Posts Tagged ‘fleece study’

This past weekend The Husband and I decided it was time to get out of town for the weekend.  Lucky for us, there was a fiber fair in nearby Idaho Falls, Idaho.  We left town on Friday afternoon with the intent to travel to Idaho Falls, drop off our stuff at a hotel, and then head up to Jackson Hole to snoop around.  I think we forgot what it’s like to sit in a car for several hours on end.  By the time we got to Idaho Falls (which isn’t really that far away, 3-1/2 hours maybe), we decided that getting back into the car was not an option.  We had thought that Jackson Hole would be another hour away, but it turned out it was more like 2 hours.  Somehow the thought of sitting in the car for another 2 hours there and then another 2 hours back was just not appealing.  So, we spent the evening in Idaho Falls just hanging out in our room and then a brief trip through town to make sure we knew where we’d be going on Saturday for the fiber fair.

Saturday morning we took our time getting checking out of the hotel and heading on over to the fiber fair.  There were signs directing us to the correct building.  Since I’ve never been to this particular fiber fair, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve been to a fiber fair in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and the Snake River Fiber Fair seems to be about the same size, maybe a bit bigger.  It was held in a building on a college campus and the classrooms were used for classes and the hallways were packed with vendors.  Several vendors were familiar friends from Salt Lake City, including Three Wishes, Fiber Optica, and Greenwood Fiberworks, Wasatch Watercolours, and Judy’s Novelty Wool

I had a particular target when we headed off to Snake River Fiber Fair and that was Notlwonk Springs, or the Knowlton’s, and their Corriedale cross fleeces.  The Knowlton’s hold their Spring Trek every year on the first weekend of May and I had planned to go to this year’s trek, but ended up getting the flu.  Seriously disappointed at having missed this event, I was determined to visit their booth at Snake River Fiber Fair.  I didn’t take pictures of them or their booth and I really wish I had thought of doing that.  I did, however, remember to take photos of the fleeces that I bought from them!  If I remember correctly, this first fleece is from a 6-year-old Corriedale cross ewe.  I love the color variations in the fleece.  The crimp was lovely as was the staple length, which was probably around 3 inches without stretching.  It was also seriously sooooft!

The second fleece I bought from them was a dark brown fleece from a lamb’s first shearing, or a hogget fleece.  Look at those golden, sun-bleached tips!  Gorgeous!  As you can see from the picture, the fleece is sitting between two other bags of fleece.  This picture was taken in the fleece judging room as my fleece had been entered into the fleece judging contest.  I’m happy to say that my fleece won a third place ribbon!

Speaking of fleece judging, once we heard that the fleece I was buying was entered into the contest, we decided to stay for the judging so we could listen in and watch the process.  The judge, Ingrid Painter, was an incredibly generous judge, sharing her thoughts with those of us in the room and taking questions.   She checked through each fleece and talked about what she was finding and what she looked for.  For example, while she was judging my fleece, she mentioned that the staple length was a bit shorter than she would want.  However, she also showed that it measured from the tip of her thumb to the base of her thumb, a way of measuring staple length to check for minimum length for spinning.  She said it was a lovely fleece that would be a pleasure to spin.  She thought it might be a bit tippy with those golden tips, but they didn’t seem to break off.  Also, she commented that there was some debris in the fleece, but it was generally clean. 

In general, she shared that when looking at fleeces you look for consistency in the fleece, look for breaks in the locks and tips.  She also mentioned that you could take a lock and hold it the tip in one hand and the base in the other (about 7 pounds of pressure)  and then flick the lock with your fingers and listen to the tone it made.  If there were crackles in the tone, the fleece was brittle and would break apart…not something you want!  There were approximately 4-5 divisions of fleeces:  Navajo-Churro fleeces in the first division, the Corriedale crosses and a Rambouillet fleece in the second division, Romney crosses in the third division, Romney fleeces in another division, and Alpacas (both Huacaya and a Suri) in the last division.  It was fascinating listening to Ms. Painter talk about her thoughts on each fleece and I learned a lot.

After the judging was finished, I went to look at some of the fleeces that hadn’t been entered into the judging since they were owned by the judge!  They were mainly Navajo-Churro fleeces, but there was also a Jacob fleece that was simply gorgeous and, of course, it had to come home with me too!  Notice that both dark brown and white fibers are included in the fleece.  Both colors grow on the same animal.  We talked with a gentleman who had assisted Ms. Painter in the judging and he told us about the various characteristics of Jacob sheep.  They are, apparently, great meat animals as well.  They have horns which you can use to make buttons.  He also mentioned that they way between 90-120 pounds and are very agile.  Hm.  Their point of origin is in the Middle East.

I learned so much while I was at the Snake River Fiber Fair and I had a wonderful time talking with vendors and friends.  I would love to go to another fiber festival this year, maybe the Black Sheep Gathering or the Estes Fiber Festival.  Everyone I meet at these things has something in common with me and I love that!  The people are so friendly and just as excited about fiber as I am.  It’s a community that’s spread around the world and these fairs or festivals give us all a chance to get together and realize that we’re part of that community.


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In the Kitchen

This past week I’ve spent a bit more time in the kitchen and 4 more recipes from Simply in Season got cooked.  It seems like I’m averaging about 2 meals a week that feature recipes from Simply in Season.  I could probably cook more often, but I think we’d end up wasting some food.  The recipes are generally written to serve 6 and, since there’s only 2 of us, there are plenty of leftovers.  By this evening, I’ll have added 2 more recipes, Turkey Barley Soup (currently bubbling away in the crock pot) and Southwestern Potatoes (gotta use up more of those potatoes!).  So, recipes last week included:

Apple Rice Stuffing:  I made this to go along side a roasted whole chicken.  The rice is cooked with apple juice and then added to onion, celery, apples, walnuts, a bit of brown sugar, and some herbs to taste and cooked in a pan.  Then you have the choice of either cooking it in the chicken or separately in a casserole dish.  I chose to cook it separately since I was roasting the chicken in the crock pot.  This was a pretty tasty stuffing, sweet from the apples and brown sugar, but savory from the herbs, and the walnuts added a nice crunch.

Wild Rice Vegetable Bake and Pork Apricot Skillet:  The Wild Rice Vegetable Bake was okay.  It included wild rice and barley plus lots of vegetables.   The rice was pre-cooked a bit and the barley probably could have stood with some pre-cooking as well.  The vegetables included parsnips, winter squash (I used acorn squash), and sweet potatoes.  I’m not a huge fan of parsnips and, if I was rushed for time, I’d probably leave out the squash since it’s a bit harder to handle and harder to peel.  I did enjoy the flavor of the squash though.  So, overall, I’d say this recipe was just okay.  The Pork Apricot Skillet, on the other hand, was pretty good.  It’s a really simple recipe with just pork, onion, and dried apricots.  The flavors go well together and I love apricots!  I’ll be making this one again.

And, finally, I also made some more granola, the Mostly Oats Granola.  This is a typical granola but had a few ingredients that I’ve never put in granola before, including raw sunflower seeds and vanilla.  It’s not a very sweet granola (no added brown sugar and not as much honey as other recipes) but it has a touch of sweetness and the sunflower seeds add a new flavor.  Impression:  It’s an okay granola, but I have other recipes I like better.

I’m hoping that I’ll have time this afternoon to also make a dessert.  I have some peach slices thawing in the refrigerator from last summer and there’s a Whole Wheat Peach Kuchen recipe that looks pretty yummy.

In the Craft Room

I’ve been spinning a lot lately.  Now that the Ravelympics are over, I can get back to spinning up my fiber club installments from Crown Mountain Farms.  I’ve finished up February’s Finn fiber in Shiva/Shakti and will begin spinning up March’s installment next.   March’s fiber is Shetland Top in the colorway Bannockburn, gorgeous greens and yellows, very spring-like.  The Shiva/Shakti yarn is a 3-ply fingering weight that I’m planning to knit up into socks.  I think I’ll spin the Bannockburn into a 2-ply fingering weight and, if I get enough yardage, maybe make shawlette.  It’s kind of bright, but a shawlette in spring greens might be just the thing to wear on a coolish spring day.

Other spinning as been for the fleece study.  So far, I’ve spun up the Polwarth, the Shetland, and I have singles for the Finn that need to be plied.  The fleece study group is meeting on Wednesday and I’m hoping I’ll get maybe one more sample carded and spun up by then.  Pictures of those samples later.

In knitting news, I’m working on a new sweater!  I’ve joined a knit-a-long for one of the podcasts I listen to (Knitmore Girls) and will be knitting the Mondo Cable Pulli by Bonne Marie Burns of Chic KnitsI’m knitting it out of Malabrigo in the Marron Oscuro colorway.  The photo was taken outside on my porch (we have sun today!) and, at least on my screen, appears to be true to its color.

Other projects on the needles include a pair of socks (of course) and the Evenstar Mystery Shawl.  I’m still working on clue number 2 of the shawl and the third clue was released this weekend.  Guess I’d better hurry up on that.  It is lace though, so it requires total quiet and a lot of concentration.  That’s going to be harder and harder to come by as the weather gets more spring-like.

In the Dye Pot

The dyeing for the spinning guild’s dye exchange is finally done!  The fiber that I dyed up last week ended up felting horribly, so I had to buy another pound of fiber and dye it this weekend.  I was super cautious this time about not agitating the fiber and didn’t add as much dye to the dye pot so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time rinsing.  The newly dyed fiber came out beautifully!  What a relief!  Here’s a picture of the fiber I dyed with the Earthues Logwood Purple extract.  A picture of the fiber I dyed this weekend will have to wait as it is still down in the basement drying.  All that’s left to do for the dye exchange is to divide the fiber into 1-ounce bundles and wrap the labels around them.  Then, on Wednesday evening, I’ll hand out all the fiber I’ve dyed up and come home with 2 pounds of new fiber dyed by other guild members.  I can’t wait to see all the colors they came up with!

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Sheepy Goodness

Welcome to February everyone!  The month of Groundhog Day and the prediction of spring, the month of Valentine’s Day with pink hearts, red roses, chocolate and declarations of love (well, if you’re into that kind of thing), the month of wild Mardi Gras and more sobering Ash Wednesday, and, if you’re into knitting and or other fiber arts and lucky enough to live close to California, Stitches West!   Hm.  It seems like I’m forgetting something.  What could it be?  Oh yes, I remember now.  February is also the month of the Olympics!  Only 10 more days until the opening ceremonies kick the whole thing off.  Which means, I have 10 more days to figure out everything I’ll need to knit a sweater and to prep the fiber I’m planning on spinning during the Olympics.  I think I’ve pretty much got everything covered in terms of the sweater.  Yarn, check.  Needles, check.  Pattern, check.  I’ve also checked for errata online and considered if I’ll need to make any changes to the pattern.  The only thing left to do is take my measurements one last time.  For the spinning, all I really need to do is take this very huge pile of fiber and split it lengthwise into three long strands and then that’s ready.  I’ve got three bobbins empty and reserved for Olympic spinning.  I might also be considering knitting a cowl, but we’ll see how the other two projects go.


Now for an explanation of the title of this post.  My house smells of sheepy goodness!  Hm!  Good thing I was blessed with a nose that appreciated farm smells!  =)  This Saturday I went to one of my local yarn stores (Hi Three Wishes!) both to help the owner celebrate her birthday and to pick up my portion of the fibers that my fleece study group will be working with.  Well, I might have  picked up a few extra things while I was there too.  The top two photos are fiber from Greenwood Fiberworks in Passion Fruit and Persimmon.  They are a 50/50 blend of merino and tencel.

This final picture is of some Jacob wool.  I was really quite happy to find this as I had never felt Jacob wool before and it was a lot softer than I had expected.  It has some veggie matter in it, but, other than that, it seems like it should be a joy to spin.

But, on with the fleece study.  At Three Wishes, I met Julie, the woman who was supplying the fiber for this round of the fleece study.  She had gone to Michigan and brought home nine different fiber samples for us work with.  They are all still “in the grease” and smell of farm and sheep.  Julie was also nice enough to bag all our samples and labeled each one.  I’ve photographed them so you can see what they look like.

As you can see by the label, this is the Finn sample.  The Finn is, as one would expect, a breed native to Finland.  It is considered a longwool with variable crimp.  This sample definitely has more crimp than the curl that is often seen in longwools.

Next we have samples from the breeds Tunis and Shetland.  Both these breeds have fibers that are considered down wools.  The fiber is airy, slightly crunchy, and squooshy.  They aren’t soft like the other shorter fibers, but neither are they as coarse as the longwools.  They would make a nice jacket or sweater that is meant to be worn as an outer layer.  I would guess they are usually spun woolen style and spin up into light and lofty yarn.

Next we have samples of Bluefaced Leicester and Black Welsh.  The Bluefaced Leicester is considered a longwool and the Black Welsh is a down wool breed.  I love spinning with BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) as it seems to be one of the softer longwools but still has a nice luster to it.  The color of this sample is probably the darkest I’ve ever seen in a natural wool.

Next are the samples for Wensleydale and Gotland.  I’ve spun with Wensleydale before and it isn’t one of my favorites to work with.  It is a longwool and has the typical coarseness of the longwools.  However, it does have the luster typical of a longwool and makes a good strong wool.  This is the first time I’ve seen any Gotland fiber up close and, I must say, it does look interesting.  It is obviously a longwool as well since I can see the long curly strands of fiber, similar to the Wensleydale.  An interesting thing about Gotland that I read in the book “In Sheep’s Clothing” by Nola and Jane Fournier  (the resource that I use whenever I want information about different types of fiber) is that, unlike the other longwools, Gotland fiber can felt if it isn’t handled carefully.  Hm.  I’ll have to remember that while I’m scouring it.

And, finally, we have samples of Merino and Polwarth.  YUM!!!  Isn’t the Merino gorgeous!  I’ve never seen a dark brown Merino before.  I love it!  Notice the lighter tips where the locks were more exposed to sunlight?  Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!  Merino is a fine wool with lots of crimp.  This means it is perfect for wearing next to the skin.  Polwarth is also a fine wool, almost as soft as Merino.  The fiber appears to be tan in this picture, but generally Polwarths are white.  We’ll have to see how much washes out of that sample.

So, I’ve got some scouring in my future.  This will mean placing a sample in a netted bag (like you can find in the stores for washing delicates) and letting it soak first in cool water, possibly overnight, to help loosen the dirt.  Then I’ll begin scouring with really hot water and probably Dawn dish soap.  On the greasier fleeces, I might have to change the water several times (10-minute soaks each time) to help get rid of the lanolin.  Then, when I think I’ve got out all the lanolin, I’ll rinse it one more time to make sure all the soap is out, then wrap the fiber in a towel and squeeze it to get out extra moisture, and then drape it on a drying rack to finish drying.  Next would be carding and spinning, but I’ll save that for another day.

Well, that’s it for today.  Hopefully, I’ll have a few carded samples the next time I post.  In the meantime, happy Groundhog Day and let’s cross our fingers he doesn’t see his shadow.  I’m ready for Spring!

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