The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


Leave a comment

Early stages of le Tour de Fleece 2019

We are off & spinning as they ride the Tour de France!

Jar with plying balls, basket with spinning fibre, cup with group of suspended spindles and Jenkins Turkish Delight for Tour de Fleece 2019 by irieknit

A practical Grand Depart

This starting picture has all the openings for a flexible 2019 Tour de Fleece with favorite containers.  It is very sensible; let me count the ways.  On any given stage we could:

  • Ply from the outer-pull balls in my WIP jar or the long-standing cotton on my Andean low whorl (back, Jennie the Potter mug);
  • Leave the house with either the Zwartables wool for the Jenkins Delight or mohair for the captive ring Andean spindle;
  • Love on some luxury with Muga silk for the Pau Amarillo Hounddesign or merino/alpaca/camel/silk for the holly Tabachek top-whorl; and/ or
  • Be good and finish the Targhee spinning already on my Blue Mahoe Bosworth.

So naturally, I immediately changed a section of this most sensible plan… as in on the morning of Stage 1 immediately.

Preparing Targhee wool top on Pat Greene carder blender by irieknit

Impulsive aren’t I?

Rather than continuing to spin the Targhee wool from Sheepy Time Knits as last discrete sets of 3-ply, I took the 23 g of ‘The Water’ and am blending it with the 31 g of grey from ‘Carol Danvers’.

Spinning handcarded Targhee wool on Malcolm Fielding silky oak pocket Dervish Tibetan style spindle and support bowl

New look for the Malcolm Fielding pocket Dervish

This is my end of Stage 1 picture.  Not shown is the Jenkins Delight that came with us to the movies that afternoon.

The supported spindle is a Malcolm Fielding ‘Dervish’ Tibetan-style in Silky Oak with a Dymondwood shaft, 0.9 oz.  It was in out-takes of blog posts but also mostly unused since I bought it new in 2014.

Tabachek holly spindle with handdyed merino/alpaca/camel/silk combed top and handcarded Targhee wool with Malcolm Fielding Dervish spindle and bowl on handwoven towel by irieknit

Stage 2, slightly expanding the spins

Yesterday we received word that a dear family friend who had a long illness passed away.  She had been in hospice care, and went peacefully without pain.  I am grieving her loss, and sad to be away from family and friends.

It is good to be spinning with Team Spindlers, and also to pause & write here while Ty is at his day camp.  Maybe I will card some more of the two Targhee tops before an appointment this afternoon.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Scissors meet handspun – a twill scarf

The year is unfolding in tough & unexpected ways.  As we work hard to adjust, meet these challenges, I have been pressed out of regular posting as just one result.  By Eastertime, I wanted to pivot and weave something beautiful.

Out came Sarah Jordan’s stunning handspun merino/tencel that I won from her summer 2015 Shawl for All knit-along.

Handspun skein of merino/tencel yarn made by Sarah Jordan Fluvial Fibers pic taken by irieknit

Prized! Handspun yarn by Sarah Jordan, PAKnitWit

Four years ago!  The KAL was hosted in Sarah’s Ravelry group, Knit/Wit Designs Fans and this was not just a happy prize but a real honour to have Sarah’s yarn.

Plastic knitting ball winder with handspun merino/tencel yarn spun by Sarah Jordan and pic by irieknit

Sarah’s yarn on its way to the loom

Close examining with a yarn wrap & Ashenhurst calculation led me to a sett of 16 ends per inch.  Sarah’s yarn is 3,154 yards per pound.  The plan was simple – to warp along plain weave lines for a finer (4,480 YPP) wool weft and weave a 3-shaft point twill structure.

Threading handspun merino/tencel warp on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

An Easter improvement plan – threading Sarah’s yarn

There was enough to wind a 3-yard long warp, go 14.5″ wide in the reed, and proceed to sample wefts but carefully!

Weaving 3-shaft point twill on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom with handspun merino/tencel warp using Bluster Bay end feed shuttle by irieknit

Can you see me smiling – scarf start!

The weft experiments in the header led me to the 2/16 light grey lambswool from WEBS.  The draft itself is from “Linen Heirlooms” by Constance Gallagher, p. 54 taken from a 19th century linen cloth.

Erica de Ruiter’s voice is what carried me through to using this draft, however:

Three-shaft twills have a better drape than plain weave but their structure is slightly tighter, and they have less take-up than four-shaft twills, thus producing a lighter weight fabric (see “Weaving on 3 Shafts“, page 5).

That was convincing enough for napkins let alone this handspun project, and I was well & sold on the idea.

Finished handspun handwoven 3-shaft point twill Lucea scarf by irieknit

Sheen, drape, pattern YES!

This below is the face of the cloth as I wove it.  After wet finishing the wool weft has receded to the reverse leaving the beautiful warp colourway dominant on one side.

Detail of right side wool/tencel handspun handwoven scarf by irieknit

Pattern shows as texture on right side with warp stripes

The fringe buckled when I finished the scarf before twisting.  Ty strongly suggested that I should not trim the ends.  They are scraggly but soft!

Irieknit wearing new handspun handwoven 3-shaft point twill by Lake Ontario

Weaving selfie smile

One small detail is that I threaded the full 12-end repeats, and this gave double shaft 1 ends that I wove in the same way (tromp as writ).  It modifies the twill to a little basket, and that probably has helped the drape.  It gave the weaving a good rhythm for this small motif.

Cutting Sarah’s yarn was harder than cutting mine but I am glad that I braved the process!

Life goals

Inn on the Twenty, Jordan, Ontario

Weekend before last, N & Ty took me to visit the Fibre Garden in Jordan, Ontario.  After lunch at the local cafe, I fell in love with the Inn on the Twenty’s window boxes.

Spinning is getting a lot of love right now – the tv-room is crowded with my wheels & spindle projects are also moving forward.  The Falkland wool top that I got from the Fibre Garden is already improved with Logwood.  The kitchen is a crowded mess but purple!

Two dyed braids of Falkland wool top with Logwood by irieknit

Logwood dyed combed Falkland wool top

The darker purple fibre will hopefully play well with my recently (May 3rd) finished sequence of Blink from the 2019 Female Heroes Fiber Club + Paint It Black by Sheepy Time Knits.

3-ply handspun Falkland wool yarn dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

Blink met Paint It Black for a sweater spin (3-ply)

Mandie’s club continues to delight.  That I also got to cook-up Logwood dye liquor is a wonderful bonus!

Forsythia blooming in Ontario spring

Early spring Forsythia

Spinning, weaving, even prep work is happening thanks to walks that I have started to take after dropping Ty off at school.  There’s been fatigue, crowded thoughts, and the walks help a treat.

Hand prepared Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool rolags and 4-strand cable handspun by irieknit

Four-strand cable creation with Babydoll Southdown wool

Should my mojo for sharing ‘impossible yarn’ production that takes place around here, I would like to explain about this ongoing 4-strand cable idea from the Olde English Babydoll Southdown fleece.

For now we have these rolags that were a delight to spin against prevailing ideas that I hear being (wrongly, strongly & ever so cutely) offered to new spinners as our placeholder.

 


Leave a comment

Change is good, and then we craft

Guests have been hosted, and summer is finally well under way.  The time crunch was hellish but we were able to tackle all the tasks.  This gathering was all in T’s honour.  Two years in having this outpouring was simply wonderful.

Summer flowering planted by irieknit

Blooming in time for you, dear readers (not the guests as intended!).

As it happened, I also lucked into a birthday with favorite people all either in our space or about to arrive for the weekend.

It was as small as we needed it to be but included T’s teachers for the main (religious) event.  The integration of these threads was so tremendous for him.  We missed his grandfather on N’s side very keenly.  I also could not help but miss those who started the journey with us but are fallen away.

On the Olde English Babydoll Southdown fleece

Very recently, in the past week or so, I have started to prepare some of Olivia’s 2015 fleece from Laurie’s Little Lambs farm.  The link is to my post with the fleece pictures, background.

Preparing Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool on handcards by irieknit

Handcarding Babydoll Southdown locks

Making floor-space for guests meant moving wheels, which in turn meant that I very much missed spinning on those wheels.  This is my 2nd project started after our folks left.

Back in 2015, I had a very good plan to use the Meck paddle combs for the longer locks in this fleece.  Three years later here’s the hitch in that very good plan in 1 hyphenated word: set-up.  The kitchen table used to be such a good place for pointy steel wool combs!

Here we are.  Schacht cotton cards, the Louet flicker brush, an old bed sheet & mornings before the house wakes up are glorious.

Spinning handcarded rolags by irieknit on Antique Canadian saxony flax wheel

Pretty sweet tool for the job – antique (presumed Canadian) flax wheel

These rolags are a joy to spin fine.  There is something amazing about the twist meeting the spiral character of this wool’s crimp.  Plus, when spun clockwise this antique wheel has a very smooth draw-in/motion.

The surprise – for me at least – is how the strong colour-banded locks have lost that definition in blending.  I noticed this morning that it starts when I flick the blocky staples before loading on the still card.  Darker fibres are stretching out into what looked like strong white upper bands (butt-end) as soon as I flick.

Waste and handcarded rolags from preparing Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool by irieknit

Sneaky VM, waste, and primo rolags from Babydoll Southdown locks

All reports of Southdown locks holding an insane amount of VM are true.  I am currently trying to get over just how much VM lies within.

The clear container holds the waste as I sort for the cards & flick locks.  Out of the picture are short-but-useful locks.  It’s slow but very enjoyable carding work.

Handknitting wool yarns in Byneedleandthread bag for child size sweater

A sweater for young T

This “Little Pixels Pullover” is now close to the hem, and is a stranded design.  Another pullover that T was looking forward to had fit issues, and is going to a school friend’s little brother.

Since my thrilling April “Talland Tee” knit, kiddo was feeling a bit left out of the knits.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM dyed yarn in Talland Tee tunic by irieknit

Much needed knitting bliss – a handspun, dyed, Talland Tee

It’s not an indoorsy summer (or life, really)

As we got along with making summer plans later than is comfortable, I was looking for a spindle-type computing solution.  Spindle-type in that it can leave the relatively secluded desktop, and still be a working tool.

Spinning dyed Masham wool on Jenkins Lark spindle by irieknit and library book

Jenkins Lark spindle at the library this week (Sheepytime Knits Masham wool fibre)

We know, I still don’t have much in the way of coffeeshop (or business) time – not if I also want to keep crafting.  The 2 hours while T did a library program this week was such a rare type of quiet daytime moment.  Still, there are days when I could do some more keyboarding if it would be both with us + not hurting my wrists.

Local trail with Queen Anne's Lace by irieknit

Queen Anne’s Lace on a walk this week

Enjoying more full days together is splendid thing.  The compare & contrast with 2017 this time really shows how splendid when I find the quiet moments to reflect.

This post, written after T’s bedtime, is new.  The file transfer, software install work is still not complete but I like my new keyboard.  We hope it will pan out as more frequent TKK shares; perhaps less Twitter ephemera.

Cat on Byneedleandthread frog design knitting bag in sunbeam by irieknit

Melly cat in healthier days

Our Mel is now a week into treatment for diabetes.  Many thanks to all those who have liked, and replied to my tweets as we were finding out what had him so ravenous & thirsty.  We have tests ahead, of course, but he is feeling better.

 


Leave a comment

Months of making… quietly

It is fabulous to sit down placing words in TKK’s editor this morning.  Over the long stretch we did live with those new challenges I mentioned (words “cancer patient & break-up”) but were knocked back by a sudden loss mid-November also in our immediate family.  That side had just buried another older family member the month before.

Kingston 8 sunset Jamaica

 

This is one of the new views we enjoyed from a balcony overlooking St. Andrew & Kingston but after the most difficult day.  The grief meshing with a long-delayed trip was tough, and we all have needed the comfort of time to reconcile these very different feelings.

North Coast shore, Jamaica

At the North Coast, briefly

One night on the North Coast was with rough seas.  The reason for leaving Kingston at this point was also a painful but necessary chore that was handled well in the end.

It absolutely did not help that N was sick or that almost everyone was overwhelmed.  In addition to explaining this TKK break the pictures are helping me to re-think my assumption that at least 1 image can go in on T’s big school project.  Pausing to reflect is a good thing in such a busy week.

Handspinning cotton on African bead whorl support spindle by irieknit

African bead whorl spindle in the island

The clay bead whorl spindle from West Africa came with me in the carry-on bag.  Cotton is basically what I love to spin in Jamaica but this combination was the best plan yet.  As of today, I have a 12 g plying ball from this project + a fairly full new cop.  The dish stayed behind but is by a Jamaican artist, and was surprisingly awesome as a support bowl.  I have asked for one!

When I started learning to spin cotton, I had no clue that it is SO very good for the exhausting, emotional seasons of life.  That should be said loudly enough for those of us in the back to catch-on.  It’s SO GOOD, everyone.

Looking forward

Irieknit's Kissing Cousins handknit socks in Tiberius yarn by Turtlepurl

Irieknit pulls her socks up

We have now finalised the formal family steps, thrown our first birthday party (T is 6! It went well!), and are planning a new event with family visiting us for June aka the best month.

Of course, the grief is still with us but its edge has lifted a little.  The prognosis for our cancer patient is thankfully encouraging.  The other difficulty of the break-up is still unfolding but as well as can be expected.  I am making my way through the to-do list logically, and that’s also a good thing.

Weaving with irieknit handspun Gulf Coast Native wool yarn on Louet Erica table loom

New year; new small loom!

This January brought the wonderful gift of a new Erica table loom kit from Louet NA.  Shafts 3 & 4 are on order.  The threads for this plain weave are handspun Gulf Coast Native dyed in the wool by Sheepspot.  The combing portion appeared on TKK here and gave a lovely 164 yards of 3-ply.  The warp is 9″ wide in the reed, 2.5 yards long.

Let’s skip my back beam mistake because it worked out, and Warped Weavers’ members were ready with good explanations for me.  The weft was the carded waste (yes, I have a Pat Green blender/carder!) spun on spindles for the Tour de Fleece last July.

Carded wool/silk blend handspinning on top whorl Tabachek in Holly and Wildcraft bracken spindles by irieknit

Tabachek Holly, and Wildcraft spindles in July 2017

The combed waste is blended with white Polwarth X Port locks & Tussah Silk for 151 yards of 2-ply.  It was a great whimsical spin, and I wanted them both together in a project.

Weaving with T on the Erica was the most special part of the weekend project.  This was in January, and tiring but totally joyous.

The Devil has been in the last steps for projects, weaving & otherwise.  This cloth & 2 scarves that I wove a week ago on the Mighty Wolf are in queue for pressing.  I wet-finished all 3, and have other projects working on.

Some WIPs finish quickly, especially the utility knits like mittens, spinning.  The pulling-up of new socks is to tighten that drift, and to write more often.

Handspinning Romeldale/CVM wool by irieknit on a Wee Peggy spinning wheel

Night is the spinning time – Romeldale/CVM from Spirit Trail Fiber Works

Shorter bursts are an option I don’t quite stick… This was after all going to be a short post & look at the time!  We have renewed TKK’s no-ads purchase, and I am considering the angles.

It is true that the fibre work has trimmed itself down but the same categories are full of promise.  Dye gift from N & don’t forget the fleece to be cleaned!

Botanical Colors natural dye kits for home dyeing

Right up there with washing my October fleece!

The larger projects are still WIPs and not sleeping even though I fell behind on sharing as a log of that work.

For today we have a post, and the socks on my feet/in the post are the Kissing Cousins pattern by one of my favourite designers, Sarah Jordan.  They are ingeniously conjoined!


3 Comments

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!


3 Comments

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?

 

 


7 Comments

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.