The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Carrying forward – the new Knit Knack year

This past month has been a very good one for my fibre work, seeing N recover from his lingering shingles pain, and the winter of fewer weather alerts.

Stranded two-colour knitted gloves for adult man by irieknit

Little Lithuania gloves for N

The gloves came off the needles shortly after my last TKK post.  They are for N but also were a great reminder that I miss the knits that teach me new skills.

Stranded two-colour knitted gloves for a man by irieknit

Long floats behind the pattern

In “Lithuanian Knitting:  continuing traditions” the authors cite this motif as being common in Lithuania’s western coastal area, Mazoji Lietuva.  As recently as last fall, I had finished a pair of fingerless mitts designed by Donna Druchunas, and so had a grasp of how fingers are placed.  I will share that project & its matching hat soon.

A technical note is to say that I knit these with one yarn in each hand.  The light “cold pressed” CC yarn was held to the left of the dark “prato” MC yarn.  What dominates more to my eye in this pattern is the light value.  The contrast & proportion of light value is what I think makes that pattern yarn dominate over the darker background yarn here.

It is as though the light pattern leaps forward in the hand.  From what I know of colour theory this main hand pattern is a high-major key.  The dark is dominated by the high-value.  This was N’s colour choice, and he loves the gloves.

A traditional pairing is natural or white on a dark background for this motif (p. 165).  Some were 11 stitch floats all across the round.  One round is all light value.  For any floating over 5 stitches, I caught them together.  That extra manipulation was fiddly & slowed me down a ton.

What I am late to finding but would like to share is this guest post by Donna Druchunas on Deb Robson’s blog.  In the post, Donna mentions the traditional crossed knit stitches.  The twisting seems like a good help not just for warmth but also for shielding float colours.  I will try that when knitting other patterns from the book.

For this year

In making the resolution to keep going in the direction of my crafts – spinning, knitting, weaving – I have looked carefully at how to improve the balance.  Selecting what to share & when has proved more of a challenge as content gets ahead of posts.

Hand preparing dyed Gulf Coast Native wool looks on Russian paddle combs by irieknit

New year; new paths

The locks are 105 g of Gulf Coast Native wool hand-dyed by Sheepspot.  These are Meck Russian paddle combs, and were from a birthday present – thank you, N’s Mum.  They hold a lot, and are the in-between wool combs that I had long hoped to find.

Mini-skeins of handspun Gulf Coast Native wool yarn carded and combed samples by irieknit

Sampling like a boss!

The 1st mini-skein is from the Meck combs (winner!).  Same locks but the more muted skein is spun from drum-carded rolag batts.  This is thanks to another awesome new tool that I’ll be learning my way around, a Pat Green blender/carder.

This sampling run was a job for my Watson Martha wheel in the same afternoon last Friday.

Basket with Sheepspot hand-dyed locks and sample handspun skeins by irieknit

Nice, right?!

 

New tools & materials are part of the mix this year.  Even more importantly, I am solving the puzzle of how I can work more evenly; share more fully for TKK this year.

It’s happened because I decided to use a desk planner to you know, plan.  Even simple daily entries since January 4th have given me a handle on how I work.  There’s more spinning than anything & I can both weave & keep other projects going.

One big take-away – I knit too much for others now.  It used to be my thing.

Spinning hemp top on Tom Forrester supported spindle cow bone whorl

Hemp top last touched in December 2015

The hemp top spinning on this Tom Forrester supported spindle is an example.  It was last spun around December 26, 2015.  Here’s why my Planner shows:

Spinning Egyptian cotton on coin takhli spindle by irieknit

January’s joy of Egyptian cotton

This (to me) immensely full coin takhli was – as my new friend the desk planner says – wound-off on January 30th.  That is 25 g of fine cotton spun in 6 months.  Let’s see if I improve in the next few months.  I like & am resolved to spin more cotton.

As I try to rein in how thinly the work/life gets spread this year, I will be remembering our Jamaican proverb.  Old-time people seh:

One, one coco full basket

Keep gathering your ground provisions because that’s your way to a full basket.  In other words – don’t expect to achieve success overnight.

Melvin cat on bed of logwood-dyed Border Leicester locks by irieknit

Before he was rousted, Melvin

Let’s not scare the nice kitty but we are also seriously thinking about adopting a dog again.  Here’s to 2016!


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Season’s greetings!

Best wishes for a happy & safe season to all!

Our Peace and Quiet plans got thrown last Friday when N woke-up with a bad rash.  It’s shingles, and this quickly became a painful week for him.  The treatment is working but his skin continues to be very tender.

Christmas arrangement on handspun woven runner by irieknit

While making do without a tree for Christmas time, the new woven runner & a special delivery are both giving much needed cheer at our place.

A beautiful potted Poinsettia has also been doing a very good job in the living room.  We have traditional ham, etc. looking forward to as well.

Handspun woven Christmas overshot table runner by irieknit

Festive colour splash, thanks to handspun

The winding of my handspun for weft created a regular break for showing the yarn’s colour gradient.  The repeat is enough to bring the break together, and I love seeing the bands as I walk through the hall.

In planning, I allowed 15% extra Harrisville Shetland warp each for shrinkage and take-up after weaving.  This weaving of 55″ with 3″ hems on the ends has washed as a 46″ long runner for our vintage Singer sewing machine.  The width is 13″ (i.e. down 2″ from the reed width after washing).

When not posing for pictures, the table sees good use holding keys, spare change & so much paper.

Reverse woven fabric overshot handspun table runner by irieknit

Reverse – festive bubbles!

The fulling process did wonders for the reverse of the fabric as well.  I love the handspun pops.  The plain weave hems are hand-sewn with some of my late Grandmother’s thread.

The hems’ weft is also handspun that I dyed this spring – the rejected ‘soft’ sand weft in my Colour of Water guild show scarves.  It is 50% silk/25% buffalo/ 25% white cashmere from Sericin Silkworks.  With under 200 yards, I am having fun with it.

Knitting stranded gloves Little Lithuania by irieknit in fingering weight wool

Little Lithuania gloves

Knitting for the sick one is going to be today’s big task.  The incredibly mild weather – hello, 16°C in our town on Christmas Eve – takes some of the pressure off but I would like to finish 3 fingers, and 2 thumbs.

detail of knitting in progress for stranded gloves Little Lithuania by irieknit

Stranded, and his choice of pattern

The design is Little Lithuania, and N chose the Rhichard Devrieze fingering weight yarns in Prato & Cold Pressed.  I have added rounds to the top of the pattern’s chart to get the length it calls for.

Needing to size for N, and correcting an unforced knitting error in the second glove (thumb placement matters!) have made this a race to the deadline but that’s okay.  It is not like he is headed outside or like outside is very cold.

Wishing joy, and kindness

Please be kind to yourself, and to others.  This season can be so full of expectations, loss, strife.  Via Irwin Elman on Twitter, If the holidays are hard for you, doing these 4 things really could help.

Whatever your observance or none, wishing you joy!


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Weaving with the Navarro Gomez sisters, and beyond

The ROM’s first exhibition celebrating its Mexican collection is open through May 2016: ¡Viva Mexico! Clothing & Culture.  The exhibition includes around 150 pieces spanning 300 years.  This May the Museum hosted master backstrap weavers, Crispina &  Margarita Navarro Gómez as a complement to the exhibit.

ROM Artist-in-residence Margarita Navarro Gomez demonstrating backstrap weaving with irieknit

Weaving with Margarita Navarro Gomez at her demonstration backstrap loom

I visited on May 19th, and was able to meet the artists-in-residence as they demonstrated outside of the gallery.

Curator, Chloë Sayer, spoke with me & also helped with translation since I do not speak Spanish.  With her help, I asked the sisters questions about their work, and home in Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca state.  I learned that the sisters do not typically spin but use mill-spun threads, and are of the Zapotec culture.  It was also fun for my part to show a little spinning of East Friesian wool roving on my vintage Andean low-whorl spindle.

Luckily, it was still quiet when I got back after lunch with N.  A very nice docent was helpful for other visitors, and Margarita helped me into weaving on the demonstration loom.  The machete was so smooth, and effective with its handle but I kept wanting to use it blade-down (wrong way!).  Margarita also helped me get used to the loom’s rigid heddle, and then also wove a flower motif with me strapped-in.

Irieknit and backstrap weavers Crispina and Margarita Navarro Gomez

Crispina had just finished weaving her band with fine threads.  As soon as she threw the last pick, she set about braiding the first ends.  It was a truly beautiful band, and she just continued straight into the next step while Margarita worked with me.

Mexican serape classic-period Saltillo style ROM exhibition

Man’s serape, mid-19th century Saltillo-style

There are so many beautiful backstrap-woven pieces on display, and many are natural dyed as well.

Eagle motif handspun cotton huipil Mazatec culture

Mazatec culture handspun cotton huipil

The main design motif of this huipil (1875 – 1899) is embroidered on the tabby & gauze handspun cotton fabric.  The exhibit says this strong eagle resting on nopal (Opuntia cacti) motif represents the founding of Aztec culture in post-revolution Mexico.

Mexican handwoven silk warp ikat rebozo

Silk warp ikat rebozo (shawl), Mexico

The exhibit is in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume on level 4 of the new wing.  I’d love to go for another visit, and gain more understanding.

Viva Mexico Royal Ontario Museum exhibition backstrap woven belts

Backstrap woven belts, Mexico

A few more pictures are up in my Flickr album, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in Mexico’s material culture, and innovative textile production, generally.

Mexican embroidered silk cotton rebozo 18th century Royal Ontario Museum exhibit

Embroidered rebozo (shawl) with 6-point fringe, 1775 – 1800

At last, the loom was warped

Sometimes the best obligations are those we set for ourselves.  The ice-breaker into weaving again was a table runner for our front hall.

Blue Faced Leicester wool handspun yarn by irieknit

BFL loom fodder from dyed top

This was approximately 502 yards (1,004 yards per pound) of BFL from top that Waterloo Wools dyed as ‘Holly and Ivy’.  It was a quick spin in mid-September on the antique Nova Scotia McDonald wheel, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Weaving wool overshot table runner with handspun pattern weft on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

Elizabeth-Jane’s design; my handspun yarn

The warp & tabby weft are Harrisville’s #9 evergreen in Shetland.  It is 1,800 yards per pound, and I used a 15 epi sett estimating for plain weave.  The pattern is in Marguerite Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book,” p. 120 I.  We had a flip-through, and when N strongly preferred this Elizabeth-Jane’s design, I got to figure things out.

Finished handwoven wool table runner by irieknit in overshot design

Washed! Circles on the flip-side

You’ll have to take my word for it due to poor lighting at the moment – the hemmed, and pressed runner is now rocking our hall’s vintage Singer sewing machine.  Holiday cheer is unlocked!

It was 15″ in the reed, and with my wet finishing is fulled to 13″ width and 46″ length.  The hem’s weft was a flourish of handspun that was already on a bobbin.

Cones of wool weaving yarn

Future weavy plans

These cones of mill-end yarn arrived, yesterday.  With lots of holiday & new baby knitting ahead, I also get to look forward to keeping my Mighty Wolf open for business!

 


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Tension magic – antique flax wheel restored

On what was a pretty ugh day, the restored flyer for my antique flax wheel arrived in the mail.  It’s been cheerful around here ever since!

Antique flax Canadian saxony spinning wheel

All in one piece!

Regular readers & Twitter followers may remember this wheel as coming home by accident from the Ramer spinning wheel collection.  Not all of my wheels have names but hers is Linley.

Spinning Tussah silk laceweight yarn on antique flax saxony spinning wheel

The flax wheel’s a keeper – tussah silk and a sea urchin for scale

Along with other repairs, Alvin Ramer re-built her flyer.  It has the wide arms that I love for wet spinning flax, and he also made 3 new oak bobbins.

The issue was inside the antique whorl, and it completely lost all traction after I had a blast spinning 618 yards of 2-ply yarn from silk caps.  It was too loose for a teflon tape fix, and I needed professional help.  Non-spinners, this is code for I got lots of twist but the wheel could not wind the yarn onto the bobbin.

Tension is the magic that allows your wheel to fully function.  And it is probably the single most important thing you can learn about your wheel.

Bette Hochberg, Handspinner’s Handbook, p. 17

Reed Needles, Wheelwright in St. Mary’s Ontario gave me an on-the-show-grounds consultation at Woodstock this October, and now we are back to working order.  If you haven’t met Reed, the CreativFestival blog has that nice feature post about his work & with tips on restoration issues.

Front maiden view of antique flax saxony spinning wheel

A very flax orifice – it’s tiny and it’s round

The orifice hook that you see in the 1st image is also Reed’s work.  It is custom to fit the wheel’s 7 mm diameter opening.  This is slightly larger than 4 mm diameter of the William McDonald Nova Scotia flax wheel fluted orifice for example but is way too small for Reed’s standard hooks.  He has my thanks for such a great touch.  The bent paper clip is gone, Reed.  It is really gone!

 The good news!

In looking over the wheel, Reed had observed that the maker used cedar for her treadle.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel treadle

The treadle is as comfortable as it is pretty

This is a strong indicator for a Canadian origin. I am going to edit my earlier posts to add a note rebutting the Irish presumption!  Those posts still get views through search engine traffic.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel carved tension screw

Heart of the matter, the tension screw

Reed also shares my love for Canadian flax wheels.  It was wonderful to hear his positive evaluation, and interest in my find!  The main wood is quarter-sawn oak, and Reed also liked what first drew me in as well, the craftsmanship in her details.  The tension screw matches the maidens’ design beautifully for example.

There is some not so good news too

Decisions are still pending, and I am treating the wheel gently.  Now that the flyer is stable, I am sure of a current alignment issue with the drive wheel.

Antique saxony flax drive wheel axle

The rear axle is showing wear

The spinner’s side axle shows no wear but you can see how worn down the metal is on both contact areas of the rear axle.  What I can hear & feel while spinning is movement like a swash.  Crossed-off the trouble-makers’ list are:

  • The spinner’s side axle – snug in the bearing & well pinned;
  • The wheel hub – stable with no movement;
  • Uprights – they are level with shims under the table, and the rear axle has a bearing added; and
  • Generally solid as a rock.

A temporary fix has been to add smooth leather in the wall of the rear bearing.  Following advice shared in the Antique Spinning Wheels forum on Ravelry, I will also try to improve the situation with copper.  My other idea was to tape the axle wear points as a way to watch for more wear.

Ultimately, I may need to consider a replacement for the axle.  That’s a big repair.  I have also explored brazing a little but am concerned about possible weakening of the metal in the process.  If anyone has thoughts or insights, I would love to hear from you.  This is a new issue for me to learn about!

Handspun Polwarth wool on antique click reel

Polwarth wool

It’s been good spinning of late, and I wish the same for you!  This Polwarth project is up to 910 yards and counting on the Spinolution Mach 2 from a pound of undyed top.


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Wensleydale Wednesday, and TKK featured for spinners

While in progress this Wensleydale commercial top has been very mobile.  The ‘Hello Sunshine’ colourway by Spunky Eclectic blurring on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle got many conversations going as it went from near to as far as New York city this summer.

Spinning Wensleydale top on Jenkins Turkish Delight in carob wood

at Stage 19, 2015 Spindlers Tour de Fleece

The singles were all drafted from the fold of the long Wensleydale wool staple.  This breed has locks that are as long as 7 – 12″, and I wanted the loft from folding as well as some texture.

Wensleydale wool handspun singles cop on Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle Tour de Fleece 2015

Full – at stage 20, Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

The carob wood of the 28g Turkish Delight spindle brought out the fibre’s luster so well!

Looks aside, this became a slow spin over 2 years of 4 ounces of Wensleydale wool top.  There was no rush but 3 factors combined to slow it down somewhat.

  1. Minor but there was kemp in the top.  It was like an itch to remove every last stray opaque fibre.
  2. Over time the braid started to full (like matting; a step before felt) together.  This meant lots of tugging before the kemp hunt.
  3. Spinning from the fold took getting used to, and this is a slower spindle that also has an upper knob to navigate around.

In short, I had to be in the mood.  First singles were wound-off on December 23, 2013, and last were spun on August 3, 2015.

Handspun Wensleydale singles sample by irieknit

Ruling a spinning thought out

The upside of extended spin time is that you have a chance to consider your options.  In this new world of me actually sampling, I decided that it had more twist than I would like as a finished singles yarn.

It also became a teaching material for my Learn to Spin on a Drop Spindle students this fall at the Art Gallery of Burlington.

Handspun Wensleydale yarn by irieknit

Wensleydale Wednesday!

Now that my class is completed we have approximately 450 yards of 2-ply Wensleydale handspun in my stash.  The operating presumption is that I will weave something small with this yarn.

Ball of Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair boucle yarn

Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair yarn

If possible, I would love to use it together with this 200 yards of Cushendale bouclé yarn.  Such a delightful gift from my cousin – she visited the mill in Ireland, and thought of me!  Other projects are ahead in the loom’s queue but this is the start of a plan.

Signal boost!

It has been wonderful to see some of my blog posts included over successive editions of Hand Spinning News.  The story of E’s project using Babydoll Southdown wool is featured in the News & Events section of the latest November 2015 edition of Hand Spinning News.

Welcome to new visitors, and as always thank you to Shiela Dixon for your recognition.  I hope that you continue to enjoy the blog!

A small note 

In writing about E’s work in a fully public TKK post, I struggled with a balance for sharing & her privacy.  E did all of this in Grade 8 at age 14, and within a small local school.  As far as I know there was no outside publicity.  In taking, and later working with the images, I wanted to be careful not to identify E, the school or the other kids in her grade.   It is after all, a small world.

The privacy tangle, being a guest of her proud family, and my own joy at seeing her hard work positively shine all resulted in the single long shot for the post.

On the back-end, I happily do have a new light camera model as of last weekend.  It will make my editing life easier for events like this with 14.2 more megapixels than the older mode.

November oncidium orchid blooming in morning light

With thanks for everyone who gave feedback on E’s project & the great Babydoll Southdown wool adventure!

(edit for name spelling)


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Olivia’s Babydoll Southdown fleece, and her flock’s good news

Warm (i.e. wooly) congratulations to the flock that I wrote about in my last post!  Laurie’s Little Lambs farm won blue ribbons in 2 categories of the 2015 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair fleece wool competition.  Both are in the competition’s Down-type category (26-33 microns).  It was their first year exhibiting, and I am very happy they got such stellar results!

Partial as I am to coloured fleeces, I had a moment when Bob showed me Norris’ clip.  I’m so glad to see Norris’ name beside a first ranking in the Royal’s results list, and know how pleased Bob must be!  His entries are both sure to be in high demand at the fleece auction this Sunday, November 15, 2015.

Grazing olde-type Babydoll Southdown sheep Laurie's Little Lambs flock

Well-deserved recognition for these Babydoll Southdowns!

Bob & Laurie’s flock has around 50 sheep, and all are registered with the Olde English “Babydoll” Southdown Sheep Registry.

Southdown is the oldest of 6 true or core Down-type wools.  In “The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook” Deb Robson & Carol Ekarius note that Southdowns are in records dating back to the medieval period from the South Downs, England.  The area is along the English Channel in today’s Hampshire & Sussex counties.

The rare-breed status is ‘recovering’ by the Livestock Conservancy.  Rare Breeds Canada’s 2014 conservation list shows Southdown as ‘vulnerable’ (101 – 300).  Bob & Laurie do breed their registered Babydoll Southdown sheep for sales.  It would be great to see the breed’s status shift up to the next category in Canada, ‘at risk’.

Examining Olde English Babydoll Southdown raw wool from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Happily examining a Babydoll Southdown fleece

While Bob showed me some of this year’s beautiful clip, Laurie graciously gave N. a tour of the farm.  It was wonderful of them to have given us so much of their time, and in turn I showed Bob some of the tools that we use as spinners to prepare wool from scratch.

Babydoll Southdown flock Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario Canada

All pictures from this July’s visit to Bob & Laurie’s farm were taken by a very impressed N!

Laurie's Little Lambs bird house

Laurie’s passion is with her birds

Olivia’s 2015 fleece

The lock strength, crimp, and colours in this fleece from Bob’s ewe Olivia were just so appealing to me.  Olivia’s fleece was carefully rolled, and it was easy for me to see which end was up as it were!

Olde English Babydoll Southdown coloured ewe fleece from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Olivia, Babydoll Southdown 2015 raw wool

All colours are acceptable within the olde-type Babydoll Southdown’s breed standard.  This is an advantage since as Deb Robson tells us in her Winter 2015 article in Spin-Off Magazine, “The Down Wools:  quiet and unsung heroes of the fiber world,” the Down wools are mostly white.  On page 71 she says,

The most reliable source of natural, non-white color within these breeds is the Southdown, of which there are at least three strains of varying sizes.  The smallest, the Babydoll Southdowns… [is] the group from which you’ll most likely find colored fleeces.

Cleaning Babydoll Southdown ewe fleece from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Cleaning my Babydoll Southdown wool

Using the Unicorn Power Scour for this fleece was a big improvement in terms of steps to lanolin cleaned locks.  We needed to repeat cleaning for E’s white ram fleece when we used original blue Dawn detergent last fall.

Cat with raw Babydoll Southdown wool fleece from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Melvin takes up his happy place

Try as I might there was no separating Melvin from Olivia’s wool as I worked on cleaning.  This was still the raw wool, and he does deign to move when told that it’s needed for washing.

Cleaned Babydoll Southdown wool locks

Locks from Olivia’s Babydoll Southdown fleece

The pigment shifts evenly across the fleece’s locks.  The butt end of the locks is consistently lighter with a darker tone above.  The locks are strong – it’s simply a colour shift with no break following the line.

A preliminary test with a new-to-me set of Meck paddle combs confirms my idea that the colour blends very nicely if I alternate the lock orientation when charging the combs.  One small 2-ply skein shows as a heathery blend of the colours that I love, and could possibly over-dye.

No matter what this will be an interesting fleece to process as a spinner!  My hunch is that the yarn could have a warm lilac undertone.  I can plan around any colour inconsistency, and am not even married to a single large project for this fleece.

Fall colour autumn flaming bush display

This fall’s colour

I never dreamed that agreeing to mentor E would help evolve my work in this way.  Now that we are in this eventful late fall, I am excited about working with an incredibly soft & unique wool.  That it’s also come from an award-winning year for Bob’s flock is just such an added reward.  Hopefully, I can show E how the multi-coloured fleece compares to hers soon!

Looking forward to being blown away by the fleece auction’s competition for the prize Babydoll Southdown wool!  Will you attend, local friends?

 

 


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Adventures with Babydoll Southdown wool in our fibreshed

Just a couple of days after my last blog post, I headed out to the Woodstock Fleece Festival.  It was a day of bustling spinners’ mayhem, and this post is brought to you by a happy co-incidence.

Antique flax saxony with flyer out for repair

We were bound to run into each other again at Wheelwright’s booth.  My reason:  an antique flyer in need of repair.  Hers:  wheels!

The spark for this adventure is a local credit to adolescents everywhere, E.  Her grade 8 school project led us to connect with shepherd Robert I’Anson & his wonderful pure-bred Olde English Babydoll Southdown flock.  Other handspinners have now found Bob’s fleeces thanks to E’s project.

We first met in September 2014 when E came to a guild meeting with her Mom.  She presented so impressively about her aims to prep, spin & dye local wool for her project with knits.  E was a novice spinner, and her enthusiasm was infectious.  I soon agreed to stand as mentor if they were comfortable to go ahead.  We did!

This experience was a real privilege, and ever since we met-up again at Wheelwright’s festival booth in October, I have wanted to really share it with you at long last.

Sourcing the Wool

With generous help from my friend, Sasha of Sheepspot, we quickly got in touch with Robert I’Anson who still had fleeces from his 2014 clip.

Since to quote Sasha the only thing that she loves more than wool is the ocean, I was certain that we were in good hands.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown ewes Louth Ontario Robert l'Anson

Bob’s Babydoll Southdown ewes, and Jacqueline the brown lamb

The ewes were in their front paddock.  We gushed at the cute.

Shepherd from Louth Ontario, Robert I'Anson and Belgian Shepherd Jack

Bob I’Anson and Jack

Bob not only welcomed our teaching visit to his farm in Louth, Ontario but also donated a ram’s white fleece for E’s project.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown skirted raw wool fleece Laurie's Little Lambs

Raw Babydoll Southdown ram’s fleece for E

We chose this fleece after looking at a few.  All were sound, and it was a fun decision.  We also got to learn more about the sheep, farm, and Bob’s approach to breeding.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep Louth Ontario Laurie's Little Lambs

Keeping their distance, adorably.

On that high note we turned to cleaning E’s wool

Guess who approved of our plan to clean the wool in his presence?

Melvin and drying Babydoll Southdown Ontario wool fleece

How to build a better pet crate: add wet wool roof

The scouring stage was intense on instruction as we worked on spinning through the soaking sessions.  It was a good, long day. E really picked-up on everything & then did her homework.

It was also my first high-lanolin fleece.  Even though the water ran clear after 2 baths with original Dawn detergent, the dry wool felt tacky.  That was solved by simply re-washing but I will now use power scour in the first place!

Cleaned bag of Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool

Have you any wool?

E continued to work on other fibres for her display, and then did an amazing job on fibre preparation & spinning of the Babydoll Southdown over her winter break.

Thanks also to Deb Robson who gave her quick permission to share her Fiber Exploration Record Card with E in the project. It sets out key characteristics, and after taking a breed study workshop with Deb 3 years ago, I use the card for my own learning/ fibre preparation.

Natural dyed Polwarth handspun wool with avocado by irieknit

Avocado dye experiment

As soon as E saw my 2012 avocado dye experiment on Polwarth she determined this was her favorite.  We worked from there, and she chose a water-only soak extraction method for her yarn.

Grade 8 presentation in Ontario on fleece preparation, spinning, dyeing and knitting

E’s spinning project display

There are no words.  I was just blown away by E’s display & presentation – she received full marks and deserved applause!

My personal favourite part was her answer to the FAQ an attendee had to ask.  In complete dignity & more tact than I will ever muster she asserted,

Well, I think that my spinning is a much better quality than what you can get at Walmart because they use factories, and I made mine by hand.

Babydoll Southdown lamb Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario farm

Webster, the youngest Babydoll Southdown lamb this year

The Babydoll Southdowns are still growing wool, and Bob’s flock is doing well.  I visited with N at the end of July, and have cleaned an ewe’s fleece.  It is astonishing, and you will hear about it!

Yes, I gained friendships beyond E’s school presentation this March, a new wool discovery, and confidence in teaching.  That’s all been fabulous but the best part is being there to see a young spinner’s imagination carry her into our local fibreshed, and onward.

edit to correct Webster’s name.

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