Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's a Wool Sampler Book?

This weekend has been a fun weekend of scouring different wools and spinning them up in various ways. I'm making great progress on my wool sampler book, and of course that needs to be documented for posterity in my blog. First, the workspace I need to explore my wools:

The one in progress on the table is an absolutely lovely batch of California Variegated Mutant (CVM). So soft, just long enough to comb, and much of the combing leftovers will end up on the handcards.

I brought the start of my sampler book to the recent Blacksheep Handweaver's Guild meeting, and it was a raging success. That is, I had the gumption to show it to a single person, and she liked it, and so I was happy. Then the program started and went waaaay past my bedtime, and, well, at least one person got to see it! (Thanks for the kind words, Ruth!)

So, perhaps you're wondering, what does a wool sampler book look like, anyway? For me, it is a three-ring binder with a bunch of photo-holder sheets and a bunch of wool in it. A completed sample includes an unwashed lock, a worsted-spun 10 yard, 2-ply skein, a woolen spun 10 yard, 2-ply skein, and some of the wool turned in to a swatch. I chose to knit the swatch, but it could be woven or crocheted if either of those is your fancy.

The point of the exercise, of course, is to determine for myself how the different types of wool look and feel under different preparations and techniques. Here's another example, still a work-in-progress:

That's black Border Leicester, with a raw lock, worsted, and woolen skeins (top right to bottom left). I've still got to set the twist on the yarns and do some thwacking on the woolen one, but it's a great example of how different yarn can be as a result of the preparation and spinning technique. I'll never get bored with this.

All of this started for the Master Spinners program, but I couldn't limit myself to just 10 types, which is all they require. I'm going to see about getting small bits of commercially prepped roving and/or top for some of the wools, just to compare to how well I'm processing my fibers for different techniques.

There is more, of course. I've got samples of S spun and Z spun singles, and next weekend I'll work on the fiber samples from all major areas of a single fleece to show how even on a single sheep, the fiber is different depending on where you get it (britches versus back versus shoulder and so on). I know it's different - I've read about it plenty of times. But by working it for myself, I'll have a better understanding of HOW different, which is pretty darn cool.

Of course, I'll do that after the massive feast planned on Thursday. I think I'll take a day off from the Master Spinners homework that day and just bring my wheel and some merino to my friends' house, and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Intervention Needed

OK, I think there may be such a state as "too much of a good thing." I need 10 - count 'em, 10, like number of fingers, 10 - different types of sheep breeds' wool for my wool book. I'm up to, ummmm, more than that. The problem is it's just so darn interesting! People are coming out of the woodwork (or, well, out of Ravelry) enticing me with breeds I've read about but never seen! At this point, I've got the following in house or on order (small batches):

  1. Tunis
  2. Romney
  3. Cheviot
  4. Rambouillet
  5. Churro
  6. Border Leicester
  7. Leicester Longwool
  8. Montadale
  9. Cormo
  10. Cotswold
  11. Coopworth
  12. Icelandic
  13. Shetland
  14. Targhee
  15. Corriedale
  16. Finn
  17. CVM
  18. Dorset
  19. Gotland
  20. Polwarth
  21. Castlemilk Moorit
  22. Soay
  23. Portland
  24. Ouessant
  25. Masham
  26. Boreray
  27. Wensleydale
  28. North Ronaldsay (maybe - I'm hoping!)

I hope there aren't many more interesting breeds out there that folks have access to, and if there are, for heavens sakes don't tell me! Well, not for a few months yet. I need to get through that list of fascinating, awesome wools.

So, if you are a spinner, what's been your favorite breed to spin? I think mine so far has to be the Leicester Longwool, followed closely by the Cotswold. I guess I'm a longwool kinda girl. :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The weekend's progress - Master Spinners Level 1

So much progress was made this weekend on my first level of the Master Spinners certification! I am all sorts of tickled by it. There was much writing, spinning, cleaning, and organizing going on. There was even some photography and photoshop work to label my pictures! Here's to hoping I got the parts correct - this may go in to my book as part of my homework.

This is a Cormo hogget fleece from Sue Reusser, a fantastic shepherd who has been wonderfully supportive of my spinning addiction.

The labels are more clear in the full-sized version of the photo.

I also have an icelandic fleece on the way which may be examined and labeled in a similar way. We will see - I'll decide between the two for my workbook.

Most of my remaining effort at this point is documenting more types of sheep. While the requirement is 10 breeds, I will be doing more for my own edification. In talking to different folks around the country at fleece samples, how could I avoid going after a few more types of wool I've never experienced??? Fleeces from the following types of sheep:
Laurie at Frene Creek Farm, you've been awesome! I will be going after some of those others you mentioned, like wensleydale and hampshire and BFL. My cat is not the only one who can drool over (and on, and around) fiber! And Lisa from Cranberry Moon Farm, I've already really enjoyed working with the Leicester Longwool, Romney, and Cotwsold I got from you last week. Working with top-of-the-line samples from these breeds makes my work so much more fun and interesting.

Tune in next time I have camera + time + proper lighting (without having to pull out the full flash and whatnot) for my next installment of crazy master spinner wannabe!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Wool Book

One of the assignments in the Master Spinner's program is the creation of a wool book covering 10 different breeds, from raw to spun in various ways. I am excited 'cause I have my wool picked out, some from my stash, some from local shepherds in California, and a few a bit more far reaching. The list for my book is:

Border Leicester
Leicester Longwool
Babydoll Southdown

I may add a few more if the opportunity presents itself. I'm making progress!

Last night I also made progress on spinning up some of the fine and fabulous merino roving I got back from Morro Fleece Works. I purchased a couple of moorit merino fleeces from Janet Hepler, all merino, some from the Retzlaff Winery spin day and the other from Monterey, and they've come home. Did you know one fleece can easily net you 4-5 13 oz. bags of roving? I have a LOT of spinning to do, especially if I'm going to make room for all those fleece samples coming in! Did I mention I just had to buy another full raw fleece so I can properly identify the parts (shoulder, neck, belly, sides, and so on) so I can spin a bit from each? It's tough, tough to have to have more wool in the house. What a rough life. ;-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

A new conference

Last year was my first year at Stitches West, and it was intense. Since then, I've discovered that while I am glad I know how to knit, it's really not my thing. Fortunately, there seems to be another conference coming up in April 2010 that's right up my alley: the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. This is a conference that focuses on weaving and spinning, two activities I enjoy much more than knitting.

Sunday was day one of early bird registration, and I was there with my laptop just waiting for my chance to get in to my first choice classes. I even enabled a friend who was over visiting to get registered since she had forgotten to do it before she left her house!

I'm probably going overboard with my classes, but really, when don't I go overboard with my fiber arts??? Here's my list:

Fiber: The Inspiration for Planning a Warp
Heather Winslow
CC156 6 hour class

Custom Fit and Fabulous
Daryl Lancaster
CC325 6 hour class

Weaving TNT: Dynamite Tips ’n Tricks
Robyn Spady
C542 3 hour class

That gives me a class on weaving warps, clothing design, and weaving repair and efficiencies. I thought about taking some more classes with Judith Mackenzie McCuin, but since I'll have her for a week in March, I figured I would branch out a bit and discover additional teachers.

Leave a comment as to whether you're going to CNCH and what classes you'll be taking!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Now Introducing the New and Improved Craft Room!

You saw the Before. It wasn't pretty. It certainly wasn't conducive to crafting and enjoyment. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was only conducive to bodily injury as I tripped over things! But a shopping spree involving Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target, I now have a craft room I'm proud of.

Blake definitely approved.