Follow along as I set up Business, Quilt, Knit, Spin, Dye or Design a new pattern. I might take an Art Class or do a Photoshoot

Behind the scenes at Nancy Elizabeth Designs.

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I have one little skein, only about 1/4 of what I’ll need for my socks but I am very proud  of it and it was hugely satisfying to create. These socks will certainly qualify as “Slow Cloth“.

I am only just learning that there is a movement toward and a name for my own philosophy and passion in the my Fiber Art. I love the notion of slowing down in order to have quality rather than quantity in life. The idea that Fashion should be less dependent on rapidly changing trends and colors (fast money for the rich) and more about quality, sustainability, and thoughtfulness in design and materials. The things we create we  should make with care and there should be an expectation that they will have meaning to us. Herein lies great Joy in the creative process.

Slow Cloth

From Elaine Marie Lipson Red Thread Studio

Joy Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. In other words, the journey matters as much as the destination. Contemplation Slow Cloth offers the quality of meditation or contemplation in the process. Skill Slow Cloth involves skill and has the possibility of mastery. Diversity Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art. Teaching Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions. Materials Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source. Quality Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made. Beauty It’s in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it’s in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can. Community Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships. Expression Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work. My Sock Yarn

I prepared a wonderfully soft and bouncy Polwarth fleece from New Zealand by a method I learned from Judith MacKenzie. You can read more about how I washed the fleece to prepare it for worsted spinning here and here.

Each lovely clean lock was flicked open at both ends and hand spun with the tip end toward the wheel to a very fine strand of yarn wherein all of the fibers were not only presented tip end first but all lined up parallel with just a bit of tension on the fiber as it twisted so that it would always be trying to regain the crimp that is natural to it, thus producing a nice elastic thread. When I had 3 bobbin done I plyed them together which resulted in a yarn that is a 3 ply worsted. It is elastic, soft and very durable. It is a little finer than my commercially spun sock yarn @ an average of 16 – 18 WPI.I can’t wait to cast on for my socks!

Polwarth wool laid out in preparation for washing the worsted way individual Polwarth locks showing the 4 + inches of staple length The raw Polwarth fleece before any washing. Isn’t it wonderful, so clean.

I thought it was time to post an update to “Spinning the Spotted Fleece”.

The sweater now has a name. It will be called Jacob. I will probably do a pattern for it after I’ve knit it in another colour pattern for variety.

I’ve had quite a few orders for handspun yarns so the knitting is coming along rather slowly. I’m at the neck shaping. We tried it on and it’s within an inch of exact measurements which makes me very happy. That can definitely be worked out with washing and blocking.

I have a lovely Polwarth fleece which I imported from New Zealand and I want to spin it worsted, probably for some socks. It’s really very soft with a micron count of about 23 but has a 4 inch staple length so I think I can spin a nice strong and durable 3 ply worsted sock yarn with it. With this fleece I can also spin a fluffy light and warm woolen yarn that will be soft enough for a baby. What a lovely versatile fleece.

Polwarth wool laid out in preparation for washing the worsted way

How to wash a fleece for worsted spinning

The goal is to wash individual locks of wool that are all the same length and texture so the first step is to pull out the locks individually, sort them out and line them up.

Find a old cotton cloth and lay the locks side by side with the tips in toward the center. This is just in case the ends of the 2 rows touch as the tips are much less likely to cling to one another as the cut end. Make another line facing this one (tip to tip) on the other side of the cloth. Fold the cloth over to cover each side, fold in half lengthwise and fold over the ends. You have made a nice secure package for the locks that will not only keep them lined up and intact but will also help to prevent any felting as it keeps the locks from touching one another or moving very much.

Folding locks of Polwarth fleece in cotton cloth for washing. Prepaing the Polwarth fleece locks for washing in worsted preparation Polwarth fleece locks laid out on cloth and folded ready for washing

Get out a pot that will go on the stove top and drizzle a bit of detergent into the botton. Coat both sided of your envelope of locks and fold it up. Drizzle a little more detergent on top and pour the hotest tap water over it until it is covered but not floating. Push gently to immerse the package in the hot soapy water and put your pot on the stove to simmer for 30 minutes. This high heat will take all of the greese out of your fleece and it will be soft and clean. After the time is up you can turn off the element and wait for the water to cool enough to handle your fleece. If you have used detergent for the washing liquid you don’t have to worry about the grease redepositing on the wool. When cooled enough to handle squeeze out as much soap and water as you can and adjust the tap to steam of water that is the same temperature as the wash water has cooled to. If you use water that is colder than your wash water the wool will felt and be ruined. Rinse your wool, still in the cloth package under the running water and squeeze and rinse until you are satisfied with the result. Roll it in a towel to squeeze out excess water, open the package by unfolding and wait for the locks to dry. They will puff up and be so wonderfully lovely you won’t believe it.

To spin from the lock now just take a simple dog brush. Hold one lock tightly in you hand and brush the tips out with the dog brush just as if it were hair on someones head. Turn it around and brush the other end. Go to the spinning wheel and being carefull to spin from the very end of the lock spin with tips first by a short draw.

Yesterday I got out one of the wonderful Polwarth fleeces I imported from New Zealand where they are able to produce some of the finest and highest quality wool in the entire world.

Polwarth

The Polwarth is not a rare breed but its fleece certainly has enough wonderful characteristic to make it a favorite among hand spinners, knitters and those who wear their creations. It is a dual-purpose sheep, developed in Victoria, Australia in 1880; they were first introduced into New Zealand in 1932. It has been crossbred to 75 percent Merino and 25 percent Lincoln. Polwarth wool is similar to Merino in softness but has a longer staple length and more sheen or luster. It is fine and soft, suitable for knitted or woven garments, knitting yarns and apparel, baby clothing and fine fibre blends that can easily be worn next to the skin. Polwarth wool is also excellent for felting. The fibers average about 23 microns and the staple length approx. 7.5-11cm (3-4.5in).

For the handspinner Polwarth fleece is a dream to spin. The softness combined with the longer fiber length and luster allow us the maximum pleasure and possibilities for preparation method, spinning technique and finished product for yarn or final garment.

Preparing the Polwarth Fleece

Because it is a medium length staple I was able to choose between woolen or worsted method for my preparation before spinning. This decision had to be made even before I washed it as there are different washing methods depending on whether one will be carding, combing or flicking the locks to open them for hand spinning. I decided that since I could do either, I would do some of each.

Woolen

A woolen yarn is airy and light, usually fuzzier with fibers going every which way and trapping lots of air. Woolen yarn is very warm but, in general, not as durable as a worsted yarn. The fibers are of various lengths and are carded to intentionally mix them up. It is spun by a method which should wrap this net of fibers around large pockets of air. The resulting yarn is light and springy.

Worsted

For worsted yarn the fibers are combed. This process will not only line up all of the fibers so they all go into the yarn in a parallel fashion but it

also rids the prepared wool of any shorter or broken pieces as well as all chaff and vegetable matter. The yarn is spun with the intention of keeping the individual fibers parallel, straight and smooth without any fuzzy texture. The resulting yarn is higher in luster and usually feels softer to the touch because there are less ends sticking out. It will be stronger, more durable, smoother and elastic if spun with the correct technique.

Washing for Woolen Preparation

I washed the fleece sections that I intended to spin into a woolen yarn in a large pot full of very very hot water and detergent (I used liquid Tide). I let it sit in the water for about an hour, squeezed out as much soapy water as I could gently, then carefully put it into another pot of clear *same temperature* water to rinse. I like to rinse until the water comes clean but it won’t hurt to leave a bit of detergent in the fiber as you will be washing your yarn when it is finished. This is similar to the way I wash in the machine. See this post.  I rolled the wool in a thick towel and applied pressure to draw out some of the water and spread the fleece on an old sheet to dry.

Washing for Worsted Preparation

I think this is important enough to have its own page (here) but I’ll give a summary on this one. There are several popular methods for washing individual locks of wool for worsted spinning but the one I find most efficient and appealing to me I learned from Judith MacKenzie. You can find her books & DVD’s at Interweave Press. Three Bags Full would be the one with this information in it. What a wonderful woman and oh, so knowledgable! I really enjoyed these videos. Individual locks are pulled from the fleece intact, sorted & laid out on an old piece of cloth side by side and tip to tip. They are then folded and immersed in soapy water, simmered on the stove, cooled and rinsed under the tap. Simply amazing results, see my pictures below. THANK YOU JUDITH!

Now, to do some spinning and I’ll get back to you with the results.

The raw Polwarth fleece before any washing. Isn’t it wonderful, so clean. Polwarth wool laid out in preparation for washing the worsted way Folding locks of Polwarth fleece in cotton cloth for washing. Prepaing the Polwarth fleece locks for washing in worsted preparation Polwarth fleece locks laid out on cloth and folded ready for washing individual Polwarth locks showing the 4 + inches of staple length Polwarth wool locks washed and flicked with dog brush to open the fibers for spinning Polwarth fleece washed for woolen method in pot of hot water and detergent.

I am working really hard to get some of my special hand knits listed here on the web site and in the Etsy store.

Today I got 2 more really special Angora garments listed that would be perfect for baby gifts. One for a baby boy and one for a baby girl.

These are both one of a kind garments. There is no pattern available yet and I have not knit them again in any other form. Each was designed specifically for that particular special garment. They are both luxury items  which would be perfect heirloom gift.

Ok, enough talk, lets see the pictures!

Little Boy Blue

Whisper Angora and Silk Baby Shrug

It ended up taking me far too long but I managed to get 2 new luxury items posted for sale here, on Etsy and in all of my Social Media pages as well as new projects posted in Craftsy and Ravelry.

Handknit Lace Wrap Bison and Cashmere

Peru Baby Alpaca – Baby Surprise Jacket in Newborn size

Enough talk, here are the images

Sneak Peek Angora baby sweater coming next week for sale here in the shop and on Etsy.

Angora Rabbit Fiber: Spun, Dyed, and knit by hand

Now Available to order

One of a kind Angora rabbit baby sweater handknit in the softest and finest handspun and hand dyed angora yarn. This is definitely next to the skin soft! An original design that I created just for this cardigan so it is truely a One of a Kind (OAK) garment. The front band features 5 handmade buttons. A very special little sweater that would make a wonderful heirloom quality gift.

SIZE: The sweater will fit a baby or toddler of approximately 6-12 months. It measures 21 inches around and 11 inches in length. weighs 144 grams or 5.1 ounces

order here

My new passion! Breed Specific and Rare Wool Breeds.

I have always been totally in love with wool – my number 1 favorite fiber without rival. This love of wool has risen to a whole new level of passion with my virtually “meeting” of Deborah Robson and becoming aquainted with her work with Breed Specific Wool and Rare Breeds of Sheep.

It all started with a free class on Craftsy Know Your Wool. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in wool. This sparked some research on the subject of Breed Specific Wools for spinning and knitting and expecially the Rare Wool Breeds.

I found a few resources over at Interweave as they are the publisher for a lot of this work. Try a search for “rare wool”.

I now have a Video “Handspinning Rare Wools” and an ebook Selections from Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools (eBook)

The “Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook” is now at the top of my wishlist at Amazon.

I am still discovering new resources that Deb has had a hand in bringing to us and I just really wanted to give her a big “shout out” and thanks for this body of work.

Deborah has an easy and friendly manner as well as an obviously thorough knowledge of her subject matter. I find myself trusting and admiring the person as much as the work.

Choosing a fleece with contrasting colours. This one has just black and white in what seems to be equal parts – that’s very dark brown and cream, of course

The testing and planning for this project may just be the most fun part. I have now washed, carded or combed, spun and knit swatches (or small projects) from 4 of my stashed fleeces. I’ve been working with the multi coloured fleeces this time because I wanted some colour texture in my sweater. This one is a Jacob from Great Britain. It’s for Earl. I considered my choices for working with the stark contrast of the colours in this fleece. I could do a relatively homogeneous blending for a smooth mottled look, I could keep the colour separate and ply a white with a black for a ragg look, or I could try to keep the colours separate and use them to form some kind of colour pattern. I decided on the later and choose a random colour pattern as I felt it would be closest to the true nature of the fleece as it appeared on the sheep’s back. There are lots of grey fleeces out there, why make this one look like them?  In order to keep the colours separate they had to be plyed by the Navajo method. This produces a 3 ply yarn. I made mine a worsted weight (4 Medium) about 35 yards/ ounce and about 9-10 WPI. Although I love to card or comb by hand, I do use my roving carder for larger project where I really want to get on with the task of knitting it so that is how I’ve been preparing this one for spinning. I knew I had to be careful with any stark white areas as they would pop out visually so most of the white has some degree of black mixed in. Each time I load the carder it has some of each colour. It is in the carding, to a degree, but more so in the separating and arranging of the bats for spinning that the “painting” of the colour pattern takes place. I’ve been knitting each ball as it comes from the spinning wheel so that I have a feel for how I want the next colour pattern to work out. Updates Here

Woot! My Alpaca arrived today and I’m in heaven.

I ordered a few bags to start with just to see how I liked it and I will definitely be going back again. This is beautiful fiber from ladyolivia Alpaca Avenue  by Kerstin Kerr on Etsy. So soft and clean and very fine. It was easy to spin into a fingering weight yarn as 2 ply so I’m sure I could do lace or DK with ease even if I had to go to a 3 ply for Worsted weight.

Now, I just have to decide what to knit with it. Mittens or fingerless gloves maybe? ideas?