Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Hot, Hot, Soapy, Soapy

Bird nests of combed fleece
I have a lovely view where I sit to write. I feel it is important to have light and air for good composition but there is nothing quite like a harmonious view.

Looking from my railway cottage to "Helen's Villa"
The "Tin Shed" offers a very useful work-space where I can make a mess while processing the wool.

Two drum-carders and two electric spinners with a skeiner.
Some ask why?...why do you do this?

I do not have an answer that fits any line of argument from technocrats or accountants or engineers or managers. I do it because I can.
I hand-spin for a project where possible because then it is a "whole" project. 

I prepare hand-spun yarn for markets because I like markets...and I can sell off my surplus  while putting good wool into peoples' hands.

Call it an obsession.

You and I know how hand-spun will "jump" with vitality as you knit with it. Socks in hand-spun are completely different from mill-spun.

However, the convenience of mill-spun ready-to-knit wool is alluring too. I understand the power of assembled wools in all their colours and labels on the shelves ready to take home with you....so here are mine.

Brown sheep wool from the Tin Shed
They are in 100gm skeins and on measuring are all at 100m length. 


The processing is simple; I comb fleece with the grease  still in it...and for those of you who grew up with the television show Blue Peter, here's some white fleece I prepared earlier...
Bundles of fleece ready for the hackle 
I take small handfuls of wool locks and open up the weathered ends on a hackle or with a hand-comb.
Opening up the narrower outer tips
I then turn the locks in the other direction and comb the cut ends. After the entire lock lengths are combed I sometimes make a "top" out of the hand-full of combed locks and curl them around into a bird's nest.
Combed top or "Birds' Nests
I can handle the raw wool because I actually like it. There is no scent quite like a new fleece.
Spun, plied and washed.
The combing smoothes the lanolin through the length of the wool staple. It gives your equipment an earthy patina so it is necessary to have dedicated spinning gear and be prepared to clean thoroughly with a disinfectant between projects.

The wool is only washed once it has been plied and skeined. This wash must be thorough as it must remove excess grease, dirt, excretions and anything else the animal was near. I wash twice using a supermarket wool-wash which contains eucalyptus. I also use boiling water! I let the skeins sit for a few seconds in the hot, hot, soapy, soapy basin and move them through the suds using wooden spoons so as not to scald my hands.
The hot water sorts the shrinkage problem out while dealing to the lanolin. It also sets the twist.

Brown sheep wool drying after being hot-washed and cold-rinsed.
Rinsing in cold water also means shrinkage is actioned at this stage rather than later. The wool skeins will pucker up a bit...you can see in the photo. 
The water from the washing can go straight on the garden...once cooled. The rinse water can be used for flushing.


At this point you are probably doing an "ewww..." face. But think about it...spare water which has been once used can and should serve a further useful purpose.

I find the post-spin wash means easier handling of the wool. Getting locks dry can be a pain...I've resorted to pegging them individually to a macrame hammock! 
Processing a fleece skein by skein means that you leave the protective lanolin in which actually prevents moth infestation. Having a whole fleece washed...apart from maddening bits needing to dry all over the place...means you have opened the door and put out a welcoming mat for those winged insects.

Grease-spun brown wool re-skeined and checked for weight. 
...so then the wool is skeined and labeled. 
Tin Shed Yarns awaiting labels.

The battle of cancer has marched once again through my family. It's just insidious. Once again we are resigned to the usual round of surgery, maiming and radiation treatment. My sister is only 44. It begs questions yet are there even answers? They can send a man to the moon but they cannot sort cancer. It just p****s me off.


I am a big fan of Twitter. It's like headlines. This blog link here is to an astounding woman who farms in Ireland. She has developed the Zwartbles breed (don't pronounce the "t"). Her twitter feed is daily and generous. Like me, she always responds to Tweets. 


She keeps me sane
So, me and Debbie and the wools at 10am Helensville War Memorial Hall October 12th. 


Fiona MacBride


cynthia coleman said...

i had a question in regards to the snuggle pants pattern. the pattern stops at the increase for the crotch but theres no continuation for the dividing of the legs and the decreasing we have to do there. im trying to make some pants for my sister for her babyshower coming up in october. would you pls be able to help.

thank you

Fiona MacBride said...

Cynthia Coleman,

Hmmmmm...yes you are absolutely right and I have a problem here. Would you mind waiting about 24 hours while I go and sort this please?....Think it's a hosting problem but I will be onto it. In the meantime I can be contacted on tinshedyarns@gmail.com. I areally appreciate you alerting me to this.

Fiona MacBride said...

Cynthia Coleman,

It is a hosting issue and I have contacted Scribd, whose web-site I use for hosting content.

Meanwhile, you need this pattern.

Could you provide me with an e-mail address please?

Or.....Tin Shed Yarns is on FB....Happy to send it via PM.

Fiona MacBride

Fiona MacBride said...

cynthia colemen

Pattern link and host should be fine now. Let me know if it isn't.

Many thanks,

Fiona MacBride