This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Corriedale fleece adventure and my blanket stash

This summer has been sometimes stormy and cool. I started a fire in my wood stove the morning of July 4th to take the chill off! Other times it has been delightful, sunny and dry, and I've been able to get some yard work done. Then there are the hot and muggy days, when it is hard to do anything, inside or out. 

We get more of those now than we used to. And with Vermont weather, we don't always know when. We get weather from five different directions (seriously), and what we experience depends on what gets here first and how it is modified by what gets here second, third... etc.

So... a nice July day, cool but clear sunny morning. Perfect for washing one of the several fleeces waiting up in my storeroom (former bedroom).

I decide to do the Corriedale I was given a couple of years ago (it's the gooiest, might as well get it out of the way). Now I make a fatal (or nearly) decision. I decide to do the whole thing at one go.

Now there are two factors at work here. This was off a ram sheep, and in Corries the fleece varies in texture and length from one part to another, so normally I'd sort the sections and do them separately and spin them for different projects. But I am planning to use this and another Corriedale I'd processed last year to weave a blanket (someday), so I decide to let it mix together for texture.

The other thing is that Corridales have big fleeces anyway. And this one was huge. When I unrolled it, it was too big to lie flat in my bathroom. So I sort-of broke it up into similar sections, eight in all, and set to, filling my buckets with free hot water. 

My process involves four five gallon buckets set in my tub. The nice thing is that on a sunny summer day, my solar hot water panel provides lots of very hot water, so I can rotate the buckets out and always have fresh hot water for washing and rinsing. The only hitch in this is that when I go to dump the cooling water (it makes fantastic fertilizer), I have to haul the buckets down a flight of stairs from my deck. My house is on a hillside, so the back is an extra story off the ground. That's ok most of the time: it's good exercise and the buckets are empty on the return trip.

But the cool morning morphed into a warm one. Then a hot one, and the humidity rose with it. By noon the outside temp was close to 90F, and the humidity matched. And because of the steamy bathroom and having to go in and out, the house was just about as bad.

But in for a dime, in for a dollar. I was determined to get it done. With impressive efficiency if I do say so myself, I moved batch after batch from bucket to bucket, emptied, refilled, drained and pressed water from the batches of clean wool, and hung it from my clothesline and from my outside rack.

Done.  I could have taken photos of that, but frankly, I didn't feel like it. (The one here is from the last Corriedale, and the two storm photos below are from a storm last year.) My determination had turned into hot and sweaty and tired. 

Stripped, showered, dressed in dry, clean, loose, thin clothing. And looked out at my lovely white fleece drying... as two huge thunderheads moved in rapidly from the west and the south.


Grabbed my clothes basket, dropped the wool from the line into it. Put it in the mudroom, and ran for the rack while a wall of rain moved closer. I didn't even bother to take the fleece off: just folded the rack and carried it upright into the house. I have an antique fan rack that does not go outside, but sets up just fine in the foyer, and the rest of the wool went onto that.

It rained hard for about 15 minutes, and then the sun came out. Oh, well. The air was still heavy with moisture, and more rain predicted for the night, so I figured the wool could just stay where it was.

It took two days to dry, the air was so damp. And then we had a nice day, and it dried all the way. I began to comb it, which is something I enjoy doing.  It took a couple of days to comb half the fleece and fill a large box with nests, which was enough at one go. 
I started spinning. Because I was spinning chunky, that only took part of one day. Let it set overnight, and then I plied it. I do love the big bulky flier on my Matchless- eight ounce skeins at a go, more if I'm spinning fine.

Washed, that big eight ounce skein is handsome. Not perfect, but it looks good. And I feel satisfied at a job done well enough.

I still have a box of nests to spin. And half the bag of clean fleece to comb. I think when I get done, between it and the other Corriedale, and some miscellaneous chunkies I've done over the years, I'll just about have enough for my blanket. 

(No, I don't have a time schedule for getting it woven....)

A beautiful post-storm July evening.

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