Friday, 13 December 2013

Angelo - the Cotswold lamb - Part II

So, Angelo's fleece was 1950g when it arrived and after having the second cuts removed and being washed I am left with 1413g, which needs to be hand combed.  Look at the lovely pillowcase full of gorgeous locks.  Please see Part I for more info.

Now to the combs.  With this fleece I made sure that I loaded the combs up with the cut end on the comb and the tip hanging down like it was on the sheep.

As you can see the tips are still a bit tight and a bit mucky but the combs should get these loosened and opened up.  The photo on the right I think looks like Santa's beard.

Slowly turning locks into fluff...

We have fluff.  Wow, look at the white fluff.  Beautiful!

A hand-combed nest and a small sample of spinning.  Not quite got it right but it was good to practice so I know how to adjust my spinning to this fleece and what I want to get from it.

Spinning the singles ready for plying and showing fineness with the UK 1 pence coin.

I plied the singles and skeined them up into just over 100g in each skein because they still looked a little dirty to me, something I really noticed  just as I was about to wash the second batch of 3 skeins and so I lay one of the first 3 skeins, which was all nice and clean, in amongst the yarns waiting to be washed.  As you can see from the photo on the left, there was a bit of a difference in colour.  This is down to those tips still being a little stuck together and discoloured as I combed them but its all come out in the wash.

I got 10 skeins of yarn, all around the 100g or thereabouts mark and all in the sport weight range, all absolutely beautiful and soft with high lustre.  The last photo shows them all lined up in number order, Skein 1 on the left, Skein 10 on the right.

These are going to make some fabulous wedding shawls, can't wait to get cracking on these but I have so many other things to do first.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Hillcrescent Farm Jacobs Fleece No.5

Further to my post a few months ago about buying a number of Jacobs fleece from a local farm, I have selected one of the fleece at random to start preparing.  This is Fleece No.5.

This was sheared on 26th May 2013, lovely in places but very dirty and was fairly heavy in surface VM.  After I skirted it it weighs 1.1kg, photos were taken after skirting had taken place.

I separated the colours as best as I could into pile of black/brown, a pile of white and the last pile was a mixture of the colours that were too mingled to separate.  I washed and dried the colours separately and was left with 729g of clean fleece, a loss of 371g of dirt and grease, broken down as follows: 86g white, 393g black/brown and 250g mixed colour.

The White Fleece

I combed the 86g of white fleece, which gave me approx 55g of hand combed top to spin.  I decided to have a go at dyeing it with some ColourCraft All-In-One dyes that I had recently bought.  I followed the instructions using 5g of Ultra Marine dye crystals in 1.5 litres of water to dye my hand combed top.  Towards the end of the dyeing process I sprinkled 5ml of white vinegar over the top in the dye pot and left it for 15 minutes, as this is supposed to help the dye to be absorbed and I think this is what caused some areas to be darker than others.  Learning by experimenting.  Such fun!

I didn't blend the top, just spun it as it came.  The finished skein was a 2ply double-knit weight yarn, 55g/85m which was used with other yarns in a scarf.

The Mixed Colours Fleece

I then took the 250g of mixed colour fleece and combed it, blending the colours as equally as I could as I went.

This gave me 128g of hand combed top, which I spun 2ply into a lovely double-knit weight grey yarn which I have called Storm Cloud and it is 128g/258m.

The Black Fleece

I combed this and 393g of fleece was soon reduced to 225g of hand-combed top.  I then got an idea to make it colourful.  Years ago, I bought a yarn sample and colour sample set from Colinette Yarns.  These weren't any use to me any more as some of the yarns they no longer made and some of the colours had gone the same way and they had developed new yarns and colours.  Plus the fact that I rarely buy yarn in these day, not now that I can make my own.  The yarn sample wasn't really any use to me as there were only a few that were pure wool, and those were white or some other pale colour.  The colour sample, however, was a completely different kettle of fish.  Bright and colourful and most of the yarn samples on there were the pure wool ones.

I pulled off the lengths of yarn that I thought would be ideal for me to use, mostly samples of Colinette Graffiti, which is a thickish single with a finer 2ply yarn plied around it.  I took these apart, laying the 2ply aside for a later use.  I discovered that the thickish single had a thread running through the centre of it which was easy to pull on and remove and then I pre-drafted these lengths slightly.

I spun one plain black Jacobs single and a second which was black Jacobs with lengths of the de-constructed Colinette Graffiti inserted randomly.  These two singles were then plied together to give me a double-knit weight yarn.  One skein is 156g/280m and the other is 135g/238m and I have called this yarn "Remember, Remember the 5th of November".

So that is all of the fleece used up to make these fabulous skeins of yarn.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Angelo - the Cotswold ram lamb - Part I

Through one of the fleece/spinning forums that I am part of, a very nice farmer has been welcomed to our "flock" so that he can sell his award winning fleece direct to hand-spinners.  He keeps and shows a beautiful flock of Cotswold Sheep.  These are one of the Longwool breeds and he shows his sheep and then after the fleece have been sheared, he shows those too then at the end of the show season he sells the fleece to hand-spinners.  I put my name down for one and it has arrived.  WOW, its beautiful!!!

This is Angelo, the ram lamb that the fleece has come from and a photo of the fleece that Rob sent to me before I purchased it.  Angelo's grandfather won the title of Champion Ram at the Royal Show.

Rob looks after his sheep extremely well and spends hours picking out all the VM from his fleeces so that they are in pristine condition for showing.  This fact, and the fact that his fleece are out-of-this-world, make his fleece highly desirable and there is currently a waiting list, which at the time of writing is about 2 or 3 years long, meaning that is the length of time you have to wait to get your chance of getting your hands on one of these.

The starting weight of this fleece is 1950g but as you can see, its not white and its full of gorgeous lanolin which is great for the sheep, the fleece and my hands but not so great for my hand combs.  Nice long staple and lots of lustre.  Can't wait to see the wonderful yarn that this will make.

There was a small amount of second cuts and rubbish weighing 96g, a very small amount given the size of the fleece and a pile of locks waiting to be washed looks fantastic.


I used my usual method of washing a fleece which is separating the locks from the whole fleece and using net laundry bags to soak the locks in hot soapy water, regular dishwashing detergent is fine.  I usually use one that also has anti-bacterial qualities too.  My fleece has 2 hot soapy soaks to remove dirt and grease, followed by 2 plain hot water soaks to remove any residue soap and also to remove any further dirt trapped in the locks.  Important: always run the hot water first, then add the soap and carefully/gently swirl the water.  Do not shake your hands in the water, you do not want a bubble bath.  Carefully lower the bag of fleece into the water and push down slowly and gently into the water.  That is it, leave it alone for about 20 minutes, do not touch it or you will end up with a bag of felted mess.  The hot water and soap will do its job perfectly well.  When it comes to changing the water, you carefully lift one end of the bag over onto the other end (fold in half basically) and then lift the whole thing out and let the water run out before gently squeezing most of the excess water out, DO NOT WRING.  Fill sink with fresh hot water and go again.

Just look at that water, and that is from the second hot soapy water soak.

Clean by comparison, or is it?

The locks on the left have been washed but the tips are still a bit mucky but these can be gently rubbed underneath the water and usually loosen up and shed their dirt.  The locks on the left are in need of washing.

Lay out to dry, whoops, missed a bit of a dirty lock there, which was soon rectified.

Just ignore our mess in the background, my hanging drier is out in the utility room/storage area for some of the gardening bits and pieces and recyclable boxes etc.  Look at how clean it looks close up now.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Black Shetland - Re-visited

You'll never guess what I've done.  I've only gone and gotten myself another Black Shetland fleece from the farmer in Morval, Cornwall that I had the others from.  Not only that, but this fleece has come from the exact same sheep as the last Black Shetland fleece but she is all grown up now and has given birth to a lamb of her own.  Shame I don't have any pictures to show you of cute lambs.

I forgot to take a photo of the fleece this time so I will show you the last fleece again.

This year's fleece wasn't as nice as the shearling fleece, but then lambs wool is traditionally the best quality that you can get.  We've also had a lot of very wet weather over the past year and this plays havoc with the quality of the fleece.

I took delivery of 988g of fleece but noticed a lot of vegetable matter and second cuts in this years fleece.  Normally I would remove as much as I could but there is so much of it I decided to leave that job to the combs, they are so much more efficient at it than I am.  I just got on and washed the fleece, leaving me with 644g of clean fleece.

After I sat and combed the entire fleece I had a large bag of waste and just 414g of hand-combed nests waiting to be spun.  This is not much, a poor % yield, but what there is is nice, better than I was expecting after seeing the state it was in when it arrived.

I split the amount in half and spun two singles.  When I came to ply, I added a new twist.  Yes I plied both of the single Shetland strands together but I also added in something else to make 3 ply yarns.

To my first yarn I added some fine red cotton yarn, spinning to sport weight 179g/304m made up of 87% Shetland Wool/13% cotton.

To my second yarn I added some fine magenta cotton yarn, spinning to sport weight 152g/310m made up of 86% Shetland Wool, 14% Cotton

To my third and final yarn I added some baby pink cotton yarn, spinning to double knit weight 153g/305m made up of 84% Shetland Wool, 16% Cotton.

I think they look pretty good together and certainly something different for me.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Black Shetland Beaded Lace Shawl - Design L7

I enjoyed knitting with my own hand-spun wool so much that I am keen to do it again but this time I want something a little more challenging.  I can't wait to start knitting with some Black Shetland wool that I have spun up and I do have quite a few skeins of it.  I've chosen a design that has a lot of beads and have ordered the beads to go with the yarn.  The beads I am going to use are Size 8 Toho round seed beads in shade 83 metallic brown iris.

I started making this on 15th April and with this design you have to thread a given number of beads into the yarn to make the beaded tassel as you cast on.  You then work the first part of the pattern and put to one side and repeat a further 6 times until you have 7 scallops.  They are joined together as you knit across all of them and continue making the design.  All beads other than the tassels were added painstakingly one-at-a-time over the individual stitches which means that they cannot move out of position by sliding along the yarn and into wrong place over a period of time.  There are 5,083 beads on this shawl.  Well I did say I wanted something more challenging!

It was all crumpled up when it came off the needles.

A good soak and block soon sorted it out and those are the same scissors in the first of the above before and the below after photographs to give some idea of what a difference finishing off a shawl properly makes to the final garment.

I finished knitting this on 5th July 2013.  I love this design as the shaping around the neck line helps to keep it in place and makes it sit where it should.

Want to know how I made the yarn for this shawl?  Just click Black Shetland Fleece

Monday, 17 June 2013

Alpaca and Shetland Wool, together in harmony

I do love a nice Shetland fleece, I don't know what it is about them but I love touching them, so soft and bouncy and light to the touch.  I was so impressed with the Black Shetland fleece when it arrived that I went back to the same farmer in Morval, Cornwall and bought some more Shetland fleece from her.  500g of "light fawn to cream" that was also sheared in June 2012.

I washed this fleece when it arrived last year but have only just gotten around to doing anything more with it.  It was pretty dirty and after washing I was left with only 340g and after being combed that went down further still to just 186g of lovely soft combed top ready to spin in whole range of colours, with one particularly dark nest standing out from the crowd.

I had also bought some lovely cream Huacaya Alpaca last year too from Abacus Alpacas in South Cerney, Gloucestershire from one of their lovely Alpaca's called Dakota, so pretty!

1000g of main body fleece, once washed and combed left me with approx 671g of lovely combed alpaca top to spin in similar shades as the Shetland fleece.  I decided to blend equal amounts of both the Alpaca and the Shetland together and then to spin the left over Alpaca on its own.  The first picture below shows the same weight of Shetland (left) and Alpaca (right).

I only lost about 3g during the blending process and I managed to get 3 skeins of lovely soft 50% Shetland Wool/50% Alpaca yarn in double knit weight: 64g/161m, 141g/33m and 167g/338m.

From the Alpaca being spun on its own I managed to get 4 good sized skeins of yarn.

They weighed in at: 117g/200m, 117g/200m (yeah, WOW, two exactly the same, not an easy feat),


and 131g/288m

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Buying a Job Lot of Jacobs Fleece

I had so much fun with my first Jacobs fleece that I decided to get some more and looked on Ebay to see what was available.  Low and behold, 7 Jacobs fleece available at a low price just around the corner from my home at a farm that I never even realised was there as it is situated behind a couple of cottages on the Birmingham Road, Water Orton, about one-third of a mile as the crow flies across parkland, the A452, the M6 and a farmers field but seeing as I cannot fly I had to take the 5 minute drive as its 1.9 miles away by road.

Stuart and Katie had only moved in towards the end of last year and were busy doing the place up and turning it into a rural training centre for a range of vulnerable people.  Here is a link to their website Hillcrescent Farm to read more about what they do.

Back to the fleece, and I had no real idea as to what I was going to get other than that they were Jacobs fleece and there were 7 of them.  I took large black bags with me, just in case they weren't bagged, good job I did.  I had a quick look at a couple of them before I handed over the cash, they seemed OK, not cotted or rotten, not overly coarse and for the price that was good enough for me.  This was the first time the sheep had been sheared since being in the ownership of Stuart and Katie and they had no idea of what a handspinner expects of and looks for in a fleece.  I provided them with copies of some useful information sheets that I had about preparing fleece to sell etc

When I got home I examined them all properly and I had to skirt them myself, removing as much daggings and the poor quality fleece from around the edges, along with any large pieces of vegetable matter (VM).  The weights underneath each fleece are the skirted weights.  I didn't bother to weigh them before I skirted them.  They are all photographed in the same place in my kitchen.  I nearly fell over a couple of times due to the lanolin making the floor slippery, which required a good mopping with hot water and disinfectant after I had finished.

Fleece No.1 - 1.5kg

Fleece No.2 - 1.6kg

Fleece No.3 - 1.05kg

Fleece No.4 - 1.4kg

Fleece No.5 - 1.1kg
Fleece No.6 - 0.79kg

Fleece No.7 - 1.35kg

A good mix of colours on the fleece, some mostly black, most 50/50 and various qualities between fleece too.  I'm going to have some fun with this little lot.  I guess you would like to see some photos of the young ladies who produced these fleece?

Ok, here you go.  All of these photos of the sheep are copyright to Hillcrescent Farm.

(c) Hillcrescent Farm

(c) Hillcrescent Farm

(c) Hillcrescent Farm