The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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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.

 


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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.