Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Fiber-y Christmas!

It's my baby's first Christmas!  It's so hard to believe that almost a year ago, he was born and now it's his first Christmas and in two and a half weeks, he turns 1! 

We're pretty low key this Christmas though.  I had such grand plans - a real tree, lots of lights and ornaments, and in the end, after 5 days of straight downpour (which is quite rare in Southern California), by the time I got to the tree lot yesterday, the only ones left were the giant trees, which were not a god fit for our little cottage.  So, this year, even though I've got the ornaments and the lights and the tinsel, there's no tree.  But we're having a great time anyway!  And that's what matters, right?

This year, for Christmas I decided to get Leo a cheap imitation ipad, the Maylong M-150, which was sold through Walgreens but I bought it from an Ebay seller and when it arrived, I opened it so I could check it and make sure it worked fine.  He walked in just as I was powering it up and asked what it was.  When I told him it was his Christmas present, he said, "Hmmm...I really wanted a leaf/twig mulcher for the yard."

So now I have a cheap ipad-killer and he's getting the leaf mulcher.

So what did Leo get me?  Remember that Fricke coarse drum carder I had wanted to buy?  Well, after finding out that I was 'waffling' over buying it because it wasn't in my fiber budget, he said if I wanted it, "it's your Christmas present from me."

That settled it.  In a week, I was the new owner of a vintage Fricke coarse drum carder from someone whose grandmother used it to card batts for her quilts.  I've carded 2 batts on it and so far it works great!  Now I just need to incorporate locks in it and see if the carder can retain its lock structure and not straighten the crap out of it.

 My first coarse carded batt predrafted

Speaking of locks, I've also been washing my first fleece.  Well, it's not exactly my first time washing fleece so maybe saying "first" isn't exactly true.  I did receive a small box of mystery locks last year which I promptly washed and then almost gagged after seeing all that brown water - in my washing machine!

So what's made me brave enough to try it again?  I've fallen in love with long wools like wensleydale, that's why.  I got 2 ounces of awesome wensleydale locks from Namaste Farms two weeks ago and I've been too scared to dye or spin it.  I want to try out other locks first before I tackle such awesome locks as these:

So I took the plunge during a moment of weakness and ordered my first fleece.  I think it's about 5 to 7 pounds of raw wensleydale fleece that's supposed to be averaging at 10".  When I first received the box this is what I saw peeking as I flipped the box open.

So I started washing the locks in medium bunches.  I've done it twice now and each time I tried a different method.  The first time was done in the tub, however I used 2 Costco sized detergent buckets filled with hot water and then dunk the locks in to soak.  The water wasn't as hot as I would have wanted though and I ended up doing more than 4 washes and more soaks than I wanted.  I was also very stingy with the Dawn, which was one mistake since Dawn, along with really really hot water, is what pulls the lanolin from the locks.

Today Leo pulled out 2 of my roasters dedicated to dyeing  out of storage, and after heating the water at 350 degrees F and a generous amount of Dawn, I placed another bunch of locks (probably 2/3 so I've got one more 'bunch' to scour tomorrow) in a laundry netting bag and dunked it in.  After about 10 minutes or so with the water soooo brown, I pulled it out, let it drain and then dunked it into the second wash in the second roaster with hot water.  Empty out the first roaster and heat some water in it for the rinse and after 10 minutes of second-time soaking with a huge glug of Dawn, I pulled the net bag out, drained it and then dunked the bag of locks in the first roaster for its first rinse.

I ended up doing 2 more rinses in the washing machine this time and then spinning it dry.  The locks from both attempts are not greasy at all.  The locks are matted in some areas, but what can you do, right?  I guess now I've got to do some handpicking vegetable matter (or vm, as fiber lingo goes) to do during the Christmas break.

In the meantime, here's the fleece drying inside the house.

Boy, it sure feels like I've gotten much deeper in the rabbit hole now...

Well, Merry Christmas everyone and have a safe holiday!  You'll find me next to the Madd Hatter saying, "it's pretty crowded in here, too!"

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