Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eat. Wash. Spin!

(Just not necessarily in that order.)

Porcini-mushroom roast chicken

Parker house (wheat) rolls & mushroom gravy

Fresh green bean & shiitake mushroom casserole. Not to be missed.
Taken from the Nov. 2007 issue of Saveur Magazine. Page 42.

After all the work I did this weekend, I was very very hungry.

But OH, I had such a good time working up that appetite!!!!

First on Saturday I re-read the relevant section in Alden Amos' Big Book of Handspinning (despite the fact that I keep messing up poor A.A.'s name - I keep calling him Amos Alden - this book is still SO on my Christmas/birthday list!!!!) and then I pulled out one of the two (TWO!) fleece that Oma sent me a few weeks ago and decided that I was going to wash it.

To try this the first time, I went with what looked like the more amusing fleece - the crazily-curly 1st place winner - which was a Lincoln/Shropshire mix - from the Northwestern Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Association Field Day.

Here my pound of curly locks sit, in their plastic bag with Mr. Frog happily watching over them.

Following Alden's directions, I filled the tub with HOT water, added a large capful of appropriate detergent, and then carefully let the fleece sink down and slowly slowly slowly patted it along in the water from one end of the tub to the other. Back and forth. Back and forth. He said to do this as if you were herding a bunch of kindergarten younglings down a very narrow museum hallway. This is what the tub & fleece looked like after a few trips were made up & down.

UCK. See that kind of scummy film on the water? Double-uck! This is just about where I stopped thinking that magically Oma had gotten me a fleece that was naturally part white and part brown, and realized that the "part brown" locks on the fleece were in fact part green, and were most likely green from sheep feces.

Triple uck.

I drained the tub, and shuddered.

Then I filled the tub again with hot water (with the fleece resting & draining safely above), added in only half the amount of soap this time, and repeated my sinking, patting, and herding. This time around the water was much cleaner, and the tub refuse was much less disgusting.

Then the third time I filled the tub only with hot water as a last-step rinse.

And while I have no doubt that the slightly yellowish cast of some of the curlier tips on the fleece means that I have not gotten out all of the grit and muck, I think I have gotten as much out as I currently feel safe removing. (Being new at this, and having NO idea of what I'm doing, I'm quite worried that I'm going to felt this entire thing in my enthusiasm to get it really, super clean. I will - however - wash it at least once more after it is spun and plied just to be on the safe side.) I laid the fleece out to try on the guest bed, turned on multiple fans, and walked away.

I had expected it to take a full three days to dry - as A.A. says it should in his tome, but apparently A.A. never reckoned on the drying power that a 93-pound dog has on a pound of spread-out damp fleece. If said dog spends the night on the drying bed, your fleece will be bone dry the very next morning, and won't seem even the slightest worse for wear. AMAZING. Please note that I would only recommend this for dog owners. Certain insane-cat owners {coughcoughjessiecoughcough} should probably avoid such things at all possible costs.

I think that some carding will bring this curly mass of white loveliness around lickety-split. I have borrowed a drum carder from the art department of campus, and spent a good hour or so this past weekend cleaning it as best as I could, but the thing is just SO disgusting and dirty (I wore gloves to clean the drum carder, but not to wash out all that green sheep shit - what does that tell you about how filthy & nasty the drum carder was?) that despite it being cleaned I still don't feel safe using it. Isn't it lucky for me, then, that Gryphon is an Ashford dealer (I chuckled when I said that to Kim feeling like someone who was doing something illegal - "Woooo hooooo!!!! We've got a dealer in the neighborhood!") and can easily send me a pair of basic but oh-so-useful-and-necessary Ashford hand carders! Plus - you know - a few locally-made yarn storage baskets that she now has for sale. Just two. Or three.

I also was lucky enough this past Friday to find my missing spinning-wheel piece when I went and re-poked around the storage building where it had spent the past year or so. With some help from Peggers I found a necessary (and totally missing) correctly-sized nut lying around our workbench that was needed to keep the treadle leg in place, grabbed some light machine oil, and got the piece in good working order. I then promptly dropped everything and tried to spin, and butchered some of the deep red fiber that Gryphon sent my way over the summer along with a loaner drop spindle. I loathed the drop spindle (so much so that I simply put it down & felt no compunction to keep trying with it whatsoever!) but loved the fiber. The result is the overly-spun little unbalanced skein below. {SIGH} My first ever baby handspun!

After messing around with the red, I tried my hand at some hand-dyed roving that I purchased at a county fair over the summer. Despite the butchering that happened while I played around with it, I had the most WONDERFUL time with both it and the red roving, and after watching a few video clips on the Joy of Handspinning website have picked up a few tips about what I am doing wrong (drafting over too short a distance, mainly, I'm also going to try and pull 'up' on the fiber to draft it instead of pulling 'down' as I have been doing. I'm also going to try to pre-draft my commercially prepared bump and see if that helps) and am going to take another crack at the rest of the fiber I have left either tonight or tomorrow night.

This is what I produced after sitting down a few times Saturday & Sunday with the county-fair roving that I purchased. Reminds me of cotton-candy colours! Still exponentially overspun, but at least a bit more even in thickness (at least in lengthier spots!) and a bit better overall. Once I'm finished with this bump of fiber, I'm going to 2-ply it and see what fun end result I get.

I only have a single drive at the moment, and so am wondering if maybe a double-drive would help some. I am consciously trying to treadle v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y - - so much so that my wheel will sometimes stop, I'm going so slow. This is why I'm wondering if the double-drive will help........or will that just speed me up and increase my horrid overspinning? Ah well - 'tis so much fun that I don't at all mind that I'm making wool versions of DNA every time I let the tension go on the yarn & it doubles back on itself!

In fact, I'm having SO much fun that I went right out and ordered several bundles of dyed fleece from Jessie - one in the most amazing chartreuse/purple/midnight blue blend - I can hardly wait to see what that turns into when I get my hands on it!

I also, after reading her two part posts on plying experiments, bought a double-bump set of hers in a super-bright/deep purple and a nicely-pale lavender complimentary colourway.

See why I couldn't resist the temptation to try some plying experiments of my own?

Fun fun fun fun fun!

My Christmas/birthday wish list is just growing by leaps and bounds every day now!


Lola and Ava said...

That's all you, Sweet Cheeks. I don't think that anything would get me spinning. The gunk, the feel, just the need for more room . . . have at it and I admire you for doing it. Can't wait to see the yellow perfection you turn out . . . how about a really garish yellow and hot pink combo?

Ummm, truthfully, it was seeing the roving in the tub that did me in. ICK!

Mathgirl said...

You are a much braver woman than I am. I am sure that if (hopefully when some day) I take up spinning I will be buying only the stuff in cleaned roving form. I can just see me poking at that fleece with sticks to prevent myself from having to touch it... But that purple stuff looks absolutely scrumcious

jessie said...

I guess I am among the less squeamish of your readers. As disgusting as a dirty fleece in the tub can look, I find it almost magical that something so brown and nasty can turn into something so white and fluffy.

(I like the smell of unwashed fleece, so what do I know?)

My cat is insane?

Amanda said...

I love that fleece. It looks gorgeous! Your post is really making me want to go dust off my own wheel and ply up some stuff I've been thinking about.