Monday, February 27, 2012

Icelandic fleece, or, entering the world of tog and thel

I recently received an order of two raw Icelandic fleeces. One is white/oatmeal in color and the other is a brown/red.

Icelandic sheep are a bit unique in that they produce two types of wool in one fleece. Usually if a sheep produces both long and short fibers, the longer ones will be kemp or guard hair, which is structurally different from wool. The Icelandic breed of sheep produces both long and short fibers, but they are both wool.

The longer fibers are called tog, and the shorter fibers are called thel.The two fibers can be separtated fairly easily by pulling the longer fibers out while keeping hold of the shorter ones. Traditionally the children were set to this task.

The long tog fibers make an excellent warp yarn when spun, and the short, cushy, warm thel fibers make wonderful yarn for sweaters and the like. 

Viking combs were designed for this fiber, and I wish I had some, but I have four-pitch wool combs, which won't work well with this fiber. Anyway, I washed a bit of both of my fleeces and this morning I set about separating the tog from the thel of the red/brown fleece.

The picture below shows the piece of fleece at the top, and some which has been separated below it. The short, warm thel is on the bottom left, and the longer tog is on the bottom right (click on any of the pictures to see them closer):

Again, a piece of whole fleece:

And the same piece separated into thel (left), and tog (right):

I have a couple of dog combs which I used to in place of Viking combs to comb out both types of the wool, separately. I then carded the short thel wool with hand cards and made two rolags, and I pulled the tog off of the combs into a short piece of roving. They are picutred below, the two rolags of short, cushy thel are on the top, and the tog roving is on the bottom. You can easily see the difference between the two types of wool produced from this one fleece. Both are soft to the touch:

I have a lot more to process, this was just a little test of how to go about handling Icelandic wool, it's my first time. You can also skip separating the fibers and card everything together and spin it. I'll try doing it that way, too. Apparently the longer tog stays toward the center of the yarn and the softer thel migrages to the outside. I can't wait to spin it separated and all carded together.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A few specific pics of my Hoosier cabinet for a fellow owner

This post is for a person who is fixing up an old Hoosier cabinet which is just like mine. They requested a few specific pictures to help with their restoration, so here they are:

Here, I've put a dark color behind the glass to make the etching stand out more:

This one is looking up from below the sifter in its pulled-out position, just so that you could see sort of how it's attached (don't mind the weird patch in the lower right corner, that's where I did a botch job of removing my face from the picture (this was barely after my morning cup if coffee, not a pretty sight):

If you'd like more pictures, let me know!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A little bear for my grandniece

Here's a little bear that I just finished knitting for my grandniece. She'll be born in March. The little scarf is made with the two ply, stripy yarn that's pictured in the previous post.

And let's just say that I'm a better spinner than I am a knitter and embroiderer ; )

Two ways of plying yarn

There are different techniques you can use when plying colored yarns, and they will give you different results.

I will sometimes ply the regular way in which the two singles are twisted around each other. On yarns with varying colors, such as those made with hand-painted rovings, this will result in a candy cane stripe effect.

Most of the time when I'm plying these hand painted yarns, I'll use the Navajo plying method. This makes a triple-plied yarn in which the colors match up with very little striping.

In the picture the Navajo- plied yarn is on the left and the regular two-ply is on the right. These were spun from the same hand-painted roving.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Murder and Seed Savers

Today the mail brought me my order of seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, a place to buy heirloom varieties. I bought quite a lot of seeds, don't know where I'm going to plant everything.

But quite by coincidence, today I also began reading The Heirloom Murders, by Kathleen Ernst. I'm only a few pages in, but Seed Savers is mentioned and I think plays a part in the book. The heirlooms in the book may refer to seeds, or antiques, or both, because we've been introduced to a gardener who saves seeds, a house full of gathered antiques intended for a museum, a lady who works at a local museum, and a possible murder.

Ah, to snuggle down with a book and await the coming of spring...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My first attempt at trying to knit the reindeer tattoo

This is my first attempt at translating this reindeer tattoo design into a knitted article:

 It's done in handspun alpaca yarn:

I think it turned out okay for a first attempt. I may only make a couple of minor changes.