I bought a sheep…sort of

Yes, I went to the Twist Fibre Festival in Saint-André-Avellin last weekend. It may seem strange but this was actually my first time at such an event. Maybe that’s weird considering how relatively close Montreal is to some of the major ones? I never really had much of a desire to go, and in the past few years, it been out of my holiday budget.

However, I’ve had an idle interest in getting a good quality fleece to play with since I dug out the rather dirty Outaouais Arcott I’ve had for a while and started processing.

And after having such a lovely visit with Kathy Chapdelaine a few weeks prior, I had pretty much made up my mind that going to Twist would be a good idea. Not exactly like going to Rheinbeck, but a good place to start.

So Saturday after work, I hopped on the Metro & met up with my brother & rode all the way to the other end of the line. We took a bus out to Fairview Point-Claire & got a ride from the friends we were staying with who have a small farm near Rigaud, who were also interested in going to Twist to check out the animals.

We got to the festival around lunch time on Sunday. The festival was indoors, inside the community’s hockey arena. At first it didn’t seem like it was that big of a festival, but we it took quite some time for us to make our way through them all.

Jon and I spent a lot of time looking through the books and spinning accessories at the Gemini Fibres booth. He had ordered some hard to find knitting books from them in the past. I probably would have bought some hand cards or other spinning accessories if I didn’t have them already and took a good look at the lazy kates they had. I also looked through their spinning books, but didn’t see much in the “so you’ve been spinning for 5ish years and want to level up” category. Of course this might have been because we were there on the last day.

We stopped and chatted with Céline from La Maison Tricotée here in Montreal and Jon chatted with Julie from La Julie Factrie in Nicolet, QC, both former Effiloché colleagues. Later we also chatted with Kathy & David of Domaine Chambord & saw pictures of his latest rope braiding machine which was pretty cool.

I was happy to see that Céline carries Jamieson & Smith as well as some other hand-dye brands that I have recently come across online Hedgehog Fibres and Jill Draper Makes Stuff.

The yarns at the Absolute Shetland booth were really nice, but it was kind of crowded and I moved on after a bit. Jon bought 2 skeins of their pale & charcoal grey Shetland to make some stranded mittens with. It’s really nice stuff.

From Trailhead Yarns

My first purchase of the day was from Trailhead Yarns & Fibre (who seem to be setting up their online presence). I bought some lovely purple Correidale roving & a screen printed project bag.

I was pretty surprised that most of the roving or top I saw for sale was Merino. There weren’t a lot of other sheep represented which I thought was too bad. But again this could have been because it was Sunday afternoon.

From l'atelier de Pénélope booth

I also bought some really nice 38-count linen from L’atelier de Pénélope and some great neon BFL sock yarn from the Violette Yarn Co. booth.

Super BFL Sock

And my big purchase of the day (mostly because of the size) was this amazing fleece from Hopeful Shetlandsfrom Embro, ON, who seemed to me to be the only ones with raw fleeces for sale. And I was kind of surprised at how many they still had. Though maybe there just aren’t that many spinners?

She had 3 really lovely darker wool fleeces that attracted me right away, one was a BFL Shetland cross, the other two were different shades of Shetland. But I had a hard time deciding which fleece to get, especially as I have no experience in what to look for in a fleece other than it would be nice for it to be cleaner than the Outaouais Arcott fleece I already have. In the end I ended up picking out a different, lighter grey fleece altogether which was so nice that I said “Woooooooooow!” as I unfurled it on my floor to take pictures. I think it will be an amazing first fleece to play with.

I bought a sheep

Want to know how to get immediate cred at a fibre festival? Walk around with a big bag of fleece. It seemed to be a conversation starter for the rest of our visit. This probably would have been more of a normal sight at a bigger deal festival.

Bag 'o' sheep, memories from Twist 2014. #weekendinthecountry #fibredweeb

In the artisanal area, we spent a lot of time at the Infuse booth, from Sutton QC, hearing about they traditional folding & dyeing techniques she uses to make the wonderful motifs on her scarves. I’m often drawn to the soft, light hues that result from working with natural dyes.

Jon also chatted with the woman from Meliooa about the process for her crocheted toques.

We spent some time looking at the animals out front and solved the mystery of the angora goat. We stopped at an LCBO & casse-croûte in Ontario before getting a ride back to Fairview to catch the commuter train back into Montreal.

Imports from Ontario. I better start working on the house cocktail list. #travelontario #weekendinthecountry Lunch break. #travelOntario

Waiting for a train. #weekendinthecountry #cicadachorus

Overall a nice weekend excursion to the country. And I have plenty of fluff to keep me busy for quite a while.

Recent Acquisitions

Somehow in the past few weeks, without much intention to, my fibre and yarn stashes have grown somewhat. Since I currently work as a yarn shop girl, it is an occupational hazard for some yarn & fabric to follow me home, I’ve been very good about it (for the most part).

But besides a ball or two of sock yarn, or a few meters of fabric now & again, I really haven’t added much to my stashed materials in a big way for quite a while. The stash is already quite healthy enough. Most recent additions in the past few years have been from visits to shops while travelling. And this month started like that too.

First of the acquisitions were from a recent trip to the county. While my parents were visiting in early August, we all went out to stay at a house in country near Cookshire-Eaton, QC for a few days.

Without fully intending to, we managed to work in a trip to a small yarn shop to round out our day of cheese tasting, junk shop scrounging & ice cream eating. Because my Mom needed some needles to knit mittens with, we ended up seeking out La Shoppe de Laine in Moe’s River, QC. And I’m very happy that we did.

I guess I should say that this isn’t really a typical yarn shop, mostly because the shop is located in an out building on the farm where Kathy and David raise a variety of animals and have yarn produced from their coats.

While the shop does stock some commercial & locally dyed selections which my Mom was drawn to (she loves angora), I had trouble selecting which of Chambord yarns I was going to buy. In the end I went with a skein of Rambouillet & a skein of Shetland/Baby Doll blend.

Chambord Shetland/Baby Doll Chambord Rambouillet

Also stored in the shop was raw fibre waiting to be processed & spun. Kathy mentioned that she was preparing for the upcoming Twist Fibre Festival and sold me some Lincoln Longwool Locks & raw Rambouillet fleece sort of as a preview to the festival.

Loose Lincoln Locks Rambouillet Raw Fleece

We also got to see some of her husband’s collection of Victorian sock knitting machines that had been set up with dates and information about each machine. He collects & refurbishes the antique machinery and also makes socks & leg warmers for sale. We stayed and chatted for about an hour & even met one of her cashmere goats.

Overall a wonderful discovery.

I think I’ll leave our visit to Twist Festival to another post.

Not Another Laceweight

Hey, so I guess I forgot to talk about this yarn I made? I think I mentioned it over here but never elaborated huh?

Gobbler Loose

Well I followed the advice I’d read in The Intentional Spinner about changing wheel ratios & using a higher tension to effectively change yarn weights, and it seemed to work out pretty well. At first I was consciously trying to pull out more fibre as I was drafting, but even when I settled into mindless-zombie-drafting, it still worked out to be bigger yarn. Crazy stuff, I know!

Prepped for spinning

This is also the first of my Hello Yarn fibre stash that I have spun and the first time that I’ve spun Cheviot too. It has a pleasing crunchiness to it as I spun. It’s hard for me to articulate, but I found it an enjoyable spin.

First half spun

As I’m still on my previously mentioned WOOLEN FOREVER, WORSTED NEVER! kick at the moment, I treated this top differently than my previous go to method. I started by dividing the top in half (I even weighed both halves to be sure they were close to even), and then pulled out staple length poufs from one end & spun them from the fold.

Singles in progress

Not laceweight

I ended up with long sections of each colour. But as I didn’t do any compensation to be sure colours would line up, this yarn turned out very barber pole-y as a result. It’s fine by me. My only plan for this bump of fibre was for a larger gauge of yarn, and that’s what I got.

Finished Skein

2-ply
‘Gobbler’ by Hello Yarn
Fibre Club for October 2012
100% Cheviot Top
Woolen spun from the fold
Start Date: May 14, 2014
End Date: June 11, 2014

Woolen Spun

Back in March, I caught the spinning bug again after reading winter issue of Ply magazine. Now there was a LOT of that farm fleece to go through, and as this was a rather grimy fleece, I didn’t quite get through scouring it all. That’s ok. I have enough prepared fibre from the fleece to play with for a bit. I think I might try to get a decently clean fleece in future to play with. Now I have a “real” reason to possibly go to Rheinbeck in future.

The other thing that I got super excited about in this issue was the first article “Lying About Longdraw: Helping spinners get from worsted to woolen” by Jacey Boggs. I was really pumped to work through the methodology laid out in the article to get to spinning woolen.

Yoke Roving

So I picked this merino roving out of my fibre stash. Yes, it’s roving and not top. I thought it was a batt when I picked it out at Lettuce Knit on a weekend trip to Toronto a few years ago, but later saw that it was roving wrapped up. The article does say to work through with differently prepped fibres but I decided to work through with the same fibre throughout. Still worked.

Somewhere around step 5 or 6 things really started to click and I was “instinctively” started pulling the fibre out longer and longer before allowing it to wind onto the bobbin. Suddenly I was using longdraw like nobody’s business.

Yolk 2-ply

I was so pumped by my successes with this skein that I went to the library and took out a number of spinning books. The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson were the most useful that I read.

Yolk 2-ply

I’d love to say that I flew through this bump of fibre, but I’ve been spinning in my fastest ratios for a while which means I keep ended up with very fine singles (such problems to have!). I didn’t do a WPI count, but I can say that based on the weight to yardage ratio, this yarn lace weight.

Yolk 2-ply
2-ply
‘Yolk’ Pear Tree
100% Merino Roving
Woolen spun
Start Date: June 2013 (?)
End Date: May 14, 2014
112g
Approx. 774 yards

I finished the yarn by fulling it. I washed it in hot water and transferred it to cold water and back a few times before thwacking it against the side of my tub. It’s so soft and surprisingly plump and squishy. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing much worsted spinning anymore. This woolen yarn is that nice!

I’m so pumped about this yarn that I nearly threw all my active projects aside to immediately cast on for Kate Davies’ Hap for Harriet. I have contained myself for the moment, but it’s sure to be on the needles soon enough.

On my latest spinning project, I’ve changed my ratios and am trying to spin a heavier gauge of yarn. It was going to be a proper 3-ply, but I didn’t think I’d get much yardage.

Fleece-sanity

A sheep’s fleece has taken over my front studio space this week. It was quite accidental and surprising as I’ve had this fleece for years. I can’t even remember where this fleece came from. A family run farm either in Ontario or here in Quebec. After a number of offers through friends of friends, my brother finally gave me this bag full of fleece to play with some time after I got my wheel.

I’ve never quite worked up to digging into this fleece until now. Since this came from a farm where sheep are raised for food instead of wool, it’s not the cleanest of fleeces. Combined with my understanding that fleeces from “meat sheep” are considered “garbage”, I figured it wouldn’t be worth the considerable effort it would take to clean this. Also, I don’t have any proper wool scour. All these are reasons that this fleece became a “never never” project and it got put into a fibre bin for a few years.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I heard mention of PLY Magazine by some indie dyers/spinners on Twitter. I decided to try out an issue. Reading through, the Winter Woolen issue popped out at me. I’ve been trying to teach myself longdraw for the past few years, since I started playing with cotton.

Longdraw is supposed to be faster, but somehow my spinning hasn’t really increased in speed much in the past few years. My spinning posture has been pretty awkward too. I’m not convinced that I’ve really gotten the hang of longdraw just yet. So I was quite excited to see that there was an entire issue devoted to the subject and ordered a copy to see how the magazine was.

After sitting around on my coffee table for a while, I finally took a look inside. I was quickly hooked and read this issue straight through cover to cover. My friends will know how rare this is for me to do with any kind of magazine. I will often buy some magazine, flip through, read some of it and then rant about how none of the articles are in-depth enough. This usually leads to someone suggesting that I stick to books.

But this issue was completely satisfying to me. So much good information! Lots of articles! New ideas! Knowledge from people who know more than me! After finishing reading through the issue, I feel much more confident in continuing my efforts to learn woolen drafting methods.

I was immediately inspired to drag out this fleece I’ve been storing for years based on the article about down breeds of sheep by Beth Smith. Basically the article refutes the idea that these are “garbage” fleeces not worth processing and suggests that the wool is well suited to making socks. Dense, warm, and even somehow “felt resistant”.

So I dragged out this bundle of fibre, dumped it on my floor, and got to work preparing it to scour. I started by picking out vegetable matter and lightly fluffing the locks before scouring.

After scouring a few bundles, it’s become apparent how fibre needs to be REALLY clean before getting wet. All the caked on mud bits stayed pretty much as they were after an overnight soak, scour and multiple rinses.

So my pre-scour preparations are now more thorough. I’m using my flick carder to open up each lock. So the fleece taking over my floor is slowly getting prepped for the next step.

It’s unbelievable how soft and fluffy the washed fibre is. It’s going to be so fun to play with!

So…what exactly happened in 2013?

Clearly last year’s efforts to try and post projects from 2012 bogged down any kind of posting about more current projects from 2013. So I’m going to do one mega post in point form of what the heck I made last year. Some of these projects have more pictures, feel free to click through to Flickr and have a look around.

SEWING 2013

I made 2 giant yellow tote bags.

Finally finished making a box bag from a thousand years ago.

Made a baby box bag out of the leftover yellow fabric and sent it to my Mom with the previously mentioned gianormous tote. She uses it to keep all her lipsticks together.

Made a set of 3 box bags as a birthday present for my friend Susie.

Started piecing a quilt. Finished the top, sandwiched it around Easter and slowly hand quilted most of it during the rest of the year. I have 4 blocks left to go.

Finally put button holes in 2 shirt dresses. I used the button hole attachment for my old Singer Featherweight. The resulting button holes are really nice.

Almost finished another shirt dress.
Made a 3rd version of Vogue 8728 for myself, with added side seam pockets and contrasting bias edging (didn’t have quite enough yardage).
Made 2 versions of the Amy Butler mini dress for my Mom. Cut out and coached her to sew number 3.
Almost finished sewing DKNY Vogue V1160, again for my Mom. Got stymied on the last step, rolled hem in polyester chiffon. Still have to finish that.
I paused sewing here for a while. Too much sweatshop sewing this summer.
Worked on the ever-growing hand pieced hexagons here and there.

Then did some Hawaiian appliqué during Christmas holidays. I finished a block I’d begun last year, and made it halfway through another block.

SPINNING 2013

I finished spinning a batt I’d started in 2012 (I think). Aspen Grove Farm Batt purchased in Lunenburg during our 2012 summer trip to the Maritimes.
Then I started spinning another batt purchased from Lettuce Knit during a weekend trip to Toronto. It’s still waiting on my wheel for me to finish it.

KNITTING 2013

This was the year of the striped baby blanket. I made 3, and have given away 2. I really like the colour combo on the 3rd one, but fear that most people might find it too ugly? And the 3rd baby’s Dad is a big Montreal Canadians fan…



I started a Damson shawl, then put it away for bad behaviour (not enough yarn and too ugly).

I knit the 2nd Cladonia shawl for my Mom.

I made myself some “early Winter mittens” to wear from 0°C to -15°C, then it’s time for stranded mittens to take over. I started these as cable on the side mittens, but didn’t like them. So I switched to a knit from the top pattern.

I participated in the Westknits Color Craving Mystery Shawl, which ended up kind of giant.

I finally finished my Koigu Pomatomuses. These were going to be flip top, and I did make one of the tops. Then I decided I would find the tops more annoying than useful, so finished them as is.

I decided that after five Winters of wearing the same beret, it was time for a new Winter hat. After scouring all the slouchy cable patterns I could find, I finally settled on Rosebud. And then I knit 2.


I started some leg warmers over the holidays which are still in progress.
And I think that’s everything. Phew.