fiber prep, Fleece to Fashion, Fleeces, Natural Dyeing, washing

Bailey’s Fleece: Romney

 

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Romney fleece being skirted

In April 2018, I bought a beautiful Romney fleece from Lochan Mor Farms in Cato, NY.  It was a bit muddy, but we’d had a “build an ark” rain all spring, and it rained in the days before shearing.  The shearer did an amazing job, so there wasn’t much I needed to do before washing.

I laid the fleece out on the barn floor and pulled anything I wouldn’t want to process.  It wasn’t much- maybe 8-10 oz from the britch and rear legs.  My plan was to take this fleece home, sort it, & sample the different areas of the fleece.  Life got in the way, and the poor fleece sat, unwashed and ignored for 3 seasons.

Romney Fleece
A chunk of Romney fleece being prepped to wash

SORTING:
I made several false starts.  The weather wasn’t cooperating, and I didn’t have a good space to fit the fleece under cover.    Washing a large fleece can feel like a monumental task, and I spent a fair amount of time mentally willing the fleece to wash itself while I wasn’t looking.  Amazingly, this didn’t work.

Finally, I scolded myself for being wimpy and grabbed fleece from the top of the bag.   I didn’t do much sorting.  I just broke the fleece into 6-8 oz sections and put the wool into mesh bags with the tips facing the same direction.    I have a LOT of mesh bags, and I think I used them all!

THE WASH PROCESS:
20190113_173849Overnight soak in room temperature water and a bit of soap

First wash:  20 minute soak in 140F water with Power Scour (Full strength)
Second wash: 15 minute soak in Power Scour (1/2 strength)
I followed the washes with two hot water rinses.
I spun out the bags of wool in spin dryer and then laid the fleece out on towels and mesh racks to airdry.

The fleece wasn’t perfectly dirt free after washing, but I chose to flick the tips as needed rather than wash more.  I prefer a bit of lanolin when I spin.  I also didn’t want to risk overscouring and losing the shine from the locks.

Overall, I lost about 30% during washing which is pretty fabulous considering that I could have planted in the sink after the first soak!

The wool is on the soft side of romney- I’d guess in the 25-28 micron range. Within the areas of the body, the fleece is very uniform in length and is well within 10% across the whole fleece with the exception of some of the shorter, extra crimpy leg and some coarser, less crimpy britch wool.

COMBING:
Fiber Details:
5.5 staple, 6.5 crimps per inch
Bright white, strong locks with well defined crimp
Small areas with weathered tips

I combed the fiber with extrafine Valkyrie combs using some combing oil on my hands and the fiber to keep the static down.    This green herbstripper/diz is one of my favorite tools. 


THE SPIN:Spun forward draw from the cut end on a Hansen minispinner and on a Schacht matchless. Plied on the Hansen minispinner.Soaked in warm soapy water to remove any spinning oils before dyeing. Rinsed in warm water. Hung to air dry.     3 ply; 14 wpi; 6.5 tpi

I made a test sample of Kate Davies Sheep Heid hat in some Shetland 2000 from my stash.  The hat was too small and a bit too thin for our weather and for the way I treat my hats.  Upping the needle size to adjusting gauge as suggested made a slack fabric that let too much wind through.   I spun some samples of the white Romney until I found a sport weight that increased the gauge swatch enough to increase the hat size to match my head.
I wanted the colors to have more pop and definition similar to a Scandinavian colorwork rather than Fair Isle’s softer colorwork.  I also wanted a more durable hat that would stand up to getting snagged by trees and being left in the backseat of the car.   I decide to spin a worsted, 3 ply.  The firmer fiber led to some puckering in the long float areas, but some of that was the way I wrapped the long floats.  I like the shine and the way the colors stay distinct in the final project.   I spun 500 yards of a lightly compressed worsted 3 ply &  separated the yarn into seven hanks for dyeing.

I also spun 25 grams of a naturally black Romney cross to use for the sheep legs.  The black Romney cross was spun in the same manner as the white, but it bloomed less during washing.  I decided stay with the slightly thinner yarn rather than spin a thicker yarn because I was worried about how floats from a rougher, firmer body yarn would sit.

 DYEING:

I needed 6 dyed colors for the hat plus the two naturals

Silver
20180829_120229Oak Acorns collected at Great Bear Park in Fulton, NY in November.  Put in jars to ferment.
1 liter of fermented acorns simmered in tap water for 4 hours then left to steep overnight.
Presoaked the 25-gram skein for 1 hour in room temperature water.
Simmered the skein in the acorn bath at 85C for 30 minutes, then added 100 mls of iron oxide water to shift the color to grey and simmered for 10 more minutes.
After cooling, washed the yarn in tap water and dish soap, then rinsed.

Old Gold
IMG_20190212_160921_329Marigolds collected from my dyeing garden in Scriba, NY in October 2018.  Frozen until needed.
100 grams of marigold flowers simmered in 2 liters of tap water.
Premordanted the Romney skein using 4:1 alum to cream of tartar solution at 16% WOG

25 gram premordanted skein simmered for 40 minutes at 85C.

This made a bright gold which I toned down by overdyeing it with the acorn exhaust.  The yarn simmered at 85C for ten minutes.  Cooled then washed and rinsed.

Check out this nifty paint strainer that fits in a 5 gallon bucket.  It makes a perfect strainer to pull out most of the dirt and debris as well as the plant material.
Brown
20190125_161601Black Walnuts collected from Greenwich, NY in October.  Put in plastic bags to ferment and decompose.
2 liters of black walnut sludge to 2 gallons of water. Simmered for 4 hours at 95F, heat reduced to 80C and simmered for 6 more hours.  Left to steep for 24 hours.  Dye solution poured off from the dye stuff and filtered to remove particles.

Yarn premordanted with alum using 4:1 alum to cream of tartar at 16% WOG
Yarn presoaked for 1 hour, then simmered in dye bath for 1 hour at 85C.
After cooling, washed and rinsed.

I’ve read that the dye is darker with more browns if the walnuts are green/brown when processed.  Other people suggest letting the walnuts breakdown before extracting the dye.  My guess is that if you pick up brown/black nuts, they have lost some of their color to weathering.  Some folks who use black walnut for dyeing leather go to walnut processing locations and harvest directly from the spoil mound. 

Celery Green
20190214_131813Queen Anne’s Lace- Green Mist

200 g of flowers and leaves simmered in 2L of tap water for 1 hour at 75C, steeped for 3 hours.

Filtered the dye stuff from the bath.

Presoaked a 25 grams skein which was premordanted with 4:1 alum to cream of tartar at 16% WOG

Simmered skein in bath for 45 minutes.  Let cool in bath, then washed and rinsed.

Wine

20190121_092310Cochineal
Ground 3.75 g of cochineal and mixed into 2L of distilled water.  Simmered at 90F for 1 hour.  Filtered bath to get dye stock.

Presoaked 25 skein of  premordanted wool with 4:1 alum to cream of tartar at 16% WOG.  Used first liter of the dye bath to simmer premordanted yarn for 30 minutes at 90F.  Heated and then added second liter of dye bath and shifted the pH to 4.  Simmered for 20 minutes.  Added iron oxide water to the bath until the bath shifted to the wine color needed.  (125ml)    Simmered an additional 10 minutes.
Skein cooled, washed and rinsed.


Bright Gold

20180917_133444Dyer’s Coreopsis collected from house garden in Scriba, NY in October 2018.  Frozen until needed.

100 grams of flowers simmered in 2 liters of tap water.  Filtered plant material from dye stock.
Soaked the 25 g premordanted skein for 1 hour.
Premordanted skein with 4:1 alum to cream of tartar solution at 16% WOG

Simmered yarn in dye stock for 40 minutes at 85C.  Allowed to cool in pot.
Washed and rinsed.

KNITTING:

I needed a larger hat but I also wanted to have the hat more fitted than the slouchy tam shape.  I went up a weight in yarn and kept the needle size as called for.  Additionally, I added two extra rows to the body of the sheep and an extra row in the brim.  This made a nice, beanie shaped hat with a soft rather than fitted top.

Notes for next time:  keep the floats even more irregular behind the ewes.  

COLOR CHART:

Edging:  Silver – acorns

Band:  Old Gold –   Marigold overdyed with acorns
Sheep legs: Black-   Natural black Romney cross
Sheep bodies: Black walnut brown
Sheep faces:  Natural whiteGrass:  Queen Anne’s Lace
Chain outline, Rams, & Diamonds:  Wine- Cochineal
Star on crown:  Bright Gold- Dyer’s Coreopsis

 

Braid:
20190509_150955

Used 2 strands of each color then tied the braid into a barrel knot.

Breed Study, fiber prep, Fleeces, Rysa, Shetland, Spinning

Rysa and the 6 Skeins: The Side

The wool along Rysa’s sides was some of the most interesting to process.   It is nice and soft and has a surprising amount of luster considering the disorganized crimp and the weathering.  Here’s the wool after washing.  There is still enough lanolin in the wool to make spinning quick and easy.  I’ll wash the skein in hot water with a bit of dish soap after spinning.

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Weak tips needed flicking.  You can see the light, wispy tips in the photo above.  I considered trimming them with scissors, but they flicked off without any fuss.

The cut end needed some extra attention.  In some Shetlands, a natural weak spot occurs each year when the old fleece separates from the newer fleece (the rise).  There were just a few areas showing the rise, and the fiber flicked apart easily.  Some locks showed some fiber crushing where the manual shears made a burr on the cut end.   These also flicked out easily.

The photo below shows the downy undercoat on the left.  The primary staple length after flicking off the tip, and a piece of the weathered tip removed.  Over all, the locks lost around 1/2″, sometimes a bit more- esp if they also lost some length on the cut end.   The down is approximately 1.5″.  The primary lock is approximately 3-3.5″20180812_221250

At first, I thought to leave the two coats together combined and spin them as one.   Unfortunately, the undercoat separated as I flicked out the grass and hay bits.  I wanted to save the down for spinning, so I decided to pull it out and spin it separately.


There was a fair amount of loss.  Of the 75 grams of washed fiber,  I have a 34g roving.  The down was only present in part of the side wool, so it only came to 7 g.   The waste came to 34 g (~45%).  There were some cotted locks, but it was mostly flicked ends, weak fibers, and very short soft fibers that were under 1/2″.

I did a sample spin from the flicked locks and found it was very easy to spin this into wire.  However, when handled gently, it stayed a fluffy, lustrous grey-brown.

I ran the flicked locks onto my drum carder and pulled a roving.   I ran the locks sideways for the first pass and then split the batt into thin sheets for the second pass.  I used a 1/4″ hole in my diz and pulled the roving around the drum, clearing approximately 1 1/2″ of fiber from the teeth for each rotation until the drum was clean.

The fibers are fairly parallel, but the springy, disorganized crimp keeps it open and full of air. My first priority while spinning is to keep the softness with low twist and gentle handling.   I do want to keep the fiber ends smoothed down and show off the luster in the yarn, so I’m going to do a bit more sampling to find the happy medium.

Once again, I don’t have tons of fiber to work with, so I need to keep samples small if I want to have enough yarn to use in a project.

Here’s the yarn . 10 wraps per inch, 6 twists per inch. 2 ply, semi-worsted (roving prep, worsted spin- forward draw on the 12.6:1 ratio, Schacht Matchless)

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Breed Study, fiber prep, Fleeces, Rysa, Shetland, Spinning, washing

Rysa & the 6 Skeins: The Belly Wool

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Who decided that Shetland was a good idea for this challenge?  Oh, right.  Here’s me paying the price.

I only had 50ish grams of washed belly wool to work with and a good part of that was grass and felted bits.  The fiber is tender in spots, so I tested frequently as I picked.   I started out just teasing the wool open with my fingers, but I switched to tapping it open on some fine carding cloth when the fiber was long enough..

20180806_102919The pile on the top is technically teased and picked.  As you can see, I wasn’t able to get everything out.  I decided to keep anything 1/2″ or longer.  The longest piece is just over an inch.  The white fiber is shorter than the brown, so I decided to roughly blend the two colors.

After all was said and done, I had 10 grams of picked fiber.  Not tons, but I only need 10 yards for a sample skein.

The challenge?  I wanted to test both spinning from the carder- using the carding cloth as a comb- and spinning from a puni.

I expected the semi-worsted spin make better yarn, esp. considering the fiber length and quality issues.

I used the teeth of the carding cloth to catch the uneven fibers and help the crushed vegetation drop out.  It did all of that, but it turned the yarn into something much more like thread-  densely spun and kind of boring.    Fergie was not a fan of this.

 

20180807_151833

 

 

The yarn was nice and smooth, but too firm to the touch and oh-so-uninspired.

 

 

 

As it turned out,  the puni made a much nicer yarn.   I used about 3 grams of  my 10 gram fiber supply to charge the carders.


This carding cloth is 120 tpi.  I roughly blended the brown and white fibers, picking out most of the shorter pieces and vm.  Once I had a mostly smooth batt, I used the best fiber from the nep pile and sprinkled the shorter white fibers throughout the batt.  Then, I used my smallest dowels (3/16″) to roll the puni.  I used light tension as I wrapped because I was worried that the neps wouldn’t draft if I made the puni too tight.  In the end, I had a strange hybrid rolag-puni thing to spin.

I decided to use a spindle because it was just a tiny amount of yarn and the only wheel without a project on the bobbin was upstairs.   (yes, the spindle has a project on it as well.  So do the other 10 spindles on my downstairs rack.  I’m beyond help…).  You can see how rough and crunchy the puni is.  I didn’t have high hopes for this yarn. 20180806_104338
I spun the yarn supported, American long draw-  flicking the spindle, giving a bit of a pull to get the drop going because this spindle doesn’t weigh much, and then drafting against the support point to draw out an arms length horizontally.   In spite of the fineness of the yarn, there’s decent loft and a nice soft surface on the yarn.  The white neps locked in nicely and in most places made a good tweedy pop rather than a white spiral.   I did the Andean plying party trick and ta-da-  a soft, 2 ply textured, heathered yarn.   The photos on the bottom are plied & washed.  The fibers bloomed differently, so you can see the texture of the white fibers rising above the brown fibers.    Much more interesting than the grey-brown thread!

I am looking forward to using this yarn in my punch needle.  I am pleasantly surprised by the handle of the yarn.   This is definitely yarn- not thread.  It has some good squish factor and texture without looking messy.  I was worried it wouldn’t stand up to knitting, but it’s nice and strong.   I have 4 grams left to play with, so I’m going to make another mini and see what it looks like knitted up.

 

Here’s the second puni spun up.  This one isn’t quite as interesting because I used a lighter hand with the nepps.   Of the two, I prefer the one with more texture for use, but the smoother one makes a prettier skein.

 

Next Up:
Spinning the Britch

Breed Study, fiber prep, Fleeces, Rysa, Shetland, Spinning, washing

Rysa and the 6 skeins

Rysa.jpg
Meet Rysa.  She’s a lovely bellwether Shetland ewe at Trinity Farms.
Today I am separating out her fleece to make six different skeins of yarn- one from each of the following body areas: neck, sides, britch, belly, shoulders, back.  My  goal is to spin for a purpose suitable to the fiber characteristics.   I’m going to spin to the crimp where possible and vary the yarn design for specific uses.

Rysa made it easy for me to sort out her fleece because she’s somewhat color coded.  Her rear legs, britch, and most of her belly are white.  Her front legs are less darker and less weathered.

Each region has distinct fiber lengths and feel, so it was a quick sort. In general, her back and shoulder fibers are quite soft and would make yarn quite suitable for next to the skin wear. I don’t see any evidence of a rise so far, but the shepherdess let me know she saw one area while shearing.

Shetlands have the ability to shed their fleece.  Periodically, the fleece develops a weak spot in the staple where the fleece will naturally separate.  Shepherds can roo the coat by gently pulling on the fiber and lifting the older fleece from the new fleece growing in.  If a sheep is sheared after the rise has started, the shears cut below the natural break in the staple.  If this happens, the fibers can be easily flicked from the cut end.  If the rise is well into the staple, you can grab the butt and pull it with a sharp tug.  The staple will separate at the rise, leaving the sound staple for spinning.

20180804_142825
Shetlands are small.  The typical fleece weight is 2-4 pounds.  This whole fleece only weighs 1# 13 oz  prior to washing.  The photo has washed out the beautiful brown of this fleece.  I’m looking forward to seeing the color in the spun yarn!

Here’s a photo to compare the raw locks across the different areas.

20180804_150427.jpg
At first I thought his ewe had a single coat, but after washing, I found areas where she has a very soft, downy undercoat that is about 1.5″ long.   Most of the fleece is soft with 2-3.5″ long staples with 7-8 deep,wavy crimps per inch.  The locks are downy at the cut end, have a more clearly defined crimp in the center of the lock, and then taper to a slightly wispy point.  The locks at the shoulder and the sides have a longer, more wispy tip.

Shetlands can have a variety of coat types that range from a soft, downy single coat through a medium-long wavy coat to a primitive, double coat.  Personally, I have a soft spot for double coated shetlands.   That said, working with Rysa’s fleece is so easy.  I may need to shake things up more often!

I’d put Rysa’s coat between a kindly and a medium, and closer to the kindly side of things.  In spots, she has a second coat but it is not dense and seems to be about 10% of the fiber weight.   If you’d like to read more about the different types of coats, this is a nice page with pictures and descriptions:

https://www.shetland-sheep.org/about-shetlands/shetland-wool/shetland-fleece-types/

 

Fleece Description by Area:

The shoulder:

The raw fiber is 3.5″ long, with 8 well-defined, wavy crimps per inch.  The fiber is soft and could be worn next to the skin.   Lanolin level is low- moderate.  I’ve opened the lock for the picture above, but the cut end is dense and webby with more definition along the center and finally tapering to a lightly wispy tip.  Overall, the fiber is in good condition with light weathering at the tips.  I expect this fiber to process easily because the tips are firm and the cut end is clean and defined.  I’m hoping to spin this finely enough to make a ring shawl.

The brown has a grey undertone, and I’m looking forward to seeing the color after it is spun.  Unfortunately, I think I will lose some of the color variation by spinning superfine yarn.

The side:

The locks vary throughout the side.  The further the lock is from the back, the less crimp. The pulled lock was from the edge where the side met the belly.  It has roughly 3 crimps per inch.  The fibers have deep, loose waves that are disorganized and almost fuzzy.   The lock is 3.5″ long with the last 1/2 inch being a wispy, weathered tip.  Though the tips are strong,  I plan to trim them during processing to remove the coarser fiber.  The color is a beautiful rich brown.  I’m planning to spin a three ply dk weight, but I will do some sampling first.  I’d love to make a cabled hat, but I’m waiting to see how much loft I want in the finished yarn before making that call.

The back:

The lock is 2 3/4″ long with 7 crimps per inch.  The fibers are next to the skin soft, lightly webby, and very fine.  There’s more lanolin here and more weathering on the tips.  Some tips may need flicking.   A quick test spin by twisting in the grease showed that this spins easily into a soft, 2 ply laceweight yarn.  I have enough fleece to do a lace scarf or shawl.  If I wasn’t keeping the fleece separated for the 6 skein project, I would probably blend it with the shoulder fleece and do a full-size shetland shawl.  I’m going to sample to see which yarn weight shows off the fleece best.  The back has a fair amount of weathering so there is less luster.  I’m already spinning a superfine yarn with the shoulder, so I’d like to do a fingering or sport for the back.

 The Belly:

The belly fiber is a mix of short, soft fiber and wiry fiber.  Most is short and fine- approx 1-2″ staple.  There’s a good amount of vegetable matter and felting, so most of the belly isn’t usable. The non-felted fiber is very tender.  Much of it breaks easily if tugged.  I’m going to wash it enough to remove the dirt and some of the lanolin, but I want to leave more lanolin that I would usually to help the fibers slide during picking.

Considering the small amount of fiber and its condition,  the belly is going to be spun into a fine yarn.  After washing and picking, I had a nice little collection of 1/2″ bright white fibers.  I’d like to put those into the yarn for a rustic , lightly textured fine yarn.  The yarn would add some nice variation and interest to a needlepunch project.

The Legs:  Shetlands don’t have much fleece on their lower legs, so I don’t have much of the short, super crimpy leg fleece that can be found in some other breeds.  Nor was the fleece particularly dirty or cotted.  Some of the fiber is tender; some has weak tips.  I’m going to flick this before carding in to rolags.

Rysa’s rear legs are white.  The fleece there has 2-3″ staple lengths with dense fiber that has disorganized crimp.  This fiber is coarser and suitable for outerwear.  Some areas have wispy, coarser tips that I will trim. It would make lovely mittens, a pair of socks, or a lightweight sweater.   After washing, the color is a bright, clear white and has some shine.  I’d love to dye this for colorwork.

The front legs are brown with a 2.5-3″ staple that has a shallower, tighter crimp.  Some of the fiber shows an outer coat which can be easily pulled out.  The fiber is a bit softer than the back leg fiber and would make a nice scarf or pair of gloves.  If I had more of it, I’d use it for a sweater.

The britch
The britch fiber is coarser with some light cotting.  Some areas show a hair-like, second coat which can be pulled to separate it.  Some areas show a small amount of weak fiber at the cut end from the rise.  It is only 1/4-3/8″ and can be easily removed.  Apart from these sections, the locks are 3.5″ long and have a disorganized fiber structure with poorly defined crimp.   The fiber is suitable for some wear, but it is still on the softer side- similar to a corriedale.  Compared to other shetlands I have spun, the britch of this fleece is softer with a smoother hand.

SORTING

I sorted the fleece by area and broke the fleece into 4-6 oz portions per mesh bag.  I placed tyvek labels in the bags so that I could easily identify the different fleece.
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Next step: washing

This fleece doesn’t have a lot of lanolin, but it did have a lot of dirt after our long, wet winter & spring.    I did a 20 minute wash at 50C with Power Scour,  intending that to be the only wash.  I followed that up with a hot water rinse.  The rinse water was still quite dirty, and the wool held more lanolin than I prefer.

I did a second wash with less solution.  I also split the bags into two sinks.  Each sink holds 15 gallons of water.  I put roughly 1 pound of fiber in each.

After this wash, I did another two rinses until the water was clear.  Then I spun out the bags in my spin dryer and laid everything out on the skirting table to dry for the night.  The weather has been hot and humid here, so I turned on a dehumidifier and a fan to speed things up.

 

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Fleece turned out to dry:

 

Next post:  Spinning the belly wool
20180806_085850

fiber prep, Fleeces, washing

Processing a Disorganized Fleece

20180417_143249Normally when I buy a whole fleece, it comes looking something like this beautiful Shetland fleece on the left.  It unrolls, and I can lay it out on the skirting table.  It’s easy to see the different areas of the fleece, break it into similar types of fiber, skirt what needs skirting, & check for short cuts and weathered locks.

This shetland fleece is not disorganized!  It’s also worth noting that the shepherdess manually sheared this sheep on shearing stand.  She’s a rock star!

When I buy fleece by the pound, or if I’ve purchased from someone who manually shears and isn’t intentionally keeping the fleece intact, the fleece tends to look more like this:

 

There will be lightly attached strips or rounds of similar fiber mixed in with small groups of dissimilar locks.  It’s hard to tell where the fiber came from on the sheep, esp. if it is really intermixed.  For some fleeces, it doesn’t matter.  If the fiber is fairly similar across the fleece and it’s been well skirted, I can give it a shake and put it in to wash.

Sorting & Problemsolving:
This fleece needed some extra care.  As I laid it out on the table,  I could see the fleece had all sorts of fiber lengths and textures.  The shortest pieces were 1″ the longest 4.5″.  Most were in the 2.5-3.5″ range, so I separated into three groups: under 2.5, 2.5-3.5, and over 3.5.  This got a bit tricky as I went along because there were at least 4 distinct crimp types: a corkscrew with 2-3 crimps per inch, a side to side with 3 crimps per inch, two different tightly crimped wools.  All of these had fairly different textures, so I decided to split by texture and length.   I like to use as much of the fleece as possible, so I made piles for all of the oddball bits-  even the little 1″ super curly leg locks to dye up for felting projects and for making tweed yarns.

 

While pulling locks, I noticed some tip and cut end areas had issues.  Sheep live out in the world, and that’s a good thing.  Sometimes, it can be hard on the fleece.  This fleece had its share of weathered, cotted, and/or muddy tips.   That doesn’t mean the wool isn’t worth the work!  This fleece has some gorgeous fiber. It just needed some TLC.  I ran thumbnail over the cut end and tips to remove weak tips and second cuts.

Muddy tips will feel hard- especially if the mud, lanolin, and sheep sweat all came together to make a little brick-like piece.

 

The fiber can be brittle under the mud, so it’s worth taking the time to give them a tug.  Some times muddy tips will magically open up if you put the fleece in water to soak overnight.  Sometimes, they are stubborn, and you’ll need to cut or flick them off the lock.   These tips were quite weak and came right off when I pulled on the lock tip.

If your fleece has weak tips, you’ll have to either flick the tips off or trim them with scissors.   It’s worth taking the time to flick or trim the locks before carding. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to pick those brittle ends out from your roving.

Spinning weak ends into your yarn can make your yarn weaker and rougher.  Weak tips are caused by weathering.  Sun, rain, & friction all wear away the protective coating on the outside of the fiber.  Without that coating, the fibrils that make up the fibers fray, weakening the fiber and making it feel scratchy.

 

If  I see some weak tips, I do a quick test card on different areas of the fleece before starting a big carding project.  It’s the fastest and easiest way I’ve found to see if I need to flick the fleece first.

20180331_130116Sometimes, I find felted/cotted tips on the locks.  It happens.  It’s more likely if a sheep has been coated, but it can happen on any sheep.  Some sheep like to scratch up against posts in the barn.  All it takes for wool to felt is heat, moisture, and agitation.

This wasn’t a coated sheep, but this is most likely from the britch area which has a lot of movement and moisture.   Depending on lock length, I’ll either trim the felted bit off with scissors, or I’ll just throw that lock into the plant pot liner bag.  (Wool makes fabulous plant pot liners, so don’t throw it away if you like hanging plants!)

 

 

Second cuts happen when the shearer takes a second pass with the shearing blades to even out fleece that was missed during the first pass.  This leaves little bits of cut fleece behind.  You can identify a second cut because both ends of the lock (or bit of lock) will be cut. Frequently, these will shake out.  If you have an intact fleece,  you can lay it out cut side up and run your hands over the surface of the fleece to remove any short pieces.  This fleece also had some partial second cuts-  the short pieces are still attached to a small section of the lock by a few strands of wool.  These are a nightmare because they don’t shake out.  If they come apart during washing, they can felt into the cut end of the lock.  If you find them, you are going to need to check the cut ends for soundness as you pull locks.

I washed like locks with like by putting them in a mesh bag with the tips all in the same direction.

Wouldn’t it be great if I had a picture of the wool in the bag here?  Fortunately, I’ve got another pound of so of this fleece to wash, so I’ll make sure to take it when I put it in to wash!

I made two rows of locks and separated them by running a length of crochet cotton down the center of the bag using a weaving needle.  (tip:  Don’t make a new string each time.  After washing the locks, store string inside the mesh bag until the next time.)

20 minute soak with Power Scour in 130F water followed by two 20 minute hot rinses.  That was all!  This fleece didn’t have much lanolin so there wasn’t much need for scouring.  The dirt came out easily except for stubborn muddy tips.  These, I flicked out while picking and prepping for the drum carder.  Depending on the lock bundle, I either used the flick carder as a teasing pad-  or I picked it up and flicked the ends open.   This fleece opened really nicely into a beautiful, silky cloud.  It would have been a wonderful to spin this from the cloud for a textured, locky yarn.

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To card, I ran the wool through my drum carder, keeping the locks sideways for the first two passes and then pulling into thin sheets and running those from the end.  (I’ll link to a how to card fluffy batts here later)

The fiber was so pretty on the drum that I decided to pull it off into rolags for spinning.

 

fiber prep, Fiber Science, Fleeces, washing

Alkaline Scouring: Washing with Fels-Naptha soap

Quick update on the cormo project and washing with alkaline soap.

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I did the first of several test washes on my cormo fleece.

Details:

a gorgeous 16-18 micron cormo fleece;  12-14 crimps per inch,  3.5-4 staple,  yellow staining on the last 1/2 inch or so. Moderately greasy, but the lanolin is nice and glossy with no hard areas. If you hold it in your hand, it immediately softens and starts to shed    Light dirt line, some minor felting at tips from being coated. No noticeable vm at all. Nice clean edge on cut side of fleece.

First washing test:
Fels-naptha laundry bar and lock by lock washing. It takes about 30 seconds to wash a lock. The pH of the wash water varies based on the soap concentration, so I decided to make as thick a solution as my pH meter can read. Reading came back as pH 9.6. This is right at the edge of when the pH adversely effects the bonds that keep the wool fibers stable.  Temperature is important here.  I kept the water temperature at 125-130F though the lock rarely reaches that temp because it is being rubbed on the bar of soap.   The soap has low-medium suds and dissolves easily into water.

To wash, I held the lock by the cut end, dipped the lock in hottest water from the tap (130F), then pressed the lock against the bar and rubbed in line with the staple until the soap came through the top. Flipped lock around and did the same for the cut end. Then I submerged the lock and pushed the soap along the fiber- cut end to tip, flipped then tip to cut end until all of the dirt was gone. Rinsed in 135-130F water and dipped in a final hot rinse in a vinegar and water solution which was probably unneeded. I’m a belt and suspenders kind of person.

Afterwards, I set the lock on a dish towel, pressed out the excess water and left to air dry.

Observations: The lock is completely clean of dirt. Small amount of lanolin left behind.  Locks shrank just over 1/4 of an inch.  The final washed locks were well formed until I started messing with them to see how they would draft.

They draft smoothly from the tip with some light grabbiness at the cut end. The fiber has a nice luster and feels soft and airy. I will try less time with the soap next time because I could see that this could easily dry out the fiber.

 

Fiber Science, Fleeces, Technical

Does Crimp Indicate Fineness?

 

Sadly, no.  Crimp is not related to fiber diameter.

What we know about fiber has changed over time as our fiber science has improved. People used to think crimp was directly tied to fiber diameter (microns). However, going back to the 1920s and 30s, people knew that the crimp wasn’t necessarily a predictor for fineness in an individual fleece.

Finding open access sources is hard, but here are two older sources that talk about this: https://www.tandfonline.com/…/10.1080/19447024708659308

https://repository.up.ac.za/handle/2263/48704

Breed standards select for crimp shape and a general range of fiber specifications.  However,  you can’t pull out one aspect of those specifications and use them to predict the others.

We focus on fiber diameter because it’s an easy, objective measure to compare things. It feels right to think that a 19 micron top of x will have the same softness in a finished yarn as a 19 micron top of something else. Unfortunately, it isn’t the case.  Scale height, fiber length variations, fiber condition, and the shape and curves of the fiber strands all come together to determine how fibers feel against the skin.

The really cool thing is that, for softness, your skin will know. If you are at a fleece sale, you can gently feel the wool and find the feel you like. When I look for a fleece, I fingerspin a lock and then see if I like the yarn it makes. You can add and subtract twist, play with the plies, and change up the plying twist.

 

Crimp is important for more than trying to estimate fiber diameter. Crimp can be broken out into subcategories such as  crimp per inch, crimp depth,  & crimp dimension (is it a french fry, a corkscrew, a long, lazy wave, or something else altogether).

All of those come together to contribute to luster, elasticity, ability to resist compression, & loft. Those make a big difference to the finished yarn.    –More on this in a later post.

Good resources:

From a class handout: http://www.woolwise.com/…/2017/07/WOOL-472-572-12-T-09.pdf

“(Studies) concluded that staple crimp was not a good indicator of fibre fineness, either within or between breeds and strains of sheep. Staple crimp has been shown to have some influence on fabric thickness and possibly fabric handle and bulk”

If you click on the link, there is lots more info and a nice bibliography.

If you have a thing for fiber sci, here is a really cool hand out that is related: Fibre Diameter, Staple Strength, Style, Handle and Curvature.
http://www.woolwise.com/…/2017/07/Wool-412-512-08-T-03.pdf