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It’s scouring time again

Its that time of year again when the shearing is nearly over and the raw fleece is ready.  As I’ve started to make more batts to sell this year I’ve gone and got considerably more fleece to clean up and process.  Five so far (1 Romney, 2 Norfolk Horn and 2 Massams).  There will be more.  Terrifying amounts of energy, hot water and time and soap.  It took 2 whole days, a vast amount of very hot water (I borrowed an urn with a temperature gauge) and lots of washing powder to clean the best bits of 1 romney and the 2 Norfolk Horns.  Too much me thinks.  I had thought about sending them away for processing elsewhere but the cost was enormous and I would have been better buying in top and roving, which really defeats the object of what I’m trying to do. I read along while ago, when I first started out on this adventure, about the fermented suint method of ye olden days.  Basically the method is bung raw fleeces in a vat of rain water and leave them to stew in their own juices for a bit of time.  I have never been brave enough to do this.  But this year it seems the most logical way.  Really low water consumption and nearly zero energy.  A warm wash will probably still be required- I don’t think greasy batts will go down well (do you?  opinions on this welcome).  A quick trawl through the internet and I found this great tutorial on the Fermented suint method (thank you kindly to Moz for this). Ravelry also has a fantastically huge resource on the FSM method in the Fiber Preperation forum.

As luck would have it we pulled out the water header tank from the loft when we moved in and I’ve kept it around because ” it looks so useful”.  And its perfect, with a lid and everything!  We have had a lot of rain in the past couple of days so filling it from the water butts was also easy.  Great upper body work out hauling the water too and fro.  I put it up by the chickens and the compost heap, just in case the smell is really that robust. DSC04049 DSC04051 I’ve started my vat with some really scuzzy ver ver greasy norfolk horn and Romney scrag ends (stuff that I was not going to waste my time washing hot) to get it going and popped the Massam on top.  Only the weather is great for April – shame its June.  And June is definitely not flaming this year.  Fingers crossed the sun will come out and heat it up for me.  I’m hoping for a seriously stinking culture by Sunday. Let you know how it goes.  At the very worst I will have some great fertiliser for the veggies.

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New pattern published in Knitty

Latest issue of Knitty has just gone live and, so very chuffed, I got me a pattern in Knitty Spin!  yay.  So very chuffed and honoured to be published.


I called it  Ridge and Furrow.


The project was an interesting one,  not least because of the classic stupid mistake I made when I got the fleece but also because of that moment of inspiration that you just have to see through to the end. The story behind it in brief…

My walk to my local farm (Green Farm) to check out their fleece took me through a freshly ploughed field. I really like a nicely ploughed field, something about the lines and the patterns of the ridges and furrows and the rich chocolate brown of the earth.


Anyway, mind wandering as I walked, I started planning a shawl. I knew the design would need to be lacy and it would be natural dark brown. Then I got to the farm. There it was, a beautiful chocolate brown Hebridean fleece all bundled up and ready to go. Serendipity. It had my name on it. I could start right away. And this is where I made a classic mistake. I took it without  looking at it properly. When I got home I eagerly unwrapped it on the lawn. My heart sank. It was nasty. Clotted, filled with VFM. It was really really crappy.  But, I was driven so onwards I went.  I didn’t even abandon it when I accidentally felted it up some more when I scoured it…Oh how I laughed…

Anyway I managed to rescue nearly 60 grams (2oz or so) of usable fibre. This I hand carded into rolags and spun up into a superfine single spun worsted with the lowest twist the fibre could handle without drifting apart. I got about 780m (850 yards) in the end.

Using a triangular construction the shawl is knitted from the top centre down through the main body and the edge is knitted on to the live stitches along the bottom edge. The main body is a simple combination of stockinette stitch and a 4-row repeated lace pattern. The gorgeous edging is a simple 6 row repeat edging worked along the hem of the main body.
The lace pattern is number 25 from Pitsilised Koekirjad, an Estonian lace stitch dictionary by Leili Reimann. The lace edging is a pattern design I charted from memory of another piece of lace I had seen, but cannot remember its source. If anybody recognises it, please let me know and I can give full credit.

The Hebridean was an interesting fibre to work with.  It’s a double coat (has a long coarse top coat with a softer shorter staple undercoat) which I haven’t worked with before – another adventure in fibre.  In the fleece I was working with the top coat wasn’t too harsh or dominant in the fibre I salvaged (much tearing and yanking to retrieve best bits).  The resulting yarn was ok next to the skin (very scientific prickle tickle test on Sean), and the scarf is a little on the prickly side but ok for me.  I’m going to try again this year with another hebridean fleece from Green Farm.  Which I am off to on a fleece buying expedition this week.

I hope you like the pattern.  I’ve also posted it on Ravelry.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  And if you knit it up, I would really love to see it, send me a picture or link.

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Ickworth Wool Fair  30th – 31st May

Took the Fibre Workshop out for a trip to the second Ickworth Wool Fair, held at Ickworth Hall, Bury St Edmunds on the 30th and 31st May. Our second outing touting our fibrey goods for sale.

Took a frantic few weeks of dyeing, carding, spinning and knitting building up to a crazed demented level of panic by Friday and screams of “I’m not ready”… however, a deadline is a deadline and we were all good to go resplendent in our new gazebo.

IMAGE here

A bit worried about the weather – sunny but windy on Saturday and very wet and very windy on Sunday – gazebo does not like wind.  I think we tested it to its limits.

The Wool Fair was relaxed, but busy and packed with loads of stalls and attractions.  The Fibre Workshop stall was really busy and I only got to take a brief dip into the things on offer.  I managed to catch the tail end of Sean the Shearers Sheep Show giving his very funny shearing demo and dancing sheep display (a bit risque but very very funny).  Other country traditions and entertainments, included morris dancing, archery, and a singalong with whatserface from Frozen (wow! ear bleedingly loud and shrill singing!).

Lots of lovely things to buy in the main marquee,  highlight was Native Yarns, natural dyed yarns based in Suffolk.  Sue was great to chat to, her colours were gorgeous.  Great for beautiful handknits, felted items and hanspun yarns (prices and quality variable from rock bottom up to stratoshperic – still can’t get a handle on how to price yarns and knitted items). Had a fascinating chat with Orfordness Shepherd, Andrew Cappell, who had some White Faced Woodland and Manx Loaghtan fleece and carded batts. Also represented were Gedgrave Wensleydales, also of Orfordness.

Sadly not a lot of fleece or fibre to be drooling over, which was a little disappointing as I was hoping to come home with some goodies to spin.  Mostly rare breeds in natural colours.   And only one place to play with and buy spindles and beautiful colourful batts – yes it was the Fibre Workshop.  So I managed to virtually sell out of my batts and spindles. Which was a great boost to my morale – yay people liked them!

All in all I met lots of really lovely and interesting people including the lovely folks from Bury Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.  They all had matching aprons – now there’s an idea to take back to the Guild…

Thoroughlyy enjoyed it and will definitely go back again next year.