Friday, December 04, 2009


I've been working on a lot of things between when I finished Manon (what I posted about last time) and now, but am going to skip ahead a bit and talk about my next fleece-to-sweater project.

I honestly don't remember if I blogged about it at all, but this summer I bought a beautiful cormo fleece. I believe that cormo sheep are a cross between corriedale and merino, and they tend to have very fine, crimpy fleeces with good lock structure, and nice staple length for such fine fleeces. I knew that processing this fleece would be a lot like the experience of processing the corriedale fleece that turned into the Manon sweater, and was able to put to use a lot of what I learned last year.

Kade's fleece (Kade is the name of the sheep), with Alex for size comparison. In fact, this is only half the fleece. The other half lives with Molly Ooh, I lied! I think this is the whole fleece, before I divided it. Whoops!.

A couple of locks, close up.

As with the corriedale, I carefully separated the locks of Kade's fleece, and washed it in mesh laundry bags, using tulle to separate out the layers. Very hot water, blue Dawn dishwashing soap, 2 washes, 2 rinses.

My big mistake was that I didn't think ahead to the dyeing. I knew I wanted to dye this fleece on my own, before spinning it. The earlier in the process you dye the wool, the more uniform your finished project will be. I didn't think about it more than that, until the time came to take my beautiful bag full of clean, white locks, and figure out how to make them blue. I almost didn't dye them. They were so precious as-is.

cormo closeup

cormo fleece, to scale

What would have been really smart of me would have been to dye them right after I washed them. Before taking them out of the mesh bags, before letting them dry, just plunking them in a dyepot. It would have been so much easier that way! Someone on Ravelry suggested this to me, but it was too late. Next time, people. NEXT TIME!

But my lack of foresight wasn't a complete loss. I did figure out a new way to keep my locks neat and organized for the dyeing, which I might use for both the scouring and dyeing, next time I have a raw fleece. I actually borrowed the idea from another person (whose identity I don't remember), who I remember posting about using rolls of tulle to secure her locks when she washes them. I ended up with this:

cormo burritos

I bought lots and lots more tulle (it's cheap, and always seems to be on sale), and cut it into manageable lengths. It comes folded, and I took advantage of that by laying out the locks on one side, and just folding the other half over it, where it naturally creased. Then I rolled it up, and used sewing thread to baste it shut. This held surprisingly well, though a few locks did escape during the dyeing process. I think that next time I'll just be careful to not lay them down so close to the edge of the tulle. Or, really, not bother to care. There was no significant lock leakage, and I was able to save everything, anyway.

To dye them, I mixed up a dye solution, and figured out how much of it I should add to each dye pot so as to use all of it, somewhat uniformly. (Don't ask me for dyeing advice. I cobbled together bits of knowledge here and there, but mostly winged it and crossed my fingers. I totally dye by the seat of my pants.)

I ended up with a whole bunch of squishy blue cormo burritos.

dye day done
Both after scouring and dyeing, I find that it's hard to get enough water out of the fiber when it's still all wrapped up. It's a lot easier to handle if I let it sit for a day or so before taking it out of its wrapper, to finish drying.

I wasn't all that concerned that the fiber be evenly dyed. I wanted to try to get an even amount of dye and fiber in each pot, so I didn't let things get too wonky. But I didn't obsess over whether each bit of fiber was fully soaked, or with moving things around in the pots. I just let them be, because I knew that combing the fiber would even things out a lot. And I also don't want my yarn to be too uniform. I want it mostly uniform, so I'm free to knit something with a lot of texture, if I so choose. But a little variation can look very pretty.

blue cormo top

cormo locks

I thought I finished combing all the wool I'd need this morning, but I may have miscalculated a bit. In any case, I've started spinning, and will go back and comb a bit more to add to some bobbins that aren't as full as I'd like. Later. That was a lot of combing.

bag o' top
That's just some of it.

I don't have any major knitting projects on the needles right now, as I'm waiting for yarn for a super exciting project that I won't be able to blog about for many months. (I will let your imaginations wander about that one!) So while I'm waiting for that yarn to arrive, to be followed by some marathon knitting, I am spinning a lot. This cormo is incredibly soft, and I will most certainly be buying more cormo fleeces in the future. I would like to make it an annual tradition.

For a last treat, here's a photo of some more dyeing. These are locks that I didn't carefully separate out, and separate between layers of tulle. It was the lower quality (but still really nice!) and dirtier stuff from around the edge of the fleece. I just threw it in a bag, and hoped for the best. I will probably hand or drum card it, for a soft, lofty yarn.

dye day!