Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cardi, Carder, Combs and Clutter

I just looked back at the date of my last post. Almost a month has passed, and really, I'm almost ashamed I haven't gotten more accomplished in the past month. I has been busy, but there's been nothing "completed" to speak of. Just a whole lot of random "this and that", which I suppose pretty much sums up my existence.

I will start with the knitting, since that will be the easiest subject to cover. I have almost completed the first sleeve of the Bustaroony cardi. Now I started this project in early January. Shameful really. Even though I knew it would take me a long time to complete it, given it's a rather intricate and even a bit difficult pattern, I really didn't count on it taking this long. At times, it was the only project I was working on, and aside from a couple of times, I really haven't "put it aside" all that much (compared, of course, to how long I've put some aside). Add to that, I really really enjoy knitting on it. My only excuse is that I have been quite busy with "other things" besides knitting, and haven't had time off work, a vacation, or other really superb knitting conditions. Anyway, I really wanted to finish the sleeve before making this blog entry, but time is running out, so you will get it as it is right now. However, I only like about 10 decrease rows and about 4 rows of shaping finishing this sleeve. I plan on having that out of the way tonight, and sleeve number two on the needles before I go to work tonight. So here's the sleeve:

And the back and both front pieces lying in "position", to give some idea of the finished look of the cardi:

I mentioned in the last post I was trying to decide what socks to start. Well, I decided on "Betties Lace Stockings" from the Spring09 issue of Interweave knits. They are perfect for western action. I had some Patonyle already in my stash, 3 balls of black, 3 of white. Now from pervious experience, those of you who remember know how I detest knitting black socks. Still, black would be sexy, and match just about anything. But my spinning/knitting friend offered another suggestions. Just knit them in white and then soak them in tea to "dye" them to an "old paper" sort of tannish colour. I loved the idea, off I went knitting them up in white. I started them on March 24th, and even though I only am about halfway through one sock now, they are a quick knit. It's just that I've been working so hard on the cardi I've neglected them. But they have a deadline, and need to be done by the Winter roundup in mid-May, so sooner or later, I'm going to have to dedicate some quality time to them.

Now, to purchases this past month. I really haven't bought much in the fibre department, but I did get lucky and show up on Ravelry in Ixchelbunny's group right as she was doing an update! All her nicer stuff seems to sell out almost the moment it is posted on her blog, so I never seem to get her goods as I'm always a day late and I'm lucky to find anything left, much less something I like. This time was different though, and I'm now the proud owner of this lovely package of goodies. The black and white is the Jacob Humbug, and the green/gold medley is from her Masham sheep, and is called "Tawny Frogmouth". (Who can resist something called "tawny frogmouth"???)

If you've never checked out Ixchel's yarns and rovings, I would highly suggest visiting her blog regularly and buying a sample. If you don't see something you like there, or it's all sold out, email her and tell her what interests you. Not only is it beautiful, but her "bunny" fibre is so soft it will make you cry (for joy, of course). I first experienced her products in Bendigo at the Sheep and wool show last year, where I bought two skeins of cashmere/angora mix yarn that was so exquisite. It's still in my "most prized" stash, but one day I'll find a pattern (or a recipient) to do it justice. If I can bear to part with it that is.

The hugely major purchase this month was my brand new drum carder. Now, for those of you who spin and, more to the point, prepare fibre for spinning, well, you know about how much these things cost. They are by no means a small purchase, but I won't go into details of the price here for fear of shocking my mom, and making her adore my hubby more than she already does for "putting up with me". But, I swear the thing could pay for itself. I'm not saying it WILL pay for itself, because that would require me to quit buying other people's prepared fibre, and that's not something I'm prepared to do right now. I'm only saying that it COULD, if times got tough and I really really needed it to. Besides, anyone who shops on ebay for such things also knows that it's resell value is fantastic. So, I always figured if I don't like it, or don't use it enough, reselling it will be a breeze. So far though, no danger of that.

I bought an Inwood Smith drum carder from Bella's shop in Adelaide (The Walking Wheel Studios). She didn't have one in stock, so she had to order it, and it took some time to get there, but it finally arrived and I went to take possession of my new toy. Now, not having much experience with carders, I didn't really have a huge brand preference, so I decided to buy Australian, as the money is coming out of the economic stimulus check (once I get it, that is), so buying local seemed the patriotic thing to do. So I bought an Australian product from a South Australian shop.

Isn't she lovely:

I had to try it out right away, so I used some of the brown fleece that I've had for ages. It actually came in a basket with the spinning wheel when I bought it, and gave it a go. Here's a picture with the fibre on the drum:

And a picture of the fibre coming off the drum, all lined up and spinnable:

Now those photos shorten the process quite a bit. What you actually do is take your raw fleece, stick it in one end, turn the crank until it picks it up with the small drum and deposits it on the bigger drum. You add fleece, trying to space it more or less evenly around the drum, until the drum is full, then you pull it off. You come up with a pretty nice looking bit of carded fibre after the first run. You tear that into strips and feed it through again. Than, for good measure, it goes thru a third time. Generally three runs is enough, depending on the type of fleece and what you want. It's also fantastic for blending colours too, although I haven't quite got that far yet. But that's in the cards (pun intended) for the next week or so.

The thing about carders is they demand to be fed, so one must keep clean fleece on stock. I had a "nearly" clean Corridale fleece, which I had washed twice already but still needed an extra go as it was still pretty sticky with lanolin. So I washed it one more time, and it came out of this bath more or less perfect. (Although I did run us completely out of hot water and had to take a cold shower before work that night). It seems I've been washing fleece forever.

Recently, on a trip to the Salvo's here in town, I saw this neat sweater drying rack for 50 cents, so I picked it up on a whim. It has became very useful over the past couple of weeks for drying my fleece.

How handy is that?? Particularly with the cooler weather we've been having the past couple of weeks. Not exactly the greatest weather for drying fleece outside, although if it is nice enough, the little screen also fits just perfectly on the top of my clothes rack that I can take outside.

I also took some tips from Bella and others and made myself a homemade rack to wash and dry "locks" for combing. I bought some "Gutter guard" and some clips, and made this contraption, which fits into the bathtub and allows the locks to go through the whole process without getting them out of shape or messy.

I think, for next time though, I'm going to cut it down into small squares, so I can use the utility room sink, and also because the long contraption is a bit hard to handle.

That brings me to my combs. After washing my fleece using the "Gutter Guard", I then set about really giving combing a go. Combs are finicky instruments, and take a bit of practice, but I reckon I did okay for a beginner.

First I took my nice clean locks from the "gutter guard":

Then I loaded a comb:

Then I swiped gently at the bottom of the fibres with the other comb, transferring the fleece over:

(BTW...there's the clutter mentioned in the title)

This process loads the comb, giving it a nice beard:

After repeating this process a few times, switching the fleece back and forth on the combs a few times, you pull the fleece thru a "diz". (My diz is of the homemade persuasion):

And this is my finished roving:

You make the rovings into little "birdsnest" and your all ready to spin:

I have also managed to card up a bunch of this fleece, and have several batts now ready to be dyed. I'd like to make on "biggish" project out of these rovings, but I haven't decided what yet. I was thinking of a vest for Chris (who has been patient with me and my hobbies, after all), and I was hoping to get a good manly colour for him.

So I had to do a bit of test dyeing, using mostly just the basic colours and some 50/50 mixes of them. Since the wool is grey, the colours you get are interesting. They are more forceful than the pastels I tend to get on white roving, but because the grey does change the colour, I wasn't sure of what I would get. So, an experiment was necessary to give me some idea.

Here are my samples straight after dyeing:

And hanging to dry:

The finished products were interesting, and the colours certainly were brighter and less pastelly, but I'm not sure if any of them qualify as "manly".

The first batch is blue, blue/green in the middle, and green on the other side.

The second batch look better in person than in the picture, but still, the dye didn't seem to mix as well. One is orange/green, the other orange/blue (I was trying for a brownish):

The last set has red at the top, orange in the center, and orange/red at the bottom. I really like all of these:

Now all that's left is to make a decision, or do more experiments. Not sure which yet.

As some of you know, I've been losing quite a bit of weight lately. I don't mention it much here, as weight loss isn't really what this blog is about. But for those of you wondering (you know who you are), I will post some "before and after" photos when I get the cardigan done. I began making the Bustaroony cardigan as sort of an incentive. At the time I began it, it would have been about 4 sizes too small, but now, depending of course on the finished product, I should fit into it. When I get to that point, I will "unviel" the weightloss on the blog. But, I will say that I've cracked into the 60's this week, which was a big goal for me. Now onwards to the elusive 55K.

Well, that's enough for this post. Heaven knows, I do need to do entries more often, and save myself from these long long posts. Well, maybe next time. Or not :)


Juliana said...

Hi--I too am an ameristralian or ausmerican (?) and am about to Invest in a drum carder... but an inwood smith or one of those spiffy new ashfords?? I live by the sea up in nsw and am worried about that lovely stainless floor getting eaten up by our lovely but corrosive atmosphere... Your blog is GREAT! Lots of good information charmingly presented... any feedback about your inwood smith? Cheeers! Juliana

Button said...

Hi Juliana! Thanks for the lovely comments. Another Ameraussie (that's my favorite)! Fantastic! We could swap many stories and discuss how badly I miss Reese's peanut butter cups and drive thru banking, but we'll save that for another day :). I did try out an Ashford drum carder. To be fair, it was an older model a friend had rented from her guild, which means it had seen better days. Consequently, I didn't find much joy there, although it was interesting as it was my first carding experience. A new one however, might have been a whole different kettle of fish.
However, I did do some research, and asked those who had Inwood-Smiths what they thought, and each and every one was pleased with theirs. I know I'm very happy with mine, but I'm an amatuer carder at best. I liked the fact that the Inwood Smith was made in Australia, and I liked that it was, essentially, handcrafted. As a crafter, that appealed to me in that special way only we understand. Having said all that, I do hear good things about the new Ashfords too, so I'm sure that either would be great.

Great hearing from you. Please do stay in touch! If you are on Ravelry, look me up under the nic buttonbrite! If you're not a member of Rav, you should be! Just in case, I'll leave the addy:


Anonymous said...

Good blog, great pix. I have heard and observed recently that the carder will work better with a full small drum....... I'd been cleaning mine out religiously, getting out every strand, but apparently it's better full. The friend who (owns an Inwood Smith like yours) does this cards mainly white angora fleece. Maybe worth a try? Good luck.

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