Friday, January 30, 2015

We all got to start sometime... Processing raw wool for the first time!

Used my new hand carders purchased from The Woolery to make rolags from washed tunis wool!

 For my 29th birthday, my beloved husband blessed me by driving us to the Capitol of Kentucky (3 hour drive from us) to visit an amazing shop for my spinning passion, The Woolery!

 This lovely shop had everything a spinner/crocheter/knitter/felter would desire! The people there were so immensely helpful and full of joy that I wanted to purchase everything there! 
 I walked out of the shop with 4 pounds of Tunis raw fleece, some acid dyes, color wheel for these type of acid dyes and a measuring card so when I spin, I can keep consistent to the size of my yarn!

Had an awesome time shopping at the Woolery!

had lunch/coffee at a library setting cafe! It was yummy and a lot of fun to visit which was just around the corner from the Woolery!

 My hubby and I are researching on what kind of dual sheep we desire to have on our future homestead/farm when the time comes (dual = meat/wool), and I have been curious on Tunis sheep, upon researching (for wool),Tunis wool is a lustrous 24 to 30 microns, long-stapled 4 to 6 inches that has found favor with spinners. Ewes typically shear a fleece weighing 6 to 9 pounds of this 3/8th's blood, 56 to 58 spinning count wool.

 We've been looking at Romney's and Tunis sheep, and the Woolery had Tunis raw fleece so why not give it a chance, right?

 The next morning after our trip was a nice warm enough day (for Tennessee in January!), so he and I went outside to sort out the already skirted fleece with Sadie at our heels sniffing curiously the fleece that were in the plastic bags.
My hottie hot hottie of a husband helping me try and take out the VM that was clinging to the wool before washing it!

 Right when we opened the bags, an aroma that would probably gross out most people came out, but it didn't gross me out one bit! Instead it made me smile! It smelled like we had our sheep farm and all I needed was the "Baaaaa" of them running around! It made me ache for our own sheep so badly! But alas, this was as close to having sheep as we can get... for now!

 Touching the fleece was greasy and yet soft. We tried to get us much leftover vegetable matter (VM) and poop out of it (and into our compost pile it went) before moving onto washing it.  Getting off the VM was near to impossible! Because the lanolin (wool grease) was just too much and VM was not  coming off the wool without a fight!

 So I put the wool in our washing machine filled with hot water and a large amount of Dawn dish soap (enough that when you touched the water it was slippery with the soap) and very gently (as not to agitate the wool so it would felt) submerged the wool and left it there for about 20 minutes. When I checked on it I made sure it was clean by seeing if I the water was "see through". 

Raw tunis wool soaking in hot soapy water
Can you see the difference between clean and dirty wool? What a difference!
After making sure the water was "clear", I put it on spin cycle and then rinse. After that I took it out and put it on a towel to dry. Because of how cold it is outdoors, I have to dry it indoors which take quite a while! It dried within 2 days (after gently separating the wool to get some air in it).

Our Sadie was so interested in the wool she settled herself down and watched the fleece for quite a while. Perhaps she thinks she's guarding sheep!
After it dried there is still so much VM in it, I have to comb through it gently again before I dye and spin it... when i'm all done i'll be sharing that as well! This is quite a long process but it's so fun to learn and to know that I am doing this from scratch! 

Friday, January 16, 2015

The beginning of it all...

 "... And here I knitted a shawl out of yarn my daughter in law spun from alpaca yarn..."

 I turned around from what I was crocheting in my advanced crochet class in an adult school in El Cajon, CA, and what this sweet lady was holding up was a simple knitted shawl but it wasn't the shawl that caught my attention, it was the words she spoke... hand spun? Alpaca? 
My drop spindle

 I have been crocheting for a whole year and never thought about where my yarn have come from, I was just used to going to Michaels, Joann's or Walmart for my "cheap" yarn and never thought about where yarn really came from, what types of wool were out there and the different kind of fibers: Protein and Vegetable. I just wanted to finish crocheting my bohemian shawl and that was it.

 I walked over to the lady and asked if I could see her shawl, she allowed me to touch it and with that one touch, I was zapped by the fiber bug!

What I blended, spun and crocheted my first time!
 The feeling of fresh spun yarn on my fingers and seeing how "imperfect" the yarn was, it wasn't spun absolutely perfect like you would get in commercial yarn which intrigued me! So, when I got home from my class I googled, "How is yarn made?", and I was hit with different spinning techniques and history of spinning, and different items used to spin wool into yarn!

 My class was promoting a yarn crawl, and on the list was an alpaca farm! So I asked my mama, " Mami, i'm going to an alpaca farm this week. Want to come with me?" Of course she did! 

My parents blessed me with an Ashford Kiwi 2 Spinning Wheel for Christmas 2014
 The day we arrived on this tiny farm, the smell of alpaca and fresh air was very earthy and invigorating to me! The lady who owned the farm was already teaching another person who to spin alpaca wool on a drop spindle. Right away, I rush over there and asked if my mother and I may participate, to the delight of the lady, she sat us down and began to teach us how to spin yarn.

 I was horrible at it. OH, was I HORRIBLE! But my mom and I were giggling and making fun of eachother how bad we were, and having so much fun learning! My yarn came out over twisted, and under twisted and I was spinning clockwise at one point then counter clockwise another point, the lady just shook her head and said,  "You both may need some practice.".

This is what I woke up too, Christmas Morning, 2014!!!!

My first handspun yarn!
 After that hour I decided to purchase a "beginning spinning" package for $12. It came with 2 ounces of alpaca wool and a simple drop spindle. I  took it home and never took it out of the package. I was afraid of that wool, as God is my witness I was deathly terrified of it! I was a "perfectionist" when it came to crocheting, so obviously I would be even harder on myself when it came to spinning wool into yarn that I would crochet with!!!!! 

 For 2 months I never broke the seal of my starters kit, I wanted too badly, but again... I was intimidated. My mama invited me to a yarn festival and of course, I being an avid crocheter HAD to go!

Blending hackle my beloved husband created for me (with the help of my daddy) under $20, instead of spending $200 for one!
 I was in heaven, all these freshly hand painted and hand spun yarn everywhere was like candy to a child to me! Everywhere I went I saw women spinning on their spinning wheels, and all I could do was sigh wishing I could be like them, but I couldn't even gather the courage to use my drop spindle!

 I walked by these two women who were spinning on their spinning wheels, and one of them looked as if she could do this in her sleep! She looked so peaceful and confident that I couldn't help staring. She saw me and smiled and with a sweet southern accent said, "Well hi there, darlin'! Come on closer if you want!".

I approached and watched her spin. I then said, "Sigh, I so want to spin! I just got curious about it, and I have a drop spindle but I just can't get the hang of it. It seems to hard and confusing (as the lady at the farm wasn't very patient, though she was very kind and humorous with us!) and intimidating!", her friend came close with a drop spindle and said, "Oh honey! Spinning is the most simplest thing you can ever do! It is YOU who can make it complicated if that is where your mind is! Watch me..." and in 30 seconds she showed me the most simplest and easiest way to spin on a drop spindle!! I was amazed how quickly I understood watching her!

 That night I went home and decided, "I won't let this beat me! I want to spin and spin I shall!"

 In 1 hour I ended up spinning almost all of my fiber!!!!! My confidence went through the roof and right there and then, my passion for spinning and for wool sky rocketed into the heavens! I wanted to be a spinner, that was my calling!!!!

This was back inbetween August and early November!

Blended roving! Forrest Sunset is what I call it

 Day and night for 3 months I would be looking at youtube videos on spinning (wheel and spindle), recognizing different fibers (protein and vegetable), spinning technique, blending hackles, carding (paddles and drum), dyeing (natural and acid) and even spinning newspapers!!!!!! I was hooked!!! I would not shut up about spinning to my parents and husband, to the point my husband was curious about it and asking question and even got into researching sheep...

 A month before we moved out of state to Tennessee,  my husband and I have been talking about the future (he always wanted to be self sufficient and homestead and even one day have a mini farm) and he said that he really wants to have a small sheep farm, to support my spinning and for meat/milk as well!!!! 

Me! with the slouchy I blended, spun and crocheted! Thank you for joining me in my new adventure!!!
 So now he and I are now into sheep more than ever! We are still in the process of researching and learning more on homesteading and sheep, and in this learning I definitely want anyone reading this to join us in our adventure!!!!

This is the story how it all started with me and spinning... join me in this spinning fun!