Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Weaving Cloth and the wet finishing (fulling)

It is rare when a "fiber artist" actually takes time out from making things for sale to make something for him/herself or the house.  Well, I took time out last week to make a table runner for my bookcase in the 3rd floor guest bath.  The reveal of the total bathroom remodel will be post on this blog in the coming weeks, as soon as the last remaining finishing touches are completed.  :)  

This cloth was made from Debbie Bliss Fez yarn which is 85% merino and 15% camel.  It is a felt-able yarn which is what I wanted for this project.  

I chose a Navy Blue and Pale Yellow colors.  I used an Ashford 24" rigid heddle loom with a 7.5 dent reed.  The yarn is a worsted weight.  The runner came out to approx 38 inches long and 11 inches wide after fulling.  It shrank about 3/4 of an inch in width and 3+ inches in length.   I hand twisted the fringe because I wanted it to hang off the sides rather than using a hem stitch etc.  

To full the cloth, I used hot sudsy water and soaked for about 5 minutes to get it totally wet.  Then I simply scrubbed the cloth to itself longwise. Alternatively, I could have used a washboard, but I really wanted my hands to control the process.   I repeated this procedure 3 times until I got the tightness in the cloth I desired.   I wanted the colors to remain somewhat vibrant and not completely meshed with each other, but I also wanted the cloth to have some stiffness as it is a table runner, not a scarf.  Once I was done with the scrubbing, I alternated hot, cold, hot, cold baths, then squeezed (not rang) out the water and used a chamois to get even more water out and then laid it flat on my knitting blocking matts.  No pins or blocking needed.  

Here is the start (on the loom), before wet finishing (fulling), on the blocking mat, and finally on the bookcase.  

I am quite please with the results. . . what do you think? 

Left to Right 1. On the loom, 2. Before fulling 3. On the blocking matt
Bottom Finished piece in place

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alpaca Micron Grade Ranges and Best Uses

I am often asked as a skirter/sorter/grader on what is the best use for a particular micron count.  Here are the ranges I sort/grade into and their best use.   

The human eye can only see about a 2 micron difference, so of course this is a guide and the more you sort, the better you become at sorting. The key is to have batches of fiber of no more than 3 micron difference or more than 1/2 inch difference in staple length for the best yarn.   

This is my chart that I developed over the years and is pretty typical of commercial grading.   Please DO NOT copy the chart.  You may link to the post or refer to it for personal use.  

I made a cheat sheet years ago by starting with OFDA tested fiber in different microns and have that sheet with the representative fiber sitting next to me as a guide when I grade.   

Fiber that has a lot of guard hair that is markedly different than the primaries in micron is batched differently and not mixed with the pure grades.  

Grade Name AFD (Microns) Use
1 Ultra Fine (Royal Baby) less than 20 Next to skin items, gentle use
2 Super Fine (Baby) 20-22.9 Gentle use items – shawls and baby items
3 Fine 23-25.9 Most versatile grade - pretty much anything wearable
4 Medium 26-28.9 Socks, throws, outerwear and felt
5 Intermediate 29-32 Quilt Batting, duvets, outerwear and felt
6 Robust greater than 32 Batting, insulation and rugs

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Open House at the Farm Saturday October 18th, 2014 11am-4pm

Announcing our first open house of the holiday season! 
Saturday October 18th, 2014 11am - 4pm

Sebastian really hopes you will join us! 
New inventory is rolling in daily from the mill, our co-ops and of course being made by hand on the farm.   So it's time to jumpstart your holiday shopping as there are only 72 shopping days left until Christmas.

For those of you that cannot make it to Rhinebeck this weekend, why not spend the day with us? Bring your knitting/spinning/crocheting and hang out and craft in our "Spinners Circle".

Browse the new inventory:

  • Farm roving fresh from the mill
  • Hand painted and kettle dyed fiber 
  • Spinning/Felting Batts
  • Art Batts
  • Farm yarn fresh from the mill
  • Hand Spun Yarn fresh off the wheel
  • Gloves, hats, scarves, socks 
  • Dryer balls
  • Felted soap
And MUCH more!

Meet an Alpaca !  (See pics at

See the space and layout for the new store and fiber studio

See a spinning demo

Sign up for spinning or knitting classes starting in November

Learn more about raising alpacas by asking alpaca related questions, fencing, barn layout etc 

And MORE! 

  • Mention this blog post to get 10% off your purchase*
  • Can't make it on Saturday? Well pop on over to our online store and take 10% off *using coupon code OPEN10 - new inventory is being posted to the website all week - so check back often! 

*Excludes: Virtual Adoptions, Dyes, Blending Boards, Clubs and Animal Purchases

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FIBER FAQs ---- Fiber Prep - What does it all mean ? top, roving, rolags, clouds

Chapter 1 - Fiber Prep 

As a long time spinner and fiber producer (alpaca), wool and other fibers buyer and working with many mills and working with and selling commercial yarns over the past 12 years, I get many questions on terms commonly used in the fiber world.  I can see why they are confusing and many used interchangeably (incorrectly). So to help "demystify" spinning and yarn, I am going to try to pull all these terms together into one blog post.

I also started and own the largest and original spin for trade group on Facebook "Spin a Pound, Get a Pound™".  Based on question we receive daily in the group and privately, I think this will help a lot of the newer members, especially the growers in communicating with their spinners.  I co-mod this group with a great bunch of wonderful ladies who make me smile each day and who make running the group fun and manageable.  If you are a grower of fiber or a spinner, come join us!

This will be ongoing as there are tons of topics to discuss.

So onto today's topic ----- Fiber Preparations 
  • Top - top whether commercially prepared or hand prepared aligns the fibers in one direction.  This prep allows for a more dense yarn/fabric and is good for hard wearing items like socks.  Combing fiber also removes any residual shorts, neps, noils and VM.  For hand preparation, combs or comb/hackle preparation and then dizzing the fiber off of the combs or spinning is all referred to as top.  Commercial top is what is most often used for hand-painted braids that all spinners go crazy over.  Commercial top holds together well and stands up to wetting, dyeing etc.  For hand prepped top, it is best to dye the fiber prior to combing.  Top does produce more waste than any other prep method, but it is a superior, consistent preparation.  Spinning from top is the only way to produce a true worsted yarn. 

    Braided commercially prepared top -  undyed (left), dyed in my Rainbow colorway (right)
  • Roving - often confused and used interchangeably with the term "top".  Roving is fiber that is pin drafted (commercial) off the carder or dizzed off (hand prep) a drum carder.  Most small farmers have roving made rather than top because there are only a few mills in the US that comb fiber into top.  Also, the weight requirements for a batch are out of reach of many smaller fiber producers, and because of the waste while making top, the cost per ounce for top prep increases dramatically over roving.  Most of the smaller mills in the US are simply not equipped to produce top as it is a separate machine, so if you are buying mill prepped fiber for a small farm, more often than not it is roving.  When a small fiber producer is selling top, they make sure to label it as such. 
    Roving (Romney wool) in a ball)

    The same roving (Romney) spread to
    show the definition.  Fibers are not all
    aligned like top
  • Batts - a batt is simply fiber pulled off the carder in one piece whether commercially prepped or hand prepped by a hand spinner.  Batts are a popular and sought after fiber prep because tons of color, texture and different fiber can be used.  Batts can be smooth or textured.  They can be layered or well blended.  The can be plain or crazy.  Batts by far is the most fun for me to prepare.  Because each spinner spins a batt differently (rips strips, rolls, dizzed etc) exact batts given to different spinners can produce wildly differing results.
    Sand and Sea™ Batt Jelly Rolled
    Witch's Apprentice ™ Batt rolled (left)
    and jelly rolled (right) 

    Maleficent™ Spinning Batt laying flat

  • Rolags (punis) - rolags are produced in one of 3 methods.  Hand cards, blending board or pulled in pieces off a drum carder (rather than the entire batt). This prep is the traditional way to spin a true woolen yarn using the long draw method. 
Fiber on a Blending Board - (rolag prep)
Rolags ready to spin
  • Clouds - clouds are picked but not carded or combed fiber.  Handfuls are held by the spinner and drawn from the hand.  Totally a fun way to spin and very common with fibers like loose cashmere or angora bunny.  Depending on the fiber and amount of openness to the lock, this can produce a lumpy bumpy are yarn or a smooth yarn.  
  • From the lock - spinning from the lock is a method similar to cloud spinning.  Locks of fiber are flicked to open them and done one lock at a time.  This is often done with very fine fiber like sharlee merino when over prepping can cause neps and noils, but is also used for those spinners who do not have combs, hand cards or a drum carder.  This is also popular with spinners who like to spin in the grease. 
  • From the fold - whether spinning from a lock or top, the fiber is folded over a finger and is drawn from the middle.  This allows more air to be trapped than spinning from a lock or top in line.  Trapping air allows for a more lofty yarn.  Spinning from the fold can also be done with top or roving. 
  • Flicking a lock - using a flicker brush, dog brush or even a hand card, flicking open the lock prepares it either to spin directly or to get ready for carding.  This is most often done for tight or dirty tip fleece.  Swing or box pickers can also open locks to prepare them for carding, but for very fine fibers, pickers can be too aggressive and cause neps and noils and flicking is preferred.  Once the lock is flicked it can then be spun "from the lock" or "from the fold" or go on to further preparations. 
Next Time - Worsted vs Woolen (woollen) and what does semi-worsted mean ? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Series (Installment 2 - Corriedale Wool): Spinning my way through the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

Corriedale Wool 

  • Fiber Characteristics - Corriedale wool is readily available in commercial top and normally is seen in the preparation in either white or brown.  Commercial top is typically in the micron range of 26-27 which is a spinning count of 56-58s.  For those of you unfamiliar with what spinning count actually means . . .  "It is a system that originated in the 19th century (along with mechanized spinning equipment). It is the number of hanks of yarn, each 560 yards in length, that it is possible to spin from one pound of clean wool. The finer the wool fiber, the more hanks (greater length, thinner yarn) that can be obtained from one pound." (1)  So the lower the micron, the finer the fiber and more hanks per pound (higher spinning count).  

  • "The Corriedale is the oldest of all the crossbred wool breeds, a Merino-Lincoln cross developed in Australia and New Zealand and first brought to the United States in 1914. Corriedales are a dual-purpose sheep with good meat and wool.
    Their dense fleece is medium-fine and high yielding, with good length and softness, somewhat between medium wool and long wool. It is favored by hand spinners. Corriedale lambs produce good quality carcasses and have a high pelt value.
    Breed categories: medium wool, dual-purpose" (2)
    • Grades  - Like Alpaca, Corriedale fleece can have a range of micron.  This can vary from sheep to sheep, farm to farm.  It is based on genetics, environment and age, much like alpacas.  Published ranges of micron are 22 - 34 microns (1), and 25 - 31 (3).  In the commercial top market, there seems to be a consistent 26-27 microns.  
    This medium wool with the  range of micron 26-27 is still next to skin soft but is also durable and can be used for almost any project.  Corriedale (like most wools) does not have to be blended to make it "workable" for a particular project.  100% Corriedale is good all by itself, retains it shape and is easy to care for.  Having said that, if you are going to make socks, I would still blend with a bit of nylon for durability.  
    • Blending  - Corriedale blends well with other fibers like silk, nylon and alpaca. . . if using alpaca or another wool - make sure the micron is of a similar grade to the Corriedale to make the yarn as consistent as possible
    Organic Brown NZ Corriedale blended with Tussah and Soffsilk™
    Prepped from commercially prepared top -  For Sale Here
    • Prep Work   - When working from raw wool, washing methods are important.  While "spinning in the grease" can be accomplished with Corriedale, but it does have a good amount of lanolin (I could not find % stats) and like any wool, not washing completely and then storing can make for a "sticky" fleece that will be difficult to comb, card or spin.  So if you are not going to work with it right away, wash out the lanolin completely before storing.  Carding a sticky fleece will produce neps and noils.  
    • Spinning Ease -  when properly prepared, Corriedale is a pleasure to spin and is suitable for the beginner or experienced spinner.  Depending on prep, Corriedale can be spun woolen or worsted.   Since Corriedale is a very dense, crimpy wool, flicking locks and spinning from the lock is another method that can be employed if no blending is desired. 
    • Dye Uptake : Corriedale takes dye well and can be dyed before carding/combing using a kettle method or after combing/carding spinning using a hand-paint or kettle method.  It will felt so care should be taken as with any wool. 
      100% Corriedale self-striping in shades of grey - prepped from raw - carded and combed
    • Setting : Wet setting is accomplished like any other wool yarn.  Submerse in hot water, no agitation and hang to dry.  
    • Knitting : Corriedale is wonderful to knit with and can be used for next to skin garments for all but the most sensitive of people.  It is durable and can be used for almost any project.