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Archive for June, 2011


As rare as a day in June…

Dear Jan,

The Santa Cruz sheep is a breed that was left behind on Santa Cruz Island off the California coast by explorers in the 1500’s and 1600’s or perhaps ranchers in the 1800’s (according to Deb Robson in her Spinning Rare Breeds video, highly recommended). Today there are very few remaining – and none on the island.  The damage they were doing to the ecosystem, a Nature Conservancy preserve, meant they had to be removed.  Some were slaughtered and some adopted by various preservationists.  Spinners are glad that the sheep was saved, because the fiber is unusually soft and unusually elastic when spun into yarn.

11.jpg12.jpgApparently, the sheep are unusually messy, too.  Of the filthy samples of fleece that I’ve worked with in this breed study series, this may be the filthiest. And the staple length is disappearingly short. In another fleece I’d be discarding this entire sample as second cuts too short to spin. But this is one of the rarest of rare breeds, and the few remaining haven’t been cared for with spinning in mind, so I’m happy to have the chance to take my best shot at it.

I was determined to get enough fiber to sample, though, so I tried all sorts of ways to produce a workable roving. Or rolag. Or anything at all.

After several hot water baths and a final finishing soak with Soak, in which the sample transformed from mud colored to hopefully white in some areas (those not discolored by VM of all sorts) and incredibly soft in all areas, I started in. Short staple usually suggests carding. Is it possible for something to be too short to card? This stuff, at about an inch long and so fine you can barely feel it, just didn’t grab the second carder well enough to want to transfer normally from one carder to the other. And the neps and noils just burrowed in. Neither did much VM fall out. Hmmm…

17.jpg18.jpgThe carding attempt did align the chaos a bit, so I tried lifting the batt off the carder, folding it with the grain (the opposite of what you’d do if you were making a rolag), and then treated this as a mini-roving to lash onto my mini combs.  After quite a bit of combing, I didn’t even bother trying to pull a roving, I just spun off the comb.

19.jpgOverall, this fiber spun out very fine, as fine as I’ve spun anything. After an overnight rest I made an Andean bracelet of the singles and spun a heavy laceweight – 5 grams and 38 yards out of almost 2 ounces of fleece to start.

20.jpgI did save some of the cleaner waste – this stuff is so incredibly fine and soft, like kitten fur, that I hated to be throwing so much away. I spun it woolen from a rolag. Surprisingly, much of the VM spun out quite readily. I chain-plied the singles and got a dk weight, very soft woolen yarn, on the right in the picture.  The 2-py is on the left.  Both just kept getting more and more elastic as they dried. Part of me wishes I had more fleece so I could have more of this interesting yarn; part of me is really glad I have no more to process!

13.jpgMuch easier to process and still producing an interesting yarn – Black Welsh Mountain.  This fiber seemed to improve with every step of the process. It has a unique character – feels almost hairlike but is so supple that twisting, first in the single, then in the ply, makes it feel more and more woolen and softer. Definitely not a soft yarn, but also oddly not a scratchy yarn, either. I spun it worsted and chain-plied and love the glow that it seems to have.  So does Poison.

21.jpgAnd for those of you who love gray (oh, I love gray!), here is the Suffolk from last weekend.  Like a cloud, so soft and fluffy – I am glad I have more of this in my stash and will happily process it so as to have enough for a real project.

In between all of this spinning, we have been enjoying those rare June days – blue skies, low humidity, hot enough to be hot but not so hot as to be miserable.  A bike ride yesterday and some gardening today have me convinced that summer is really here.

I hope you are enjoying the start to your summer.

Love,

Ellen

Ending the Merry Month of May

Dear Ellen,

dsc02755.JPGdsc02740.JPGdsc02765.JPGI am relieved to be back in my home…it’s been a whirlwind wind up to this month as I’ve been traveling since we left for Cleveland and the wedding.  That was certainly a fun event with much merriment and romance in the air.   Although blurry, I thought this shot of Craig and Lauren really captured it.  And I did enjoy the reception with my brothers and sisters.  Beth did a great job on the seating chart.  And Patty did a great job tracking our pork and beef orders.  dsc02781.JPGdscf1380.JPGdsc02786.JPGI’m quite sure that you, Patty and I were the hit of the evening entertainment-wise.  We may have pounded a little too hard based on the way Wilson and Patty were holding their heads the next morning.  I wonder if Ken and Kristen will be next?

dsc02838.JPGdsc02832.JPGdsc02833.JPGI left the wedding and headed out to the west coast where I met up with good friends from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom for the Combined Communications Electronics Board.  We did much dsc02857.JPGdsc02855.JPGofficial work and also spent a day and a half out on an aircraft carrier.  MUCH fun and good work done as well.  I was glad to have a chance to be underway — and very pleased to know Allen was underway on PROVIDENCE at the same time…likely the only time that will happen in our careers.  As always, our city at sea had lots going on.  Flight operations, combat direction center, radio shack, the bakery, Yoplait!!  What’s not to like?

Check out some flight ops — Here’s a launch and here’s a trap.

dsc02922.JPGOn return I got a few scant hours of sleep and then Dale and I and the doggies headed to Fair Winds for a one night camp out in the shadow of the new house.  Dale did lots of property grooming and I knit the second of my First Flame Socks.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find the original dpns on which I dsc02956.JPGdsc02980.JPGdsc02981.JPGknit the first…found another set the same size, but then, not really.   The second sock is slightly smaller.  As the needles were different materials (carbon fiber vs. metal) they knit at a slightly different gauge.  The socks blocked out to the same size, but I know one will feel looser.  I’ll be sure the recipient knows to wear the smaller one on her smaller foot.

dsc02951.JPGdsc02950.JPGRuby and Max worked very hard too — lots of sniffing and running about and trying to catch squirrels.  They had to get a lot of extra rest to regain their energy.

dsc02945.JPGdsc02939.JPGdscf1426.JPGThe house is all but finished.  It is without doubt the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen.  The interior decorator working the show had most of the furniture in place for the Parade along with many small touches…he said more dscf1419.JPGdscf1430.JPGdscf1418.JPGwere to come before the event. dscf1416.JPGdscf1432.JPGThere is no doubt that his furniture is nicer than ours…but we should have 30-40 years to work on upgrading what we have — some of which has literally been around the world for 3+ decades.  The landscaping was almost dsc02970.JPGdsc02965.JPGdsc02943.JPGall in by the time we left…lots of flowering trees and lovely dsc02947.JPGdsc02948.JPGdsc02813.JPGhot pink roses, bushy bright shrubs and promising perennials.  I’ll not try to list them.  You can identify them for me when you come visit as I’ll undoubtedly have forgotten what they are by then.  I am just thrilled with my own flight deck too.  I picture grandchildren practicing traps and cats for hours at a time!  dsc02936.JPGdsc02933.JPGdsc02978.JPGI also enjoyed the other plants around the farm — from ferns and wild strawberries to the corn that grew about two inches in the 30 hours we were there.  The big VIP opening party is tonight.

dsc02983.JPGDale and I are heading up early in the day.  We’ll drink champagne with the Parade judges and then head to a hotel at BWI from whence we can head to Tampa for the weekend to celebrate Jim’s retirement and Tom’s H.S. graduation.  I hope to finish up a cap and booties to go with the overalls I’ve made for my friend’s baby (yet to be smocked — the overalls, not the baby!)  And I’ll likely get another pair of socks started.

dsc02727.JPGdsc02973.JPGA very busy end to May and beginning of June, but it sure is fun!  Did I mention that we saw a giant rabbit?…and a bear?  (Just in case you were wondering about that expression about bears and their activities in the woods.)

Love, Jan