Friday, July 20, 2012

Dante's Scarf - Part 1

A head shot of Dante after being shorn in May 2011

I make alot of custom items for visitors, customers and people all over the country who get to chose the fiber right from an animal.  Since we have just sheared (May 18-19), I thought I would share the process by which an animal (in this case Dante), goes from fluffball to scarf.  
Dante (beige male when he was 5 months old) with
his mom Sienna, Bobo (black male) and Lil Debil (brown male)

Step 1
- Shearing the animal  (although this is not Dante - you get the idea).  Click here for the blog post on shearing and to see pictures.

Step 2 - Skirting/sorting/grading the fiber - I have not finished my skirting video series - but here is a good intro to skirting by Wade Gease - an alpaca judge.  Click here for the blog post about it and the video. 

Step 3 -  Washing the fleece (this process is for alpaca, if you have sheep it is slightly different).  After the fleece has been skirted, sorted, graded and blown out to remove even more debris, I take the fleece that I will use for a certain project and wash it.  You can wash in a sink, bath tub, muck bucket or old top load washer. Whatever the vessel is that you use, the process is the same.
  • Add detergent to the vessel (I typically use regular blue Dawn dish detergent).  You can also use many of the wool washes on the market or laundry detergent, but I like Dawn the best.  Just remember, you want to use the regular, un-concentrated Dawn without any of those enzymes boost chemicals. 
  • Add hot water (so that you can put your hands in it without saying ouch) and swish it around to distribute the soap.   You are not looking for bubbles, just distribution of the soap.
  • Now add the fleece.  Sometimes I put the fleece in a mesh bag (if I am doing more than one fleece at a time in a large vessel) and sometimes I just put it directly in the water.  Push the fleece down gently so that it all gets wet and is submerged.  DO NOT agitate.  Leave for 30 minutes.
  • Take the fleece out - DO NOT wring it.  Just take it out and put it aside and repeat the wash step again.  Again leave for 30 minutes. 
  • Take the fleece out - DO NOT wring it. Just take it out and put it aside.  Now fill the vessel with hot water again (rinse the vessel out if necessary).  This is the rinse cycle.  Push the fleece down again without agitating.  Leave for 30 minutes.  The rinse I typically do 3 times. 
  • Here is Dante's fleece in the sink being washed. 
    This was on one of the rinse cycles.
  • After the 3rd rinse.  Take the fleece out, squeeze (don't wring) out the fiber and roll it up in a big bath towel to remove the excess water.  Now lay somewhere to dry.  I sometimes use my skirting table, an old sheet out on the lawn or my new favorite, a drying rack I made.  
My process is typically 2 washes and 3 rinses.

Step 4 - After the fleece is dry (and it MUST be dry), we begin prepping the fiber by either combing or carding it.  You can use hand carders, drum carders, blending hackles, whatever to prep your fiber.  For this particular batch of fiber (Dante), it was so fine (approx 19 microns)and it had some VM in it and I quite frankly I didn't want to stand at my drum carder, so I sat and relaxed with my combs and hackle :) 

Here is the fiber all dry and fluffy.  At this point you can pick it or go straight to combing or carding. 

I chose to skip picking and go straight to combing.  Here is the fiber on my hackle.  As you can see it is all jumbled up, some  vm and a general mess. 
After combing the fiber looks like this.  This was combed off the hackle and then loaded back to the hackle and combed again. 

I then dizzed off the fiber into nice little roving strips.   Doesn't it look beautiful !!!

 And here is a birds nest of roving ready to be spun.

Once I have enough fiber made into hand pulled roving (or if you were carding it, enough batts), I then move over to my spinning wheel to spin up some yarn.

My Next post:

- Creating a pattern (the pattern will be available to purchase as well) 
- Spinning the yarn
- Setting the yarn
- Knitting the scarf
- Blocking the scarf

Stay tuned . . . .