Archive for the “Four-Twelve” Category

I have seven bobbins for Persistence, the Schacht-Reeves wheel, so after I'd fully filled six of them with Fleece 412 singles, I used the seventh to ply. And, very exciting, I used the prototype version of a box-style lazy kate that Michael helped me build! It needs some refinement, but it does function. The idea was to have a workaround for the annoyance of having to hold a bobbin in just the right spot while poking the skewer through first one side of the kate, then the bobbin, then the other side. That part of it works well, but I didn't think the tensioning mechanism through at all, so it's still not quite what I'm looking for. Here it is holding all six full bobbins:

Six full bobbins of singles sit inside a plywood box.

Ultimately I'd like to build one with thinner, nicer wood (this was knocked together out of scrap plywood that we already had in the garage) that has slots to hold four bobbins at once. Am I going to make a four-ply yarn? I don't know, but I'd like to be able to!

Conventional wisdom teaches to ply at low ratios, but I'm not sure why, as it goes so much faster on the big wheel with the fast whorl! I counted my treadles to make sure that I got the same amount of plying twist in each section of yarn, and plied all eight of these skeins in a weekend.

That gave me 848 yards of round three-ply yarn to just over a pound of fibre spun up, which is... not enough for the sweater pattern I've picked out. If I can get gauge, I'm planning to knit the Izel cardigan - I love the cable details, the ribbing on the back, and the hidden pockets.

Fortunately, I have enough of The Fleece remaining to spin another thousand yards if I need to, so I'm sure I'll eventually have spun enough yarn to knit a whole sweater. I'll start by spinning three more bobbins-ful and see how far I get! Meanwhile, there's really no reason why I can't wash and dry the yarn I already have, and get started on swatching and... (gulp) actually knitting a sweater for myself.

Eight hanks of brown three-ply yarn sit on a stone countertop.

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It's time. It's finally time to spin Fleece Four-Twelve, the one that Carrie and I bought at MDSW a few years ago. I was going to wait until the start of the Tour de Fleece on the 27th, but why wait to begin such an exciting project?

I spun up a quick sample, aiming for a DK-weight three-ply yarn, and I think that's what I've come up with. With my sample yarn washed and dried, I measured 11 wraps per inch and then knit a stockinette swatch on US 6 (4mm) needles, which got me 19 stitches/4 inches before washing. And then I ripped that out so that I could try some cables. Here's a picture of the swatch just off the needles, along with some of the carded fleece...

A cabled swatch knitted from brown yarn with a chunk of carded fleece.

...and here's what it looks like after it's been washed and blocked.

A knitted swatch with cables is pinned onto a green towel.

The fleece is quite crimpy and springy, so I'm trying to spin it long-draw to maintain its bounce and light weight. I don't want this to be a heavy, dense yarn at all. After washing, the swatch is rustic but almost soft enough to wear it next to my skin. Fortunately that's not my plan for it - I want to knit a cabled cardigan to wear when I go snowboarding! I haven't picked a pattern yet, but I think I have plenty of time to think about it.

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Last May we bought a fleece at MD Sheep and Wool.

We were only going to look at the fleeces, not buy one. We were only going to compare a few, not buy one. We were only going to pet them, not buy one.

Suuuuure we were.

Pictured: two people who don't yet know that they're in over their heads.

We washed it all, and opened up some locks, and carded a few batts.

Pictured: All the fleece that can be fed into a drum carder at one time. It is... not a lot.

And then we lost steam.

But today! Today was a fibre day. We were going to get this project reinvigorated! We decided to work on opening locks, so that everything would be ready for the drum carder. Two hours later the box of flicked locks was quite full but the fleece itself didn't look any smaller... and we gave up. This is just too much for us. We have other projects that we want to work on, and quite honestly, this isn't very much fun at all.

Pictured: a very, very small fraction of the total fleece, which weighs about 6.5 pounds after washing.

It's a gorgeous fleece, and it's going to go to a mill for processing, and then we'll have the fun of spinning it without the tedium of carding it ourselves.

It's been a beautiful learning experience, though.

Pictured: amazing fleece with amazing crimp.

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The weather this past weekend kept me indoors, and I decided to use some of my time to start carding Fleece Four-Twelve. I chose a section of fleece at random (it was the piece nearest me on the floor) and started by opening up the locks on the teasing tool so that the carder wouldn't choke on them:

washed-fleece

Then I fed them to the carder sideways (yes, sideways!) until the drum was full, packing it down a few times with a scrub brush so I could fit more fibre on. Even with the drum carder, it's a slow, slow process. Too much fibre at once, or cranking too quickly, will cause lumps and bumps in the batt. The fibre needs to go on the input tray in a super-thin layer - so thin that you can read the "keep hands clear" sticker on there. (They aren't kidding. The licker-in drum will mangle your hands if you get too close. Those pointy bits are *sharp*.)

carding-fleece

After the first pass through the carder, the batt was super fluffy but not done yet. It needs to be run through at least once more to get all those fibers aligned and the batt even all the way across. I'd like to get to that tonight, after grocery shopping and cooking dinner. If Four-Twelve really is going to be my Tour de Fleece project, I need to move the carding way up on the priorities list.

doffing-batt

(I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not going to get all that fleece carded in time for the TdF, though.)

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The eight-pound fleece which Caroline and I are splitting came from Sheep #412, as the envelope tucked in the bag informed us. Four-Twelve (a merino/rambouillet cross) spread out nicely on my floor for admiration, and we were surprised to discover that it had a bitty white streak in one corner. We're going to keep that separate, though there might only be enough for a bit of duplicate stitch on our finished projects.

whole_fleece

Four-Twelve was a coated sheep and the fleece had already been skirted, thank goodness, so there wasn't much to pick out or discard. It smelled sheepy, but not dirty or disgusting. We gently loaded lingerie bags, filled the sink with hot water and Scour, and started the washing process (which is mostly a waiting process). Each batch took three washes and a rinse, then we laid it all out to dry upstairs... except for one of the bags, which we put on the sweater-rack in the dryer, because we were really impatient to try it out.

fleece_rolags_cards

I spun a couple of rolags into a quick sample of chain-plyed yarn, soft and bouncy and poofy, and I'm pretty sure that the eventual yarn will be a true three-ply. This seems like it will be perfect for the sweater I have in mind - something like Alpengluhen, October Frost, Jackaroo or the Stonecutters Cardigan - a nice round three-ply yarn will be great for stitch definition and cables.

fleece_rolags_sample1

Once all the fleece is dry, I'll be spending lots and lots of time with the drum carder. Making a few rolags to test out the fibre is one thing, but there's no way I'm hand-carding half a fleece!

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