Thursday, April 28, 2011


Anne Field was here and she was delightful and full of things to teach us.  But I didn't bring the camera home and so I am distracting you with photos of sheep.  
I went to pick up some Southdown fleeces and while I was there I went to look at the new babies.
 This little Jacob girl is gorgeous.   A lot of white but nice black on her eyes and nose.  She's got a very fine fleece and will be so pretty as an adult.

Jacob sheep are a very old breed.  Their origins are not known but it is thought that they came from the area of Syria over 3000 years ago.  They were moved over time across North Africa and Sicily and Spain to England and to the US in the early 1900s.

They are different than other primitive breeds as they do not have multiple coats.

American Jacobs have not undergone "improvement" to make them more commercially suitable and so they still have that small boned, primitive body type.

 Also, they are adorable.  This little lilac ram isn't as fine fleeced but he's going to have 4 horns and look at those nice black toes.  He's got a good amount of colored fleece with his black so I think he may stay at the farm for a while.
 These boys are gorgeous!  An adult Jacob ram and an adult Tunis Ram.  I love Tunis because of their gorgeous red faces.

American Tunis is one of the oldest US sheep breeds.  The first importation was from the ruler of Tunisia to Pennsylvania in 1799.  After that there were more importations of fat tailed sheep to the US which were crossed with the original sheep.  The breed was quite popular as in 1892, Ezra Carmen in a chapter of A Report of the Sheep Industry of the U.S. wrote, " But for the introduction of the fine-wooled Merino, these Tunisian sheep would probably have become disseminated throughout the U.S., and in some of them have become the prevailing flocks."
Here he is close up.  I hope they get a couple of ewes so I can have a flock of Tunis nearby and pretend they are mine.  They are the pinkiest reddest sheep breed I know.
OK Back to the Jacobs.  These are almost all of the Ewes who had babies this spring.  They get a bell around their necks when they lamb because along with the dogs they scare away the coyotes.

 Maggie finally got her wish to hold a lamb! 
 These are the Wensleydale boys.  No way to show in a photo how big these rams are.  They are just gorgeous and never afraid of me.  They come up to sniff me but rarely let me touch them.
This little ram lamb was born out in the rain yesterday morning.  He's a fantastic jet black with huge ears and legs.  i think he's going to be some ram when he grows up.  It's undecided yet whether he's going to Wisconsin or staying in Michigan.  His mom is 25% BFL and 75% Wensleydale.  You can see the BFL in her nose.  Her fleece has a gorgeous purl to it as well as high luster.

We never did get over to see those Scottish Balckface today.  Bummer!  Guess I'll just have to make another trip.
In the mean time, if any of you want to try either of these breeds you can check them out right here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Black Welsh Mountain

So over the weekend I worked on some samples spun from Black Welsh Mountain wool.  First I will just say that every time I spin samples, no matter how many I spin I always have questions and want to try something else.

All of the samples have been carded and then the carded prep was treated or spun in different ways: either from the card, rolled into rolags, rolled into a cigar or pulled into roving.

A rolag (on left in the photo) is made from a hand carded sample being rolled from the front of the card toward the handle so the fibers form a spiral.  This is what I consider a pure woolen prep as no fibers are lined up and when spun with a woolen draft the final yarn is technically purely woolen.

A cigar (on right in the photo) is carded then rolled from side to side so that the fibers are somewhat aligned.  The cigar is short and fat as opposed to long and thinnish like the rolag.

The woolen spun samples were spun using a supported long draw and the worsted spun samples were spun using a short forward draw with all twist in front of my forward hand.

(Click on the photo for even bigger)
From left to right in both photos:

1.  Carded, rolled into a cigar, spun worsted 2 ply   13 wpi
2.  Carded, spun off the card 2 ply 15 wpi
       This sample was spun right off the end of the card.  This particular fleece had a range of fiber diameters 
       in it and when spun in this way, most of the coarsest/strongest fibers stayed on the card with the finer
       fibers going into the yarn.
3.  Carded, Stacked, pulled into roving, supported longdraw, 2 ply 9 wpi
      After carding each carded bit was peeled from the card and kept flat.  Five carded samples were layered
      and then pulled into a roving.
4.  Rolags Spun Woolen - supported longdraw 3 ply 8 wpi

5.  Rolags Worsted spun 3 ply 12 wpi

I will confess, to no one's surprise, that I love combed and worsted spun yarn.  Woolen spinning has a bit less control and makes a very consistent yarn very difficult to achieve.  Add to that the difficulties of this particular breed and it makes me crabby. It was almost impossible to spin this fiber to a consistent thickness.  But knitted or woven into a sample the inconsistencies disappear.

None of the yarns from this fleece are soft but they do have bounce and strength to them.  I think they would be good for a work coat or cardigan to be worn outdoors.  Though one of the samples was spun as a lace yarn I know I wouldn't choose this yarn for lace.  It would be good as a rug yarn as it is strong and springy.  I have had softer Black Welsh fleeces and the lamb fleeces can be very nice.  Never as soft as Merino but definitely useful for next to skin items. The natural, true black color, difficult to find in most sheep breeds, makes this wool very attractive to hand spinners

What I'd like to do next is comb this fiber and see what a difference it would make.  In  my experience combing can soften things up a lot by removing the shorter/coarser fibers.

Stay tuned.  I finally finished the Corriedale and have plenty of lovely things to say about Romney.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Great Tool Bag Search

 Deb Robson's video has had a huge effect on me and when I grow up I want to be just like her.

At the beginning of the video she shows us her tool kit and it was genius.  I began right away to search for a container that would work for me and my spinning tools.
This was the first one I bought.  It came from Home Depot and was right about $20. It is 18 inches long and about 8 inches wide inside.  It kinda fit all the stuff but the handle was rigid and didn't swivel so it felt like it was in the way when I was trying to get the cards and combs out.  It also required that alot of the items were stacked on top of each other and so harder to get at when needed.

Another thing that wasn't great was there was no shoulder strap and I carry lots of things and the shoulder strap would have been really handy.

I had it for about a week and moved things around and rearranged them a few times but it wasn't quite right for me.

 So I stopped at Lowe's today and there were two bags that I thought would work so I brought them both home.

The one above I thought would be great because of no handle in the way and there was a shoulder strap. And it was only $24.  Those wide pockets on the front are also on the other side and I thought I could put my hand cards in there and the combs on the inside. It's about 18 inches long and the inside is about 4 inches wide.

It was not to be.  The hand cards kind of fit but I could place them in a way that I felt comfortable that the teeth wouldn't be ruined and the width of the center portion was not wide enough for my widest set of hand combs.
 This is the one that I have decided to keep.  It's about 18 inches wide, has two separate zippered inside sections and 6 great pockets on the outside front which can hold oil, hand cream and other tidbits.  Also a shoulder strap!
 It came with 3 zippered pouches that I can use for smaller items.  The largest one is already filled with the extra whorls for my Matchless.  The other two will have extra drive bands and small bits I might need for quick wheel repairs.
Here is one pocket with 3 sets of hand combs and 2 sample niddies with room to spare.

 This side has 2 sets of hand cards, my flick and some smaller dog grooming tools for tiny samples.
(Blurry Photo)This side with 6 more pockets has scissors, a knitting needle gauge and a pair of pliers so I could see if I could fit a few general tools I might need to fix any problems with my wheel or, if I'm teaching, students' wheels.
Of course this bag was the most expensive one.  $45.  But I'm very happy with it and know it will serve me well for years.  I don't expect to change these as often as I change my project bags and sometimes I have paid way too much for those! so I can't feel too bad about the price, right?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New Bags and New Majacraft Design

 Today we got the bags!   Theses bags are made of a good canvas with the cute sheep.  I love them.  All the people who will be attending the Spring Retreat get one of these to hold all the fiber I will be flinging at them.  the others will be available for sale in the shop and online for a mere $18!  True story.  I'll post them later today if you want to order one.
 Even more exciting! Majacraft did a bit of a redesign of their wheels.  I LOVE it.  Let's just first talk about things that may not be obvious.

The bolts that hold the body to the base have changed to JCB Bolts and make the wheel so much easier to assemble for those people who may be buying this wheel unassembled.

The spinning head is also now held in place with a JCB Bolt so no bolts are protruding.  This gives a smoother  look and again, easier in assembly.

The way the bearing is being seated in the wheel has been improved and this improvement makes the wheel feel like it spins more freely.

The hinges on the treadles are now specifically made for Majacraft and they seem to move even more freely.
 This is the new Rose imprint on the Rose wheel.  I am in love with it.   I think it is just gorgeous.
 The spinning head has been reshaped to give a softer look.
 The treadles have been reshaped to give a softer look and also the size of the treadles is slightly different to give a better action (if that is even possible).
This is the back of the Suzi.  This wheel used to have a cutout of the same shape attached to the wheel.  The leaf design is now being etched into the wheel.

I have been in love with Majacraft wheels ever since I tried my first one more than 8 years ago.  These changes have made me love these wheels even more.  Before trying them out with the improvements I never would have believed that it was possible to make them even better as a spinning tool and the cosmetic improvements are just icing on the Majacraft cake.

We have more on order and more on their way shortly.  These wheels seem to move through quickly since it seems that they are easy to fall in love with.

Keep watching.  I have some things to say about Corriedale and Romney is in the works!

Friday, April 01, 2011

So a few weeks ago....

...I was on the Twitter (yes, I call it THE Twitter, makes Chelsea crazy) and someone posted that Sara Lamb had set up an Etsy Shop.  I was right there to check it out and I found this bag.

Handspun Silk. Painted Warps. Hand Woven. All of those fringes Hand Twisted.

A beaded band and (I think) a card woven strap
It was there, in living color. I had to have it.

Then there was an email from my friend Sara which said she had a bag that was pink and did I want to choose that one instead.  She sent me photos.

 Handspun silk, painted warps, hand woven, hand beaded with flowery beads, a card woven strap, hand twisted fringe.

 The back has just as much attention to detail.
I chose both.
Really, when will I have this opportunity again?

And one more thing to talk about.  DVDs
I've been getting the quickly lately.  The new Interweave ones.  I've been borrowing a copy and watching it at home so I can make good recommendations when people ask.
This week i worked on spinning Corriedale Samples and a couple of Romney Samples so I watched videos while I was working.
Three of them really stood out for me and I want to tell you about them.

The first is Know Your Wheel
 It's a 2 disc set.  The first disc is Linda Ligon speaking with Alden Amos and the second is Linda speaking with my secret girlfriend Cindy Lair who is one of the Genius's at Schacht and also the production manager there.
The talk about drive bands and brake bands and oiling and adjustments and what noises are important and what you can ignore if you want.  I feel like I know a lot about wheels and can make almost any wheel with all its parts work but I learn even more while watching this video.
If you've read the Big Book of Handspinning, all of that personality comes out in the first disc.  And Cindy Lair is extra informative and delightful.  It's worth every penny...unless you want to just come and see me:-)

The next video is by Margaret Stove.  I had a blog post not long ago talking about her and how I admire her talents and her books.  Well, now there is a video.  Since she lives very far away and teaches here rarely, now is your chance to learn from her.
 Spinnign for Lace is full of very important information about her process of washing, sorting and spinning and plying Merino which you can then translate to other wool fibers.  It is a joy to watch and asks to be watched again to understand just what her hands are doing.

And finally, the video that is my favorite of all Interweave videos, Handspinning Rare Wools:
 Deb Robson is passionate about these sheep breeds.  In this video she shows her passion and her emotion when telling us why we should care.  In the midst of it all she convinces us that we should try spinning them all by showing how easy it is to spin them, and how wonderful and useful each and every wool type can be.

I would never say that a video is just as good as taking an in person class but for those refreshers, those times when you need a bit more instruction, those times when you want to hear from the expert who may not be next door, these videos will do in a pinch.