Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Santa came early

Since I had so much fun combing the Lopez Island wool, I've been all inspired to do more.  One thing I've had in my mind for a long time is to be able to efficiently comb fine fibers like merino and alpaca.  The Indigo Hound viking combs that I used on the Lopez Island wool are fabulous for medium and coarser wools, but not great for fine fibers because the tines are just too far apart.  They work, but it takes more passes and leaves more waste.

So Santa came early to my house and dropped off a set of Valkyrie extra-fine combs.

Valkrie extra-fine wool combs

I did the inaugural run with some more of the Australian merino that I used for the test skein on my Bee Hummingbird spindle.  I washed up a bunch more locks into puffy delicious puffs of puffiness.

Australian merino (17.4 micron) washed locks

I lashed on 13 grams of locks to one of the combs,

Australian merino (17.4 micron) locks on Vakyrie extra-fine combs

then combed it off with the other,

Australian merino (17.4 micron) on Vakyrie extra-fine combs after one pass

and then combed it back onto the first comb.

Australian merino (17.4 micron) on Vakyrie extra-fine combs after two passes, ready to diz

This wool is so gorgeous.  It's 17.4 micron diameter fiber, which is very fine, and it's so soft and smooth and lustrous.  This is only two passes through the combs, and it's ready to diz off into top.  These combs did an amazing job.

The next step was dizzing.  You pull a little tuft of wool through the hole in the diz, then draft and pull, draft and pull, draft and pull, each time pushing the diz back up toward the comb to pull in the next bit of fiber. The hole in the diz helps keep the diameter of the top consistent. 

Australian merino (17.4 micron) on Vakyrie extra-fine combs, dizzing off the fiber

Here's the finished nest of top- 12 grams of pure fiber bliss and 1 gram of waste fiber, in about five minutes.

Australian merino (17.4 micron) combed on Vakyrie extra-fine combs. 12g of top, 1g of waste.

Ah.  Maze.  Ing.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Half a fleece

Ta Daaa!

Lopez Island wool, all combed!

I finished combing the Lopez Island wool!

The half-fleece weighed 3.0 pounds in its raw, unwashed state.  After washing, it weighed 1.7 pounds.  The finished product is 673 grams (1.5 lb) of combed top and 109 grams (0.2 lb) of waste fiber.

I've never combed a chunk of fiber this big before, and I can't believe it only took two days to wash and three days to comb.  It's also unbelievable how well and how easily combing gets rid of ALL the vegetable matter in a fleece!  It was time well spent, and I really enjoyed it.

The finished top is just beautiful and I will very much enjoy spinning it.  The wool isn't super soft but I think it will combine very well in a sweater with some other San Juan County fiber that I was given way back in 2007 and spun in 2009.

I have a deep, deep stash.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Processing a fleece

Oh hello, remember me?  I've been playing with fiber.  There's a big pile of spun yarn that is yet to be photographed, but what I want to show tonight is this fleece that I finally got around to processing.

Lopez Island wool, half a raw fleece

This is actually half a fleece, purchased at the 2016 Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, from a full fleece that I split with a friend.  It's from Lopez Island, Washington, and if I remember correctly it's a mixed breed dominated by Romney and Blueface Leicester, with lesser amounts of East Friesian, Coopworth, Columbia, Dorset, and North Country Cheviot genes in the flock.  It's been sitting in the closet for over a year, and this week was finally its turn to shine.

I washed it in two evenings, just in my kitchen sink in dishpan-sized batches.  It wasn't overly greasy, but the tips were pretty gunked up with hardened lanolin and dirt.

Lopez Island wool, raw

After one hot soapy soak and two hot rinses, the wool became a lovely creamy white and all the grease was out.  Some of the tips were still a little dirty and clumpy, but not too bad.  They opened right up during combing.

Lopez Island wool, washed

So here's the before and after.  Washed on top, raw on the bottom.  The lighting is wonky on this picture, but trust me, there was a big difference.  The separate shots above are pretty close to the actual color change.

Lopez Island wool, washed on top, raw on the bottom

Once the wool was clean and dry (furnace vents are wonderful for drying wool, if you can keep the cats off), my next step was combing.  You load the wool onto one comb and comb it off with the other, during which all the dirt and vegetable matter (bits of hay, etc.) falls out and the fibers are separated and aligned.

This is after two transfers from comb to comb.  Puffy and delicious.

Lopez Island wool, two passes through the combs

Then I used a diz (the round wooden thing with the holes) to draw the fiber off the comb.  The diz helps make an even-sized rope of fiber called top.  Wind up the top into a little nest, and voila!  Ready to store or spin.

Lopez Island wool, all washed and the first nest combed

That first nest was 20 grams of fiber, with 2 grams of combing waste there to the right.  The waste is all the short bits, neps, vegetable matter, dirt, and other undesirable stuff that the combs remove from the good fiber.  A combing loss of 9% is pretty good- there wasn't a lot of bad stuff to comb out of this fleece.  The finished top is pure spinning bliss.

I combed about half the fiber today, and will get to the rest over the weekend.  I love wool.

Lopez Island wool, halfway combed

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Not a bad start

I've still been spinning since Spinzilla ended two weeks ago.  I've done a load of yarn on my Hansen miniSpinner, which is still SO FABULOUS, but I also did another tiny skein on my new Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle.

I bought a couple bundles of very nice raw Australian merino from a farm in eastern Australia (RaniSmithDesigns on Etsy.  Highly recommended.).  For this first little trial skein I used two 1 gram bunches from Ewe #71.  The fiber thickness on this fleece was measured at 17.4 microns.  This is beautiful wool, with gorgeous luster, crimp, and softness, and hardly any vegetable matter. 

I washed the 1 gram bundles individually, in boiling water and dish soap.  Each lock lost about 0.17 gram during washing- mostly lanolin, because there was hardly any dirt.  Here's what they looked like before and after.

Australian merino locks washed vs. unwashed

I flicked them with a dog slicker to get the tips open and the shorter fibers out.  Then I spun and spun and spun, about four hours for each bundle.

0.63 gram of Australian merino on a Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle

This is the first spindleful done. The wool spun like a dream, it just flowed and drafted out thinner and thinner.  It was delightful.

I spun each bundle as a separate spindleful, then wound them onto storage bobbins. 

1.28 grams of Australian merino ready to ply

I didn't make a plying ball, but just plied from the bobbins.  In retrospect I'm not sure why I thought that would be a good idea, because it never has been in the past, but I guess I thought minimal handling of the singles would be better since they were so very very fine.

It was not a good idea, and made plying much more frustrating than it should have been.  The singles were fairly strong, considering, and a plying ball would have been fine. As it was, I lost 0.38 gram of singles (which equates to a fair amount of yardage!) to a massive tangle that I couldn't get undone.  Ah well, lesson learned.

Anyway, I got the rest of it safely plied.

1.28 grams of Australian merino 2-ply, 73 yards

This skein is 1.28 grams and 73 yards of 2-ply.  It's a little underplied, but I'm quite pleased with myself.

1.28 grams of Australian merino 2-ply, 73 yards

So do you want to know a secret?  One reason that I'm excited about this tiny spindle and this little test skein of ultra-cobweb weight yarn is that there's a spinning contest in New Zealand (OOPS! Sorry!) Tasmania, Australia that runs every two years.  It's called the International Longest Thread Competition and is part of the Bothwell Spin In and Fibre Festival.  The goal is to spin the longest 2-ply thread you can from 10 grams of fiber.  Entries for the 2019 competition are due in October 2018, and with the postal system being what it is, I would want to mail my entry by September 2018.

This skein is a good first attempt.  My goal is to get the yarn to half this thickness and I need to work on my plying joins.  With yarn this thin there is no margin for error.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spinzilla 2017 Results!

Well, it's been a couple weeks since the spinning finished but the results are finally (finally, finally) in.  Here's a shot of the pile of yarn that I spun during that single week.

Spinzilla 2017 total

This is 20 skeins, a total of 4.7 pounds, 12,968 yards, 7.4 miles of yarn.  In terms of Spinzilla spinning credit (length of singles plus length of plying), that works out to 41,176 yards!  That's 23.4 miles!

I must say I'm proud of myself.  My goal was to break 40,000 Spinzilla yards, and I did it.

And not only that, my team won first place overall, with a total yardage of 255,718 Spinzilla yards!  Way to go Team Knot Another Hat!

And not only that, I got fourth place overall for individual spinner's yardage!  WooHoo!

I enjoyed this year's Spinzilla.  There were some serious top-level organizational issues, but my team is great and the spinning was fun.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 7

Well, here we are on the last day.  I went a little overboard.

Spinzilla 2017, Day 7

This is:
  • 2.9 oz Bam Huey Olive Branch (spun and plied today)
  • 2.9 oz Bam Huey Wild Berry (spun and plied today)
  • 15.2 oz (2 skeins) natural gray alpaca (spun and 3-plied today)
  • 3.4 oz SporFarm Black Pine (spun and plied today)
  • 4.1 oz Upstream Alpacas Moss Green (spun and plied today)
  • 3.5 oz white merino (spun and plied today)
  • 6.2 oz Bam Huey Calm Waters/Moon Beams (plied today)
  • 4.5 oz purple merino/silk (plied today)
  • 4.3 oz white merino (plied today)

I spun for 22 hours today, with a few short breaks.  Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 6

Here's what I did today.

Spinzilla 2017, Day 6: 4 oz SporFarm shetland/merino "Cherry Blossom", 3.3 oz Targhee, 3 oz Bam Huey D'oh D'oh Bird, 3 oz Bam Huey Moon Beams, 3 oz Bam Huey Calm Waters, 4.5 oz purple merino/silk

This is:
  • 4 oz SporFarm shetland/merino “Cherry Blossom” (spun and plied today)
  • 3.3 oz Targhee (plied today)
  • 3 oz Bam Huey D’oh D’oh Bird (chain plied today)
  • 3 oz Bam Huey Moon Beams (singles)
  • 3 oz Bam Huey Calm Waters (singles)
  • 4.5 oz purple merino/silk (singles)
I spun for 18.5 hours today. I am tired. One more big day tomorrow and then we’ll see if I met my goal of 40,000 Spinzilla yards. I think I must be getting close.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 5

Day 5 was all about plying:

Spinzilla 2017, Day 5:  PLYING.  3 oz Bam Huey Olive Branch, 3 oz Bam Huey Spinzilla Test Purple, 3 oz Bam Huey D'oh D'oh Bird, 4 oz SporFarm Dark Red

This is 3 oz Bam Huey Olive Branch, 3 oz Bam Huey Spinzilla Test Purple, 3 oz Bam Huey D'oh D'oh Bird, 4 oz SporFarm Dark Red, all singles that I spun earlier this week.

I took the miniSpinner out on the front porch for a while this afternoon, and it was so lovely to sit and spin and watch the sun through the leaves, the squirrels in the big silver maple in the front yard, and the kids playing across the street.  This little spinner is much more portable than my big wheel.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 4

Here's Day 4:

Spinzilla 2017, Day 4: 0.5 oz Abstract Fibers “Ink”, 3 oz Bam Huey “Raspberry Sorbet”, 3 oz Bam Huey “Sun Beam”

This is  0.5 oz Abstract Fibers “Ink”, 3 oz Bam Huey “Raspberry Sorbet”, 3 oz Bam Huey “Sun Beam.”

You may also notice that my miniSpinner is here!!!!!  I made it back in time to get it from the post office and I've been using it, and it's awesome and I love it.

Can't talk more now, it's midnight and I really really have to go to bed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 3

Here's Day 3:

Spinzilla 2017, Day 3: 3 oz BamHuey “Olive Branch” and 2 oz Bam Huey Raspberry Sorbet”

That's 3 oz Bam Huey “Olive Branch” and 1.5 oz Bam Huey Raspberry Sorbet” (half a wheel).  Not as much as I would have liked but I had to travel for work, from one side of the state to the other. I was in the office this morning, then a long lunch at home to spin this, then five hours of driving. Tomorrow is most of the day at the job site and five hours driving back home. I may not get anything spun at all tomorrow. Ugh.

On the other hand, I’ll try and make up for it this weekend, because... I did a thing, and my brand new Hansen Pro miniSpinner is arriving TOMORROW!!!  I probably won't get back home before the post office closes, though, and won't actually have it in my hands until Friday.  I've never owned an electric spinner, and while not having to treadle does feel somewhat like cheating, I couldn't get the thought of all that speeeeeeeeed out of my head.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 2

Here's my work for today:

Spinzilla 2017 Day 2:  3 oz Bam Huey (Spinzilla Test Purple), 3.4 oz white Merino, 4 oz SporFarm Shetland/Corriedale (Dark Red).

That's 3 oz of Bam Huey Spinzilla Test Purple (1.4 oz spun today, the second half of the wheel from yesterday), 3.4 oz white merino, and 4 oz SporFarm Shetland/Corriedale (Dark Red).

Please excuse the messy yarn cake on the merino, we got a new kitten three weeks ago, and she is a fiber thief.  I caught her triumphantly trotting across the living room with the cake in her mouth.  Evidently she hunted it down and killed it.

Sleepy time now.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Spinzilla 2017, Day 1

Here's what I did today:

Spinzilla 2017 Day 1:  3 oz Bam Huey (D'oh D'oh Bird), 3.3 oz white Targhee, 1.6 oz Bam Huey (Spinzilla Test Purple).

Not a bad day.  That's 3 oz  Bam Huey (D'oh D'oh Bird), 3.3 oz white Targhee, and 1.6 oz (half a wheel) of Bam Huey (Spinzilla Test Purple). All pretty fine singles that will ply to a good amount of yardage.

I'll finish off the purple tomorrow and see what else I can get up to.  But now I have to go to bed.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Countdown to Spinzilla 2017

It's that time of year again!  Spinzilla!

Spinzilla 2017 preparation!

Spinning kicks off at 12:01 am tomorrow.  This is what I have lined up to spin, plus there's plenty more upstairs if none of this appeals when I'm ready to start a new bobbin.

Ready, Set, GO!  (In three and a half hours.)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Goodies from OFFF

The Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF) happened last weekend.  This is a festival that has been around since 1997, and despite living in the Pacific Northwest for nearly all that time, I've never attended.  But now I have!

I wasn't going to go, since the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival (CGFF) happens next month and you would think that one huge fiber festival a year would be enough (hahahaha!).  But as it happened, Wanda and Ed Jenkins of Turkish spindle fame (Kuchulu!) made an announcement about their product line in the week prior to the festival that made it imperative that I attend OFFF.  They do not vend at CGFF, you see.

There are going to be a lot of pictures in this post.

Here's all of what I got:

2017 OFFF purchases

A bunch of pretty fiber, a skein of yarn, a really cool sheepy tote bag, and... yeah, some spindles.  You see, Ed Jenkins has added a new size to their line of spindles.

This... this was the reason I went to the festival.

My 3 gram Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle and 1 gram of merino wool, partially spun

The bigger spindle is my 11 gram verawood Kuchulu. Up until this weekend, the Kuchulu model was so tiny, so small.  It has now been eclipsed.

The new tiny one is named the Bee Hummingbird after the world's smallest bird.  My spindle has ebony arms and a walnut shaft.  It weighs 3 grams.

THREE GRAMS!  It's so incredibly tiny and cute. 

They have only made a small number of these spindles so far- as you can imagine, they are quite technically difficult to make.  They are small and fragile and hard to hold onto during the fabrication, especially sanding.  Rather than having a giant stampede at the beginning of the festival, as rabid spinners from all over the Pacific Northwest descended on their booth in a ravening horde, they decided to hold drawings throughout the weekend to choose who could buy one.  Two names every hour, so we just had to take our chance with everyone else.  It was frustrating not to be able to just walk up and buy one, but I guess I see their point.

Luckily, on the fifth drawing of the day, we were at their booth and Ed let Emma be the name draw-er.  Amazingly, she drew her own name! I swear she wasn't looking and it wasn't rigged!

Happy happy joy!  We have a Bee Hummingbird!  So even though theoretically it was in her name... I paid for it, and I'm the one who likes to spin fine, and so I'm claiming it.  If she wants to use it she can learn to spin fine.

Since there was no guarantee that one of our names would be drawn, I was also forced to buy another Kuchulu when we were first there.  Oh, and also a Spindlewood spindle since they were also at the festival. It's not my fault, they're just so pretty.

new spindles!

These are a 25.5 gram amboyna burl Square Midi by Spindlewood, a 10 gram lilac Kuchulu by Jenkins, and a 3 gram ebony Bee Hummingbird by Jenkins.  The wood on the Kuchulu has actual purple streaks in it.  Drooooool. 

new spindles!

Of course I had to start spinning on the Bee right away.  I pulled off a tuft of the merino braid I got at the festival and started spinning in the car on the way back to Anne's house (Anne was driving).  I had finished about one gram by that evening.

My 3 gram Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle and 1 gram of merino wool

This spindle spins FINE.  I let the end of the singles ply back on itself to see what I was getting, and the piece trailing over the quarter is that 2-ply yarn.  Tiny singles.  Cobweb 2-ply.

After I got home, I spun another gram onto the spindle.  More than about 2 grams would, I think, make this spindle too heavy to spin a microscopically fine singles.  Here's the Bee with 2 grams of fiber. 

Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle

top view
Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle

bottom view
Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle

I just can't stand how cute and perfect this spindle is.

Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle

Over the next couple days I spun another 2 grams of fiber into two more turtles.

Singles all spun!

I finished the singles on Thursday night, and couldn't wait to start plying.  I first wound the paired singles into a plying ball (the core was a convenient cat toy I found next to my chair).  I was nervous about the turtles tangling, collapsing, or going out of control while winding, but I unwound them from the outside and it went very well.  Winding the ball took an hour.

Winding the plying ball!

I should have stopped there since it was getting late and I had to go to work the next day.  But I couldn't wait to start plying on the new lilac Kuchulu.  It felt enormous after the Bee.  This is after an hour of plying, and I couldn't really tell any difference in the amount of singles on the plying ball.


I should have stopped there, since it was getting very late and I had to go to work the next day, but I couldn't. I had to keep going, and it took a total of three hours to ply the four grams.

Plying done!

Then the plying was done.  I should have stopped there and gone to bed, since it was now very, very late and I had to go to work the next day, but I couldn't. I had to know how much yardage I had.

I transferred the yarn to my skein winder and counted the wraps.  That all took another 45 minutes.  But finally, I knew how much I spun!

Ta Daaa! This is 4.84 grams of merino 2-ply yarn, measuring 183 yards.  Spun on the Bee, plied on the Kuchulu.  

First yarn on the Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle: 4.84 grams, 183 yards, merino wool, spun on the Bee, plied on a Kuchulu

This is the finest yarn I have ever spun.  I'm so proud of myself.  I love this tiny spindle.

First yarn on the Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle: 4.84 grams, 183 yards, merino wool, spun on the Bee, plied on a Kuchulu

To end this long post, here's (almost) my whole spindle flock.  One is missing because I can't find it.  It's in a project bag upstairs somewhere, but I couldn't immediately put my hands on it tonight.

My flock of spindles (one missing)

Back to front for the Turkish spindles, then left to right, these are:

27g (0.95 oz) Jenkins Yarn Tools, Turkish Delight, beeswing narra arms, maple shaft (2012)
11 g (0.38 oz) Jenkins Yarn Tools, Kuchulu, verawood arms, walnut shaft (2011)
12g (0.42 oz) Jenkins Yarn Tools, Kuchulu, snakewood arms and shaft (2013)
8g (0.28 oz) Jenkins Yarn Tools, Kuchulu, olivewood arms, maple shaft (2012)
3g (0.10 oz) Jenkins Yarn Tools, Bee Hummingbird, ebony arms and walnut shaft (2017)
10g (0.35 oz) Jenkins Yarn Tools, Kuchulu, lilac arms, walnut shaft (2017)
8 g (0.28 oz) Cascade Spindle Co., Tiger, zebrawood whorl, mahogany shaft (2008)
21g (0.75 oz) Spindlewood Co., Square Mini, cocobolo whorl, ebony shaft (2009)
20g (0.70 oz) Spindlewood Co. Square Standard, birdseye maple whorl and shaft (2011)
23g (0.81 oz) Spindlewood Co., Square Mini, amboyna burl whorl, cocobolo shaft (2015)
20g (0.70 oz) Spindlewood Co., Square Mini, thuja burl whorl, flamewood shaft (2013)
23g (0.75 oz) Spindlewood Co., Square Midi, myrtlewood whorl and shaft (2016)
21g (0.75 oz) Spindlewood Co., Square Mini, tulipwood whorl and shaft (2016)
25.5g (0.90 oz) Spindlewood Co., Square Midi, amboyna burl whorl, mahogany shaft (2017)

not pictured is:
15g (0.53 oz) Spindlewood Co. Square Mini Featherweight, flamewood whorl and shaft (2012)

That's a lot of spindles.  However, I use them all and investing in art and the artists who make it is never a bad idea.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Angraecum didieri

I have had another special orchid blooming this month, and it's another first-bloomer for me.  This is Angraecum didieri, native to Madagascar.  I got this about three years ago, as a small seedling.

I got a second terrarium last spring because I had several orchids, mostly Angraecoids like this one, that were not doing well at all.  My climate is just not humid enough for them, and they were showing severe stress from their roots drying out so fast and often.

Angraecum didieri in bud

Having them in the enclosed area helped a lot, and when I added an automatic misting system in mid-July, they all exploded with new roots and leaves.  All the side root branches in that picture above have grown in the two and a half months since the mister was added.

I noticed the bud developing around the middle of September and was so excited!

Angraecum didieri in bud

New buds are always exciting, and even more so when it's a species I haven't bloomed before.

Angraecum didieri in bud

This species is in the same group as the Aerangis punctata, Aerangis fastuosa, Aerangis citrata, and Aerangis mystacidii that I have shown on here before.  In general, this group has white star-shaped flowers with a long nectar spur that are large for the size of the plant, and most are fragrant at night to attract moths, their pollinators.

This one is no exception.  It opened on September 25.

Angraecum didieri

The plant is about six inches from leaf tip to leaf tip, the bloom is two inches across, and the nectar spur is six inches long.

Angraecum didieri

It is powerfully fragrant starting at about 7:00 at night, and smells of Stargazer lilies and gardenia.  It's a similar fragrance to A. mystacidii but a little less rich and honeyed, and not musky like A. fastuosa.