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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Le Lot et La Laine

The wool festival Le Lot et La Laine was held again this year in the Lot department of France during the second weekend of July.  It's only held every two years, so I had to go, didn't I?  It always seems to fall in the  middle of the Tour de Fleece, so I made sure I packed my wheel into the camper van so I could carry on while we were away.

As usual, I was too engrossed in looking at all the stalls to take photographs, but I did get a few :-

Someone had spent an awful lot of time on these characters!

I've been saving my pennies for a while now, and was determined to have a good spend. I think I did OK actually.  My first purchase was some lovely mohair top from a lady who'd travelled all the way from Italy for the weekend.  She had lots of gorgeous alpaca too, but I have plenty of that.

I'd been looking for raw mohair actually, but no-one seemed to be selling any, except one lady who had a small amount of delicious kid mohair in the middle of her table.  She gave me a sample and her contact details because she will be shearing her animals in August. Think I might just be ordering some of this.

Then I found some dyed mohair locks that I just couldn't leave behind :-

The only raw fleece I bought was Bizet, which I'd never heard of but have since read that it's generally a meat sheep.  I did notice though that quite a few vendors had used Bizet in their prepared batts, so thought I'd give it a try.  It's not the softest fleece I've ever bought, but it has character, and it was only 6 euros per kilo!

There was one lady there who was selling silk products and I was rather taken by this dyed raw silk.  These are actually degummed cocoons that she's dyed and then just pulled into fluff after drying.  It gave me the idea of doing the same with my cocoons.  So I had to have some of that!

She also had some reels of spun silk which I thought would come in very useful as an additive to my own spinning, so some of that went into the basket as well!

I went a bit batty after that and bought some ready prepared batts for spinning.  I loved the colours in these, and the fact they contain nettle fibre as well as merino, alpaca, silk, soya and the obligatory bit of sparkle.

The next ones took my eye quite early on in my travels and I kept going back to look at them.  In the end I decided to buy them - just in time too, these were the last ones, the rest had all sold.

I loved the "wild" appearance of these batts, but they're ultra soft too.  A few detail shots :-

One of my last purchases was something I've always avoided buying until now - plaited fibre.  I've looked at lots and always thought they felt a bit compacted.  Not so with this one, this feels superbly soft and has that "fluid" feel which makes me think it will be a delight to spin.  This was made by Maria from Toulouse, one of the organisers of the festival.

I love this so much it seemed appropriate to photograph it this way!

I almost missed the dye plants!  Most of the plants on offer I already have in the garden, but I've never grown indigo.  This has gone crazy since I brought it home and repotted it. I'm hoping it will flower and give me seeds for next year.

Last but not least, the trees around the parking area are covered in lichens, and there are always lots of windfall branches on the ground.  I stripped a few of those to bring home for dyeing.

I had a lovely day wandering around in the sunshine (it was really hot in the afternoon) shopping, talking to other spinners and just generally "being there".  Eric was very taken with one of the spinning wheels we saw being used.  It was an Ashford Joy 2 - a folding wheel which has its own shoulder bag.  He thinks I should buy one for when we go away in the camper!  I've never come across so many spinners all in one place here in France before.  I loved every minute, and I can't wait until the next one in 2017.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Tour de Fleece 2015 - Week Two

We had a pretty busy week music-wise last week, so not much in the way of spinning got done.  I managed to do something most days towards the TdF, but not always spinning. The week's jobs were all about the preparation for making a boucle yarn which is one of the challenges for week 3.

I managed to spin the rest of the madder-dyed alpaca.  This was spun in the "S" (anti-clockwise) direction and I think it's the first time I've ever spun that way.  I normally spin "Z" and ply "S".  One of our challenges for this week though was to spin "backwards", i.e. in the opposite direction to normal.  Making a boucle yarn demands a core thread that is spun "S", so this was my challenge for the week.  It's also spun with as little twist as I could manage (and that wasn't easy because the thread kept drifting apart) because it's going to be plied in the same direction as it was spun and so will gain more twist.

The next job was rather a challenge in itself.  I wanted the whole thing to be "DIY and Dye" (that's the name of our TdF team on Ravelry), which meant preparing, dyeing and spinning everything from the raw materials.  I decided the final ply of the boucle (the binding thread which keeps all the loops in order and stops them from sliding around on the core) should be silk.  I didn't think it was right to use commercially prepared silk as I hadn't started at the beginning with it, so out came my silk cocoons which have been in the freezer for a couple of years.  I've never de-gummed silk cocoons before so spent a while on the internet researching how to do it.  First I slit them along the side and removed the contents (didn't want dead things floating around in there!), then put them in a pan with some wool wash.  I didn't use washing up liquid because detergents can damage the silk.

They were simmered gently for about an hour, maybe a bit longer.  Here they are almost done, you can still see a bit of yellow in the cocoons (that's the sericin - the glue that holds the cocoon together) so they needed a bit longer :-

and all finished, soaking in a bowl of clear water :-

I thought when they were finished that I'd be able to separate them into individual cocoons, but the fibres tended to stick together.  By the time they were dyed (acid dye done in the microwave), they were one big unidentifiable mass :-

This colour was incredibly difficult to photograph.  It's supposed to be violet, but I think I'll call it violent instead!

It was incredibly easy to spin - I just fluffed it up into a cloud and spun.  This is spun "Z" and is going to be plied "Z", so again, I tried not to put too much twist into it.

At this point we'd come to the end of week 2, so I'll show you the result next week when it's all finished.  During week 3 we only have one band rehearsal and no gigs (week 2 was one 4 hour rehearsal, one 5 hour rehearsal, and 3 gigs - which always end up being ultra-late nights, pretty tiring) so I'll have no excuse for not spinning every day!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Tour de Fleece 2015 - Week One

Now that we're into week 2 of the TdF I can show you what I achieved last week.

As usual, we were set 3 or 4 challenges which we could partake in or not, as we wished. The ones I chose were spinning from the cloud (take the raw fleece and pull it apart so it was a big fluffy cloud and spin from that), and acid dyeing in the grease.  That means you don't wash your fleece in hot water and soap to remove the lanolin before dyeing - just dump the lot into a pan, add water and a little dish detergent, then sprinkle on the dyes you want to use.

For the first project, I dyed some Falkland with the madder roots I harvested this year. The first dip came out really well with quite a lot of colour :-

and here is a comparison showing the first, second and third dips into the dye bath.

Then I made up another dyepot and put in some alpaca.  The photo shows the first dip on the right, and subsequent dips to the left.  Alpaca takes the dye quite differently, more muted than wool.

This lot was fluffed into a cloud and spun into a single.  I didn't get a full bobbin because I ran out of two of the different shades and didn't want the effect of the colours to change.

Incidentally, these were all solar dyed in the greenhouse in large glass jars.

I transferred the single from the bobbin onto a toilet roll tube because we have another challenge coming up in week three which will use up a number of singles - a multi-ply yarn.

The remaining shades of alpaca and Falkland were then used for another single, but this time I added some more alpaca dyed with Kool Aid (this is grape flavoured) :-

and some merino, also dyed with Kool Aid (smells delicious!).  This was microwaved with cherry and orange flavour.

Again, this was fluffed into a cloud and spun.  I really like how these colours came together.

This one wouldn't fit onto a toilet roll tube, so I used a kitchen roll one instead - fits much better.

These last two were set aside for the multi-ply challenge in week 3.

Next, I decided to spin the mohair that I received in the swap we did recently.  This was dyed by Karen in Denmark using acid dyes.  My plan for this is to make a boucle yarn (one of the later challenges).  This will be used to make the loops.

It pulled apart into a cloud beautifully and was amazingly easy to spin.  I could have carried on spinning this all week, but unfortunately ran out too soon!  I need to buy some raw mohair and dye some more.

I didn't put this onto a tp tube - I found that far too messy - I got into an awful fix with the last one.  This was made into a centre-pull ball and is sitting waiting for the core yarn to be spun and then a binder.  It has a lovely sheen to it that doesn't really show up on the photo.

The last project for the week was to acid dye in the grease.  I know I have a large bag of Ouessant fleece somewhere . . . but where is a mystery at the moment!  Instead I found this sack which I honestly don't remember ever seeing before (old age brings forgetfulness obviously!).  I can't understand why I would have an Australian feed sack with a fleece inside!

Inside was this very nice looking fleece - really quite soft and with a very fine crimp.  The staple length is between 2.5" and 3".  I have no clue what this is or where it came from.  I don't think I bought it, so someone must have given it to me.

I separated out about 100g and put it into the dye pot followed by some water and washing up liquid.  Next I sprinkled on various colours of dye (just sprinkled the dry powder on top of the fleece) and heated it for about half to three-quarters of an hour.  I think the colours took quite well, but the yellows all but disappeared.

I fluffed this into a cloud again and spun.  It's a bit thick and thin and lumpy, but I think that gives it character.

Progress shot!

Today I made it into a centre-pull ball and plied it back on itself using both ends of the yarn.

I'll probably skein and wash it tomorrow and hope (fingers crossed!) that all the colour doesn't wash out!

So, not a bad result for the first week, and more interesting challenges to come!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Swap Finale

Well, the Tour de Fleece started on Saturday 4th July, and we were allowed to open our mystery packages from our recent swap.

First off, this is what I sent to my swapee :-

She mentioned she needed a utility bag for her spinning wheel, so I found a skein of Ouessant yarn which I dyed and spun in last year's TdF, knitted the bag and then felted it.

And this is what was in my package :-

A spinner's control card, a bottle to put spinning wheel oil in and . . . a spinning wheel utility bag (made by Karen)!  How spooky is that?