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Still Distracted by New Fleeces

I am still making progress on the Urban Aran. Really.

Urban Aran body 07-08

Slow but steady progress.

I am only about and inch or so from joining the sleeves and working the saddle shoulders- the part I’ve been so looking forward to! But I haven’t been getting that much knitting time in, and I think I’ve going to have to spin up another three or so skeins to finish this baby off- so it’s back to the beginning with another batch of white Romney.

And then there are the new fleeces that are just begging to be spun.

So, I’ve been a bit distracted.

Mariah, Ulla and Gigi are all fabulous- and in different ways. The variety of color and texture in wool never ceases to amaze me. Especially in Shetlands. I think that is what I’ve going to look for in a spinning flock – variety in fleece characteristics.

I was working with Ulla this week. She’s actually the first one I picked out while I was there. There’s only so much you can tell about a fleece when you’re poking around at it in a plastic bag- but I knew right off that I wanted this girl. Her fleece is a really interesting range of colors- cinnamon to light brown sugar to taupe. I haven’t seen much of that around here. I would have taken it on color alone- but it also seemed to be nice and dense, with a pretty good staple length (comb-able, yea!) and a nice crimp. Would make a yarn with good body and bounce.

Turns out it’s super easy to process, too. Combs up so nice.

Urban Aran w Ulla roving

So here is the sample skein of Ulla:

Urban Aran w Ulla

65 yds of chain plied cinnamon-sugary goodness.

Yum.

And here is a little teaser of what is yet to come-

Urban Aran w Ulla, Gigi-cropped

Gigi!

They call the wind….

Mariah.

The black sheep. The wild child. Now, I didn’t actually meet Mariah when I was back in IL visiting, but I feel like I’ve gotten to know her a bit today as I’ve been working with her fleece.

I washed up some of both Ulla and Mariah yesterday, but the black sheep kept calling to me, with her crazy, curly sunbleached tips.

Mariah Washed 1

I know some people put coats on their sheep to protect from weathering and veg contamination and all, but I actually really like lightened tips on a fleece, so long as the ends aren’t weak and damaged. It gives the color of yarn more depth and interest, in my opinion. ( But then, I really like a natural, sheepy look.)

Mariah has a double coated fleece- the more “primitive” style of Shetland (as opposed to the two others I brought home, who are the single-coated, crimpier style). Her undercoat is very fine and silky, and the outercoat is longer, and a bit more coarse. They are also different colors.

You can separate them out if you prefer- it’s not terribly difficult. All you really have to do is hold the tips secure and kind of rake the undercoat out with a flick carder or comb:

Mariah Separated

But I really like to spin the two together right out of the lock. It’s super easy, as the outercoat , being longer, holds together the shorter fibers of the undercoat, so you don’t have to put nearly as mush twist into it as if you were spinning the undercoat alone. And then you get the wonderful, tweedy look of the two shades plus sunlighted tips, already expertly blended together by mother nature.

Mariah 1

Here she is, posing with one of my favorite flowers.

peony and Mariah

Beauty, eh? I’m going for “wool-as decor” kind of thing there-

Denise out.

Shades of the Little Country (or, I am Rich in Wool!)

It was a mighty good trip.

Lots of quality family time, beautiful wedding, lively reception (danced up a storm)

and wool.

Beautiful Shetland wool. (you just knew I’d squeeze that in, didn’t you?)

A post or two ago I mentioned that I had contacted Juliann at Little Country Acres about visiting.

Well, Thursday was the day.

We showed up a bit early (felt bad about catching them off-guard) but Juliann and Tom ( it is Tom, right?) were such gracious hosts. They took us back to meet the sheep, and we talked about all kinds of sheep stuff, “oohed” and “ahhed” over the sweet little lambs, and had a good ole time.

And then I asked if she might have any wool available. Thought I might buy a fleece or two, as a souvenir, you know-

I came away with three! And she wouldn’t take anything for them. Said they were last years and she couldn’t vouch for what kind of shape they were in. I was dumbfounded. But I gladly collected them up in a garbage bag and hauled away my woolly booty.

I just got them in the mail yesterday (mom shipped them back for me) and finally had a chance to really get in there and check them out.

They are really very nice. Soft, crimpy, and in fabulous colors- Ulla is a lovely warm taupe-ish shade, Gigi is milk chocolate, and Mariah is a black with silvery touches and a white spot! So, I will have to do something philanthropic with at least some of this beautiful wool to keep the good vibrations flowing.

Here are the pics-

First Ulla (outside, then underside):
LCA Ulla- outsideLCA Ulla- underside

Then Gigi:
LCA Gigi- outsideLCA Gigi- underside

And finally Mariah:
LCA Mariah- outsideLCA Mariah- underside

And here is my first little sample of yarn (chain-plied):
Shades of Little Country Acres

You can’t really see Mariah represented very clearly in that photo- must have been hiding in the back of the skeinlet. No worries- We’ll see more of her later.

And would you believe, I came home from my trip to find that the man had hooked me up with some freshly shorn alpaca! What a guy. So ,without further ado, here is sweet, soft, silky Mopetto:
Mopeto blanket

Wow. Now I really have to put a freeze on fiber acquisitions.

But man, if feels good to be rich in wool!

Comb, Sweet Comb

While I am about 5 skeins into the knitting of the Urban Aran (got some quality time in on Saturday while participating in Knitting in Public Day), I am still working on making sure I have enough yarn spun up to finish the project.

Sure, the smart and cautious thing to do would be to spin up the whole lot before picking up the needles- but I was awfully anxious to get started once I figured out what I wanted to do.

So, this weekend I washed up another couple batches of white Romney, and today I went back to the combs for another round of fiber prep.

This is where I started-The Raw Wool:
Unwashed bargain romney fleece

Now, mind you, this is not a primo fleece. But then I didn’t pay all that much for it, either. I knew going in that I would have to do some work. But under all that veg and dirt, there is some quite nice, soft, crimpy wool.

First I washed. That brings us to this:

washed romney bargain fleece

Lots whiter, but still quite a bit of crud. (More than you would want to try and flick out.) And some weak tips. But it’s got enough length that losing the tips wont be a big deal.
nice wool, but icky ends

This wool is a perfect candidate for combing! Here we go-

wool lashed on comb (from the side)

First pass, left to right-

the first pass

Second pass, top to bottom-

the second pass

There is sometimes quite a bit of waste- but then, you don’t want to be spinning the crud anyway!

combed fiber and waste

And finally, the diz ( you might notice that mine used to be a spork)

dizzing off the comb

And we are left with a beautiful lofty strip of combed top-

combed wool top

Which I like to wind up into a tidy bun.

combed wool muffin

Wow. A miraculous transformation.

Unwashed bargain romney fleece to combed wool muffin

in more-than-a-few easy steps.