We took off down south today to pay a visit to the annual Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. Oh my was it lovely! It was the largest fiber festival/gathering I’ve ever been to. There was a large range of goats and sheep in pens and I really appreciated the opportunity to finally see some of the breeds I’ve been reading about in person. However. I must say that I like the roving for sale at Vermont’s Sheep and Wool festival better. That being said, we went to the fleece sale and I was blown away with the sheer number of fleeces mounding up on tables (I even… gasp… bought one! More on that later…). For now, here are some of the handsome devils we gazed at today…
And now it must surely be time to contemplate the fleece I mentioned earlier. After much mulling, hemming and hawing over the bags and bags of wonderful fleeces I finally picked a very nice white Romney fleece from Ramifications (oh yes, I know, isn’t it great?!). At nine dollars a pound, it’s really quite wonderful wool.
And wouldn’t you believe that I ran right home and washed it ALL in the tub?! But of course I did. This is the first time in two years that I’ve had access to a bathtub to do my wooly washing craziness in (as opposed to a kitchen sink) and I can’t believe how much easier it is to do it all in one go instead of teeny batches.
First, I filled up a bath tub with water that is good and hot… so hot that I could only just stand to put my hands in it. Then I added about 1/8-1/4 cup concentrated Dawn dish detergent and swish that all around. Last, carefully add your 8.39 lb fleece to the sudsy bath and gently push all the fibers under water.
I let it sit until the water was warm. Now, the tricky part was getting all the wool out of the way while I emptied the tub and refill with clean water. I used an old laundry hamper on top of a step stool. That allowed me to fish out the wool into the basket, let the water drain from the wool as it waited and kept everything neat and tidy while I was refilling the tub.
This fleece is the cleanest fleece I have ever worked with and the water was still really grubby after the first rinse.
But you can see how much cleaner everything is already!
Repeat the scalding hot water + dish detergent again (and again and again if you’re working with a truly filthy fleece) until the water is clear when you lift the wool out. I only had to do two really soapy washes, one slightly soapy wash and one clear rinse before I was pretty satisfied about the level of cleanliness.
Once the wool/water is satisfactorily clean, fill the bath tub 1/2 way with warm water. I keep all my clean, slightly soapy wool in the bin and take a handful of wool at a time. I gently submerge the handful of wool in the water to rinse the soap out, gently squeeze the wool to get most of the moisture out and place it in a bin next to the tub. Repeat until the dry bin is full…
And lay all the wool to dry in the sun!
So nice and clean…
Jody has been a busy duck dyeing yarn in the fiber arts room on campus. She used a variety of natural dyes to get these wonderful colors: logwood, indigo, cochineal, onion skins, walnut, weld… and a whole passel of other dyestuffs I can’t remember at the moment. I hope MY summer will be filled with such things too!
Schirin invited us down to Jefferson for some Saturday morning sourdough pancakes! Oh, and also to do some dyeing with onion skins! She’s designed an independent project where she makes a sweater from scratch… you can read a wee bit more about her adventures here… Schirin’s also put up a lovely post about our day on her project blog including the recipe for those tasty pancakes!
Onion skins with a copper sulfate mordant! Much darker than the onion skin dye I made with alum mordant a while ago…
We’ve finally had enough light at the end of the day for me to pop outside and take some pictures of all the yarn I’ve been dying! From the bottom to the top: Gross, half washed llama dyed with Coreopsis flowers from the dye garden here at Sterling, white wool dyed using goldenrod flowers, white wool dyed with goldenrod leaves and white wool dyed with goldenrod leaves then over-dyed with indigo to make a nice grassy green! All of these were mordanted with alum. Ta Dah! I’m working on spinning enough white to make a sweater and then I’ll use the top two skeins for some sort of pattern.
The fiber arts class took a trip down to the farm to sheer the sheep Sterling has on loan from Bonnieview. I got to step out of the office for a little bit, step into my work pants and check out some of the action.
It had been a while since I’d been down to look at the lambs. All of the sheep have had their babies now (all adorable) and there were quite a few little black lambs (pretty obviously from that handsome fella McCain/Fabio). This particular black lamb was having a great time climbing up his mother and leaping off into the air over his siblings…
In other news, Joe and I have been experimenting with Kombucha. We got a mother from someone at Sterling and made a batch. Which tasted like fizzy apple juice! I think it’s amazing that we can take black tea and sugar and turn it into something that tastes like cider without the alcohol or the apples! All natural and pretty cool to watch.
The story of Joe’s socks has come to an end (at least when it comes to the making-of-the-socks part). Here they are, together at last and on to the next adventure: being worn and keeping feet warm. Now you can see the whole process from start (the shearing of the sheep) to middle (the processing of the wool) to end (the knitting of the socks). The second sock wound up with some pretty sweet stripe action happening because there were some huge patches of white on that half of the fleece. It was so much fun knitting along just to see what color would come up next! Now… what’s next?