Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A XMAS present: for myself and my sisters!

This blog is the first of a weekly progress report on a project I started this week and need to have complete for XMAS. I call it a "present" for myself too, because I usually have to subordinate the projects I'd really like to work on to those that I "need" to do for the store.

So giving myself the time to work on this...when it won't yield new store models and won't result in a new workshop for the class or even help sell fiber that I a holiday treat to myself!

So why this project? Well, as some of you may know, my 4 sisters and I (actually, I have 3 sisters and the fourth I'm referring to is a sister-in-law) are heading to Gottland, Estonia and St. Petersburg for 2.5 weeks next May. We did a similar trip years ago to England, Scotland and Ireland and had a blast.

Anyway, in anticipation for our trip we're all reading Swedish, Russian and Estonian authors to acquaint ourselves with their history and culture, renting films from Netflix that are by Swedish and Russian directors (if you aren't familiar with Swedish films, they are rather dark and need to be taken in small doses!) and boning up on their cuisine (this may be my chance to lose some of the pounds I've put on this past year!).

Since we're diving into their literature, film, history and cuisine, I thought it also only appropriate to acquaint myself with their wool a little more closely than I have to date. So I purchased a small American Gottland fleece (more about this next time) at the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival this past May and I have part of an Australian Gottland fleece (again, more about the hole Gottland fleece issues next week) that my sister Roby gave me for another project I have going (I have a going-on-three-year-now project of felting either a hat or bag from every breed of sheep I can get my hands on).

So while I was ruminating on the idea of working with these two Gottland fleeces, it so happened that I discovered a little and old mitten book on my bookshelf that...lo' and traditional patterns from Gottland! So it seemed destined that these fleeces become mittens and so here began the journey of deciding to wash, dye, comb, spin, and knit mittens for each of my sisters for XMAS! Oh, and in case you think this blog may blow the surprise for chance of it....they are even less inclined to go surfing the web or looking at blogs than the man on the moon!

So...this week I washed the fleeces. I HATE washing fleece. And to boot, I was out of my Kookaburra Wool Scour, which I love. So I ran to Guys Farm and Yard to buy some Orvus. This is used by people to wash their sheep for 4H while the fleece is still on the animal. I've used it in the past for fleeces and it works well...I just switched to Kookaburra because I love the measuring system and it does an equally great job and has tea tree and eucalyptus oils to prevent moths and dust mites. But in a pinch, the Orvus would be great. BUT, I suffered from sticker shock when I discovered it now $40. So I decided to forgo the Orvus and make due with Dawn dish soap, which I know a lot of spinners use. I figured I could get by with that for this fleece and by the time I need to wash fleeces again, my Kookaburra would be back in stock.

So I got my water really really hot, put the fleece in garment bags (which I do to minimize handling of the loose fibers so I'm less likely to felt the wool), added the Dawn and washed away. Not once, not twice, but three washes and then a couple of rinses before I spun it in my washer to help it dry quickly.

I have to say that I didn't really like the Dawn....Kookaburra would have done a better job with just 1 wash ! But the Dawn got enough of the grease and dirt out for me to declare it "enough" washed and move on....since I'm going to comb, not card this fleece and will wash the yarn again before knitting, I thought it was sufficiently clean. OK, so I'm justifying not having to wash it YET AGAIN (did I mention I hate washing fleece?!)

Anyway, after drying I separated the light gray from the dark gray areas of the fleeces so I have 2 natural colors to work with (see left photo above) for patterning but decided I wanted more (I do have 4 pair of mittens to knit after all and I can't stand repeating myself!) colors for accents. So I pulled out the Greenershades organic them....and decided to blend up my favorite green, golden orange, and purple colors (see center photo above). I used some of the light gray portions of the fleece to dye, so the colors are much more muted than these colors would be on a white fleece, but show up more than they would have over the dark gray fleece sections.

I'm keeping the American and Australian fleeces separate since I want to see if I notice much difference in their qualities/characteristics when I comb and spin them up.

My plan for this weekend is to comb the washed fleeces...I'll let you know how that goes next week when I go into a little bit more about the difference in the Gottland fleeces.

If anyone wants to share their washing secrets, feel free!

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