Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Independence Farmstead Fibers

I finally got the call that my roving was ready, so I took advantage of the beautiful day to drive up to Independence Farmstead Fibers, which is just outside of Brenham.  They have only been in business since 2014, but are fast becoming overwhelmed by fleece since there just aren't any other mills around that will process small amounts.  They will process your fleece into roving or yarn, so a lot of the local sheep ranchers have been sending them fleece, too.  They are currently not accepting any more fleece, so I was very happy I took mine in when I did!  You can see in the photos below that they've got a big stash to get through.  It was really interesting to see the machinery and the steps the fiber goes through.

I had given them a Romney fleece and a Polworth fleece that had been languishing in my stash for a few years.  I had purchased Princess (the Romney) from Skylines Farm in Idaho.  It was a beautiful fleece weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds.  I cleaned it in a fermented suint vat (FSV), with one additional wash in Dawn.  It had a little bit of lanolin left, but not enough to need another wash.  After washing and processing into roving, I still had 6 pounds.  Here's the fleece as it came from the farm.

The Polworth fleece is one from Jane Sheppard's stash, that was given to me by her friend Denise.  I don't remember her owning any Polworth sheep, so I'm pretty sure it was one she bought.  It had already been washed when I got it, and weighed 4.6 pounds.  I used a few ounces of it during the 2014 Tour de Fleece on Ravelry, so I was happily surprised to end up with 4.1 pounds of finished roving!  Especially since it had to have another wash at the mill.

So now I have 10 pounds of fluffy, fresh roving.  Ready to start spinning for Spinzilla 2016.  I'll probably just spin a lot of boring singles, then I can decide how much to make into 2-ply for lace knitting, and 3-ply for a sweater.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole...again

A month or so ago, our weaving guild webmaster received an email from a woman wanting to donate a knitting machine to a local group.  She had purchased it in the mid '80s and never learned to use it.  Now, she and her husband are long retired and downsizing, so she was looking for a group that would put it to use.  So the email was forwarded to me (a knitter).  Although it sounded like something intersting, I've got enough "stuff" of my own.  I forwarded the email to a machine knitter friend who belongs to a local guild.  No interest there either.  In the meantime, I got a wild hair to knit some sock blanks to play with dyeing, and it would be perfect for the knitting guild to use for charity knitting.  So I sent a note to see if the machine was still there.  It was, and in fact they were in the middle of moving.  All of the knitting machines I've ever seen were small enough to fit in my car, and pretty easy to move, so I was kind of skeptical when Mr. G said I should bring help to get it downstairs and in my vehicle (I hadn't seen any photos).  But my sweet hubby was free and volunteered to help.  OMG!  The knitting machine turned out to be a Swiss made Passap Duomatic 80 with Electra 3000a motor, Deco attachment (which does motifs from punchcards), and Form Computer.  And this thing was massively heavy!  I was trying to pretend like it wasn't so bad as we struggled to get it down a spiral staircase, but I doubt I fooled anyone.  Eventually we got it in the back of my KIA with the front seat pushed all the way forward, which made for a long ride home.

I set it up in the guest room, since the light it good there, until the studio is finished (not discussing that at the moment).  After sitting for almost 30 years, the old Beladore oil had everything pretty much immobile, so I started perusing the internet looking for YouTube videos, instruction manuals, Yahoo and Facebook groups, etc.  It took a couple of days just to learn enough vocabulary to ask a semi-intelligent question.  But I connected with a couple of good groups who suggested I talk to a lady from Leander, TX  who has a whole series of YouTube videos on working with this particular model of machine.  So I hunted down Barbara, who turned out to be a wonderful resource and so much help.  She and her husband actually drove down, brought me some yarn to get started (turns out you need special yarn for machine knitting), and took a look at the machine to see what I needed to do.  So I spent an entire day taking things apart, removing all the needles and pins, cleaning, oiling, etc.  And now it's back together.  And it works!

Since the original manual was lost, I downloaded a copy onto my tablet and have started working my way through the sample exercises.  I had some issues with the edges at the beginning of the first one, but it's not too bad.

Hopefully by the time I get to the end, I can start working on some knitted blanks to play with.  Not that I don't have anything to do.  I'm supposed to be knitting a baby blanket for a baby due in November; I've been tying shibori squares to make placemats for the CHT conference next June; teaching a weaving class for Park Avenue Yarns; making some more dishtowels for the CHH sale in November; and endlessly mowing.  Good thing I'm retired and don't have anything to do!