Thursday, January 31, 2013

TIMT: Poop Soup!

Hey, everybody!  It's Thing I Made Thursday again!  Sorry for the quiet week.  In addition to the tangible things I've made this past week, I'm hoping I've made several fiber friends happy.  I've been coordinating a group buy of carding cloth from Howard Brush.  The carding cloth in question was specifically made for use on blending boards, and isn't available to individuals (yet?).  It has been a lot of fun, but a LOT of work and I'm afraid my blog has suffered for it.  Forgive me, please.

I couldn't neglect TIMT, though- and I do have something to share with you this week.  POOP!  Maybe this isn't as funny if you don't regularly hang out with 4-year olds.  Who am I fooling, poop is always funny!  Except when poop is srs bsns, as it was in this case.  Kinda.

This is an unwashed, "raw" Targhee fleece from an online vendor who will remain nameless because... eww.  It came to me as a gift, so there wasn't much I could do except throw it out or do my best to clean it, and I am not the type to throw away a pound of Targhee!  So into the soak it went, and you can be glad I didn't take a picture of the first soak water.  This post is accurately named.  That's all I'm sayin'.  I know sheep live in dirt, but this fleece was particularly nasty.

Parts of it were lovely, it's just that it probably wasn't skirted well, and it had all kinds of tarred tips, dingleberries, etc.  Eww.  Still, the delicately crimped locks and the overall softness of the fleece begged me to try to redeem it.  So try I did.

The first batch came out kinda okay.  More yellowed than I would've liked.

Second batch. 

Third batch.  Getting better, though this is a great shot of the kind of VM that's all through the fleece.  It wasn't listed as being coated, though, so there's that.

Fourth and final batch.  Not bad, though you can still see some of the tarry tips.

This is half a pound, about halfway through the process.  Overall, the fleece washing was a bust.  Targhee felts if you look at it funny, and I wasn't even trying to protect the lock structure, so there's a lot of matted/felted bits.  I might be possible to salvage some for carding and spinning, but I have another, kiddo-friendly felting project in mind for it.  

Look at the tiny crimples!  I love Targhee.  I don't love prepping nasty Targhee, but... Another experience along the path, I suppose.  

Also poop.  ;-)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Melon Burst

Offered for your consideration: a "beautiful oops".

I had this idea to make watermelon rolags.  The theory was that I'd be able to spin a self-striping yarn in a colorway that would look watermelonish.  It's definitely "ish".  I may or may not tinker with it later; I'm kinda grumpy with it right now, so I put it in a time out.  I figured I could blog about it here and share what I felt was right/wrong, and maybe someone out there could build on this and take it somewhere 20% cooler.

Here's what I did.  I dyed up a bunch of watermelony greens and reds.

There's a crazy blend of wools in both colors, including Polwarth, Merino (64s and Superfine), Romney, Shetland, Wensleydale, Leicester, BFL, Jacob... Not pictured: the silk noil I dyed black (holy WOW does true black take a lot of dye!).  I also blended some undyed Merino/silk, Targhee and Shetland rovings (which looked like undyed roving, so no pic).

I know myself well enough to know that I WAY overestimate how much fiber I'll use for any given project, so I divided this lot in 2 before I even started.

Believe me, there was PLENTY!  I wanted a ratio of about 1/3 green and white, and the other 2/3 red.  I carded up the green first, being careful to make very thin layers so it would be well-blended and not too streaky freaky.

And then I did the same with the red in two batches (with a little help, of course).

And the white, which isn't pictured.  Oops.  Anyway, here's the prepped fiber, ready to roll:

Next, I prepared my blending board.  I had this idea in my head of matching rolags with equalish color blocks.  Since I wanted a good size yarn, and had prepped a substantial amount of fiber, I knew I'd be rolling several boards worth of rolags.  My eyeballing skills are pretty decent, but my "accept your imperfections" skills?  Not so much.  So I tried to preserve my sanity by marking the board where I thought I wanted the color changes to be.

I used waxed dental floss so the fiber wouldn't stick, and masking tape for easy removal.  I think I'll pick up some green dental floss next time so I can more easily see the lines.

I put a thin layer of "melon" down before I added the silk noil "seeds".  I figured this would help the noil stay in place when I rolled the rolags (and it did).

Once the noil "seeds" were placed, I filled in the rest of the melon.  I filled a bit too much, so I decided to just roll the whole thing off as a mini-batt instead of fighting with it.

Kiddo is not a fan of clothing beyond undies, even in the dead of winter.  Adds to the summery vibe, I guess.

The next few boards were more of the same, only less packed on.  Here's what I came up with in the end:

Not bad, and they spun up beautifully, but... not exactly what I had in mind, either.  The ratio of green to white to red is wrong.  The noil doesn't look seedy enough on the rolags, but I can't figure out what else would work (and it looks great when it's spun).  Oh well!  Process is important, too- not just product.  I will keep telling myself that until I internalize it.  ;-)

If nothing else, I learned.  I learned more than I'd expected, actually.  In addition to getting some longdraw spinning practice in, I gave that mini batt what for and threw it in the tub for a crash course in wet felting.  Silk doesn't wet felt, and neither does firestar, and it was not at all properly prepped for the task, but it made a fun, funky watermelon mat for the kiddos and redeemed what I consider an oops of a project.

Pics of spun yarn and felted mat to follow when they're dry.  Overall, not a bad day.  :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thing I Made Thursday - Love Letters/42

I made some batts!  Surprised?  Yeah, me neither.  But there are two batts in my pile of recently-created fluff that I love.  Is it wrong to love some of your creations more than others?  It's not like they're my kids or anything, even though I do feel some affinity for them. So, yeah- favorite children here.  At least so far.

There are two of them.  Fraternal twins.  They're made of the same stashbits, but layered slightly differently.  I would've had to take notes to make them match better, and I didn't feel like stopping every ingredient to write out my process.  

They are, without question, the batts with the longest ingredient list of any I've made thus far.

Counting by both fiber and color, there are 42 individual components.  42!  The "...and everything" of stash! That wasn't planned, but it pleased me to no end when I did the final count.

I wanted to make A BATT.  One.  Hah!  I card like I cook, apparently: for an army!  An army of fiberistas!  I need to start recruiting, because that must. happen.  Join today!

I was going to call the original batt "Love Letter".  I was imagining something for February, for lovers, and for love of fiber in general.  When I realized that there was NO way all that fluff was going to fit on my carder, I split it into two sets of fiber fabulousness.

As with most of my "beautiful oopses", I like them better this way.  Because they're made of the same materials, they can be spun together into one long yarn and it would be consistent throughout.  But with their surface features being different, they have this sort of call and response thing going on.  A letter sent, and a letter in reply.

And they're not just "top dressed", folks.  The color blends run all the way through the batts, and there are sparkles and goodies throughout.  I get grumpy when I buy a beautiful batt that has great surface flash, only to find that it's a pad of plain with a pretty crust.  Gimme my glitz!!!

 They're begging me to corespin them, but I'm going to put them up in the shop.  Let the love fest commence!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Dye It

Back in the time of "Babester", I acquired a teeny tiny crock pot and began learning dyework.  I was still tinkering, and a lot of what I dyed ended up blotchy or kinda felted.  I was working with Kool-Aid and food coloring, so there wasn't a whole lot of consistency or technical accuracy to any of it.  I was just playing, and it was fun.

Now that I'm "seriously working" in my ever-so-serious shop (this is hilarious to anyone who knows anything about who I am and how I work), I've chosen to upgrade my materials a bit.  I'm still using my adorable, itty bitty crock pot, but I splurged on a full set of Jacquard Acid Dyes.  Of course, they're tiny, 1/2 ounce jars.  If you saw the limited space I work in, you'd understand.  Aren't they cute?

They all fit in one of the plastic bins I use to organize my fiber, and there's plenty of room for more!  Which is good, because I love dyeing and I'm totally addicted.  The only bummer was that they didn't have any kind of label where I could easily see it.  Easy to fix:

Ta da!  Repurposed promo stickers from the old shop!  They fit perfectly.  I also treated myself to a Color Grid by Gail Callahan.  Her book, Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece, has been my dye bible, and the color grid is a very handy tool.

My trusty IKEA drying rack has seen a lot of use lately!  Here's a quick pic of what's drying now.  I don't usually dry wool in my bedroom, but the babesters booted my drying rack from its traditional home in the bathtub.

I might have to make a post on how I juggle space next.

Or I could just dye more fiber. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

How I Roll

Okay, so, rolags.  ROLAGS!  I promised you a post about these little lovelies, and here it is.  It's likely to be the first of many, because rolling rolags is super fun.  I recently bought myself a Fancy Kitty Fiber Artist's Blending Palette.  I don't work for FK, nor am I in any way compensated by them, but I've been very pleased with my Kitten carder, and have used the heck out of my picking board and burnishing brushes.  Ron has always answered my emails the day I send them, and I love supporting small, American businesses.  So when I heard about this new toy, I jumped on the pre-order list!  I'm going to skip the product pics and go straight to the squish, but you should check out that link.

Disclaimer: this is my way.  There are probably eleventy ways and counting to use a tool like this.  I am still tinkering, and am not at all claiming to be a blending board expert.  The neatest thing I've learned so far about these boards is that they're designed for play.  Where a drum carder is serious business, a blending board is much more free of restrictions. 

I start by pre-carding a blend of fibers on my drum carder.  This is not at all necessary to make a rolag; it's called a "blending board" for a reason!  However, I have a few expert interrupters sharing studio space with me.  With as often as I find myself needing to pause my goofing around with the squish work, it would be easy to forget to add a component or six to each board of rolags.  So I've learned to mix up a "base" to help keep the boards consistent.  If you're going for a small set, or a crazy mix of colors and fibers, or you don't give a lizard poop about being all matchy matchy, this step is completely skippable.  

My base mix for this set of rolags was made of 7 colors of merino, 3 colors of corriedale, polwarth, superfine merino, and 7 colors of firestar.

I wasn't too picky about thoroughly blending the pre-mix since it was going to be mixed more on the board.  I just gave it a quick pass through the carder and tried to be sure the colors were somewhat balanced.

Troll hair!

I split the pre-mix batt into 4 chunks for ease-of-use and tied then up so they wouldn't shed all over the place.  Then I dove into the stash for some fiber candy!  Here's what I came up with:

Milk fiber, bamboo, lamb wensleydale locks, kid mohair locks, mulberry and tussah silks, silk noil, and three colors of angelina (see previous post about being a glitz junkie).

I wanted the sparkle to show on the rolags, so I put that down first.  Then I placed a bit of the silk, bamboo and other mix ins on top.

Next, I laid on some locks.  I chose the 54 tpi carding cloth because I wanted to be able to make both smooth rolags, and some more funky, textured rolags.  This set is somewhat textured, though the locks I chose are so silky and wonderful that they spin up pretty darn smoothly!

I took a stiff brush and poked the locks down on the tines a bit so they'd stay in place, then I used the 4" burnishing brush that came with my board to smooth everything down and make room for the next layer.

This is the pre-mix.  Again, making a batt is not necessary.  You could easily add all the ingredients I put in my pre-mix directly onto the board at this stage or any other.  Before rolling the rolags, I burnished this fluffy layer down a bit and tried to be sure there were no obvious thin spots.  

Next, I used the two included dowels to roll the rolags off the board.  Sadly, I haven't learned how to take pictures or video with my feet while rolling fiber onto dowels, and neither of the babesters are much for photography/videography (yet).  I'll try to get a video tutorial on the actual rolling process up soon, but you can find a few on YouTube already.  


Behold!  Rolags!  By the time I was finished using up that pre-mix, I'd made about 8 ounces worth of usable rolags.  There were a couple that didn't quite make it off the board, and I deemed another several less than worthy of making it to the shop.  I got 4-5 rolags per filled board, so you can see that this isn't exactly a quick project.  But they're so worth it!

Look at those cute little locks poking out!  They look like little fiber creatures.  Check out their mouths:

Zee fiber vurms!!!

They're ridiculously easy to spin from, too.  If you pull gently on the tuft of fluff at either end, they just sort of unravel out to slurp up the twist in your spinning.  The Louet loves them, but I'm actually using the duds from this set to practice my long draw spinning on a drop spindle.  I'll try to upload a tutorial about that, too.  Long draw is the traditional partner for rolags, and that combo is the only way to make a true woollen yarn.  That said, you can easily use any kind of draw or a hybrid of your liking, and these rolags will give you a great yarn!

So there you have it.  My newest squish obsession.  Now please excuse me, I'm off to roll a few more sets I've been scheming about.  Don't worry, I'll share!  Look for a new "Rolags" section at the shop shortly.  In the interim, there's a group of rolag junkies congregating on Ravelry.  The group's called "Rollin' Rolags" and all are welcome!