Wednesday, 24 May 2017


Each local Guild ( of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers ) has a regular members' ''Challenge'' . This year the Guild to which I belong has a very loose challenge - Those who wished to take part were issued with a bag containing 100 grams of a John Arbon blended top, Devonia,  to spin. Then weave, knit, crochet or felt the resulting yarn into a recognisable/useable item. The blend is Exmoor Blueface, Devon Bluefaced Leicester, Devon Wensleydale, and silk.
The skein on the left is my resulting yarn. The one on the right is the ( much finer ) work of a friend. I have to admit that this was the only photo taken of the yarns before we set to creating our items. My friend is a spinner of many years standing, and I think her yarn shows that. It is a much finer, more even spin. Probably about 4 ply equivalent. Mine is a much chunkier, more uneven spin, ending up more as a heavy aran weight equivalent.
The end result of my spinning and knitting is a cowl. It does not have a pattern, it was very much made up as I went along.

A more personal challenge, and not really a difficult one, was to skirt, sort and wash a rather lovely Dorset Down cross yearling fleece. The skirting ( removing undesirable lumps and bits, usually droppings, adhering to the fleece) was done quite quickly. That is the little pile to the lower right.

Above, the four batches of fleece at different stages. On the green sheet, skirted, not yet begun the process. Yellow bucket, cold soak- note the colour of the water. It is like one of those nameless beverages from a vending machine. Red trug - just out of the final rinse. On black tray- clean and spun dry-ish.
I divided the fleece into four piles, and then started the washing. The first wash is really a good soak in cool or cold water. This can take anything from an hour to all night. It depends on how dirty the fleece is, and what time is available. Each pile got about an hour. The second wash needs to be very hot- uncomfortable to the hand- and contain a good squeeze of soap. In this case Ecover washing up liquid. I drained the cold water from the first batch, gently pressing the fleece against the side of the bucket, to remove as much water as possible, then gently tipped it into the hot soapy wash. Filling the first tub with cold water, I put the second batch of fleece into the cold soak while I went on washing the first batch. Leaving the first batch of fleece in the hot wash for a short while, I prepared the not-quite-as-hot water for the first batch rinse. Once ready, I drained the hot wash from the first fleece, and put it into the rinsing water, where it stayed while I prepared the cooler rinse. Again, the rinse water is drained off, gently squeezed out and the fleece put into the final rinse. At this stage, I prepared a very hot soapy wash for the second batch, drained the second batch of it's first, cold soak, and put it into the hot water. Drained the first batch of it's final rinse and put it onto a tray. Then came the cold soak for the third batch. I used a cheap salad spinner to spin the clean fleece of excess water. It is easy to divide the fleece into appropriate sized amounts.
Work continued in this soak one batch while working through the previous batch fashion, until all was clean and spun free of excess water. It was made more exciting by the arrival of a Thunderstorm when I was part way though. However, it was finally done. Drying took place on a sheet hung over my laundry airer, hanging in the utility room, as the deluge of rain precluded hanging it up outside.
Now, the cause of felting of wool, is shock. So, draining as much water as possible at each stage is important. It is also important not to agitate or rub the fleece, as the result is the same. Also, the number of times one needs to rinse the fleece will vary, according to how dirty it is. I think mine was reasonably clean.
Then, once dry, the fleece was aired well, and stored in an old cotton pillowcase.

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