Quick event recap and VSA redux

Wow. Last week both went way to fast and seems like it lasted a lot longer than just a week.

After finishing the tent repair with mom and dad, we came home to prepare for WW which including making a three entirely new outfits in pseudo-Near Eastern style, one for Jack and two for me. Fortunately, the outfits went together very easily (for those who might understand a bit of SCA jargon, the undertunics are basic t-tunics, just a little longer; the pants are essentially harem pants (yes, I know they’re not entirely appropriate for this, but they are quick and easy and comfy); the coats were just basic t-tunics slit up the front). No, I don’t think there are pictures of either of us in them, but if I find someone who snapped a shot or two, I’ll post them.

We were on site from about noon Wednesday until about 10 Sunday morning. It was rather nice to have a long stretch of time camping and an event where my primary responsibility was to co-coordinate the Artisan’s Row. The Row was a bit larger this year, or at least had more arts represented, which was very neat. In addition to the fiber arts (which are usually well represented) – knitting, spinning, sprang, embroidery, tablet weaving, hand sewing, hand braiding, dyeing – we had a couple wood carvers, a few leather workers, at least one calligrapher, a bowyer, a couple bakers (who treated us to some very tasty flat breads), a brewer demonstrating how to make mead, and even for a short time a musician.

The classes we were able to host (period dyeing, bread making, mead making) seemed to go over well, especially since we didn’t get quite as much posted advertising as I’d planned (my fault entirely – time just seemed to get away from me all week and I didn’t get things where they were needed). As usual, I think we learned some things to do differently next time (whenever that might be), including making sure that folks who aren’t necessarily interested in teaching something on the order of a class know they can come to just hang out and work on their projects on the Row. Additionally, a larger (or maybe just more contiguous) shaded space may be necessary as folks tend to want to congregate in the same space and a single shade fly gets crowded quickly which I think discourages folks from just wandering in to ask about what everyone is working on.

Personally, I wrapped up and plied a decent hank of the Clun Forest lamb’s fleece (not all of it, but maybe a couple ounces worth), but didn’t manage to make it up to Baroness Eithni’s dyepot to try my hand at dyeing it. I also started another pair of toe-up socks with the Yarn Pirate yarn I got from my upstream Gnome Swap pal and I really, really, really love how they’re knitting up. Oh, and I worked a smidge on spinning more of the baby camel/tussah silk top from my SP9 pal. I will snap some pictures in the next few days and post them.

On an unrelated topic, but one that I posted on a couple weeks ago, if you are or know someone who is a prospective/current/former college student, or the parent of a prospective/current/former student, please consider taking a few moments to complete a quick survey about what information you think is most important to assist in the college selection process. Feel free to spread the word if you’re so inclined; the more feedback we get, the more useful we can make the finished product!

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Light of day..

The paint’s dry and it’s daylight, so I was able to get some better shots of the paint in the bathroom:

But in much more exciting news.. It’s HERE!

The box with my Breed Swap fleece and research arrived today! There are samples of 27 different types of fleece (apparently some were shipped to the coordinator, but never arrived) and research on 32 breeds of sheep. The fleece samples include an ounce of prepared fiber, a clean lock, and about a yard of 2-ply yarn. The research was all bound up in a 3-ring binder in plastic page protectors. On the right hand page of each is an attached plastic envelope for the lock and yarn samples (I already have mine sorted and put in the book .. yes, I’m a geek, I know) and room for our own notes as we spin each of the 1-ounce samples. The coordinator did a really excellent job in compiling all our research and formatting the books; I’m sure she had a fair amount of editing to do since I know that the research I sent her was originally much longer than what she was able to include (see above re: geek)! I’m really excited to really get to know each of these fleeces, it was about all I could do not to end each of the sentences above with an exclamation point!

Oh, and Cathy (sorry, I don’t have a link or an email so I’m answering here!) asked why we were putting rock and sand in the bottom of the garden boxes. I’m doing it because it was recommended by my Expert Gardening Consultant(tm) (aka, good friend who used to do landscaping professionally). The beds are about 16 inches deep and we were discussing getting in a load of dirt to fill them when EGC mentioned that if I wanted them to really last and have really good drainage, I could do layers like that. Apparently, the rock helps the drainage and the sand keeps the good soil from working out as fast. Since I am sort of stuck on the idea that if you’re going to do something, it’s worth it to pay a little extra to make sure it will last, so I’m going to call some landscaping places to price options. If it’s not something like twice as expensive to do the layers, we’ll do that.

X = 2.37

Whee!!

Guess what arrived yesterday?

SQUEE! That is 2.37 pounds of processed Clun Forest lambs fleece. I send just over 4 pounds off to be washed and processed and wasn’t sure just how much I’d get back after washing and processing. (See how I worked that into my X post? Aren’t I clever? *smug*)

It’s much whiter than I expected – the fleece were dirty and still had some guard hair in them when I sent them to Blackberry Ridge, so the color surprised me.

Looks like a lot, eh? Each of those little bundles is about 2.5 to 3 ounces, except the little one on the top. (Jali was very intrigued by the fleece, but once she got a sniff or two, she pretty much left it alone.) It’s not so overwhelming when you realize that a full two pounds of it got parceled out into 1 ounce packages to go to the Breed Swap. *smile* I’m a little torn about sending so much of it away, but in seeing just how much an ounce is, I’m equally excited that I’ll be getting 32 1-ounce samples of different fleeces like that from the other participants!

Along with the 1-ounce samples, I’m to send 32 locks and 32 yards of two-plied yarn. I held back the fleece I washed to pull the locks, but haven’t actually pulled them out yet; I’ll do that this afternoon most likely. Spinning the yarn, though, meant I had to get the merino singles that I had on my spindle off:

That is 309 yards of merino singles, which I need to wash to re-awaken the twist so I can ply. In order to figure out how many yards I had, I had to measure my Pex niddy noddy, which turns out to be 80 inches for a full wrap. Slightly larger than a 2-yard niddy noddy, but if I decide I want to make it a 2-yard one, I can cut down the Pex. I didn’t measure the small one, but I suspect that it will come in just over a yard.

It also turns out that my estimation of how long it takes me to spin 64 yards of yarn is *way* off. I spun this last night:

It’s about 20 yards of singles, or 10 yards of two-ply, out of about .2 ounces. So today I’m working through a .6 ounce chunk (that little ball on top in the pyramid picture), which should give me the yarn I need for the swap. Then I’ll pack it all up (in the box that the roving came in, most likely) and run it down to our post office to ship it off to the Breed Swap organizer.

I have about 2.5 ounces left to keep for myself (and I’ll get an ounce back when the breed swap supplies come back) and I’m contemplating spinning it up and dyeing it. My friend Carol does period dyeing stuff and I think it might be fun to try some with this fleece. Of course, I might get impatient and try to dye it with Kool-Aid first!

Breedswap

Cathy asked what the Breedswap project that I did the Clun Forest research for was. In a nutshell, it’s a project being run by some folks on the Spindlers YahooGroups list to create for the participants a resource notebook that will contain research and fiber samples from 32 different breeds. The following is from the introductory email announcing the project and inviting participants:

Here’s what you will be expected to contribute:

1) An information sheet on the breed you are signed up for. I will collect the information and have them printed and copied so all the sheets in the notebook will have the same format. See below for the information required. Please be as complete as possible.

2) For each participant, an envelope with one yard of yarn you have spun, and one lock of *washed* fiber. The lock of fiber should NOT be carded or combed. With full participation, this will be 32 yards.

3) For each participant, a baggie containing one ounce of washed fiber. (This may also be prepared by carding or combing, but it isn’t necessary.) With full participation, this will be 32 baggies.

4) Money for expenses; $10.00 per person to cover postage, copying costs, the cost of notebooks and index pages.

5) Optional: a picture of a sheep of the breed you were assigned.

Here’s what you will end up with:

1) A printed copy of each sample sheet with a lock of fiber and a piece of yarn attached. You will receive these in a notebook with a printed cover and printed indices.

2) A set of baggies with one ounce of fiber to spin for each breed represented in the swap.

Each participant volunteered for one or more breeds they’d be willing to research and contribute the fiber for, and based on what people were willing to contribute, the organizers assigned the following breeds: Polwarth, CVM, Perendale, Navajo Churro, Corriedale, Jacob, Blue Faced Leicester, Icelandic, Cotswold, Romney, Ramboulliet, Gotland, Cormo, Montadale, Cheviot, Shetland, Clun Forest, Lincoln, Gulf Coast, Border Leicester, Finn, Leicester Longwool X, Hog Island, Dorset, Columbia, Suffolk, California Red, Polypay, Coopworth, English Leicester, Merino, and Targhee. I don’t know all of those, but thanks to Carol, I now have a copy of In Sheep’s Clothing, so I’m planning to read up on some of the ones I don’t know before the binders are complete.

And at the moment, I’m behind in getting the fleece prepared. I have the washed locks, they just need to be sorted and put into baggies. I sent the fleece to be processed and didn’t hear anything from the mill for several weeks. When I called to inquire that they’d at least gotten the fleece, they told me it would be about another month before they could get the processed fleece back to me. Assuming they stick to that estimate, I should be fine. If they push for more time then, though, I’m going to have to figure out where to get two plus pounds of processed Clun Forest fleece on very short notice. *sigh*

Clun Forest Research for Breedswap

Right then, as promised (and do please remember I did admit that this wasn’t the *best* example of my scholarly work!)..

1) BREED DESCRIPTION. This should include a description of what the sheep in this breed look like and their genetic composition.

Clun Forest originated as a breed in southwest Shropshire, near the forest whose name it bears, descending from a variety of mountain and moorland sheep that ranged over an area that has been described as one of the wildest and most desolate regions in England up to the middle of the 16th century. Their ancestors were commonly small and reddish brown in color with prominent eyes and may originally have been bred by pastoral or semi-nomadic shepherds as many as 1,000 years ago.

As the English economy shifted away from wool production toward more demand for meat in the mid-19th century, commercial flocks were often drained of breeding stock, which shepherds often replaced by introducing mountain ewes to their flocks. This practice resulted in vast genetic diversity in the modern breed, and is likely responsible for the continuation of those attributes which make the Clun Forest so desirable – adaptable, hardy, prolific, and content to forage for the bulk of its food. By the mid-20th century, Clun Forest was the third most numerous pure breed in Britain.

Clun Forest were first imported to the American continent in 1970 by Tony Turner, who brought in 2 rams and 39 ewes from Ray Williams, and sheep from Tony’s first flock were purchased by United States breeders at the 1973 Nova Scotia Sheep Fair in Truro. North American acceptance of the breed, however, was slowed by the lack of University sponsorship & promotion and a general lack of interest in grassland farming. Nonetheless, Angus Rouse of Nova Scotia secured two additional importations of Clun Forest after Tony which helped secure the breed in North America. In recent years, severe restrictions on the importation of livestock from overseas have prompted breeders to import Clun Forest semen from Europe in order to expand the genetic base of American flocks.

The first documented description of the modern Clun Forest breed is from the middle of the 19th century and describes them as white-faced and hornless. More recent descriptions, from the breed’s “Golden Age” between 1950 and 1970, reference the distinct woolen top knot, brown face with wide-set eyes, and small-to-medium ears held upright. The breed has changed little since its Golden Age, though modern Clun Forest may have slightly higher-set ears and darker brown faces. The typical Clun Forest ewe weighs between 130 and 160 pounds, with rams only slightly heavier – between 175 and 200 pounds.

The standard for Clun Forest as determined by the North American Clun Forest Association is as follows:

Head and Face

  • A clean open faced sheep ranging from tan to black; top of head nicely covered and free from dark wool.

Ears

  • Not to long and carried high.

Body

  • Strong, muscular neck, lengthy good back, deep rib, strong loin, good hock, deep and well-rounded thighs, good through heart, strong bone, standing square on its legs.

Legs

  • Fairly free from wool from hock and knee down.

Wool

  • A tight fleece, fine texture, free from kemp and dark or gray wool.

Skin

  • A nice pink or red skin, free from black or blue spots.

A sheep which meets you with a good head and a bold walk, that stands squarely on its legs, with plenty of heart girth and a good constitution.

2) FIBER CHARACTERISTICS: This should include, as a minimum, staple length and crimps per inch. Also include diameter or count (if known), whether the fleece you are using came from a lamb, hogget or mature sheep, and whatever else you can think of.

Clun Forest fleeces – usually about 6 to 8 pounds when mature – are considered the finest fleece produced in Great Britain. They are consistent from neck to britch, with little or none of the variance common among other fleeces. Fleeces are essentially free from black or kempy fibers and are easily worked by handspinners, especially beginners, due to their density and uniformity.

Average staple length: approximately 4 inches
Crimp: Tight, irregular; well developed; elastic; extremely springy
Spinning Count: 46s to 54s (USDA wool grade); 58s according to some sources
Diameter: 28-33 microns

The wool in this sample is from two lamb fleeces (combined grease weight of approximately 4.5 pounds) sheared in late summer 2006 at Bets Reedy’s farm just outside of Money Creek, MN.

3) METHOD OF PREPARATION: What do you think is the best method of preparation for this breed – carding, combing, or commercial.

I found little information on preferred methods of preparation for Clun Forest fleeces and as I did not prepare the fleece for this project myself, can add no significant personal insight. An article written by Jane Fournier for the Fall 1993 issue of Spin-Off Magazine indicates that hand carding and drum carding are usually more efficient than flick carding and combing. Jane recommends a fine drum (320 points per inch) to avoid neps.

I also found the following account posted by Cindy W. on the Yarnspinners blog, which I found informative:

The sample I worked with was a washed off white fleece. It had a large amount of VM in the sample. The wool had a soft hand with a very springy feel to it.

This fleece was surprisingly easy to comb or card. It seemed perfectly suited for my small hand held combs, coming off in a very nice top. Since I had seen in other fibers that fleece that combs well often does not card well, that was what I expected. But I was very surprised to find that Clun Forest also carded up into lovely batts with my hand held cards.

4) SPINNING TECHNIQUES: What special techniques, if any, are recommended for this breed?

Other than several statements about the superiority of Clun Forest fleeces for handspinners, there was little information available recommending any specific spinning technique. Again in Jane’s 1993 article, she mentions that Clun Forest fleeces lend themselves well “to traditional woolen-spun yarns. . . [and] results in a very bouncy, lofty, and slightly irregular yarn.” When spun “from a parallel preparation using a short draw, the lively and amphatic crimp results in a slightly fluffy, irregular yarn with a flat, chalky surface . . . [that] is lightweight and has great life and body, in contradiction to its dense appearance.” Finally, Jane notes that Clun Forest can be blended “with less-elastic fibers” such as kid mohair, alpaca, llama, or tussah silk “to produce yarns with body and bounce.”

Cindy W. from the Yarnspinners blog compares the yarn resulting from combed top and carded batts as follows:

Combed top: This was a delight to spin. It drafted easily into a long draft, and gave a nice smooth fine yarn. The only thing I observed was that it was such a smooth yarn, that it was difficult to make joins, when I started a new piece of top. I also noticed that this fiber needed a high twist, and that it really was unwilling to hold the twist. I especially saw this when I was plying, that the thicker areas in the singles were almost unspun. It was also interesting to observe that the yarn really expanded once there was no tension on it. I measured this sample of yarn as 15 WPI. It was a very generous, 25 yard sample.

Carded batts: I used more twist while spinning this. I tried two types of drafting, a moderate drafting zone gave a thicker yarn, with the neps often disappearing right into the yarn. An inchworm draft gave a much thinner yarn, but I had to stop and pull out the neps, which slowed down the spinning. The neps were not in the combed top, making it the better prep. This skein was 14 yards which measured 13 WPI, and was a very nubby looking yarn.

5) RECOMMENDED USES: What types of uses are appropriate for this type of fleece?

Depending on the preparation, Clun Forest wool is recommended by Jane for “hosiery, flannels, knitting yarns, tweeds, and industrial felts.” The yarn – which is “very bouncy, lofty, and slightly irregular” – can be woven as singles or plied and knitted into “hard-wearing, cushiony socks or gloves.” Jane also notes that felt produced from Clun Forest wool is elastic and quite substantial and would make a good blazer or lightweight jacket.

6) PURCHASE INFORMATION: Where did you purchase this fiber? If possible, provide name and address of vendor, and the price paid.

As previously mentioned, the fiber included in the Breedswap binder is from two lamb fleeces sheared in late summer 2006 on Bets Reedy’s farm. Bets does not typically sell her fleeces directly (I obtained mine through a friend) but rather sells them through her shearer. At the time of this writing, Bets had not yet heard from the shearer how much the lamb fleeces were selling for, though she assured me that the cost for the two I received would likely be around $10. I washed several ounces of the fleece by hand, which is included here as locks, and send the rest to Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mills for cleaning and processing into roving. I have not yet received an invoice (or the completed roving!) from Blackberry Ridge, but expect the cleaning and processing to be approximately $30.

7) RESOURCES: List the resources you used (books, magazines, local experts, websites) you used in compiling your information.

The North American Clun Forest Association website was invaluable in the preparation of this report.

Additional information on the history and characteristics of the breed were also available from The Shepherd’s Journal website breed profile and Oklahoma State’s Department of Animal Science Breeds of Livestock resource.

Technical information about the fiber characteristics was obtained from The American Sheep Industry Association website.

Information on working with Clun Forest fleeces was drawn primarily from Cindy W.’s post on rare breeds on the Yarnspinners Blog and Jane Fournier’s article “Bouncy & Lightweight Clun Forest Yarn” from the Fall 1993 issue of Spin-Off Magazine (reprinted online).

Finished!

Nope, not the socks or the Tied Up Tee, but my Clun Forest research for the Breedswap. It’s not the best scholarly work I’ve done, but it covers the basics and should be enough to introduce folks to the breed and the fleece and what you can do with it. It really wasn’t arduous I just couldn’t quite work myself up to sit down and type it up. But I took advantage of an early afternoon escape to get started right after dinner and finished it up and sent it off. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to share our research or not (I would hope we can, but I’m not sure of the expectations of the organizers), but if I can, I’ll post it here for any who might be interested. Next up for this project: sort the washed bits to pull out 32 decent locks and follow up with Blackberry Ridge on where my roving is.

I also puttered a bit downstairs and moved a bookshelf into the living room by one of the chairs that tends to accumulate my fiber stuff so I’d have a surface on which to store things. It worked wonderfully and looks so much nicer now (but reminded me that I haven’t done any spinning lately at all).

Now.. do I kick back and get some knitting done, or go run a bath (sadly without any Lush as I used the last of my stash last week) and luxuriate while I read (for pr’bly about twenty minutes before I start to fall asleep because I was, in a fit of paranoid worry, up almost two hours earlier than normal this morning and unable to fall back asleep)..?

Is it Sunday already?

I needed this weekend. I also, perhaps oddly, needed the conference I was at last week. While it was no where near as educational as my first AIR Forum, there were a couple of good sessions that helped me get over hurdles in my own projects. But that’s not the reason it was needed. I needed to not be on our campus, to be around other people who knew the larger, broader context of our campus, but who weren’t engrossed in it. I needed, in short, a Reality Check(tm). To have that followed immediately by a quiet weekend at home was absolutely ideal.

Yesterday I really couldn’t tell you much of what I did other than that I made the Winter Warmer kit that I had. I also made half a spaghetti squash to go with some broiled steaks for dinner. And we watched Snow Falling on Cedars which, aside from some cinematic decisions (e.g., the overlapping voice thing), we well done and timely given recent political events.

Today, we made a sort of miniature Thanksgiving dinner. This isn’t really a practice run, though we will be making a full Thanksgiving dinner for our families in a couple weeks. It’s more that we had a smallish turkey in the freezer and Jack really, really loves turkey and we had the time to make a more or less real meal so we did. We roasted the turkey, made mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy. No veggies – there’s not really room. *smile* We have left-overs, as expected, and a carcass for stock to add to the small chicken carcass already in the freezer. We have 16 large frozen rolls left to make for Thanksgiving and half a bag of potatoes and a box of stuffing, so we’ll just need to pick up the big turkey, some corn & buttercup squash, and the makings for cinnamon rolls (refrigerator biscuits dredged in butter & rolled in cinnamon-sugar and baked in a pie plate until done), and we’ll have everything we need for dinner.

I am working away on holiday projects, but having two projects on needles, both with deadlines, is managing to mess me up. I’m a real, honest-to-goodness project knitter. I have a hard time leaving something unfinished if I’m not stuck on it. And while I need to have two projects on needles right now because the Rowan River Tape has *no* give and hurts my hands if I work with it too much, it still messes with me.

All the same, as previously mentioned, I finished the first of the Son Socks last week; I’m now almost to the heel flap on the second.

The ruler is for scale. I’ve never done little kid socks before, so these seem to be going extraordinarily fast, even on US 1 needles.

The Tied Up Tee is also coming along, but I’m a little concerned that even though I’m getting gauge spot on, it’s too small. The first picture below is the front so far more or less “as is”, without stretching it too much (it’s also more color correct on my monitor). It’s coming in at about 16 inches across the bottom, where it should be closer to 19. The second pictures is it stretched a bit, but even there it’s only coming in around 17.5 inches. I could stretch it more, but I don’t want it to have to be skin tight to fit the intended recipient.

So I’m trying to decide on whether to trust the pattern despite pretty solid reasons to believe it’s going to be too small, or to rip out what I have and start over with either a looser gauge or the next larger size (or two). It’s worse that I’m not making this for me, but for someone who is several sizes smaller than me – I’m knitting what is supposed to be the size 38, which is what I’m assuming would be roughly equivalent to a women’s small/medium shirt, whereas I’d pr’bly make this for me as at least a 48 – so it looks too small to begin with.

I also did most of the research for the Breedswap this weekend. It was due last Monday, so I’m already late, but I think it’s going to have to wait another day to get written up and finalized. I don’t think it will hurt anything. At the moment, I’m more concerned about not having heard anything from the folks at Blackberry Ridge regarding the fleeces I sent them. I’ll have to try to remember to call them tomorrow to follow up.