Monday, July 12, 2010

Sylvia's "Sylvia"

My Friend Sylvia VM has a knack for finding wonderful fleeces on the internet. Last year, she reserved two 2010 fleeces from the White Barn Farm in Blanchard, Michigan. They raise CVM sheep (“California Variegated Mutant”). CVM sheep are multi-colored versions of Romeldale sheep. Romeldale wool is quite soft and entertainingly springy! It is a fun fiber to prepare, to spin, to knit, and to wear.

One fleece Sylvia got was from a sheep named Harley. The other fleece was from a lamb named “Sylvia”. The shepherd had actually named the sheep after my friend Sylvia.

I begged Sylvia (my friend) to sell me a bit of “Sylvia” (the lamb’s fleece). She consented to parting with 6 ounces. This was a couple months ago. On Saturday, the weather was perfect for washing fleece: sunny, breezy, and low humidity.

So that’s what I did: I washed my 6 ounces of “Sylvia”. First I put the wool into a mesh bag. I washed the wool using two 5-gallon buckets: One pre-soak in plain water (about 30 minutes); one wash with regular Dawn dishsoap (about 15 minutes), one rinse with water and a glug of vinegar (about 20 minutes), and another rinse with just water (about 20 minutes). I used very hot water for each step (about 2 gallons of the hottest tap water plus a kettle full of boiling water). And I put a lid on the bucket to keep the water and wool hot. After the last rinse, I spun the fiber out in the washing machine. Then I put the fiber on a sweater drying rack with a fan on it (on low). The fiber was perfectly dry the following morning.

I couldn’t keep my hands off “Sylvia”. Now, “Sylvia” is made up of many colors of grey. I mulled over whether to separate the colors or to blend them. I decided to do both! First, I separated the clean wool into 4 piles: very dark charcoal, medium charcoal, medium grey, light grey.

On Sunday (yesterday), I started hand combing the wool, using my Valkyrie 2 pitch hand combs. I started with the darkest charcoal. After I hand comb all the clean wool, I plan to roughly blend the colors on my drum carder. I want to ultimately spin some sock yarn that will be a variegation of “Sylvia” and her greys. Then, I’ll knit a pair of socks: for Sylvia!

Here’s a picture showing the washed wool and the bit that I hand combed yesterday.

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