Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Mohair Tickles

I had a great day at the Wiltshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers on Saturday. I took part in a workshop run by Jane-Ann of Hammond Mohair. She then gave a talk on keeping angora goats and her business.

I have have spun mohair from commercially prepared top but never from the fleece. The different ages/grades of mohair were discussed and we then had the opportunity to spin them.

The three grades relate to age but a goat can show the different characteristics. Kid mohair is normally the first three clips and has the tightest curl. It is also the softest of the three, young goat is normally the next three clips and is less curly and looses a small amount of softness, the last type of mohair is adult, which has the least curl and has lost some of the softness. It is possible to spin all three grades with a good level of softness although I found that kid was definately the softest and springiest of the three, although none of them have the elasticity of wool.

We carded each batch, which lead to some amusement as the rolags we produced were fuffly and similar to angel hair. I really enjoyed carding the fibre as it takes the minimum of work and the rolags were very easy to spin with. Although mohair requires a certain amount of twist, keeping this to a minimum makes a soft yarn and it was difficult to tell the difference between a soft spun young and a soft spun adult mohair.

This is a lustre fibre and is naturally bright white, althought it is possible to raise coloured goats. These are apparently grey and so not as popular. The lustre is due to the smoothness of the fibre, unlike wool which when viewed under a microscope has barbs. Because of the smoothness of the strand, it is harder to felt mohair so it is not as susceptible to thermal shock but it is possible to felt it in a washing machine or use it for needle felting with wool. It also has greater fire retardancy than wool.

The fibre takes acid dyes beautifully and gives a great strength of colour. The photo shows kid at the top, young in the middle and adult on the bottom. The colours are not correct, see the picture of the flower for the right colours.

I then decided to crochet them into a flower, flared rose from 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet by Lesley Stanfield. I'm not very good at crochet but really enjoyed using the mohair. It is a firm yarn but I found it easy to see the stitches. The flower uses all three yarns with the kid making up the central section. It is possible to see the difference in the fineness of the fibres by eye.

When selecting mohair fleece, it is really important to check the bag. It is not a cheap fibre to buy so check there is no or minimal contamination and ensure that the locks are fairly intact. Also, the softness of the fibre and lock length can be gauged. Ideally a lock should be 6inches in length, the fleece grows at the rate of an inch each month.

The goats are shorn two times a year and, although they are hardy they are less hardy than sheep and like shelter from the rain. In really cold spells Jane-Ann provides certain members of her flock with jumpers so they can stay warm and always ensures they are shorn before kidding in March. As they usually have twins it is a busy time of year and easy to double the flock. Strangely, suckling does not always come naturally so she can easily spend a couple of hours with each birthing doe to ensure the kids have a good meal. This level of husbandry has kept her losses to a minimum in her 30 years of breeding.

Jane-Ann also explained cashgora fibre, which is sometimes available. Cashgora is the term for a fleece from the offspring of a dairy/common goat and an angora buck, so each generation needs to produce a girl. After 5 crosses the cashgora goat becomes a pure angora. This helps to introduce fresh genetics into the breed. Cashgora is normally refered to 1st cross, 2nd cross etc. The fibre takes more processing as it has kemp, long guard hairs, that need removing before spinning to ensure a soft fibre. I would believe that each cross would have less kemp necessitating less work.

Hammond Mohair is a family run company that sells dyed and undyed fleece, yarn and hand knit articles direct to the public. Rita, Jane-Ann's mum, knits a wide range of beautiful items and Jane-Anne also sells her crochetted work and patterns. It was a lovely day, learning about such an interesting animal.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Twinkle, twinkle, little star

A while back, the ever lovely and talented Marianne posted some twinkle fibre in her shop. It was beautiful and it sold out within minutes, before I could click on the 'buy' button.

Obviously, there was only one thing for it and that was to commission my very own braid. Now, Marianne also twitters  so I sent her a message and, despite having her arm in plaster she dyed me the most lovely twinkle.

Here is a bit of it unbraided

It is beautiful and soft and will spin an absolute treat. Sadly, it needs to wait until I have cleared some bobbins.

Marianne is multi talented and all her yarns/fibres come with a special present. Here is mine. I now have three different ones, each matches the yarn it came with and it is delightful to receive such a lovely gift.


 If you want to find out more about Marianne, you can also drop by her blog.

Friends are just amazing

I tweet, sometimes I tweet too much. I know some people don't get twitter but I love it.
I have made some wonderful and amazing friends on twitter and slowly I am getting to meet them in person as well.

Today, I received a package from one of my friends, @mulene.

It contained


Now, how totally cool, wonderful and amazing is THAT!
I admit, some of you might not realise why I am so very happy with my present. The bag goes with

The latest book by my all time favourite musician.

Thank you so much.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Scrap Swap

At the end of November Limegreenjelly suggested participating in a fibre scrap swap on Ravelry. Of course, the suggestion was too good to turn up and in the end 28 people decided to join in the fun.

Today, I received my scrap bag full of beautiful portions of roving, each beautifully soft and lush and forming tight little sweeties.

Of course, I couldn't resist unravelling each piece and laying them out. Look at how beautiful they are.

Of course, the next stage is to spin them and Sjames suggested breaking down each piece of roving further and randomly spinning them. I have never done this so this is my plan. Once I have created my single, I shall ply with a plain colour. I just need to decide what colour.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Get Knitted Dye Workshop

This Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the Dye Workshop held by Jeni of Fyberspates at Get Knitted.

I have been wanting to do this workshop for a while but each time it was full so I was pleased when there was availability and that it fell on my birthday was a complete bonus.

The dyeing is carried out in doors, above the shop and we were amply supplied with cake and drinks. After a health and safety discussion we were let loose on a range of  bases, hand painting them with acid dyes. It was such fun, and it was lovely to change a base yarn from this super shiny merino tencel:

To this multi coloured paint job.

To this completed yarn.
The shine on this yarn is amazing.

Next, I was lucky enough to play with Scrumptious Chunky 


and pulled this out the bag
Next I gave myself a serious lace fix, dyeing 3,000meters of Tai Silk in a gold colourway.

As though silk isn't sparkly enough I then dyed some sparkle sock inspired by ripening vines.

Finally, I finished with a lovely turquoise and blue colourway which will be great for a pair of highly patterned socks.
My one real disappointment was the silk hankie. I shall try and rework it but I couldn't be bothered to photograph it. Afterall, who wants to see the pants stuff.

As I mentioned, it was also my birthday and once again I was royally spoilt by those around me. I received another SIGNED copy of The Death of Bunny Monroe and a CD of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Royal Albert Hall. Can't beat a bit of Nick.

I also received foam mats for blocking my knitting, a Romi shawl pin (I'm waiting for it to arrive but it's on its way) and the following:

I really love the Rose of England, La Traviata, Maple Garland although Iain is now concerned I might cover all flat surfaces with lace table cloths and doilies.

On top of this are two lovely sets of stitch markers from my friend Claire. She made the perfect choice, a set for lace as I love knitting it and some gorgeous green markers. I'm not too sure how much knitting will be done when my project wears these as I may just sit and look at the markers.

Finally, I also received some gorgeous cashmere yarn from my friend Elizabeth. 


I think it is destined to become a melon shawl from Victorian Lace Today.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Sleeves in Your Pi Challenge

I have been working slowly working on my spinning challenge - Sleeves in your Pi.

I am using a grey shetland fleece I purchased from the Guild last year for £8.00. The fleece is from a sheep called Stelatta. Details of the challenge and washing the fleece were posted on 1 January 2010.

I started washing the fleece in December and it is now all washed. I am combing the fleece and this is proving time consuming. Because of the small locks I have been using quite a narrow gauge dog comb but have decided to see what result I get with a flick comb I received with my Wendy wheel.

The sample was spun and plied on 29 January on my brand new Wendy wheel. I plan to spin the singles on the Wendy and use the Pipy for plying. Obviously, these changes will mean I shall have to check I am producing the same yarn.

The spun sample is knitted on 5.5mm needles and I have perfect stitch gauge, I am sightly short on the row gauge but as I am knitting the large size, I don't think it will be an issue.  I will just need to check and add extra rows if needed.

I am so happy with how the sample looks. It makes me eager to crack on with this project.