Breed Study: Mohair #1

I’ve been wanting to get started on a breed study for a while now but, well, I can be kinda lazy and easily sidetracked. So since discovering a mohair sample pack this week in my frenzy of reorganising my stash, I thought I’d make the most of the good weather to make a start on it.

The pack is from Cwmstwrdy Fibre Farm and I picked up one of their explorer packs at Wonder Wool Wales earlier this year. The pack contains 100g of first shear kid; 150g of second shear, 250g of young adult; and 250g of adult fleece.

Photo showing four piles of raw mohair grouped as kid, kid second shearing, young adult, and adult.
Unwashed mohair fleece. Clockwise from top left: kid 1st shear, kid 2nd shear, adult, young adult
Photo showing four difference sized locks from shortest to longest
Lock length

I was immediately struck by how soft the first two samples were. Although Anogora are supposed to be quite greasy/waxy I didn’t think these samples seemed very greasy. Despite thinking they weren’t all that dirty, I was quite surprised at the amount of dirt that came out of the adult fleece in particular.

I’m not the best fleece processor. In fact a lot of my previous attempts have resulted in less than satisfactory results. I don’t think my cleaning or my scouring has been the best. Because these are samples it offered the perfect opportunity for trying washing on a small scale. I started with several cold washes using an eco washing up liquid because I didn’t have any scouring wash. I know detergents have mixed reviews in terms of how harsh they are and previously I have used wool wash, but since my previous results weren’t great I thought I’d try something else.

I’m always amazed when I read blogs/watch videos of other peoples crafting that they always seem to have the right tool for the job. And I don’t mean specifically purchased materials, but those bits and pieces they have to hand or picked up in a thrift store that are just perfect for the task at hand. This finally happened to me when I discovered two plastic containers missing lids and two unused plastic baskets in my recent sort out. For once they were perfect fit and they make excellent fleece washing tools! I don’t have to handle the fleece too much when I get it in and out of the bath.

My simple washing system for washing up to 250g of fleece at a time

So anyway, I started with the adult and the kid first shear and soaked them both in several changes of cold water until they were mostly clear. The kid was pretty clean to start with, but a lot of dirt came out of the adult fleece even though it didn’t look too bad. I then scoured the fleece in fairly hot water. I’ve seen suggestions of anywhere between 45°C and 70°C for scouring mohair. In the end I plumped for a mid-way point of around 55-60°C. After three or four changes of water, staying in for twenty minutes at a time to make sure any greasy deposits didn’t resettle, I lightly squeezed the fleece and laid them out on a towel to dry in the sun.

I don’t have a mesh frame for drying, but it was warm enough today that this worked well.

There are some small bits of vegetable matter, but they are the cleanest and non-greasiest fleeces I think I’ve ended up with so I’m pretty pleased with how they’ve turned out. The adult fleece is now almost as super soft as the kid. I’m hoping next weekend will be as sunny so that I can finish the other two samples.

Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Four

It’s just a quick spinning update from me. I haven’t managed as much spinning in terms of completed skeins this TdF but I have spun most days which has been a nice change and I’m super pleased to have finished up two long term spinning projects.

I finished up the 12 Days of Christmas Hilltop Cloud calendar first which had been on the wheel for six months. I’m happy with how this three ply came out and it looks like I have around 850m of yarn now that it’s washed. I’ll make a project post about this next week. I then spun up 50g of a Fellview Fibres merino/cashmere/silk blend as a lace weight yarn. I love this and want to find a shawl pattern for it when I finish the other 50g.

And finally there was the HTC mystery fibre which is part of a five skein fade pack. I’ve been at this one for at least three years so it’s nice to be finished with it. The final skein is not as consistent as the first four but I’m hoping I’ll get away with it. My plan is to cast on a So Faded (Ravelry link) which I swatched for all those years ago. With hindsight I would now like a cardigan rather than a sweater but since I have spun the fibre to make the sweater gauge I’m going to stick to that. I just need to decide whether to move dark to light or light to dark from the top down.

Finally the garden continues to deliver up some bits and pieces. We’re harvesting peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and courgettes now. I think I’m leaving the carrots and beets to grow a bit bigger. I might have made an error with how large sprouting broccoli can grow, it’s currently taking up a lot of room and crowding out some of my other plants. I’ve made second sowings of root veg and radicchio to try and keep some things going over into autumn and winter. I’m quite pleased with how things have gone this year and I think I’m slowing starting to learn what things work best. It’s great to have finally had some rain this week!

That’s it for me. Hopefully I’ll have something on the needles for next week.

Year of Projects 22/3: Week Three

This week has still been all about the Tour for me. I finished up the first half of my lace weight yarn . It ended up 48g and 380m so I’m on target for an 800m skein at the end of things. I think this will make a heavy weight lace in the end. I’m really pleased with how this has turned out. It’s slow going because I’m focusing on consistency, but that’s ok.

I made a start on the final braid of my sweater spin. I’m not loving this spin to be honest, and it’s entirely my fault. I’ve been working on this for so long that the fibre has compacted and it’s a tough spin. I’m not even 100% sure what the fibre is any more. It’s kind of getting spun any old how now and I’m hoping it will all work out in the end.

To offset that tough spin I made these from some Fellview Fibre rolag tails. Carol at FVF very kindly sent members of her Ravelry group 50g of leftover bits from the beautiful rolags she makes to see what we would make of them during the tour. This colourway is called Mother of Pearl and I was really pleased to get these. I used the blending board to make up some rolags. I’m getting better at these but they’re still a bit uneven.

So that’s it for this week. There have been lots of potatoes from the garden and a few peas and beans. It’s getting warm out there at the moment so I’m hoping it all survives the heatwave we’re having. I do appreciate my very cool house!

Year of Projects 22/23: Week Two

Well it’s been a busy week this week. Sadly not on the crafting front so much. Wednesday was super busy at work due to staff shortages so between that and watching things unfold in Parliament I didn’t get much spinning done that day. Thursday was my partner’s birthday (and still partly glued to what was going on in government) so we went and did brunch and had a mooch around the bookshops and delis. Friday/Saturday I tried to get in the garden where I could as things were starting to get out of control.

So I did manage to spin every day but I’m not as far through as I wanted to be. I’m about a quarter of my way through this merino/cashmere/silk blend. I’m hoping to be consistent enough for a 2-ply lace so I’m making more of an effort to spin a short forward draw. My default spin tends to be short backwards, which is quicker and easier but I now realise a lot less consistent. I’ll stick with 25g to a bobbin because I’m terrified of snapping the fibre and losing the end in the bobbin if I keep going!

The garden has been a bit overlooked due to the wet weather we’ve been having, this sudden change has been a good opportunity to get back out there. I harvested some more shallots and potatoes this week and turned some of these:

Into this:

It looks rock hard but it’s actually perfectly crispy 😂 Potato pizza is one of my greatest discoveries of lockdown.

There’s some good progress in the garden overall. I’m hoping the tomatoes will start to ripen in the next week or two. The courgettes are coming along nicely, and we’re harvesting a good crop of peas once a week. There isn’t any sign of the beans yet, and most of these were eaten earlier on in the year so I’ve only got a few surviving plants. The patty pan squash are looking healthy but not cropping yet and the rhubarb is out of control. I’m hoping to offload some of this on colleagues this week, either as fruit or a cake!

The nice thing about being in the garden is seeing a bit more wildlife including this cinnabar moth who was particularly striking:

I also have a family of slow worms living in my compost bin. I could really do with turning the heap but I really don’t want to disturb them.

That’s this week’s projects. I’m hoping to have finished the lace singles next week and to have worked on some of my other spinning projects. I’d really like to get the final skein in my sweater spin finished before the end of the tour!

Year of Projects 22/3: Week One

Despite the fact I spend more money on planners than any grown woman should, there comes a time when I have to admit I don’t really plan anything. Whether this results in freedom or chaos depends on who you ask. Either way what it means for YOP is that I certainly don’t have any specific plans beyond finishing up a WIP or two. After that we get into pretty vague territory and this suits me just fine.

12 Days of Christmas (and another six months). The light isn’t very good here at the moment and these lean a bit more blue than they appear here.

First up obviously is the Tour. I’ve just finished up plying the Hilltop Cloud 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar I started back in December. I really fell out of love with this project and as time dragged on I only hated it more. Mostly because I thought I’d made a terrible error in splitting up the fibre and spinning it as a combo spin. Having finally finished the singles and got on to the plying, however, I have to admit I actually really like how it’s turned out. I’ll post a full update in the next few weeks once I’ve got it washed and measured up.

I’m going with the higher twist yarn on the right. I think it will be just a bit crisper for stitch definition on a lace shawl.

July is pretty much devoted to all things spinning. I’m currently working on spinning a lace weight yarn from some merino/cashmere/silk I’ve had for a while now (I think this might be its third Tour). I’ve been playing with ratios and twist a bit and think I’ve finally found the settings I want for the yarn I want. I mixed up my ratios on the card but I’ve fixed that! It’s not particularly fast for lace, but I do have a fast treadle which compensates for that.

Once the Tour is out of the way I want to finish the Ogopogo socks that are still ongoing. I don’t ‘think’ I have any other WIPs, but I could have some I’ve forgotten about, it wouldn’t surprise me. Other knits for this side of 22/23 will probably be a shawl with the cashmere blend lace and I’d like to tackle a brioche scarf with some fingering I have in stash.

I’m hoping to dig out the loom this year as I didn’t do any weaving last year. My loom is far too large for the space available (and my ability) so it doesn’t see much use, sadly. I’m thinking of trying to sell it and downsize. I’m also hoping to explore an embroidery project maybe as something a bit different and start the needle felted rabbit I found under the bed and had forgotten I even had.

In fact there is quite a lot under the bed I’d forgotten about so maybe a stash inventory is in order. I don’t plan to add to stash outside of a couple of spinning projects I’m waiting to hear about, including an advent spin and probably Wonder Wool in 2023, but then does anyone ever plan to add to stash?

Finally the garden is doing really well. We’re harvesting bits here and there including potatoes (Ratte have turned out to be this year’s favourites), peas, shallots, cucumbers and beetroot. Squash and courgettes can’t be too far behind. I can’t believe how fast and large the produce in the polytunnel has grown. I am going to have to rethink plant spacing next year.

That’s it for this week’s update, I look forward to catching up with everyone else’s plans. Happy YOPing!

Tour de Fleece 2022

It’s that time of year again. I’m sure it rolls around quicker every year, a bit like Christmas. Maybe it’s my age…

Anyway I always look forward to the Tour as it usually comes at the point where my crafting mojo has got up and left so it’s good to get back in the saddle. I’m going to spend some time working on my spinning techniques. I say this every year and never do, but this year I really mean it. I’d like to work on neatening up my joins and thinking a bit more about what I want to be spinning. I like a default brainless spin but these are the spins that always end up in stash because I don’t know what to do with them.

Tour plans

So here are my plans for this year’s Tour. From L-R:

  • two braids from Velvet Sixpence that I picked up at Wonder Wool this year. I don’t really have much of a plan for these yet so I’ll see how things go
  • Some down breed fibres for a breed study
  • A Fellview Fibres merino/cashmere/silk blend I want to try and spin as a lace weight
  • The final braid in a Hilltop Cloud fade sweater spin. It’s been a little while since I spun the last one so I’m hoping I can keep the consistency.

So these are my bigger plans but I have some bits and pieces for playing around with too. For now I still have fibre on the wheel to finish off so I’ll get on with plying that and then see what to work on next.

Happy Tour everyone!

Year of Projects: Week Forty Three

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog. Work has been crazy so stopping for the Easter weekend was very welcome. I tacked on a couple of extra days holiday onto the long weekend and my partner and I had a few days in Hay on Wye. For those who don’t know it, Hay is a book town so we basically spent three days trawling antiquarian book shops looking for interesting finds. I still managed to indulge my other hobbies of yarn and stationery however and picked up this lovely hand dyed yarn from a local dyer, The Bobbin Sisters who dye book-themed colourways, and a new fountain pen and inks.

This week also saw the return of Wonderwool. This is my local(ish) yarn festival which, due to Covid, hasn’t run since 2019. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the day, as well as returning and new suppliers. It makes such a difference to meet the people behind the products; and the animals in several cases! I’m so pleased to see that the event survived the pandemic when it could so easily have been lost and I hope the others return just as strong. Other than the John Arbon I realised later that all of my purchases were from new to me producers which is really nice. I love the ease of online shopping, but it’s not always easy to discover new producers and I often end up going to the same few.

So on to purchases. I picked up this lovely fibre from Velvet Sixpence. Despite the fact that I reverted to my default merino/silk blend I like the fact that this dyer does use a lot of other bases that aren’t so common so I look forward to trawling her Etsy shop when she’s back.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was hoping to start making my way through 52 Weeks of Socks so I mostly went with an eye on sock yarns for making a start on that. First up is some John Arbon yarn.

Followed by Woollen Wytch and Ducky Darlings. The Ducky yarns are probably going to make their way into a shawl/scarf.

And finally for yarns some Mothy Squid (blue and green) which will definitely be socks, and Moonlight yarns which will probably be something shawly. I’m thinking of maybe tackling brioche for the first time but I’m not sure if that would suit something variegated or whether I’d be better with something more solid.

And finally, although I said the one think I definitely didn’t need/want was more raw fleece to sit in the cupboard making me feel guilty for being so lazy, I ignored myself and picked up this mohair sample pack. I love the idea of seeing how the fleece changes and it comes with this lovely information booklet. So when we get the next good weekend I’ll try and make a start on washing the samples.

In news of what I’ve actually done, as opposed to bought, I have finally finished my Boxy so I need to get that blocked and posted. I say finished, I’m waiting to see if blocking helps some of the shoulder stitches sit a little better but if not I might need to rip one shoulder back and redo it. Why oh why when I spot a problem as I’m going along do I not fix it then and instead of deciding ‘it will be ok’. It is never ok, it always annoys me later on and means I don’t enjoy or wear the final thing until it’s fixed – which can take years!

I have quite a lot going on in the garden too, so I’ll post an update on that later in the week. I hope everyone else is being more productive with their projects!

Spinning Silk Workshop

Earlier this week I attended an online workshop run by Katie Weston at Hilltop Cloud on spinning silk fibre. I have very little experience of spinning silk beyond a silk brick preparation I tried a few years ago which ended in complete disaster. I found it impossible to draft and quite ‘messy’ as a prep. After that I stayed well away from pure silk although a do like it in blends.

Back L-R: Eri, Mulberry, Penduncle
Front L-R: Tussah, Sari, Hankie

So this workshop was a great opportunity to try it out again being a little bit older (definitely) and wiser (ish) as a spinner. The workshop looked at tussah, mulberry, penduncle, eri, and sari silks, as well as mulberry silk hankies. We had a good introduction to the silk making process, I had no idea that different silks came from different worms, and Katie was really good at seamlessly manipulating camera views so that we could see her hands during the tutorial sections. We also covered the key differences between types of silk and their properties, with the lack of any crimp at all to mulberry giving it its very lustrous but slippery feel, and the others being a little more textured and easier to handle.

L-R: Tussah, Mulberry, Penduncle, Eri, Hankies, Sari.

These samples were spun from the end of the top with a short backwards draw and a moderate amount of twist. This produced reasonably consistent (for a first attempt!) samples which retained lustre a made for a soft, drapey yarn. Both the hankie and the sari silk made for more textured yarns. I made a singles yarn with the silk hankie although I drafted it out a bit too finely so ended up with a very thin yarn. Despite this it’s reasonably balanced which is a first for me in terms of singles yarns. Silk wants to spin very fine, particularly mulberry, although I found penduncle seemed easier to spin slightly thicker without much effort on my part.

L-R: Tussah, Mulberry, Penduncle, Eri

These were spun longdraw (ish) from the fold, with high twist in both the singles and the ply. The mulberry was very challenging to spin this way and is more of a ‘spin-however-you-can-get-it-on-to-the-bobbin draw’. Mulberry is definitely not my friend yet! Visually I prefer the look of these although the high twist sacrifices some of the softness.

I switched to only spinning tussah blends some time ago having read this was a wild silk where moths were allowed to hatch before the silk was harvested. I now understand that this is not really the case although eri, also known as peace silk, allows for this. However the industry is complicated and, as noted in the workshop, has very long supply chains where it’s not always possible to be accurate about sources. As a vegetarian I’d be much happier being able to buy naturally hatched silk, rather like I only buy angora from small producers I know have excellent welfare standards, but this seems to be a more complicated topic than I realised.

Overall I really enjoyed this workshop and I have plenty of silk left to experiment a little more with different twist levels. I really liked the penduncle and eri, and was surprised to hear that these were both supplied by HTC in their undyed form. The grey/brown of the penduncle is particularly beautiful and I can imagine a very nice shawl or cowl made from this in its undyed state.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Three

I finally finished my first bobbin of singles from my 12 Days of Christmas spin. At this rate I should have a finished yarn by the summer! I’ve also been making progress on my Boxy but there still isn’t much of interest to see there either.

Fibres from Adelaide Walker

In spinning news I reactivated my School of SweetGeorgia account this week as I’ve got more time at the moment to dip into some of the workshops. I’ve been wanting to get started on a breed study as I have box of breed specific fibres in my fibre stash so I took a look at the Spinning Sheep Breeds workshop with Rachel Smith. The workshop covers four breed types: fine/medium wool, long wool, Down and Down-like breeds, and primitive breeds. There’s an overview of each breed, followed by tips on preparation methods and three or four examples of spinning fibres from each category. I’ve made a start on Down breeds because I have very little experience of these. I’ll be using a mix of commercially prepped fibre and some fleece samples I have. I also booked on to an online silk spinning workshop being run by Katie Weston of Hilltop Cloud so I’m looking forward to that at the end of this month.

Sadly this weekend the weather has been awful so there has been no activity in the garden. I have, however, made a start on chitting my potatoes. I have somehow managed to end up with all second earlies so if I’m not careful I will end up with huge glut of potatoes at the same time. I’m going to try and stagger the planting a bit if I can to try and get around this, and I might try leaving some in the ground a little longer and experiment with using them more like a maincrop. The varieties I’m using this year are Charlotte, Jazzy, and Ratte. My new raised bed arrived this week so I’m hoping the weather will clear up enough later in the week for me to get that in place but it doesn’t look great for the rest of the week so maybe it will have to be a crafting week.

Finished Handspun: Core Spun Yarn

I finished this up a few weeks ago now but am only just getting around to posting the details. This is the core spun yarn I made from the Fellview Fibres 2020 12 Days of Christmas calendar.

The fibre is Elegance and is a BFL and silk blend. I feel a little bit guilty for using such a lovely blend in an art yarn but I have a lot of gradient yarns (mostly because I love Fellview Fibres so much) so I wanted to try something different with this one. It has a lace weight cotton core yarn which made a good grippy base for the wrapping, and I plied it with a gold thread. I finished it by washing in alternating hot and cold baths to felt it slightly.

Wheel: Matchless

Ratio: 4:1

Length: 116m

Weight: 129g

I’ve played around with core spinning before but this is my first full yarn. I have no idea what I will do with it yet, I might use it in a weaving project, maybe alongside another batch of the gradient spun as a chain ply. That’s what I did with the other half of the 12 Days of Christmas set and it made a beautiful yarn: