Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nothing To Show

Well, "tomorrow" has come and gone and I'm afraid there is no sock update....illness has hit the farm, in the house and in the barn.  Sick people, sick sheep, broken down tractor and temperatures that have decided to hit July numbers a few days early all combine with some small but ongoing house repairs and fix-ups to make for unproductive days for wife-mom-grandma-farmer-shepherd-gardner!!!  Truthfully, they seem unproductive but just getting through them is a huge blessing ;)

Will you all hang in there with me till the next sock post?  Till then I'll leave you with a peek at what's blooming, so heavenly, beside our back porch ~

 That's Valerian.  And the Lavender, oh my!!!  Such a delight...this photo is from last year but it looks much the same today.

 See you soon!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

From A Sheep To A Sock, Next Part

(First I want to reply to the comments left for the last post and say thank you for leaving them!  To my friend Susan, on a day like I've had today I think I could easily be persuaded to trade in the farm!  And Emily, so nice to hear from you and yes, I would be happy to share how I prepare a fleece from start to finish at home for sock spinning - maybe that could be a "July Series"?  Jody, your spinning is so lovely I think you could surely teach me a thing or two!!! How fine did you spin Elizabeth's 3-ply?  As much as I love a long wavy fleece (like Francie's) for socks, a tightly crimped fleece makes a wonderful sock yarn, too, just different ;)  And Joanne you would love this roving - its much darker than the photo shows but it has so much shine (don't you think Susan?)  And the pillow is one of a vintage set I got at the Maple Valley Farm Shop a month or so ago!)

The next step for me in spinning for sock yarn is to find a comfy spot to do my sample spin.  If you're lucky enough to have a back porch that looks out across the garden, farm and sheep pasture for inspiration that's truly a joy!  A helpful farm cat companion is another plus.  So I finish the supper dishes, pour a cup of coffee and settle down on the porch.

I have three spinning wheels, but I still go back so often to my old standby Louet S17.  My Mom, who is gone now, painted the sheep on it for me and I love it.  I can spin from lace to bulky with little effort.  In this case, you might notice the grey wool already on the bobbin.  That's because I find it helpful for spinning a finer single on the Louet if the bobbin is partially full.  I'm only going to be spinning a one ounce sample so have plenty of room here.  Remember the pictures of the two samples from the last post, one ounce each?  I'll spin one to make a 2-ply sample and one to do a 3-ply.  My default spin seems to be a light sportweight.

In this photo, I've pulled a little of the single back from the bobbin and let it twist back on itself to give me an idea of how my 2-ply will look.  Notice the helpful companion cat is not impressed, nor has she moved much from the last shot!  I might mention here that for this small amount, I'll spin the full ounce onto the bobbin, let it sit at least overnight then I'll wind it off into a center pull ball and ply it from that.  I like the results I get from plying from a center pull ball.  I'm not sure if its mechanically correct or not, but that works for me (in small amounts)  Larger amounts tangle to much, so I would use two bobbins and ply together onto a third.

Tomorrow I'll show you pictures of the finished 2-ply yarn and the sample swatch I knit.  And if I can find the notes I was so careful to make I'll be able to tell you how many yards I got from each sample - ugh - where did those notes go?!?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

How To Go From A Sheep To A Sock...

A "How-To" post of sorts ;)

I love to make socks, I know I've shared that here before (though recently mittens have been my main focus).  To my way of thinking, there's no sock like a real wool sock and so it  starts for me with a sheep and a fleece.  In this case a lovely little black ewe named Isobel who has a very long staple length and a slightly more open crimp to her fleece than most of our Corriedales, long but very silky - just the kind I like for making hard wearing sock yarn!  She comes from the old Verlee line of Corriedale sheep in our flock and I love their wool.  Both Isobel and her sister (who's called "Sister", hehe) had such long fleeces that we sheared them at seven months old.
A head shot of Isobel above and another from this spring
So I have this lamb fleece, black - well, really more of a dark black cherry-cola color - that I'm planning to keep for myself and make my favorite blend for spinning sock yarn of 70% Corriedale wool and 30% alpaca.  I teach a class on spinning for sock yarn and I love showing and sharing how well this blend works for socks, but of course in the end its a matter of personal preference for both the spinner and the sock-wearer!  When I need alpaca fiber, I always go for the best and that comes from the farm of my friend and neighbor Maple at North Star Alpacas.  But this time, a call from a long-distance fiber friend changed the intent for Isobel's fleece!

My friend Susan emailed asking if I had a black or very dark fleece.  She knew it was a long shot because it wasn't shearing time, but it just so happened that we'd shorn those two ewe lambs and I had Isobel's fleece along with another kept back for myself from spring shearing (that was Hilda's fleece, but that's another fiber story - LOL!)  Susan had some alpaca from a farm local to her and she wanted to create a blend for spinning socks.  So even though these were fleeces I'd intended to keep, there's always more for me growing down in the barn and off the samples went to New England for sampling.

Fast forward a short time, a few emails and finally a phone call with a proposal - would I be interested in going together with my (Isobel's) wool and Susan's alpaca and sharing the resulting roving?  Sure I would!!!  So that is how our Friendship Roving came to be and a plan was hatched to do a long-distance spin-a-long and knit-a-long for a new pair of socks.  The alpaca came to Michigan and joined the Corriedale wool for a trip to Zeilingers Mill to be washed and processed.  (A note here ~ quite often when making socks I wash and comb the fleece myself, that really makes a nice fiber to spin.  But for larger quantities like we were doing here, I took advantage of the spring special at Z's and let them do it all!)

I meant for this to be just one long post about sheep to socks, but as usual I'm getting a bit long-winded and also I've been just to busy to sit by the computer for very long, so I'm going to break this up a bit for you...above you see two one-ounce balls of the roving ready for me to do a test-spin and sample for my socks.  I know it looks brown but that's just my camera, its really very dark ;)  In my next post, I'll share a bit more of my method/process for sock spinning.  I hope you'll come back for more!