Back in Bloomington!

Sorry for the radio silence, but I’m pleased to say that I’m back in Bloomington! It’s been a couple of extremely hectic days, what with the 30+ hours of flying, packing for a move as soon as I landed, and the move itself. 90% of the house is organized as it should be, but as with any move, the organizing has revealed to me a bunch of projects and other endeavors that I had given up on and stashed away out of sight for months.

Not even 20% of the stash…

One of the more daunting things on my to-do list is organizing my giant stash of embroidery floss and sewing thread. A few years ago while visiting my fiance’s family, I mentioned that I was interested in learning how to embroider. So naturally I went back home with grocery bags and cookie tins PACKED with vintage threads and floss! I was a little overwhelmed at the time and didn’t have a whole lot of time, so it went to the bottom of my closet. It wasn’t until last week when I was putting things away from the move that I rediscovered the enormous pile, and I finally mustered up the courage and fortitude to tackle the mountain 3 days ago. I’ve got most of the DMC floss wound up into bobbins with labels, though there are a few that are missing the numbers. I’ll have to figure something out with those.

Another thing I have to do is process some fleeces and fiber. When I returned from my holiday, I found that I had acquired quite a bit of fiber during my absence. So far I have one giant garbage bag full of alpaca, and an entire alpaca fleece…and apparently there is more waiting for me to pick up! While I have some experience spinning fiber into yarn, I have never processed fiber, let alone an entire fleece, into spinnable roving, so this should be an interesting experiment. I do have a friend who has invited me over to use her giant automatic carding machines though, so it would be an understatement to say that I am excited about the whole thing.

I also have a couple of commissions to work through. For those of you who don’t know, tablet weaving is another one of my fiber-related hobbies. A lot of my clients are people who are into the hobby of historical reenactment, and it is my job to look at photos of artifacts and attempt to replicate them in weaving. This pattern is based off of a find fromĀ the Sutton Hoo site, and it was a lot of fun to figure it out! Now I just have to weave 6+ yards of the stuff…easier said than done, but it makes me happy to know that other people enjoy my work as well.

I also have another knitting commission, and am also working on a project for myself. I am making a pullover for myself, and it will be a lot of “first”s for me: my first cabled garment, my first pullover sweater, my first project incorporating short rows, and my first project using the provisional cast on. I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way, such as “Don’t attempt cables at 2AM when you’re extremely sleep-deprived”, but I’m taking this chance to learn many more skills that will be important for me to have as an aspiring Master Knitter.

While tackling all of these projects, I have been listening to a lot of various podcasts to keep me company. So far I’ve listened to the Knitmore Girls and Owl About Yarn, though I’ve also received recommendations of other knitting-related podcasts from my friends. What are your favorite podcasts to listen to? Do let me know in the comments section.

As always, thank you for sticking with my blog, in spite of my frequent bouts of hiatuses. Hopefully I’ll be better about maintaining a regular posting scheduleĀ (those podcasts are really inspiring!).

Signing off,
Marie

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Fiber Processing Workshop

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a local fiber processing workshop. I say “workshop”, but it was more of an informal class taught by a folklorist friend of mine. Still, it was a fun and educational day, filled with much fluff, cookies, and spinning.

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Being a folklorist, my friend was well-supplied with all sorts of fiber processing equipment. She had numerous carders, combs, at least ten spinning wheels of varying sizes and twice as many spindles. She even had an automatic drum carder!

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First, we learned how to distinguish a good fleece from bad fleece. Things to really look out for are any yellow streaks (referred to as yolk, and are indicative of bacterial growths that may have damaged the fibers), any breaks in the staple, and second cuts.

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We then learned how to “grade” the fibers, and separate the different quality fibers. On the left in the small green basket was our pile of “best” fiber – with a nice strong crimp and little VM (vegetable matter), and the larger pile in the laundry bag on the right was our “acceptable” fiber. The rest, which were too matted or had too much VM to be not worth processing, we threw into the yard for the birds to use in their nests.

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Once our fiber was all sorted out, we had a respectable amount of good fiber that went onto the next steps of processing.

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The fiber was washed in a sink full of scalding hot water, mixed with synthrapol. Other things that also work are washing detergent (but nothing with enzymes in it!), dish soap, and orvus paste, but synthrapol arguably works the best. Being careful not to agitate the fibers too much, we soaked it in the soapy water for about 20 minutes. Notice how disgusting the water looks after our first wash…

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After this first soak, we refilled the sink with more clean, hot, synthrapol water and immersed the fibers in it for another 20 minutes. During these waiting periods, we mostly sat around eating cookies, some of us experimenting on drop spindles, and some of us (myself included) experimenting on one of her many spinning wheels. Having used drop spindles for a while now, spinning is nothing new to me, but I haven’t had much experience with an actual spinning wheel, so it was nice to get some practice in.

After the 20 minutes were up, we removed the fiber from the water and put it on the spin cycle in her washing machine to remove excess moisture. It is important to note that this can ONLY be done with a top-loading washer; if you use a front-loading washer, your wool will felt, and you won’t be able to use it!

We didn’t get to card the fiber as it had to dry, but hopefully we will get to finish off the process some other time.

Signing off,
Marie