Tag Archives: fleece

Project #FiberRoom Part 2

Despite all the goings-on lately, there has been progress.  Since our last update the floor was installed and some furniture moved back in.


Handyman Clay (whose wife is a knitter and spinner) beautifully installed the floor, the transition trip and the quarter-round along the baseboard.  I actually like this floor more than the floor in the rest of the downstairs.  I moved a couple pieces of furniture back into the fiber room (a table and dry sink).

Unfortunately the design portion of project #fiberroom is still in limbo. This room is fairly small (less than 10×10 feet) and because of the french doors off the entry way I want it to look nice (so no plastic tubs sitting out).

Central Island/Cart/Table – I know I want a cart or small table in the center of the room, with enough of a lip to clamp tools onto, that is sturdy but can be slid/moved/rolled a bit.  I’d also like for it to be about contertop height. Right now my old kitchen table is in there.  I like it (has sentimental value) but because the sides drop only the two short ends are suitable for clamping.

Dry Sink next to the doors – My parents found this dry sink for me and I love it.  And it is a substantial piece of furniture.  It just fits on the wall between the front of the house and the door and will be used to hold the random assortment of tools – carder, combs, hand cards, picker, etc.  I’m not sure what I’ll put down underneath behind the swing out doors – likely not fiber that close to the ground and in a cool, dark space.  Possibly class/teaching materials or something like that.  The drawer is for smaller tools.

Cube Storage – If you’ve ever seen pictures of the loft upstairs then you know how awesome cube storage can be.  And because at least some of that fiber needs to come downstairs, I need some storage downstairs.  Ideally I’ll have a wall unit six cubes high and 2-3 cubes wide on each side of a center workstation.  Then under that center workstation I can hide the tubs of washed but otherwise unprocessed fleeces.

Center workstation – This is the big unknown right now.  Until I figure out for sure what this will look like and be size-wise, I can’t buy the cube storage units.  I’m thinking about checking the DIY stores for a countertop mill end – something four feet or less – and putting that on top of a table somehow.  Then I can velcro a skirt around the table.  To fit over the plastic tubs it would end up about the perfect height. So, this center workstation is the big thing right now.


Question: If I make a table for the wall between the cubes what would you suggest for the top of it?



Filed under Fiber Prep & Dyeing

Project #FiberRoom

If you’ve seen my Instagram photos you know that there’s a little house project going on this month.  New fiber space should be online sometime in March!


Long story short, there is (well, was) one carpeted room on the main floor of the house. I had a pull-out sofa sleeper in there and very rarely (like, twice a year) used it as a guest room.  It was very obviously designed to be used as a home office (french doors, no closet) but I quite like my corner office upstairs. So, the main floor room is getting a re-vamp so its actually functional.

I’ve wanted a space, without carpet, to do fiber prep – the carding, combing, flicking, etc.  If you’ve ever done that, you tend to get dirt, VM and other various “things” on the floor – things that don’t vacuum up. Historically, I’ve pulled the required equipment out to the dining area and used it there.  Which means I, of course, don’t eat at the table.  Anyways, between needing a space and really wanting to get the carpet off the main floor (no more lugging the vacuum and and down the stairs!), the “front room” was an ideal choice.


Current Progress. One Sunday after spinning the lovely ladies helped me get the sofa sleeper out of the room.  Right now its hanging in the living room, which is a bit crowded with two sofas and two large chairs.  But, the sofa sleeper will just have to stay for a while.  Last weekend my friend came over with her son and out came the other big piece of furniture (a dry sink) and up came the carpet, foam pad and tackstrips.  Thank heavens for my friend’s son who strong and got the tack strips up in a matter of minutes.


Upcoming. I knew I wanted to replace the carpet with a hardwood-looking laminate, similar to what is in the rest of the main floor.  With some, um, help from the cat (and my handy-dandy handyman), I chose a sample and placed the order from Lowes. It was supposed to be in Thursday and on Friday I called.  Lowe’s has no idea where the order is.  They placed it (and charged my credit card) but don’t know where it is.  So now they’re “trying” to get it from another store on Monday.  There are some quality concerns (several boxes the store previously ordered were damaged) so my handyman, who is doing the install, is going to pick them up and inspect.  Looking doubtful at this point it will get installed this week.  Hopefully the first week of March now.


Design. This part is still kind of squishy.  I’ve made a little diagram, I’ve tried a couple different ideas but so far nothing is jumping out at me.  Plan A was organizing/storage furniture from Ikea to go along some of the walls and a center cart for the drumcarder, combs, etc. to clamp to.  But, a few hiccups.  One, it’s a kind of small room (10 by 10 feet) with a wide door opening.  Two, I haven’t found a cart I LOVE and still haven’t decided how to store my washed but otherwise unprocessed fleece.  Ideally, I would like to be able to see what’s in the storage medium but I also want them protected from pests.  For now I’ve tabled the design while I look around at second-hand stores for other ideas.


If you have any ideas – please share!

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Writing for Ply Magazine and Wool Soaking

Still kind of crazy.  Working on house stuff and getting ready for my family to come visit for the holidays.    I’ve stocked up some blog posts for the coming weeks. But, now, time for some exciting news!


I’m going to write an article for Ply Magazine! I submitted a proposal in May and heard back a couple weeks ago.  The article will be in next Spring’s issue on Leicester wools and will be on the finishing of handspun yarn.  I ordered (and received) 8 ounces of blue-faced leicester for spinning samples.

If you’re not familiar with Ply it’s a new magazine for spinners and fiber artists where each issue is based on a theme. Glossy pages (all of them!), gorgeous photos, and very few ads (most are for indie fiber artists).  All of the articles are well thought out and written.  Some local spinning shops carry it in store or you can buy an annual subscription or singular issues.  Website (recently designed) is here.

Wool Soak Experiment


So after some reading on Rav I decided to try something with a bit of the partial fleece – soaking.  Not the suint method soaking (my neighbors would not appreciate), but just a couple day soak in room temperature water before washing.  I kept a similar amount dry as a control and after the couple day soak washed both samples in the same water with Power Scour.  I was quite disappointed – no difference.  The two samples look and feel the same (still slightly greasy).  This was a fairly greasy and dirty fleece (cormo) so I was optimistic.  However, it didn’t appear to do any good.  At least I tried!



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Gabriel, Running Out Yarn and Garage Drywall

It’s been kinda crazy since Hoosier Hills.  A lot of things going on – most fiber related and a lot of things coming up.  Sorry for the lack of pictures.  My flickr app is having some issues.

Partial Alluvia Tote

  • I got some more suri alpaca fiber washed up.  It took *forever* to dry.  As in many days.  So for the majority of the week I had loose alpaca fiber on my kitchen island.  It’s been raining (or a chance of rain) several days so the higher humidity didn’t help.  However, I ended up with just under 2 pounds of gorgeous gray suri locks with white tips.  His name is Gabriel and the fleece was from Montrose Farms which is only about 10 miles north of my house.  I already had just under one pound from the prior year so I’ve got plenty now.  Very likely this may become a large beaded shawl.
  • I, um, ran out of yarn on my Alluvia Tote.  In nearly 4 years of knitting I’ve never actually run out before. Each pleat is a different color and I came up shy.  This was, of course, the one color I didn’t have two balls of.  Per the pattern one ball should have been enough.  Obviously not.  So, I started my search on Ravelry but couldn’t find any in the same dyelot.  I bought one skein each from two very nice Ravelers and will use whichever one matches the best.  Luckily, it will mostly be hidden under the above pleat.
  • The drywalling in the garage is done (including a catastrophe with the deep freeze) and my garage is newly organized and put together.  It appears I will have 1/4 to 1/3 of the garage for fiber prep and dyeing.  The sink still needs to be hooked (cold water only unfortunately) and I need to put up shelving but just knowing how much workspace I have is a good start.  Pictures will follow once its done. PS – anyone know how to get the drywall dust under control? I have swept the garage a half dozen times and am still tracking the dust into the house.
  • Knit in Public Week is starting.  If you’re local to central Indiana we’re getting together Friday the 20th to knit at the winery.  More details here.  I hope everyone can get out and enjoy, especially with friends.

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Selecting a Raw Alpaca Fleece

Seeing as how its fiber festival season this seems like an appropriate topic.  For simplicity sake I’m defining raw fleece as something cut off the animal and sold as is.  It’s not been washed, picked or cleaned.  Seriously, they shear it off and stick it in a trash bag.

Alpaca Fleece

You will find raw fleeces at most fiber festivals.  You may also know of or hear of vendors in your area that will sell fleeces.  In the Midwest we tend to have a lot of options for Alpaca fleeces.  I can always find some at spring fiber festivals (fleeces are more common in the spring as that’s when they shear) and there are several alpaca farms in the area.  Vendors typically sell a fleece in two parts – the blanket and seconds.  The blanket is off the main body of the animal and the seconds are shorter cut from other areas.  The seconds are usable but not as highly desired.  I typically buy just the blanket if I can.

There are two types of Alpaca – Huacaya and Suri. Suri is in long, silky, curly locks, much like mohair. When you buy commercial line it is most likely Huacaya unless the label says Suri.  Huacaya is shorter, frequently has a bit of crimp and is more “fur like.”  I love both but generally use Huacaya as its more versatile and easier to work with.  I suggest you try some of both. Below is a picture of a pound of Suri fiber.


Once I find an alpaca vendor I start looking at the fleeces.  They’re typically stored in large clear plastics trash bags.  You should be allowed to feel around in the bag (if not, that’s a warning sign) and look to see the color.  I pull out a lock  of the fleece and hold it between my fingers to see the staple length and crimp.  Crimp will vary but there should be some, just like with wool.  The staple length will range from 3 to 6 inches, with most being about 4 inches.  Of course, a big part will be your judgment as to how soft the fiber is.

Next I root around in the bag a bit.  Are most of the fibers the same length? How much veg matter (tree pieces, straw, hay, burs) is in the fleece? Is the color what you want?  A note on color – there are 22 separate colors of alpaca.  Generally though you have white, fawn (brown) of some shade, gray and black. True black is less common to find but possible.

If you’re satisfied with the fleece, go ahead and purchase it.  Because alpaca fleeces are smaller (one to three pounds of blanket), they’re generally sold whole and not by the pound. The exception is Suri Alapca which is usually sold by the pound.  Price-wise there’s a lot of variation depending on when the animal was sheared, the quality of the fiber and the vendor.  I purchase three Huacaya fleeces recently: 2.6 pounds of black (2014 blanket) for $45, 1.8 pounds of gray (2013 blanket) for $20 and 1.2 pounds of fawn (2013 blanket) for $15.

new fleeces

I learned something at the last fiber festival – once you’ve bought your fleece do NOT tie the bag closed.  The alpaca vendor said this can trap moisture as you go from one environment to another (i.e. from the cool, dry fairground building to your hot, humid car) and cause moisture problems.  In other words, let it breath.

Soon I’ll post about what to do with that alpaca fleece once you’ve got it home.  We’ll need a nice spring day for that!



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Packing up for the Fiber Festival

I’m hoping everyone has found at least one option for a local fiber festival.  I’m going to The Fiber Event in Greencastle, Indiana on April 18-19.  I’m registered for a workshop on blending fiber, another workshop on color blending and going shopping both days with friends.  This will be my third year going to this fiber festival and actually the first festival I ever went to once I started spinning.

with bunny

So let’s get packed up and ready to go!  Here’s some more tips and suggestions:

1. Evaluating Your Stash – If you’re a new spinner (or just really disciplined in terms of acquiring stash) this probably isn’t an issue.  For the rest of us, memorizing what is in our stash is more challenging.  Keeping track of what I have, how much of it and in what color is done courtesy of Ravelry.  Ahead of leaving for a fiber festival I got through my stash, on Ravelry and in storage, to see what I have and what I might want.  For example, right now I have 4oz of a dark hand-dyed braid that really isn’t enough to do much with.  So I’m looking for some black alpaca to ply with it.

2. Fiber vs. Yarn – Although I keep saying “fiber festival” its worth noting that most fiber festivals have vendors selling finished yarn as well.  You are not likely to find as much in the way of name-brand commercial yarns (Cascade, Malabrigo) but instead a lot of handspun and/or handdyed fibers.  So, even if you’re not a spinner there are still a lot of options at a fiber festival.

3. Setting a Budget – Now this is entirely optional but is something I personally do.  There are a lot of options at a fiber festival – yarns, fleeces, dyed fiber, notions, spinning wheels and accessories, and so on.  These can add up quickly and you might be tempted to spend more than you planned. So setting a budget ahead of time serves two purposes – one, I don’t spend more than I intend and two, I know how much cash to take (while some vendors do take credit cards most prefer cash, especially for smaller purchases).

4. Have a Shopping Plan – this is also optional.  Some people prefer to just walk around and shop (as my friend Patty calls it – the demented butterfly approach).  I prefer though to go through with a plan, as taught by another friend.  We make one pass through all the vendor booths, noting items of interest and only buying if there’s something (or a colorway) that’s one-of-a-kind.  After our first pass through we go back through to make purchases.  Important tip: If you ever see something you absolutely love and can’t live without, don’t wait.  It might be gone later.

5. What to Pack – A couple basic essentials: a shopping bag, your list and some money.  I don’t take a full purse – just my glasses, cell phone and wallet.  I tuck these items into my shopping bag along with the list.  For a shopping bag I take one clear plastic zippered over-the-shoulder bag.  Inside it I tuck a large re-usable cloth shopping bag (folded up).  I have  found a back pack doesn’t work well because of the tight space in some vendor booths.  Also, remember to bring anything you need for your class.  Lastly – I have a Ravelry button with my username that I clip onto my bag.  Give me a shout if you see me!

I hope you have the opportunity at some point to attend a fiber festival and you enjoy it!

Everything I Bought

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Preparing for a Fiber Festival

It’s properly Spring which means one thing for fiber artists – fiber festivals!  I’ve provided a couple tips and suggestions for attending and getting the most out of a fiber festival.  In the two and a half years I’ve been spinning I’ve been to about six festivals (excluding Stitches one year since that’s not really a “fiber” event).


1. Finding a Fiber Festival – If you belong to a spinning group or guild, this is probably the best way to learn about local-ish fiber events, including specifics about the events (best day to go, classes, etc.).  If you belong to a regional or state group on Ravelry (i.e. Indianapolis Handspinners) they will also frequently post about area festivals.  Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to search on Ravelry or even just Google.  Keep in mind “local” may be relative.  We are lucky here in central Indiana to have two area fiber festivals (each is about an hour from my house). However, I have driven anywhere from 2-3 hours from home to go to festivals.  If you can get a group together to go, all the better.

2. Do Some Homework – Before making too many decisions, find a website for the fiber festivals.  Most festivals have one with hours, directions, workshop schedules, competitions and lists of vendors.  This will give you some idea of the size of the festival and how much time you might want to spend there.

3. Sign Up for a Workshop – if the festival is of a decent size I can’t recommend enough that you take a class.  The past two years I’ve taken one class a year, this year I will likely take two.  This is a great opportunity to learn a new fiber prep, a new drafting technique or even a more advanced skill.  I find it is even beneficial just to hear someone else’s viewpoint on how to do something.

4. Take Care of Travel Plans and Reservations – Go ahead and register for any classes or workshops, book a hotel room if you need to and make any other needed arrangements.  Fiber festivals tend to be in remote areas and therefore lodging options are limited.  At well known events the classes fill up quickly.

I’ll talk more later about some suggestions of things to do shortly before you leave for the fiber festival, including evaluating your stash, setting a budget and what to pack.


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