Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The fleece arrives

Got my Galway sheep fleece last night!

Very grateful to the farmer who left it in a designated spot for me to collect.

It makes up for the vile headcold with muscle aches etc. I, and loads of others , currently have.

Separated into 2 kg of leg/side wool and 3 kg of choice back wool , small amount of dagging gone to the flower beds.

This feels very nice and soft. Washed a few locks and the lanolin came off easily with a little washing up liquid. Probably don't need the soap - indeed the locks got very soapy from very little soap.
Spun a bit (of course) and seems to make a nice soft moderately lustrous yarn.
Wonder how this compares with the Bluefaced Leicester as a good wool sheep to do well here in Ireland. I think the Galways's meat may be preferable which would make it a good dual purpose sheep. Now I'm tempted to keep a few Galway sheep - but it's early days. Scouring is next - and this will get a more carefull scouring (in small lots in a laundry bag in the sink) than my own got this summer when I was in a big rush to get them all clean and stored.

Of course, the other projects will be vieing for time with this "foreign fleece" work but bring it on anyway.

Must remember this link :
http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com/2006/09/galway-crossfleece1.html

but for some reason, this doesn't work from here so I'll just go to the blog spot and add the rest of the address from there

http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com/

as she has excellent descriptions of how she handled the fleece from raw to yarn. Might get to that point some time. After Christmas no doubt.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

socks done, what next?


After various sessions on the computer looking at different methods of sock knitting (toe up, one circular needle, two circular needles etc) I reverted to kind and made them using 5 DPN's. It started coming back to me (the leg, the heel-turn, the toe taper) as I went along. Had forgotten I'd knitted these as a child (and still do by the looks of them :).

Anyway, they are done and very toasty. They do look like they'd fit Finn McCool, but actually they as designed for my own stubby feet - and allow entry to the wellies. I've washed them and no change - I'm glad to say.

I've finished pulling rolag into the matting and the rug is drying after a bath. I loke the colors and the feel but ubfortunately, I don't think it's good enough to give as a present to my sister - 'though she may deserve it , it being partly her fault that I made it in the first place and surley she should suffer the consequences. I might put backing on it - I'll see in a while.

Now it's busy, busy - and nothing else finished.

All sorts started (spinning this, combing that, making rolags, making batts) - but where's it all going? Getting a bit long in the tooth to be "just practicing" - yet it's good therapy after a recent berievement. I won't go on about the latter as I think there is too much whineing going on in the post-tiger Ireland. I'd love to make a whinometer - a page that scores the national radio broadcasts as per whinges per day and the number of times "they" are blamed. So much indignation - and very little problem solving. Gets on my nerves. On no! I'm whining about whining!
Best shut up.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

summer color in winter


Experimenting with some dyed fleece. Some dyed with Landscape "fern" and it's after wash; some with the after wash from a deep red (kept in the garage in a zip lock bag for months) and some with after wash from a mossy green - which came out very light limey green. Making rolags and spinning these in sequence ten plying them so they randomly combine is a very pleasurable thing indeed. Even more so when knitted and you don't know what the mext row's colors will be. The combination is very summery - yet I want to knit it into socks as my feet are getting frozen during this very cold spell. 
One small snag - don't know how to knit socks :(. --- so  going to try Amy Swenson's toe-up short-row worksheet which was free on tehe net.
Don't know how I'll get on, but thank you my for furnishing this as I thik it's probably the only way I'll manage to get the size I want from the various yarn sizes I spinn.
Will have a bash at it tomorrow - hopefully.



Saturday, November 29, 2008

Through the loops, frost and socks

The latest rug is almost finished - the rolag one - at least the fun part is. 
Now the more tedious part of sewing all round the sides, and indeed through the loops, using thin wool (spun by me of course don't ya know) then spritzing with water and - the fun returns - jumping on it to improve the surface cohesion. Cohesion rather than felting as this stuff will felt only with dramatic efforts - merely leaping up and down for 20 minutes won't do it. A drawback if you want to make felt - but otherwise a boon when you've flung it around the sink washing and dying it. 
The weather today was freezing cold with frost everywhere this morning - very beautiful. There's a light blue sky, mostly clear with occasional fluffly clouds and white gleaming sun. This draws me outside but it also makes me want to knit socks (for the first time in my life) .  Nothing keeps the feet and legs as dry and mud free as a wellies do at a very reasonable price but nothing freezes the toes like them either . Any thick socks I've bought manage to make it very difficult to get the feet in place in the wellie yet do little to keep them warm - so a pair knit from the fluffy stuff which keeps my sheep warm as toast down there in the damp fields would be nice. 
So the mission now is to find a simple sock pattern and spin up some of my dyed fleece to make them. I'm sure there will be failure and frustration but I'm looking forward to it anyway.
The dogs don't need socks (or coats or anything else)  - they are in heaven in this weather - I suppose if you run at 102 Deg F (or 104 if you are a sheep) this is just a nice cool day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Belverdere craft show

Went to the craft show at Belvedere House, Mullingar today (after Rosknit alerted me to same). A very nice show - tempting food and well made crafts. Bought several food items (Christmas chocolates, german wine, cranberry chutney and sauce pairs  in little bags together) which can be gifts or added to gifts for Christmas. 

Its a changeable and blustery day - we were lucky to get a fairly clear bit around midday and brought the dog, Oisin, for a ramble round the lake , woods and folly. He's happy as a lark now.
Not so his companion, Huddie, the red BC.  Later this day, the clouds rolled in, bitter rain fell and the wind made whiney noises through the little gaps round the sliding doors - much to his horror  -  he still acts as if a banshee is about to enter. 
I find it actually quite appropriate for winter - time to light a fire in the hearth.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grilled hat

After I finished a dark brown cabled hat to go with cabled gloves, I washed and blocked it . It took days but began to look really nice as it dried into shape  - the cables more visible and the color lighter. Bought some packaging in preparation to send the wooly knitted set to my daughter in NY. It still seemed a tiny bit damp - so, as is my wont with wet wool, I placed it in my fan oven at 50 degrees for a while - just to be sure it was bone dry. HOWEVER, I didn't notice the oven knob was set to GRILL - so when I took it out, it was nicely crisped round the edges and some spots in the center - which CRUMBLED AWAY when I touched it. 
Lesson "don't grill your hat".
Lesson 2 - always return the knob to neutral on the oven after use.
Lesson 3 - wool really is flame retardant.
Hard lessons - a bit  like the one you learn when you don't save a big document you've written on a computer - no one to blame but yourself.
Despite the loss of my efforts, I can't help laughing every time I think of it - a Mt Bean moment - spend ages working on a hat - then grill it to death :).
New hat under way - and there's no hurry as it's unseasonably mild in NY . 
The only thing about the episode that really bothers me is that it's holding up my rug progress - I've got just 1/3 of the first rolag rug done - and I've already decided how I want to make the next one - it's going to be like a picture I have of my collies on a beach and I can't wait to start that one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

rolag mania

Having dyed a load of 2007 fleece which lay crisping up in the attic, it's now being made into rolags. The purpose (excuse?) for doing all this rolagging is to make a rolag rug.

I'm calling this project by that name, as the technique is not strictly the same as the traditional Lumra rug method. For a start, I didn't gather the wool  found on hedges and fences and I've not got rug canvas - and I don't even have a locker hook needle. I'm using that useless product - fleece from cross-bred meat sheep. Instead of rug canvas, I've got non-slip rug backing. I'm pulling the stretched rolags through the backing using a big darning needle and I'll later "sew" it in place from the back  and then  attempt to needle felt it from above to prevent loose hairs. 

I've done a few rows, light fern green, chocolate brown and a thinner strip of  deep fern green and it's fairly pleasing - but it's main attribute is soft squishyness.  I don't of course know what it will finally look like , but that attribute is enough to make me like it. 

I have to keep this work away from the dogs - they resent it - I can see it in their eyes - so there is a risk of a sudden attack or a swift burial. They do have a case, as it's interfered with their walks and dog agility but they had a good innings today.

Can't put this as a project on Ravelry as it's neither knitting nor crocheting  - but hope to pursue it with pictures on flickr.

Friday, November 7, 2008

less fluffy, more dye

Finishing off a hat (to go with some fingerless gloves in the same pattern for my daughter ) is good I suppose but not as exciting as dying a whole load of fleece in different colors. This fleece has rested in the attic since last year, the year when I was left with my little flock of 19 and no shearer, and plenty of flies ready to strike them. I learned to wash and dry it so it's not nasty in any way but has more second cuts than my shearing efforts this year. This leaves me feeling free to do what I like with it without too much guilt if it gets ruined. 

So,  I've dyed several lots as fleece (rather than dying the spun wool as before) and dyed further, smaller lots in the afterwash with some vinegar. The results are nice and I've lost my fear of felting the fleece as I have carders at my disposal to straighten it out. This wool certainly needs less dye than the recommended amounts given on the dye pots (perhaps 2/3 the amount - and a reasonable pastel of the color from the afterwash).

For this reason, Fluffie's fleece is resting for a while - it's probably better quality (due to better handling) and could be put to more uses while the other stuff is likely to go into more rugs and cushion covers.
Thinking about using the colors is quite intoxicating, so much so that nothing will be done unless I quit thinking about them and decide on a fairly simple color scheme and get on with it. 

Went to the Knitting and Stitching show at the RDS last week and was impressed with the quality of the work on display - especially the quilts. Was happy to meet a lady at the Spinners group (Marie Shiels?) who was able to tell me about the Lumra Rugs and how they are made from rolags. At home, I found I'd been experimenting with the same technique a while ago using some non-slip rug backing instead of rug canvas. I'd not pursued it however, thinking I was doing something "wrong" - now I've  been given leave to pursue that. Strange how a person can restrain their own activities harmless activities for no good reason - except that it might not be acceptable (to the rug police?).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All fluffie angelina

Started on a new fleece - of Fluffie, whose big white fleece was washed last June. Want more wool to make a cabled hat to go with a pair of Evangeline fingerless gloves I knit and dyed brown for my daughter to wear in cold NY. She returned to NY 4 days ago and I miss her but I'm glad she is well situated. The dog, of course, doesn't know this and spend a few days looking for her rather mournfully. He seems to be over it now - I'm glad to say.

Wanted to add a bit of sparkle to the brown so it won't be too dull. I have a small amount of Angelina finer - sparkly, strange stuff that reacts to heat - and realized I had to blend it with some wool before spinning - which in turn meant dying it as fleece rather than spun wool (as I've done so far). I was nervous about this - what if it turned into a matted felted mess? Well, it didn't no did the gloves I put in the dye pot along with it get all tangled up - it's an advantage to have wool that's harder to felt sometimes - in fact, often. 
Fluffie is a rather furtive mid-sized sheep - so it won't be as easy to get her "portrait" into my (her?) wool stash as it was to that of her get her flock mate, Frekkie.
Am looking for info in blended angelina - not much so far so I just jumped in and it looks nice.

I'm beginning to think that dying the fleece before carding and spinning puts a better sheen sheen on the dyed wool. My small experience suggests that dying the spun yarn or knit piece, while it's simpler in many ways, can leave the wool less lustrous.
Anyway, better take my chance to sit in the porch (on this beautiful autumn day) and get some more fluffieAngelina done.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A solution

I've got a solution to ensure I have some knitting when my knitting group session comes around. I'll knit another pair of fingerless gloves - this time for my daughter - with matching hat and then dye the set chocolate brown to match her warm jacket!
My stash is going to deplete plenty.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smug Saturday

I dosed the sheep against fluke yesterday so that's one worry I no longer have. They all looked bucksome (not at all like they had any illness let alone fluke) and the wooly ones have their fleece coming along nicely - they feel so nice. Heard myself caution them to stay clean until May next (looking it??).
A little disappointed as I've not got hold of my Galway sheep fleece yet - despite a sinceer promise by the shepherd. Maybe he's going mad choosing a good representative one - after all, several other shepherds are aware of the promise too. 
Despite this minor thing, it's still smug Saturday as I uploaded photos of two little hats I knitted using a box stitch (and indeed wore during some cold evenings this week) and I've completed one fingerless glove from the Evangeline pattern. Problem is, I'd like to finish the second one too - but if I do that, it'll be spinning time again and I'll have no knitting for the knitting club next Wednesday. This mismatch keeps happening - pity I can't bring carding or spinning along - but I think the people in the adjacent restaurant tables might object.
However, perhaps I'll curb my knitting greed and do spinning instead as I like the knitting group and each time I've been there, I've learned something - 
Some things I've learned:
single spin yarn tends to twist/list clock or anti-clockwise (depending on the spin) when nit up - while balanced, plied yarn stays straight! Dha! That's why they kept mentioning balanced plying at a spinning course I did. 
How to Navajo ply - which i sort of knew but did not until provoked to consider it, why it's used to maintain blocks of color in yarn spun from a series of different colors.
There I saw the fingerless gloves knit up and this prompted me to try my hand at these cables beauties- and so far succeed.
I've had my first "internet death" though - the little dog (Henry a 15 year old Jack Russell) shown sleeping on one of my knit rugs on Ravelry, is no more. He was indeed skin and bone and his time had come but I still think I hear his bark - then remember he is gone. Not gone are Oisin (wholse wool is also in Ravelry) and Huddie - the wonderfully mad, red border collie.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How long is a piece of string and only 2 dogs

I think I'm going to knit a sweater/jumper (big deal to me) - I have a pattern, the wool looks similar - now I need to know how much more yarn I need to spin - so I asked on Irish Knitters.
Meanwhile, the Crafters Basket in Sligo posted me a set of DPN (very quickly too I might say) so I can knit some fingerless gloves - and even bring them along to a knitting group in Mullingar next week - all things being equal.
Only 2 dogs now - my 15 yr old Jack Russel managed to escape the property one night - I couldn't find him anywhere in the dark when I went to put him to bed - and, since he was almost totally deaf, I had to give up. He was found by someone who brought him to an animal shelter after 2 days and there the vet decided he was in advanced organ failure and put him to sleep. This was a shock for us to find out when we called the shelter but he was aged 15, with sight and hearing loss and given to standing in corners for hours and drinking water endlessly so I expect his time had come anyway. However, given the speed with which he was dispatched, I've made sure my other 2 dogs have tags on (as well as their microchip).
That's the end of another era. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Building some order

I've added my spun yarns to my stash in Ravelry. Great to have some way of tracking what I'm doing. They are in there as are my knitted rug photos. 
The woolies out in the field will need some dosing soon - so much rain recently that I'm concerned about the fluke worm. Weather report says scattered showers - and so it is, with nice sun in between - but I know the next scatter will arise when I set out to round up my little flock.
They are mixed lowland sheep - 50% Texel and then 25% of other breeds including Cheviot and Suffolk - so some have long white (and surprisingly soft) wool while others have shorter, more Down-type fleece. 
Ironically, I decided to get some self-shedding sheep last year after shearing 19 woolies and I have such a ram and 5 ewes (origin is Iolo Ownes Welsh flock via imports to Ireland some going to Meath, some to Tipperary and Kerry). I want to breed these girls and create 3 fresh ram blood lines over several years but the woolies will stay - as I now appreciate their fleeces. 
I'm about to get some Galway sheep fleece from a local man with a bigger flock than mine. Looking forward to that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Post

I've reached a certain point with the wool craft - a collection of bright colored knitted rugs made with last years tentative shearing, spun into thick irregular yarn lie about the place and several skeins of soft lofty white double ply are hanging up in the porch. 
There's been a lot of learning since I took the shears to the ewes last year - and between the roughly spun wool in the rugs and that soft yarn. I want to remind myself of the things I learned since summer 2007 - and the things I'm going to learn - so the posts will probably be backwards, catch-up posts for a while - mixed with progress - I hope.
Time to sleep now though .