Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's been a while!

I had just geared up with lots of new ideas and inspiration for the blog when a yarn rep was visiting and in the course of conversation said that "the people who blog need to get a life"!

And of course that brings me right back to how I felt about blogging when I rather begrudgingly started this, if nothing else, inconsistent blog about everything fibers! I couldn't imagine how I'd find the time to fit it in (and from the long lapses between posts, I obviously still struggle with that!)  and I certainly didn't know why anyone would care to read anything I had to say or share. But encouraged by customers, I launched it and now, probably just as interest in blogs has moved  to the latest  online/social media phenomenon, I'm getting back to it!

ANyway, if for no other reason than  my peri-menopausal mind forgets so much these days,  I feel like I need to record my fiber endeavors for my own sake so I have a record somewhere.  And in the process of  compensating for a bad memory, if  the learning I post from my own experiments is of any use to others, then great!

Lots of experimentation this last year to share, but I'm going to start with the quickest.
Dehairing Cashmere!

I love to felt and spin cashmere....a little goes such a long way and it is so soft and insulating (and if you're selling your finished goods, a bit of "cashmere" in the label goes a long way!). I've always worked from prepared cashmere.

But when in Iceland last month with my sisters, we visited Haafell goat farm, where Johanna has taken the last 4 remaining goats in the entire country and brought back a herd of about 140, preserving the unique genetics of these animals that were brought over and kept isolated for hundreds of years.

While Johanna has mostly focused on the meat, milk and soap side of the goats, she is starting to learn the fiber end of the business and had a bit of her first batch of yarn back from the mill in Norway.  She didn't have any for sale, but had some, no, it was lots, of fleeces piled on a table in the barn. So as my sister Roby (who teaches quite a few classes on spinning mohair) looked eagerly thru the piles for fleeces she might buy for upcoming workshops, she mentioned that some spinners dehair the cashmere themselves using the dryer and taking advantage of static electricity!

Having seen raw cashmere before and looking at the state of the raw fleeces on the table before me, I was skeptical to think that would work. But I was intrigued enough by the "dryer" method of de-hairing, I decided to give it a go.
So first I washed the fleece, primarily because I didn't want goat smell (and worse) in my dryer! After drying it, I put it in knee-hi's and some more open mesh lingerie bags.

I popped them in the dryer under NO HEAT and FLUFF cycle for about 15 minutes and took a peek. first glance, I thought it might be a success since the lint catcher was chock full of coarse hair (see photo above, right). There was a lot of guard hair still caught on the outside of the bags/knee his, but it was easy to pull off (see photo of knee his showing how the guard hair was pulled thru and then the photo of the mesh lingerie bag next to the additional wad of guard hair I was easily able to pull off the outside of the bag. I was pretty optimistic after cleaning the lint trap and pulling what I could from the outside of the bags off...there were a lot of guard hairs in those piles!

But after opening up the knee hi's and mesh bags, I still saw lots of coarse hair remaining. Definitely, the more open mesh bags had worked better, but still they had a ways to go.

So I took the cashmere out, fluffed, plucked and teased it apart so it was even a little more open, thinking the coarse hairs would have more chance to escape. And I tossed the mesh bags back in for another go round.

Again....the lint trap was full....but still so was the cashmere.
So I picked up the phone and called Stillriver mills in CT. They have processed yarn for me in the past and they just did a run of cashmere roving for one of my customers (I'll have that in the store soon) that was lovely. He was nice enough to share with me how the industrial de-hairing equipment works. It is not based on static, but centrifugal force. Apparently the de-hairing equipment is basically like a regular drum carder but that moves at high RPMs so that the finer downy fibers stay stuck to the teeth in the drum and the coarser, slicker & heavier guard hairs are pulled out by the centrifugal force.

With that in mind, I put the bags in for a third try in my high RPM Haier workshop washer....but only on the "spin" cycle.
That also worked, but still lots of hair remaining (see photo left of opened cashmere after 2 dryer runs and 1 in the Haier spin cycle).
I think with about another hour of high RPMs, dryer sheets and plucking out a bit of hair between sessions, I probably will have 90% of it removed and I'll enjoy spinning up enough yarn to knit a scarf or shawl as a remembrance of our visit to Johannas, but if given the chance to buy a "raw" cashmere fleece again, I think I'll adopt the attitude "been there, done that"!

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