Spring spinning – Eli fleece

Eli after his recent shearing experience

After the shearing day on Saturday, I decided to wash the half fleece donated by Eli. I did the usual soap nut solution with hot water bath and spread the whole lot in the sun to dry for a day. The result was a snowy, white cloud of spinnable fleece.

The fleece in it’s soap nut bath, look at all that dirt.

I carded some up this morning and spun a few rolags, in the interests of experimentation. I am loving spinning this fleece, it is making me wish I had saved the whole fleece and that I had all day to spin.

Much cleaner
This wool spins up so smoothly
The eventual yarn will need to be washed again of course, but it is going to be a lovely, strong knitting yarn.

I will soon have a pile of skeins to dye and knit. I can’t wait!!!

New socks, here we come.

Winter spinning adventure – Day five

My daughter had to complete an assignment for university which involved a walk around a wetland. I drove her the required hour and a half to the assigned wetland and walked around with her to see what was there.

We found some overgrown walking tracks and plenty of interesting paperbark trees. There were also some choked up water ways. All in all we were a little disappointed with the wetland, but it is hard to maintain anything without funding.

When we got back to the car park we saw three roosters waiting for someone to feed them. Apparently this is the local place to dump unwanted chooks. We raced back into town and bought a fold up cage and some grain to try tempt them into a trap. All we caught were some magpies, who had to be chased out of the cage and convinced to stay in their wild state. We eventually had to leave without the roosters, hoping that the council worker we reported them to will have better luck catching them.

While I was waiting to spring the trap on the poor roosters, I did a little bit of spinning. The people in the mini train passing by seemed to get a kick out of it, so I waved to them in a friendly fashion. When I had spun for my half hour and tried to coax the roosters into the cage for a further half hour, we packed everything away and headed home in the afternoon chill.

I wonder why people dump animals, what thought process leads them to believe that it’s OK to just leave them to fend for themselves? Chooks that have been used to being looked after can’t just become ‘bushwise’, they fall prey to the many foxes, rats and cats (and feral/roaming pet dogs) about. Not to mention the native predators of the bush (pythons, possums, phascogales, quolls, eagles, hawks, owls, and many more). They rely on humans for food, they don’t automatically know how to find food for themselves, or water for that matter. They are not car savvy, they get run over. If you hatch chicks, you are responsible for the babies, one way or another. Rant over, it just makes me mad, animals shouldn’t have to suffer because humans are not as intelligent as they could be.

Weaving a tartan tea towel (sort of)

I have been interested in learning to weave tartan in a sporadic sort of way for a while now. I have friends with Scottish ancestry who I would like to make tartan for and the whole history of how tartan came to be is just really interesting. Tartans did not come from Scotland alone, they were a part of a lot of European cultures and came about as a way of using varied dye lots in a more or less deliberate looking pattern. That sort of reasoning is really what attracts me to tartans; a lot of my crafting is of the I-meant-to-do-that mistake variety and I love finding historical kindred spirits.

Natural dyes being what they are, even if you gather the dye material from the same place at the same time of year and use it in the exact same way on the exact same materials, you will probably end up with a different shade (if not colour) than you got last time. I can see why a weaving pattern that incorporates many different shades and colours in a harmonious way would be an asset to any weaver, and so the tartan was born. Then, in more modern times, we began to register and record our tartans and they became like identifying plumage to a bird. After they began to be associated with clans, they had to be made with a certain set of colours and in a specific pattern.

I found the Scottish Register of Tartans which I promptly joined, as I discovered that they will email you the weaving pattern for any tartan registered with them. The patterns are a bit hard to understand, but I got there in the end. They include the colours and shades, right down to approved dye lots for each tartan (it took ages to figure that bit out)

This is what they sent me whe I asked for the Munro tartan;

Threadcount:
G8AS8G8R64B4Y4R12B24R12Y4B4R12G64R12B4Y4R96

Pallet:
AS=CC4438ANC SCARLET;R=C80000RED;G=006818GREEN;Y=E8C000YELLOW;B=2C2C80BLUE;

Threadcount given over a half sett with full count at the pivots.

Suffice it to say that I read a lot about tartan weaving to be able to decipher that lot. The reference to ‘pivots’ gave me the most trouble. Eventually I found a reference to the fact that the ‘pivot’ is the point where the pattern starts to repeat itself in mirror image. If you don’t understand that, you are not alone, it took me ages, and I’m not sure I’ve got it right yet.

This was the warp I came up with. It turned out rather jewel like I think.

I decided to make some tea towels to give the pattern a go. Of course I didn’t have the right colours, but I wanted to make my mum some tea towels anyway, so I warped up the closest colours I had.

Warped up and ready to weave
And goes on and on and on

Until one day the end was reached

This is the Munro tartan from the Registry. I can see the pattern in the tea towels, The colours are wrong, but the thread count matches.
Then the fabric was overlocked
And washed

Hemming has always been a problem for me. I’m just a really messy hemmer. These hems are not too bad though.

It’s not a proper tartan of course; the weave is not twill (just plain weave) and the balance isn’t perfect (my squares are rectangles not … squares), but as a first try, I’m ridiculously proud of my tea towels and I think my mum will like them.

Visible mending – mending leggings

I am home, waiting for the results from a PCR test. So, to help the time pass, I’m mending some leggings my daughter put in the mending box a few weeks ago.

These old leggings are full of small holes that make them almost, but not quite, unwearable. I decided to go to YouTube for a tutorial. This clip showed me the technique I needed.

As it turns out, fixing holes in knit fabric is fairly easy. Just take tiny stitches on either side of the hole until the hole is miraculously mended. These leggings will last a while longer, and next time I will mend them with brighter thread so that they become a work of art.

This was the largest hole, near the waist band
At the beginning of the process
Half way there
All fixed
Another one of the many holes
And mended

I love making things last longer.

Winter spinning adventures – day four

Of the total 14 days of holidays, I managed to spin for four days. I guess it was a busy time.

This time I took my wheel on my travels and stopped to meet a friend at our local cafe. I love sitting in the afternoon sun and spinning in the garden I planted more than a decade ago.

I had a coffee and chatted to my friend and really enjoyed life for a few hours. Lovely.

This lumpy yarn is growing on me

I am still struggling with accepting the lumpiness of this yarn, but as I spun and chatted I found myself enjoying the process of spinning in public again. I could not disappear into silence as I usually do, so the enjoyment was different, but I found that there is a connection to others here that I value. Being able to keep my hands busy while I chat lets me really listen deeply to what the other person is saying, I seem to hear the words and intent on a much deeper level if my hands are busy. I don’t know why that is, but it is certainly so, I have noticed it in meetings and training before, even at social gatherings (that I try to avoid if at all possible). If my hands are busy knitting, kneading, digging, planting, carrying, or any other physical task, my mind is free to focus fully on what others are saying and doing. At the end of the coffee cup, I packed up my wheel and left nothing but a coffee ring on the table and nebs in the grass.

Duplicate stitch – I tried

The daughter of a friend recently had her first child, a daughter. So as I usually do, I cast on a baby jumper and knitted up a cute little four month size, red jumper. Then I decided to try my hand at duplicate stitch, which is kind of like embroidery for knitting.

The little red jumper

I traced out an apple onto the front of the little jumper and away I went on my new learning journey.

A beginning
Nearly there
Weaving in all the ends
A wash to set the wool

It’s a rather lumpy apple. Not perfect by any stretch, but neither am I. I hope my friend’s daughter will like it anyway. I think I need to practice this skill a lot more to be better at it.

Winter spinning adventures – Day three

Today’s spot by the river

I skipped a day, it rained so I stayed home and did boring housework type stuff. Today however, I went adventuring in the car again. I had things to do for family and friends in a not-so-nearby town so off I went to do some shopping and delivering of things. I met friends for coffee and took my knitting of course, then I found a lovely place by the river to stop and spin on the way home.

My current knitting, a baby jumper for a friend’s daughter

I do love this new habit. The silence in my mind once the wheel starts to turn is so soothing. The calm of Nature, just doing Her thing all around me is so balancing after a day full of rushing around and trying to get things done. I wonder if I can find a way to keep it once I am back at work?

Once again, leaving nothing but a little pile of neps in the grass.

Neps in the grass

Winter spinning adventures – day two

Today was a day full of running around and doing things for others. I took some RAT tests to a friend (dropped in her mail box) on my way to post letters for our local Co Op (which is ,sadly, closing), then delivered some roosters (dropped off at our place by one friend) to my good friend and stopped for a coffee there. After all that, I had to go pick up my partner from work as his car is out of action due to the rough roads at the moment. So I took the opportunity to leave him there for half an hour and visit one of my favourite trees.

This tree is a European oak, planted well before I was born. It has stood beside the road and seen us progress from carts and bullock drays to cars and will hopefully see us move to electric cars (or maybe back to carts). I stopped the car, set up my wheel and with a box to sit on, spun for a tranquil half hour beside the road.

I am amazed that there are still leaves on the tree, it is after Solstice and the coldest part of Winter is on us. It was a grey, chilly day today, with a sneaky breeze to steal the loose leaves from the branches, but when I went to look I saw there are new leaf buds waiting.

The spinning is coming along. My attempt to ’embrace the nebs’ is in the early stages though. I like my yarn to be smooth and even, this yarn is not. I am trying to spin it with an acceptance of what the fleece has to offer and hope that I will love the resulting yarn. I guess there is a lesson in life in this for me (isn’t there always) I need to stop striving for perfection in everything and sometimes be content with what comes. I do know that my hands are finding the rhythm of this fleece now and I will begin to spin faster from now on.

After my half hour of spinning, I packed up my wheel, thanked the tree for her company, and went to pick up my poor, abandoned partner. Leaving nothing but some nebs on the ground to mark my passing.

Washing an entire fleece (in urine)

All right, this is a really yucky post. I have heard and read about how traditional spinners used to wash fleeces in urine to get them really clean. The theory (or maybe science) behind it is that the alkalinity of the ammonia in the urine reacts with the lanolin in the wool to make a very basic kind of soap. This soapy mess then cleans the wool.

Wool scoured in this way is then rinsed (multiple times, I imagine) to get rid of the smell. The resulting wool is soft and unfelted apparently. It also removes a lot more vegetable matter than other kinds of washing (according to the hype). I want to give this method a try, but not anywhere near the house.

This experiment needs;

A big tub with a lid: Thanks to a quick thinking husband, I found one of our fire safety bins (not so useful in the rain) and gave it a good scrub.

It does seem strange to be cleaning a bin that will hold urine.

A raw fleece: One of the partial fleeces I have in my stash should be small enough to fit in the container.

This one is a Merino cross fleece with a lot of dirt and lanolin in it.

A water source for rinsing: The garden hose has a 30 metre stretch and gives nice hot water on a warm day.

A place away from the house to minimise the awful smell it will no doubt produce: The far end of the yard, behind the garden bed will have to be far enough.

A whole lot of pee: It is just as well the urine should be aged for this, as there is no way our family can produce enough to fill this tub in a day or so. We use a bucket for night time pee trips (so we don’t have to go outside and wake the dogs and sheep up), so I just began to collect that pee in my handy bin instead of tipping it out way up the paddock.

Collection started.

The fleece is soaked in the urine for about a day (two if it’s really dirty), then the whole lot is tipped out and the fleece rinsed multiple times to take out any remaining smell.

The fleece in the urine, before it sunk to the bottom. This fleece is larger than I thought.
After the fleece soaked into the liquid, I did have to add some more water to make sure there was enough liquid to wash the whole lot.
The first rinse has washed out a lot of dirt and lanolin, but the smell is still there.
I filled the bin up with clean water and some home made soap and set the fleece to soak overnight. One more clean rinse after this should make the fleece clean and get rid of the smell.
It took quite a few rinses to get the water to stay clean (ish). I just kept refilling the containers and transferring the wool between them.
Finally, after four rinses, the wool is not giving off too much dirt.

The fleece is spun out in the washing machine and spread out to dry on a sheet in the sun.

I squeezed out as much water as possible and took the whole lot in to spin in the washing machine.
I lined the spinner with a clean piece of cloth and wrapped the fleece up in it to avoid small pieces of wool clogging up my machine. There was still a fair amount of dirt in the fleece as you can see by the residue it left in the spinner (it needed a good clean afterwards).
I spread everything out on a clean (but old) sheet in the sun. It will take all day to dry I think, even in 36 C heat.
The wool in certainly clean and hasn’t felted at all. It does still smell a little, but the sun will bake that off.

The result?

After carding,I have a usable fleece to spin.

My final immpression is that this is an effective way to clean a fleece if you have no soap. It does seem to stop the fleece felting and the wool is cardable and as soft as can be expected from a course fleece. The smell really put me off though. I think I will try washing a whole fleece with soap nuts again, but do the two day soak.

Making sugar wax at home

Alright, time for too much information… I haven’t shaved, waxed, tweezed or any other method of hair removal for at least a decade, until recently. I am generally not bothered by body hair (it is supposed to be there after all). Last week I had a girls day out with my youngest daughter and part of that was to unceremoniously rip the hair from my delicate under arm area (also my eyebrows and chin/lip areas). The lovely beautician explained that she would be using sugar wax to eradicate the undergrowth, of course I listened intently to the history and attributes of using what is essentially toffee to remove hair, it was actually fascinating.

Apparently sugar waxing was used by ancient Persians and Egyptians to remove unwanted hair from the entire body. It is less painful than regular waxing and is made from all natural, biodegradable ingredients. I do enjoy the sensation of having soft, smooth skin on my arm pits, so while the novelty lasts, I think I will have a play with sugar wax. I do believe I have found a way to be more socially acceptable on my own terms (not that social acceptability is high on my to do list) and allows me to enjoy some bonding with my daughter (which is high on my to do list).

The actual experience was not as painful as I remembered (from long ago), the sugar mixture was at room temperature, the hair came off easily and left behind soft skin. I was not sore or irritated at all. When I got home, I started looking for recipes to make this magical sugar wax.

I found recipes all over the internet, and eventually settled on this one, although this one had a lot more information.

I measured 2 cups of raw sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice into a saucepan and heated it (I did stir the mixture a fair bit, as I hadn’t remembered the instructions to not disturb it). I let it reach the boil point and turn a darker shade of toffee, without taking temperature or timing at all, then took it off the stove and let it cool for ten minutes. Last of all, I poured the mixture into a small plastic container and waited for it to cool down enough to play with.

The resulting goo is a deep golden brown and is VERY sticky. I apparently didn’t let it boil for long enough so I will have to use cloth strips to remove the goo (and hopefully the hair) for as long as this batch lasts.

I spread it onto my leg with a butter knife and slapped a cloth strip over it. After a short pause for dramatic effect, I ripped the cloth off. There was indeed a lot of hair on the strip, but not all the hair came off my leg.

A patch of hairy leg
Goop ready to go
Lots of hair came off
Bur not all.

After a lot of do over and swearing, I managed to get the majority of the hair off. In conclusion, this works!! Although I don’t know if I have the patience or motivation to use it on my legs at regular intervals. I guess social acceptability just isn’t attractive enough to draw me in.