Have you heard of "spinning in the grease"? It's a term that spinners use to say they are more or less spinning the wool straight off the sheep. The "grease" is lanolin - the natural wax sheep secrete from their sebaceous glands.
As a sheep grows its fleece each year, it is also secreting lanolin, just like our skin produces oil. Just like some people have more oily skin and hair than others, some sheep produce more lanolin than others. Lanolin can account for anywhere between 5-25% of the weight of a sheep's freshly shorn fleece. Lanolin helps sheep protect their fleece and skin from sun and moisture. In addition to being useful to the sheep, lanolin has lots of other uses in cosmetics, lotions, and even shoe polish.
When it comes to spinning wool, however, there are lots of opinions about spinning in the grease. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some people only spin in the grease, while others only spin with scoured (cleaned) wool.
So why would you spin in the grease? Why might you prefer to spin with cleaned wool? This post will walk you through some the pros and cons of spinning in the grease, so when you find a fleece at your next fiber festival, you'll have a better idea of whether you want to scour or spin in the grease.
When Kate Davies first published the Miss Rachel's Yoke a couple of years ago, I knew I had to make it. I quickly bought the kit, intending to cast on right away.
Of course, life intervened, as it does, and by the time I was ready to knit there were a few roadblocks in my way:
But mostly, I was convinced I didn't have enough yarn. (Side note - I've decided always buy/spin more yarn/fiber than I think I need from here on out. I always end up picking the projects that require tons of yardage...)
Earlier this month, we had a snowy day that had followed a very gray week. It was one of those weekends where I can't think of a reason to leave the house, and I was downright grumpy. My husband, in an attempt to cheer me up, suggested a trip to the movie theater. The only problem was, I didn't have anything to knit - at least, nothing I could knit in the dark.
When I first learned to knit, I taught myself to knit without looking so that I could knit on the dark schoolbus, in dark cars riding home from dance lessons, and in the movie theater. Now, my "movie theater knitting" is always very basic. I can knit and purl in the same row if it's not a fancy pattern, but anything that might require a chart is out of the question. Usually I keep a sock on the needles for just such an occasion, but the socks I had going were too close to being done to entertain me for a whole two hours.
I dove into the stash to see what my options were, and the Miss Rachel kit jumped out at me. I figured that even if I didn't have enough yarn, at least I'd have something to knit in the movie theater. And though I'd originally meant to make it a cardigan, I've realized that I wear pullovers a bit more often than I did when I first bought the kit, so a pullover it was.
One benefit of waiting so long to cast on is that plenty of other Ravelers have had the chance to knit and write about this pattern, so I could let go of some of my anxiety about how it would turn out. Some standouts are:
Uncrossed has incorporated a great short-row detail into the yoke.
Ltnknitter, Agameda, and Lizoid have an interesting trick for hiding the jog.
Crochet-Julie made the darker version, and managed to do her modeled shots in front of a photograph of the shawl that inspired the design.
My project page is still in progress, but you can find it here.
Have you ever dropped a stitch in your knitting and struggled to fix it because you didn't have a crochet hook? Or maybe you're lazy like I am and just don't want to go looking for a crochet hook! ;) Either way, this tutorial shows how to pick up dropped stitches in your knitting - without any extra tools!
Last week in my email newsletter, I wrote about how I made a surprising impulse purchase of the Sashiko Stowe Bag kit. What was equally surprising was that as soon as the kit arrived in the mail, I sat down and started working on it, and had a finished bag the next day. Usually kits and yarns of all sorts have a habit of lingering for a long time before I actually start on them.
Inside the Stowe bag pictured above are two projects - the beginnings of my Miss Rachel's Yoke (purchased as a kit more than two years ago and finally cast on!) and the beginnings of a shawl with this yarn. As soon as the bag was stuffed with these two projects, I realized I needed yet another bag.
Originally, I'd planned to make the larger Stowe with some pink handwoven fabric - and then quickly walked back my plans when I tried to lay out the pattern pieces - there was no way I'd have enough fabric. As much as I love big bags, I felt like there could be a size in between the big and little Stowe bags, and set about drafting a medium size based on the amount of handwoven fabric I wanted to use.
Then, knowing that pattern drafting isn't exactly a well-honed skill of mine, I decided to test the pattern out on less precious fabric first.
I ended up choosing to line the bag, using this tutorial. I did end up using a little bit of this handwoven fabric as the pockets, and lined those too. Instead of doing step 13, I did a more traditional boxed bottom using the basic fold-and-sew method. I used a kumihimo braid that matched the handwoven fabric as a trim on the outside of the bag.
If anything, this bag might be a little bit wide for its height, so there might be some more tweaking in store for my modified pattern. Overall, though, I'm very pleased with the bag itself - right now it is hanging on the back of my chair holding the yarn for the Miss Rachel's Yoke.
Yep, I'm totally a bag lady, but I'm okay with that!
Do you know that "I have nothing to wear" feeling? Usually I feel it when there's a lot of laundry that needs folding, or when there's something I want to wear, but it's in the dirty pile. There are really more than enough clothes in my closet, but sometimes that feeling still sneaks up on me,
The same thing happens with my knitting and spinning! I have plenty of things to work on - more than enough to keep me busy for a very long time. But sometimes it seems like I have nothing to spin. What that really means is usually that I'm putting off another part of a big project. With spinning, I'm usually putting off plying because it's my least favorite step.
That's exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago - I had plenty of plying to do, but really wanted to sit and draft yarn out bit by bit. A quick stash dive revealed some rose grey Cormo from Dresow Family Farm. I'd picked up about 12 ounces of it from them when I went to the Montana Association of Weavers and Spinners conference last summer.
The Cormo breed of sheep is a cross between Corriedale and Merino, and was first bred in Tasmania in the 1960s. This fiber really is lovely - it's soft and springy like Merino, but drafts easily like Corriedale, making for a lovely spinning experience.
I'd seen plenty of white Cormo before, but never a natural color, which is part of what prompted me to buy this roving last summer. The color is called "rose grey," and it's difficult to get a true representation of it in a photograph - a light gray, with a bit of a beige undertone.
The fiber came to me already prepped as pin-drafted roving. There's a decent amount of vegetable matter in the roving, but the light and airy fiber prep more than makes up for any time spent picking out bits of grass. And of course, it's so soft that it's hard to complain!
The singles are spun to about 40 WPI, and plied to about 18 WPI. I'm spinning the singles on my Guild's single treadle Schacht Matchless, and plying on my Hansen e-spinner. So far, I've spun almost all the singles, and plied one skein. I might run that one skein back through the wheel to add some ply twist, since it's looking a little underplied to me.
Currently, I don't have any specific plans for this yarn. I'm guessing that once everything is plied, I should have about 1,000-1,200 yards of it. And then I'll have to think of something new to spin. ;)
What do you do when you feel like you have "nothing" to work on? Let me know!
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