Thursday, March 27, 2008

A cone of yarn

I've never bought a cone of yarn before. The lady at the mill didn't know how many metres was on it, so I got busy and started winding it on my knitty knoddy and got my measurement of 1458 metres.

After winding it up I gave it a wash and it bloomed really nice. I now have a lot of yarn for sock knitting. I just have to search for some patterns.
It's a blend of wool/acrylic 70/30. A little on the itchy side I hate to say. I've always been sort of sensitive to wool, and the 100% wool yarn that they sell at the mill has enough of an itch that I never bought any. I was told that it was merino, but I wasn't sold on it.

A beautiful blue denim colour.

This is the fibre I bought at the mill each 1 lb. The brown is a combination of Alpaca/Merino roving 70/30. The white roving is merino, but as I mentioned earlier I'm not sold on the idea of it being merino. It just doesn't feel like merino, but then again what do I know.

Here is some of the Alpaca/Merino spun up single ply. I'll post more pic's as I ply along...haha
Custom Woolen Mill Tour

This was a day I was really looking forward to. I was disappointed with the realization that there was no way I could clean all the alpaca fleece I got with hand I made the decision that I'm going to have to get this processed. After researching mills online I thought this was one of the better mills we have in Alberta so off we went. After driving for 2 1/2 hours south on Hwy 2 we saw our turn off. It was a beautiful clear day and what a joy it was to see the mountains for most of the way.

Looking west of Red Deer.

The sign we were looking for. It was quite easy to find.

There was hardly any snow left on the fields the further south we went quite a difference from where we live.
This is Custom Woolen Mills entry sign

Kaleidoscope-A Wool Shoppe where you can find anything wool. From socks to sweaters, to fibre for spinning.

Everything neat and tidy....and lots to choose from.

Inside the shoppe.

Across from the shoppe is the quonset that has all the machinery for cleaning and preparing fibre to whatever the customers wants. The right picture is the shed where they house all the bales of different sheep fleece. I had DH stand next to the bales to give some idea how big they are. Unfortunately he got distracted by the farm kitty so he's bending over.

Inside the main door you're hit with the humid warm air. It was like walking off the plane when landing in Hawaii or Mexico.

The fella standing by the red machine was where it all begins. They cut the bales open and he starts feeding it into this separator which gets vacuumed up and sent over to the first bath.

First bath. These spikey nails on an overhead frame act like a rake to move the soaking fibre along the bottom of the tub.

Sorry for the weird angle on this picture, but it's showing the spikes dragging the fibre up on to a conveyor belt which direct it to the second bath/rinse.

Second bath/rinse. Same sort of principle that the spikey nails drag it along the bottom of the tub moving it along to the next stage.

After the second bath/rinse it comes off the conveyor and slides into the waiting hampers. The fibre is still heavy with moisture so it goes next into a drum which spins the dickens out of it. The camera managed to catch the fibre inside amazingly the picture isn't blurry.

Next we were given directions to head up to the observation deck. This area was off limits to the self guided walking tour. I could understand it because it was too dangerous with all the machinery going. On the left in the picture is the spinning machine which wasn't being used this day, but the plying machine just across from it was making a two ply wool yarn. On the right hand side was two of the carding machines. The lady in the picture was making batts for quilts this day.

This is one of three of their sock knitting machines. There was a lady there who kindly gave us a demonstration of how it works. There are more pictures of the tour in my flickr page which you can link to.

That was basically it for the tour. Short and sweet. All the personnel were friendly and were ready to give answers to any questions as well as describe any part of the fibre process. I ended up buying two lbs of fiber and a spool of sock yarn at their shop. I had to keep reminding myself to stop shopping because I'll be getting more fibre in a couple of weeks when I return to pick up my alpaca roving. I'll post pictures later on.

The tour couldn't have ended any better with some love from one of the mills resident kitties. How sweet is that face!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Day in the life of a house frau and other mitherings.......

Is it a full moon or what? Today I witnessed our neighbours cat Charlie getting mauled by two dogs that weren't under the control of the again the neighbours, as well as the traffic going by, were in for a treat with me running outside with my housecoat on, wet hair, yelling at the owners of the dogs.

Then after that was taken care of (will have to see if Charlie's going to pull through) I discover that somebody had been in my backyard and stole all the pop bottles we've been delinquent in bringing to the depot. There had to have been fifty bucks worth of bottles. Now....before anyone wonders who's doing all the drinking we've got four adults living in the house, and all those bottles add up to a pretty penny. That would've been a nice supper out.

What really ticked me off was the cheeky buggers left a half dozen bottles still laying there .....what's up with that? They even arranged them all sitting up on the woodpile. (Please excuse the mess...we still have snow here, and it's just starting to melt leaving a right muck alongside the garage.)

Talking with the neighbours apparently we've got a couple of young men that have set up a trapline within a six block radius in our neighbourhood. So we'll have to do some locking up of bottles from now on. The thing that bothers me though is they came right into the backyard, and up to the house to take them....they're getting more brave or rather desperate I'm not sure.

Anyway on to a happier note.....I was thrilled to see that Kirsten from Through the Loops has finished her pattern for Dr. G's Memory Vest. I've made the donation and Kirsten sent the pdf of the pattern, and I promptly ordered some yarn (Arctic Pool Heather) for this project from Knitpicks. Kirsten had posted about the death of her father due to vascular dementia last fall, and it hit home with me. My husband's uncle was diagnosed last fall, and I thought this would be the perfect thing to knit for him. I haven't knit anything for him yet, and I think he would just love this it'll be my top priority when the yarn comes in. Please check our Kirsten's blog, and check out the pattern. It's going to a great research facility the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation.

I had promised earlier to post pictures of when I would get that delivery of an alpaca fleece, so here they are.......

Joyce packs up her fibre in clear bags which is nice as then you can see what you're getting, sort of.

So I got ready to do some cleaning, stool for sitting, hamper for the cleaned fleece.....

I laid out the fleece that was graded as #1 and this is the underside, which is closet to the skin. I was going to start cleaning the dirty fleece as I tried to clean after washing a sample piece, and that didn't go so good. So here is a pic of the comb I was using to try to clean out the vegetable matter (vm).

This came recommended by The Spinning Guy

As far as I can tell he works exclusively with alpaca fibre, and he has a great website.

Earlier I had tried washing a small portion of this fleece, and this is more pic's of that......

I used an onion net sack for soaking the fiber and it kept everything well contained. I followed the instructions found at

It was a great help in washing techniques for alpaca (salad spinner worked great), but unfortunately this was a really dirty fleece which required washing, soaking and rinsing four times. I laid the fleece out on this window screen we had........

After some drying time it fluffed right back up. Next to it is a ball of 2-ply handspun I bought from Joyce, the breeder. It's exceptional, absolutely no vm in it, but it was produced from a cleaner clip from the same animal. What a difference the state of each fleece can be.

Unfortunately the vm was really entrenched into the fibre, and after a four hour stint I think I managed to card, and pick through to get a metre of fibre spun up. What a mess, so for right now the plan is I'm going on a road trip to a mill about three hours away from here, and I'll be bringing this fleece to them. This will be the first time visiting a mill and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll remember to bring my camera as I'm sure there'll be lots of pictures to take......

Somebody else sure enjoyed the smells of the farm.......
Anna would love for this to be her bed every night!
Happy Easter everybody!!!