Sunday, 28 February 2016

What I Did In My Summer...and what happens when you leave a white fleece for too long.

Hand-spun wool and piece of marble


Kind people have contacted me recently saying they have enjoyed reading about my world. I liked their thoughtfulness. It certainly boosted my morale.

On second reading, maybe there was the hint that they might like an up-date since they already invested so much time in my world. goes.

My world has been embarrassingly small of late because I have been in the Shed for most of the summer.

I am on a mission (again, you ask?) to get hand-spun yarn out of my garage (the Tin Shed) and off to the Farmers' Markets.

It's a project for de-cluttering.

It's a project for local fleeces to be processed locally.

It's a project to put hand-spun wool into locals' hands.

It's a One Woman Epic to take over the world.

It's a bit mad!

If it works and I sell some wool, it means I have seen a dream of mine through as well as being a boost to my income.

Evening Light over the hills.
The plan is to spin up fleeces to an 8ply density and provide a pattern for use. Samples of the pattern in three sizes from three fleeces were knitted for display. For this to happen I had to be careful about consistency in the spin (we all spin thinner towards the end....!) and gauge had to be spot-on.

I also had to work fast as I really could not justify my usual path of combing and pulling (through a hackle). I always spin in the grease anyway but being that fussy was going to be unjustifiable in cost for the finished product. I can now spin and ply 100gm in half a day. The scouring is done after the spinning and is a simple overnight soak in boiled water and wool-wash. The skein is then washed again and hung out to dry.......

....and that's where the weather played it's part.

My first crop of apples.
Anyone you talk to in Auckland right now will comment on the weather. It has been scorching and humid. Both together.....I know! *

So.....the wool dried fabulously. We all went on in 32 degree sunshine and 85% humidity....practically dying...and I chose.....CHOSE to work in an iron shed with a garage door and a side door for ventilation!

Balancing my other responsibilities, I could not always get to the shed first thing in the morning in the cool.

I battled on producing one thick skein after another while families left their homes heading for the beach, the harbour, the river, the pools. Smug boat-owners would stop and check the trailer outside while I sat over my spinner in the shed.

Garden is an oasis of cool in the evening.

School went back a month ago and we are still in the heat. I do not have a arms and shoulders are an Irish tan, but I have not even worn my swimming togs once this summer. 

I have though, got through some fleeces.

...and I had to make some hard decisions on the white ones I kept from my time on Waiheke Island. There was a lot of clearing done. 

I found suppliers of local fleeces...that was a bonus. I found one who loves Gotland almost as much as I do...and has such fleeces (not purebred but a good strong dose). 

I haven't yet found a white fresh fleece....there's the promise of one. It's just that I know if I turn up with all greys and grey/blacks, there will be the inevitable query about why no white?

Where I sit at the end of the day

See....all my white fleeces from Waiheke ended up being kept for too long and ended up "suinty" that means the lanolin and the muck stained the staple. I spun and knitted some for a sample and nearly cried when I realised the yellow stain would not come out. Fortunately it is in the back of the garment and it won't be sold....

I won't show a photograph of it. It's too well as unprofessional on my part.

Three samples in three sizes of three different fleeces.
Actually, it's the bottom one in this shot...but no stain showing.

Four Rules For Fleeces

1. Always store fleeces in their raw state. It stops moths getting in. 
2. Do not mix up your fleeces. Label, box, date and store them to a system.
3. Try to spin from the cut end. The scales along the wool shaft are more stable that        way.
4. Always spin your white fleeces immediately...they can't be stored without staining.

It's been a teeny bit cooler today.....more around 27 degrees but it's up to 95% humidity.

I'll keep spinning and plying.

Hot tomatoes.

Stay cool in the heat.

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

* Summer in New Zealand runs from December through to February.

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