Monthly Archives: February 2014

In Which She Shares Her Excitement Regarding Processing Fleece For The First Time

I’m going through a rough fibro patch. Everything is achy, my hands can’t grab things correctly and I have reduced sensitivity in my fingertips, and my energy levels are about equal to sitting in a chair and not doing much else. There are other crappy things going on, and I’ve had to drop cello lessons and stop going to orchestra for a while as well, so I don’t get my one evening away from the house. I’ve just handed in another work project that was fun but draining, since it was a book of home DIY renovation projects and all the measurements needed checking and formatting, and I have been handling a yucky sinus cold through it, too.

So I thought I’d share some of what’s been interesting me lately.

Last fall my friend Stephanie bought a couple of fleeces at a fibre festival, and asked if I wanted to share some. I bought a pound of brown Corriedale fleece and some white Lincoln locks as well, and she shipped them up to me in November. They sat in their ziplock bags till this month, when the Ravellenic Games launched in concert with the Winter Olympics.

As you know, Bob, The Ravellenic Games are a fun event where you challenge yourself to do something fibre arts-related between the opening and closing ceremonies of whatever Olympics are being held. There are fun categories for knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving, and permutations thereof, and the point is to really challenge yourself somehow: do colourwork for the first time, teach yourself a new skill, or plan to do a huge project in only two weeks. My online knitting group of mums decided to call ourselves Team Coconut Two-Sters this year (long story, but the name partially came about because one of our awesome mums is a graphic artist, was bored at work one day, and started doing deliberately bad Photoshopped images of our two-year-old kids in coconuts), and this is my team avatar!

One of the events is the Fleece to FO (finished object) Long-Track, where you spin your yarn and then knit it into something. Stephanie and I decided this was a great occasion to each process some of our fleece and do something with it. Since the timeframe was limited, I decided to spin a bulky yarn and knit a pair of mittens. (Since I’m knitting mittens, they also qualify for the Mitten Moguls event, hurrah!)

Processing fleece means washing and prepping it for spinning. The fleece I started with was exactly the fleece that had been shorn from the sheep, greasy and dirty. I started with a cold water soak to dissolve most of the basic dirt, which sank to the bottom of the dishtub I was using. Check out that dirty water. And this is just a water soak, no soap! The silt at the bottom of the dishtub was icky.

Then I did a hot water wash, with original Dawn dish soap. (It’s a classic for washing fleece, because it really goes to town on the lanolin and grime.)

I did two washes, and I think I either washed too much at once or didn’t let it soak long enough, because after the fleece dried it was still somewhat sticky. I wasn’t sure this was wrong, though, since this was my first go, and I carded up a bit and tried spinning it longdraw from a wee rolag. It didn’t draft well, and I didn’t know if this had to do with the stickyness of the fleece or my carding technique. Figuring a second wash couldn’t hurt, I gave it another soapy bath, and when it dried it was much softer and fluffier.

Here’s what it looked like as I began to separate out the locks from the dried fleece.

I carded about two-thirds of the clean fleece in the week leading up to the Olympics. Since I don’t have hand carders or a drum carder (someday, someday) I used a pair of dog slicker brushes. I left a lot of the nepps and second cuts in, because I wanted a tweedy, rustic yarn. (Also, I didn’t want to lose any more weight/fibre.) I picked out a lot of the vegetable matter as I carded, but I’m only human and some got left in, to be picked out as I spun.

I had a pile of rolags, ready to go on the day of the opening ceremonies!

I spun two bobbins’ worth of singles, and plied them that first day. It turns out spinning bulky yarn goes really quickly! I’d done some sampling before I began and I’d originally wanted a bulky single, but that wasn’t working well for me, so I spun slightly lighter singles and did a two-ply yarn instead. When I measured my yarn I discovered I only had about 60 yards instead of the 100 I needed, so I spun up the rest of the rolags over the next day, realized I’d need even more fibre, and spun the rest of my clean fleece. I didn’t want to waste time carding them, so I just teased the fleece with my fingers till it was loose and even more fluffy, and spun right from handfuls of that.

It worked just as well, and I got the added bonus of the yarn having tiny little bits of curly crimp popping out here and there. I was done spinning by the second evening, and cast on my mittens the next day.

Here’s what the yarn looks like! I love how the paler tips of the locks contrast with the darker fleece from closer to the body of the sheep, and when spun it creates a beautiful variegation. That’s a bulky yarn at 4 WPI (wraps per inch, as marked on my handy little WPI tool, there).

I’d decided to knit mittens because I’d never tried before, though I’ve knit socks and so I figured the sock-knitting basics would carry me through the cuff and hand of the mitten, and only the thumb gusset would be new. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s processing fleece for the first time, carding it for the first time, and knitting an item I’d never knitted before in a limited timeframe. Optimistic!) I found a pattern and began, frogged it and tried again, then found a different pattern because it still wasn’t working for me. The second pattern was wonderful, and I knit the first mitten in two evenings, and the second in another two evenings. And I used just over half the yarn I’d spun; I’d panicked for no reason after all.

So then there I was, halfway through the Olympics with my goals reached, and this extra yarn. I should use that up, I thought, and looked for a hat pattern on Ravelry that used less than 100 yards of bulky yarn. I found one and cast on. The brim is knit separately on straight needles, then seamed together to make a tube, stitches picked up along one side, and the crown is knitted in the round from there. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Part of that big brim gets flipped up and pinned in place with a brooch or a button.I have the perfect button for it, I think. If I finish in time, this will qualify for the Hat Halfpipe event.

Knitting bulky things goes quickly, so this should be done by the closing ceremonies, no problem. Mittens are easy, I have discovered, and I will knit more. (Not right now, of course, but in the future, certainly.)

So that’s my adventure with processing my own fleece and working with quickie handspun. I can’t get any closer to doing it all myself unless I actually shear the sheep.

Owlet: Thirty Months Old!

Owlet is going through another level-up in language; it’s just more precise in general. (Except for ‘pinnanose.’ “Play pinnanose, Mummy?” I almost don’t want to teach her to say pee-yan-oh, because hearing her ask to play “pinnanose” makes me giggle inside every time.) She’s slimming a bit (thank goodness), and her legs look longer as a result. She looks more like a little girl now than a chubby toddler. I had to buy her a new snowsuit (the second one this winter) one size bigger, with longer sleeves and legs. She’s wearing size 4 jeans and tops, and I have no idea what her shoe size is; she’s worn size 9 boots all winter, but I bought them large on purpose. Her two-year-old molars are finally IN, thank goodness.

Her favourite colour is “pupple.” Her favourite foods are yoghurt (‘yodirt’), gravy (on anything — I have to keep a container of it in the fridge to pour over anything at a moment’s notice), her Shreddies and Ohs (her word for Cheerios) with milk in the morning, and “TANDIES!” after supper. (She gets two M&Ms for dessert after dinner. She tries to ask for them after breakfast and lunch, too, but that’s not happening.) She dips her whole hand into HRH’s coffee and licks it off. He caught her gently putting my wineglass down the other day. She looked at him and kind of smacked her lips quietly.

She’s working on issuing commands, often at inappropriate times. She occasionally tries to put people, things, or cats into time outs at random moments, or scolds them sternly for something they did ages ago that she suddenly needs to work through again in her mind.

She is very into Hide and Seek. Like most toddlers, she is somewhat unclear on the concept, but loves what she does anyway. She’ll hide in the same place that she found Sparky just about every time, and of course he finds her right away. We had to explain to him that he needed to pretend to look. “Why? I know where she is,” he said. Well, buddy, we knew exactly where you were when you played it at her age, too, but we played along.

She is also very into playing babies: rocking them, giving them bottles, and burping them. Her imaginative play with her Fisher Price animals and her ponies is starting to take off, too. There are general storylines that are followed: one pony gets a crown or something, runs to everypony one by one and says, “Look! Look!” and the other pony says, “Oh, you look so pretty!” Then they run to the next pony together, and so on. With the farm animals, one of them comes running to me and says, “So-and-so pushed me.” We have to go through the process of calling the offending party over, asking if it pushed the aggrieved party, reminding it that we don’t push our friends, and requesting an apology.

She had a bad cold at the end of January that had her home from school for a week, and triggered a nasty round of croup. If I’d known her entire class was coughing, I’d have sent her back two days earlier; I was doing the good parent thing and keeping her home to avoid infecting anyone else, but it turned out they were all sick already. Oh, well. We had fun doing groceries, and watching Sesame Street, and making lunches and scones together. One day I had to drop off a round of daycare cheques for the next couple of months, and they sent home a craft for her to do that the other kids had done earlier in the week. She loved doing her “homework” while Sparky did his. She played with the iPad way too much while she was ill, and I had to institute a detox when she went back to school; that did not go over well at all. There was about a week of screaming before and after school, but then everything settled, and now she’s back to books and toys in her down time, thank goodness.

Her favourite books at the moment are Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch, and the Oliver Jeffers books, particularly The Way Back Home. Her favourite song is “Let It Go” from Frozen, which she sings remarkably clearly, surprisingly on-key for a toddler, and does all the motions she’s seen in the video. Her favourite parts to play out are when Elsa builds the ice palace, and when she pulls off her crown and throws it away. (Sparky is also in love with this song, and sings it particularly well.) She is going to absolutely love the film when we get it on DVD.