Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Trials and tribulations of an older house, and finishing the CVM fleece

I usually post on Thursdays or as close to Thursday as I can get. However, last Thursday/Friday was a humdinger! When I went out to water the garden, I discovered that the baby groundhogs had found yet another way to squeeze into the garden and they finished off the peas, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts. The problem has since been taken care of but it was devastating to have this happen six years in a row. I need a Groundhog SWAT Team!

Watered the garden that morning and went inside to start the laundry, only to have black water pour into the washer! I called my well guys and their first reaction, based on 60+ years experience, was that the bottom of the well had collapsed onto the submersible pump. When they arrived 4 hours later we started draining the tank and held a consultation. Meanwhile, the fellow dumping the drained water was rinsing out the bucket and noticed that the water was now running almost clear. A collapsed well does NOT suddenly run clear! So there is now a filter installed between the tank and the house water lines—we think that watering the garden caused the water table to drop and allowed particulates (a LOT of them) to enter the system. All is good now, but what a set of experiences and a lot of stress. I was exhausted and slept like a log on Friday night.

On a positive note, the blueberries and black raspberries are ripening at an alarming rate. It took me 90 minutes to pick them today!

Getting back to the CVM/Romeldale fleece, it has not been my best experience with a fleece. While teasing the locks I discovered a lot of second cuts, some of them ½” long, which means that the shearer was at fault here. In an already fine wool, second cuts make processing all that much more difficult. I picked out all that I could find but they still caused trouble in the carding. I didn’t dare put this through my drum carder so had to use hand cards. 

This is the carded fleece without picking out second cuts
This is the carded fleece after picking. Laborious picking.

Rolags ready to go

I spun the rolags on my Pipy wheel but wasn’t enjoying the experience due to the lumpiness. I know this yarn will not wear well; it will pill wildly. To compare I’ve included pix of a white CVM/Romeldale from Little Barn Farm which was processed by them and spun on my spindle. Yeah, I know the plying isn’t the best.

Even after washing the lumps are evident.

I will be going through this fleece very closely and trying to salvage what I can. I doubt there will be more than enough for a hat, a very lumpy hat. But that’s the risk we take when we buy a festival fleece. This particular fleece was rolled with the cut side out as required, but the second cuts weren’t evident when it was rolled. I purchased the front half of the fleece once it was unrolled and knew there were second cuts, but I didn’t inspect it closely enough to realize how much of the fleece staple had been chopped up. Live and Learn!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fleeces I have stored and forgotten until recently

This past month I've had several reasons to revisit the pile of fleeces in my studio. A friend in a far-off land was asking to exchange bits of local fleeces so we could expand our knowledge, the Tour de Fleece is approaching, and the cat got into several bags of fleece that were awaiting a nice day for washing. All of which I took as an omen to get myself started on these.

I had already washed and carded a bit of the California Variegated Mutant fleece I had from ....ummmm....2006? maybe 2007? This is a kissin' cousin of the Romeldale breed and considered a fine wool. My fleece is a nice consistent moorit color and it's a color I can wear because the fleece has no sunburned tips to 'yellow' the yarn (I'm a winter and look awful in most natural wool colors). I bought half the fleece as I doubted I'd use the entire 15 pounds of wool; it was purchased at the Michigan Fiber Festival and scored 93 in the judging.

This is a difficult fleece to photograph as there's not much lock definition to it, it's so spongy and springy. I took one shot from the top so you could see the blunt tips of the locks and another from the side to show the compact nature of the fleece.

Side View
Top View

I threw the remainder of the fleece in a hot bath with a bit of ammonia to cut the lanolin and let is soak for a bit. Then into a bath with Orvus Paste, several rinses, and spin in the washer to remove excess water, then on to the drying rack. I now need to sit down and sort out any remaining second cuts (there was NO vegetable matter in this fleece, very nice!), fluff it up and get it on the drum carder.

It's a little short for what I like to spin but since it's a nice sprongy fleece, I'll be carding it and spinning it semi-woolen to preserve that characteristic. I'll let you know how it goes, and what size yarn the fleeces tells me it wants to be.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A visit to a local historic house, and there's spinning/weaving, too!

Yesterday my guild went on a field trip in lieu of our usual meeting. We do this once or twice a year when the weather is nice and we don't want to be cooped up inside--we want to see fiber stuff instead!! We met at the Vicary Mansion which is a few miles down the Ohio River, just over the hill from Cranberry and Harmony, PA.

Although they are still working on the renovation (and what historic site isn't always working on renovation?), it was a treat to explore. They have one room dedicated to spinning and weaving and also collect and research old textiles. They are the proud owners of a rare Newcomb loom and currently have a nice rug warp on it. Here's two pix I managed to take, excuse anything that's not completely clear because the room is crowded with warped looms, working spinning wheels and fascinated guild members yesterday. The Newcomb is a semi-automatic loom, meaning that many of the operations usually performed by the weaver are handled easily by this loom. That automation increases the weaver's production rate because she/he has no need to stop and advance the warp, etc.
Back of the loom

Front of the loom--that's one heavy beater bar!

 We wandered through the house and up to the attic which was wonderfully spacious. The Mansion personnel store their costumes here, which are used when there's an event and volunteers need to borrow period clothing. Back in the corner I noticed 3 spinning wheels, and really like the little flax wheel all set up and ready to go.

 One of the functions of the site is to preserve local textile history. They had two woven coverlets out, both of which had been assessed by Rabbit Goody when she was here in October 2012 for a lecture sponsored by our guild. The first was standard red/blue coverlet of which I could only get a full photo. I don't remember if we asked the fiber content of the plain weave component (the white threads) but the red and blue are definitely wool.

The more interesting (to me) coverlet was the orange handspun hand dyed one. The plain weave (white threads) are cotton and the orange is wool. The weaving experts at the mansion are working on replicating this one, and Dorothy has all the wool spun up and dyed with madder. Her yarn is on the little bobbins in the back left-hand corner of the full photo, and they are currently weaving up samples to make sure they have the weaving draft written properly and that they've centered the design on the panels. Very few household looms in those days were wide enough to produce a one-piece coverlet so many of them were woven in wide strips (36-40 inches depending on the individual loom) and sewn together to cover the bed.

Notice the variation in color due to exposure to light?

Closeup. This is a section about 2" square.
All in all, we had a wonderful time. If you're looking for something fun to see and want a little local history too, take a ride down the Ohio River and stop at the Vicary Mansion.