reds” colorway for the fall colors sweater. I think it’s going to work. Very excited.
Branden’s sweater has been growing by leaps and bounds, since rounds and rounds of endless stockinette is the perfect way to come off of a 2 hour traffic jam. I bound off the body last night, and have started the first sleeve. I love knitting Branden raglan sweaters; the construction means that the sleeves are already knit to the armpit by the time I split off onto holder needles, so finishing up the rest is much faster than knitting the whole thing in one go.
With that getting so close to done, I’m starting to scramble around for another project for the queue. I think I’m going to dye up that Falkland that I spun a few months ago. I’ve been dithering about whether or not to order more fiber and spin some more, just to be sure I’ll have enough. But I do have 950 yards, and I know which lace I want to knit and what color, and I think I might have enough. (Plus, I’m itching to knit it, it’s half designed already, and I am not feeling patient. True confessions.)
I just finished setting the dye on some samples, and I’m pretty sure I have the colors I’m looking for when they’ve cooled enough to check. Fingers crossed that it comes out like I expect, and I’ll be dyeing the yarn tonight or tomorrow, and swatching soon thereafter.
I’ve also been slowly chipping away at teasing open the locks on the Gulf Coast fleece. This isn’t my favorite part of fleece processing, truth be told, so I have to do it in spurts here and there. But on Tuesday I finally washed everything one more time to (hopefully) get out the last of the lanolin, and I now have quite a pile of fluff in the basement.
That little bit in the box is all that I have left to tease open and rewash, and I’m hoping to do that today, since it means that I can go sit outside and enjoy this glorious weather we’ve been having. Once the washing is finished, I’ll move onto the combing/carding, which should be more fun, since it will get me that much closer to actually spinning the stuff!
I dropped Branden off at the airport this morning; he’s on his way to Austria for a week for work. That leaves me the whole weekend and most evenings to putter around on fiber things, so I’m hoping to finish up a few more loose ends. Or I may just sit and spin the rest of that fall fiber, as it is begging me to do. Doesn’t sound like a bad plan, really.
For now, I’m off to wash those samples and see what new colors await!
I told Branden a couple of weeks ago that I must absolutely not – for any reason – buy another raw fleece at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool this fall. I still have a fleece washed and waiting to be combed, and I just haven’t been getting around to it. I love the fiber, and I have a serious weakness for fleeces, but I really don’t need another.
Well. We all know what happens next, right?
While I was back in Boston, my college roommate and I went to visit a friend who works as the caretaker for a historic farm museum in Rhode Island, called Coggeshall Farm. It’s a fully functional farm on 4 acres in seaside New England.
We helped pick cucumbers and gooseneck squash from the farm garden.
And were followed around by a friendly rooster.
Shelley showed us around the old farmhouse.
It’s chock full of interesting tools, like this cheese press.
And a functional loom.
As well as a beautiful great wheel.
We also got to meet the farm donkey,
(and horse and steer), as well as a curious trio of turkeys.
There is also a flock of sheep, but they are allowed to roam at will and were off enjoying the summer day, nowhere to be seen. But in the basement, we found their fleeces.
The sheep are a rare breed called Gulf Coast. They came to the New World with the Spanish, and have been adapting to life in the warm Southeast ever since. According to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, they are one of the four most critically endangered sheep breeds in the world, with only about 2000 sheep left (more interesting info about them here, from another small farm that raises them).
It just so happens that they also have beautiful wool.
The fiber is very fine, and it has a ton of crimp. The staple is about 4-5″ long, and the wool was in great shape. I don’t know the name of the shearer, but Shelley said that he comes in and hand shears, and he did an amazing job. I’ve had a hard time finding even a couple of second cuts.
The fleece could have been skirted more aggressively; I threw out about a half of a small grocery bag of fiber that I didn’t deem worth the effort to clean, but I decided to try some of the more doubtful parts (the small pile on the right in the picture) and was very impressed with how well they cleaned up.
Since the sheep are free to roam, there are a few burrs in the fiber here and there, but it’s generally extremely free of vegetable matter for an uncoated animal.
The majority of the fleece was also surprisingly clean (for a dirty sheep), and turned the most beautiful white when I washed it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t use hot enough water the first time around, so the locks didn’t fully open up and release their lanolin. So this weekend I used my hand cards and opened up the locks. (That’s is the “dirty” part of the fleece, below.)
Then I rewashed them in hotter water, and they came out beautifully.
The dirtier sections that I “reclaimed” are slightly stained in spots, but will be fine for dyeing.
I’m still working on the cleaner parts of the fleece; I’m doing all of the washing with 5 gallon buckets on the patio, so it’s taking a while to get through. (This is the cleaner fiber, before teasing open the locks.)
With a 7.5 lb fleece, I think I have my work cut out for me.
Since I know that some of you will ask, Shelley does have a few more fleece in the basement. There are a total of three from this year, and a few more from last years’ shearing. I looked at the three newer ones, and I’d say that they are all top quality. Her asking prices are really unreasonably low, so I’d get in touch if you’re interested. Her email is: s dot otis at coggeshallfarm dot org.