2.5 in x 270 in of continuous cross grain binding.
There will be a finished quilt this week.
A sheep's fleece has taken over my front studio space this week. It was quite accidental and surprising as I've had this fleece for years. I can't even remember where this fleece came from. A family run farm either in Ontario or here in Quebec. After a number of offers through friends of friends, my brother finally gave me this bag full of fleece to play with some time after I got my wheel.
I've never quite worked up to digging into this fleece until now. Since this came from a farm where sheep are raised for food instead of wool, it's not the cleanest of fleeces. Combined with my understanding that fleeces from "meat sheep" are considered "garbage", I figured it wouldn't be worth the considerable effort it would take to clean this. Also, I don't have any proper wool scour. All these are reasons that this fleece became a "never never" project and it got put into a fibre bin for a few years.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I heard mention of PLY Magazine by some indie dyers/spinners on Twitter. I decided to try out an issue. Reading through, the Winter Woolen issue popped out at me. I've been trying to teach myself longdraw for the past few years, since I started playing with cotton.
Longdraw is supposed to be faster, but somehow my spinning hasn't really increased in speed much in the past few years. My spinning posture has been pretty awkward too. I'm not convinced that I've really gotten the hang of longdraw just yet. So I was quite excited to see that there was an entire issue devoted to the subject and ordered a copy to see how the magazine was.
After sitting around on my coffee table for a while, I finally took a look inside. I was quickly hooked and read this issue straight through cover to cover. My friends will know how rare this is for me to do with any kind of magazine. I will often buy some magazine, flip through, read some of it and then rant about how none of the articles are in-depth enough. This usually leads to someone suggesting that I stick to books.
But this issue was completely satisfying to me. So much good information! Lots of articles! New ideas! Knowledge from people who know more than me! After finishing reading through the issue, I feel much more confident in continuing my efforts to learn woolen drafting methods.
I was immediately inspired to drag out this fleece I've been storing for years based on the article about down breeds of sheep by Beth Smith. Basically the article refutes the idea that these are "garbage" fleeces not worth processing and suggests that the wool is well suited to making socks. Dense, warm, and even somehow "felt resistant".
So I dragged out this bundle of fibre, dumped it on my floor, and got to work preparing it to scour. I started by picking out vegetable matter and lightly fluffing the locks before scouring.
After scouring a few bundles, it's become apparent how fibre needs to be REALLY clean before getting wet. All the caked on mud bits stayed pretty much as they were after an overnight soak, scour and multiple rinses.
So my pre-scour preparations are now more thorough. I'm using my flick carder to open up each lock. So the fleece taking over my floor is slowly getting prepped for the next step.
It's unbelievable how soft and fluffy the washed fibre is. It's going to be so fun to play with!
I've found myself repairing some knitwear recently. The last few days have been spent working on repairing some wonderful fair isle gloves friends of mine brought back from a trip to Iceland last year. While these gloves are really well knit, they're a bit delicate for the inescapable winter chore of shovelling snow. Well inescapable for most Canadians.
While fixing these gloves, I found myself returning to the long avoided task of fixing my father's fair isle mittens which succumbed to a similar fate. I knit these mittens as a Christmas present back over the '11-'12 holiday break. My dad loved these mittens and I quickly heard back about how wonderfully warm they were, perfect for an Edmonton winter (which is a true test for hand knit accessories).
The downside to knitting these "ultimate" mittens was that my dad wore them for all of his outdoor winter activities, including shovelling the driveway. After 1.5 winters, the exceedingly soft alpaca that they are made from was worn through on many parts and I had to figure out how to fix them.
While I found it wonderful that my dad loved his mittens so much that he was wearing them all the time, it was heart wrenching to see how roughly these mittens had been used. I decided the best way to fix them was to reknit the tops of the mittens & thumbs, not a problem as there was plenty of yarn left over from the first time around.
But there was a bigger problem that was causing me to delay this repair. Sure, I could fix them, but in another year or so, I'll be fixing them again. I could be set for Christmas presents for life, re-knitting mittens for my dad every year. As much of a hard time as gift shopping can be, I'd rather not knit the same thing year after year.
So the real fix is a bit more that perpetually re-knitting some mittens, it's the creation of a mitten system. Yes, I am fixing this pair of already beloved mittens, but I'm also going to knit a second pair of "work" mittens out of a more hard wearing yarn. Alpaca is quite soft and warm, but the average Canadian snow shoveller requires fibre that is a bit tougher. Some sturdy wool mittens that will felt rather than fray with the reality of everyday winter chores.