Monday, January 11, 2010

His and Her Weekend

As he stared into the fiery depth of the flames, I had hoped my husband would foresee his future. Of course a certain future that I had in mind. One where he quit making knives for a short period of time and built the entry table and front porch railing he'd been talking about for years. That was part of my hopes when we made the trip this weekend to Sheridan, Wyoming where Kirk watched demonstrations of how to create ornamental ironwork.
Though Kirk spent the whole day with his dad watching the demonstrators pound and twist metal into shapes, I did not. I had my own agenda for going to Sheridan. There was a shop I'd learn of on the Internet. It had been calling my name, luring and enticing me to visit. The store was more and less than I'd hoped it would be. For those that love to knit and crochet, room after room of the old home was packed with yarns, everything from wool and silk to possum. You heard me possum. They are making yarn from the pesky creatures that number 80 million in New Zealand and eat 21,000 tons of vegetation a night. They blend the fur with Merino wool and it makes a wonderfully soft yarn. Extremely warm too as possum is 7 times warmer than wool. My Mother-in-law and I surveyed the brightly colored yarns of every hue. Yet, what I really was after was fiber - luxurious, soft, cloudy puffs of heaven. They had but one kind - Alpaca. Little was left as their shipment for the year was to arrive in February. Lest you think I was very disappointed, I wasn't. Alpaca is one of my favorite fibers to spin and wear.
The black Alpaca, light brown, and light fawn color (the photo insists on making it white) I figured would go nicely with a section of an Alpaca fleece that was given to me by a friend.

So, I bought a pound of General Sheridan, that's the name of the Alpaca, and a few ounces of a fawn color (that's all there was), along with a small amount of a light brown (which was also all there was) and planned on getting pretty creative in mixing them with a warm milk chocolate colored Alpaca fiber I already had. How much yarn this all will make is questionable as I'm spinning it into a sport weight yarn to create more yarn length. My hopes is to combine all the colors into a vest. The design is still working itself out in my mind.

And though the stores Alpaca is straight forward to spin, the free section of fleece I had isn't. I thought I'd show you the process of preparing it to spin that I was working on before Christmas interrupted the project. First, I washed the fleece. Washing fleeces is far more complicated than throwing it in the washing machine so I'll cover that process in another blog. Besides, I haven't any pictures to show. The second stage is preparing the fibers to spin.

This lump of fibers appears to be a tangled mass but is really a sort of puzzle. When I start putting a puzzle together I find all the outer pieces that is a puzzle 300 pieces or less or I won't even begin (no patience for a project that takes hours and then all your work is undone and thrown back in a box). Look closely. See the light colored spots in the blob of fiber. That's the sun bleached tips of the outer most edge of the fleece.
I take hold of a light brown tuft with one hand and the mass of fleece with the other and pull, separating the tuft.
Next, with my wool card laying on my leg, the curved back conforming to the top of my leg, oh how I wish it still did for now I shift it slightly to the side to fit these fat thighs, then I lay one half of the tuft over a wool card, holding it down with one hand, while the other hand pulls the fibers through the wire bristles combing it out. If the fiber weren't so long I'd be able to place more of it across the cards. Since it is really long, I turn the fiber around and comb the other half.
The fiber is now ready to spin. Keep in mind that this is only one of many ways to use this handy tool. Different types of fibers, fiber lengths, and yarn types dictate using different
methods. I'll fill you in on those methods later, probably much later.
What remains after I get all the sun bleached tips is a confusing mass. This is where my next handy tool takes over.

Scary huh! This viscous looking instrument was once kept by my bed when our children were young and my husband use to work rotating shifts. I figured a burglar would think twice with a crazy lady heading toward him, a wild look in her eye and a Viking comb poised in each hand. So far, the only person I've bloodied is myself when I wasn't paying close attention and poked a finger. Nothing serious, for you learn quickly to watch what you're doing.
I fasten one comb in the holder clamped to a table, then took a mass of fiber, and from right to left start hooking it onto the tines calculating the distance carefully as to miss the tips of my fingers.
Next, I took the other comb and move the tines downward repeatedly through the fibers. This transfers most of the Alpaca to the second comb. Then I move the second comb repeatedly from right to left so that the first comb catches the fibers transferring them back. These two motions are repeated until you have a nice pile of hay and dirt mess on the floor to sweep up. On the bright side, your fibers are clean, separated, and nicely combed. What remains caught in the tines is short clumps - second cuts (we're the shearer goes over an area twice giving you very short fibers) and undesirables as I call them.
Picture of a clump formed from a second cut.
Then I pulled this fibers with my fingers. You're suppose to use a distall pulling the fibers through it but then when have I ever followed directions? I'm not even sure where mine is. I do know it is a cupped shaped small object made out of a piece of PVC pipe, though others have pretty ones made of horn or wood, and the center has a slit.). The distall is to form a more uniform shaped roving or rope. For me, I found it just impedes the progress of the fiber. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong but I don't really care what that is since I'm happy with my tug and pull roving.
So now you'ved either learned how I prepare my Alpaca fleece or not to come to my house unannounced in the middle of the night. I'm not sure which point stuck with you, take your choice but beware that though I may not have Viking combs by my bed at night anymore, my husband is armed and dangerous.

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