Friday, November 14, 2008

About six months ago, I had the bright idea of spinning up enough yarn to make a sweater for my sweetie.  The knitting has finally begun after an epic process that began with that free fleece, vegetation included, that came my way earlier this year.  I spent many nights in front of the television or plugged in to my iPod teasing out the dirt and bits of straw in a large portion of the raw fleece, carded up several batts on a newly acquired drum carder and proceeded to spin it on my Ashford Traditional.  I used to have a drum carder many years ago but it was one of the casualties of a hippies-in-the-bush house fire.  The lanolin made for quite easy spinning - after all, I hadn't spun a thing since the 70's - and it was only after gumming up the wheel to the point where it would hardly draw in the yarn anymore that I switched to prewashing the raw fleece.  It turned out to be quite nice fibre - soft, good staple and not so filthy that it couldn't be rehabilitated - nice to know as I still have a ton of it!  I wanted a worsted weight two-ply and I was aiming for 32 ounces of finished fibre, just to be on the safe side.  Turns out, I'm pretty much on the money with the yarn weight.  

Then came Adventures in Dyeing.  Back in the day, I did a whole lot of natural dyeing but didn't have the heart to revisit it with this quantity of fibre.  British racing green was requested - it's that black-green of vintage British sports cars.  Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver were out of premixed green but I was assured that yellow and blue with a touch of magenta would give the desired shade.  You probably know where this is going.  I set up my little dyeing station under the carport with a hot plate and my venerable white enamel dyepot purchased in Chinatown in Vancouver in the late 60's.  Thereafter, over the course of a week I did battle with the dye pot and after four shots at it, I finally have a lovely heathery moss green, NOT British racing green. This was preceded by gold, followed by pale brown, then insipid green and finally something I can live with - the nice heathery moss green seen above.  

The hopeful recipient-to-be assures me he is quite happy with the colour - he probably knows that if he still wants that dark green, he'll be making a trip to the yarn store and dropping serious coin. That free fleece just doesn't seem to want to take the dye very easily despite repeated dunkings. I tested this hypothesis by dyeing some Cheviot roving in the same pot and coming out with great strong colours.  Not sure what kind of fleece would behave in such a belligerent fashion but it behooves one to value process over product - dyeing is not an exact science.   

This morning I made a centre-pull ball out of one skein and swatched for the Cobblestone Pullover from Interweave and scored a home guage on the first try.  

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