Fleece to White Belt: Post the third

Last time was washing, this time it’s combing. There are two basic kinds of preparing clean fleece to spin, combing and carding. Sure there are sub categories of those, like drum carding or flicking, but everything really boils down to those two methods. So what are the differences and which one should you use?

Carding: For making woolen yarns 

Carding is really good for making fluffy, airy, soft yarns. It basically brushes the fibers so they’re going every which way, trapping air, and giving the yarn it’s fluffy look. This is what you want to do for knitting/crochet yarns where you want that warm, soft, fluff. Like sweaters, hats, scarves, or blankets. Yarn made from fiber prepped this way tends to be more prone to pilling and not quite as strong. It also tends to have more of a halo (tiny fuzzy aura around the yarn) than yarn prepped by combing.  So skip it if crisp stitch definition is something you 100% need. This is also a lot better for short staple fibers.

Combing: For making worsted yarns

Let me get one thing clear: worsted yarns do not mean worsted weight yarns. Yeah, I know, I wish they’d picked a different term for the weight but there you have it. Combing aligns all the fibers in one direction, making them spin into a smoother, harder, yarn with less trapped air. This makes them less fluffy and warm, but stronger. Use combing if you need to make yarn for a warp, or anywhere that strength is a major concern. Also because it’s smoother yarns made from combing lend themselves really well to lace. This is your best bet for long staple fibers.

Let me let you in on a secret: the vast majority of hand spinners make some kind of half woolen half worsted hybrid yarn. It’s just the nature of the game. It’s easier to make a straight woolen than a straight worsted. So if you comb your fleece and in the process of spinning you make little bubbles of folded ends and fluffy bits? Don’t sweat it. That happened in period too far as anyone can tell.

That’s enough background. For this project I’m combing the warp and carding the weft.

Why both?

I’m doing both to take advantage of the pros of both types of fiber prep. The warp needs a very strong, very smooth, yarn in order to withstand the stress of weaving without snapping. However if I did the entire belt like this it’d be a very stiff, scratchy, and not very pleasant to touch finished product. So for the weft I’m going to use the softer, airier, yarn produced by woolen preparation in order to make the whole thing easier to use and much nicer to wear.

The fleece I chose (icelandic) is a double coated breed, which means it lends itself very nicely to this kind of mixed preparation. It has a long overcoat with very little crimp (perfect for combed/worsted spinning) and a short, fluffy undercoat with lots of crimp (perfect for carded/woolen spinning).

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Fleece to White Belt: Post the second

Today we talk about fiber prep. Specifically washing fleece. I use a 100% modern method of washing fiber. Why? Because dish soap works well and is cheap, I have no desire to ferment urine, and I feel like it. This tutorial is assuming that you’ve purchased a raw and skirted fleece, as opposed to shearing the sheep yourself or buying a fleece that has not yet been skirted.

Skirting: cutting off the worst bits of the fleece, generally the underbelly, legs, and around the tail. These parts are the bits that get packed with mud, poop, straw, ect. They are also generally matted and gross. Skirting doesn’t waste wool, it saves sanity.

For the purposes of this project I bought 2.5 pounds of raw icelandic wool. Why Icelandic? Because it has the qualities I was looking for in a fleece, namely the long protective top coat and the short soft undercoat, this makes it appropriate for the type of spinning I’m doing. It’s also easy to spin and an arguably documentable breed. I say arguably since we’ve been continuing to improve fleece so even breeds labeled “primitive” don’t have the same kind of fleece they did in period. Nature of the beast.

My wool came to me like this:

buddle-of-joy

That’s one big bag of happy there folks.

Unbagged and spread out it looked more like this (ignore my toes):

raw-fleece

This is where you start to understand that just because you bought 2.5 pounds of wool does not mean you’ll get 2.5 pounds of clean fiber. All that yellow/brown/black? That’s all dirt and oil and lanolin. This is a white fleece. A lot of that weight is going to end up going down the drain.

Cleaning your fleece: Step 1. 

Acquire your materials. For me that looks like this:

materials

That’s a tote for washing, your wool, dish soap, and a couple of towels. Your tote should be sturdy and big enough to wash a decent amount of fleece. This tote (roughly 10-ish gallons) washes about .75 pounds of raw fleece at a time. You want space for water to penetrate ALL the wool so you don’t end up with raw pockets.

Step 2: Soap.

Fill your tote 3/4 of the way with hot soapy water. Add your fleece, making sure to press it under the water but not agitate. If you agitate it’ll felt. We don’t want that. Just gently shove it under the water and keep it submerged with as little handling as possible. Let it soak and let the soap do its thing.

soapy-bath

 

Step 3: Rinse

Gently remove your wool from the water (again trying to not agitate it) and dump your… well… soapy mud. Rinse out your tote to get rid of as much grit and gunk as you can from it and refill it with clean water that’s as close as you can get to the water you just dumped out. You want to try to maintain temperature to avoid felting. Gently (sensing a theme yet?) put your soapy wool into the clean water.

rinse

See how much cleaner it looks already? Side note: see all those flecks and bits of grass? That’s referred to as VM or veggie matter. Which is a very polite way of saying grass and sheep poop. Some people pick that all out before washing/carding/combing. I just pick it out as I comb because it doesn’t bug me. Sheep are animals that live outside. Sometimes outside comes in with them. Such is life.

Anyway you’re going to rise twice. So repeat this step.

Step 4: Wring

Carefully lift your now clean wool out of its second rinse. Let it drain as best you can before moving on.

Lay your wool flat on a towel like so:

lay-on-towel

Roll the towel up like a burrito:

Step on your wool-rito to press excess water out. Don’t rub it, just step directly down.

Step 5: Dry

Lay your wool out to dry. Preferably on a screen or something that lets air flow get to the entire fleece. This’ll let it dry faster and keep it from getting all mildewy. I, lacking such a set up, lay my wool out on dry towels and just flip it every so often.

clean-drying-wool

Here’s a side by side of a dirty lock with a clean lock after going through this:

raw-vs-washed-lock

Fleece to White Belt: Post the First

So Magnus (yes the same Magnus I made the haversack and wrote the boast for) contacted me about a week ago and asked if I would be willing to weave him a belt to fight in. He was, I’m sure, expecting me to use commercial yarn and just knock out a tabby woven belt.

He’s still learning about me dears, don’t laugh too hard.

Given that I’m, well, me I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to process from raw fleece using as close to period tools and techniques as I can manage. His persona is close enough to mine that I can make an argument that the tools that are right for my persona in terms of spindle weight and materials would also be right for his, and that the process would be similar enough that I’m not going to be offensively wrong.

This is my project outline post, next post will be a picture heavy post regarding how I’m processing the fleece to get it ready to spin.

Project outline: Warning, Math.

I’m aiming for a finished length of 6 feet, that’s roughly an inch wide. According to what I’ve read so far a decent gauge to aim for is roughly 10 threads per cm or 25 threads an inch. So 25 cards wide will give me just over an inch wide belt (there’s a lot of ish here guys), that also gives me the nice round number of 100 warp threads (25 cards x 4 holes per card).

To account for take up and loom waste I’m warping 8 feet. If I have extra warp I’ll do a knotted fringe at the end.

So math for the warp:. 8 feet x 25 cards x 4 holes each = 800 feet x 2 in order to make 2 ply yarn = 1600 feet of singles. Or 534 yards. Well 533.3333 but we like whole yards.

In order to meet my goal of 25 threads per inch I’m aiming for 13 threads per inch in the weft (to account for the warp passing between each beat of the weft. Yes I’m fudging what counts as threads per inch but I can only spin so fine right now people.) That means I need 13 inches of weft to go 1 inch of warp. Or expressed another way 13 feet of weft for every foot I want to weave.

Math for weft: 13 x 8 = 104 feet or 35 yards. Well for accuracy sake it’s actually 34.6666 yards. But round numbers here people. Multiply that by 2 in order to make two ply and that gets us to 70 yards of warp.

Total yardage needed for a 6 foot long belt: 70 + 534 = 604 yards of yarn spun finer than lace weight. Or (because I’ve been giving feet for everything else) 1812 feet of yarn. For a 6 foot belt.

Process:

1.Buy icelandic fleece. Why icelandic? Because it’s got both the longer hair (that I want for the smooth, strong, yarn for this project) and the fluffy and warm under coat (which I will card and use to make Other Things). Why buy? Because I live in an apartment my loves and if I tried to buy a sheep my beloved Scarp would kill me in my sleep. Then eat said sheep. It’d be a justified killing.

2. Wash fleece. This is the step that is not being done in a documentable manner.  I don’t own the sheep so can’t run it though a stream and I’m NOT using urine to get through the lanolin. I’m cheating and using my bathtub and dish soap. I have limits. Those limits are fermenting pee for the sake of fleece cleaning. There’s the line. Right there.

3. Comb fleece. Remember the first post about cord, where I talked about the difference between worsted and woolen spinning? For this we again want the smooth and compact worsted type of yarn. That means I get to keep using the Death Combs.

4. Spin wool. I have a bottom whorl, soapstone spindle that I picked up at Pennsic. I forgot the actual weight on it, but it is an appropriate weight, style, and materials spindle for my persona. Therefore arguable for Magnus’s.

5. Actually weave the yarn. I’m card weaving this. Because it’s going to be a white on white pattern I’m limited in what I can actually document. Most card weaving I’ve seen tends to be colored. But colored defeats the purpose of a white belt. I think I’m going to just do a simple diamonds/lozenge pattern. I have time before I get to this step.

6. Polish the belt. Yes polish. I’m not fulling this, I’m hoping to spin and weave tightly enough to not have to. I’ve found references to using a polished rock or chunk of glass, heated up in hot water, to essentially iron fabric. I’m thinking of picking up a large glass paperweight and experimenting with finishing fabric off with it. In theory it’ll iron it smooth and add some shine/luster to the finished project. I mean, I could just use my actual modern iron, but if I’m going through all this work to get here it’d be a shame to stumble at the finish line.

Cord Making

So last post I mentioned that there would be a post forth coming regarding the physical process of making cord in the two methods that I know.

Method One (by virtue of me learning it first): Lucet

A lucet is a fork looking tool with two tines, it generally looks like a wooden tuning fork. But they can be made out of wood, bone, horn, plastic, ect. Basically anything rigid. They also don’t have to be fork shaped. This is mine:

lucet

This is going to be picture heavy because trying to explain how this works is… well… words are hard yo.

Step one: Make a slip knot and loop it over one of your tines (or dragon legs as the case may be) BUT DO NOT PULL IT TIGHT. That’s important.

lucet-step1

Step 2: Flip your lucet counterclockwise a full turn. Why counterclockwise? Because that’s how I do it and you always need to flip in the same direction or else you won’t be able to tighten the knot you’re making down enough to make cord. You should now have your slip knot, a loop of yarn around the other leg, and a loop around the leg the slip knot is on. Like this:

lucet-step2

Step 3: Carefully pull your slip knot up over the loop of yarn above it and off the leg entirely.

lucet-step3

Step 4: Now you can pull the tail of your slip knot and tighten it down. That’ll form your first chain/cord/link thing.

lucet-step4

Step 5: Turn your lucet counter clockwise half a turn so that you have a new loop of yarn on the opposite leg.

lucset-step5

Step 6: Pull the bottom loop over the top loop and off the leg.

lucet-step6

Step 7: Wiggle the existing cord back and forth to tighten down the loop  you just de-legged.

lucet-step7

Repeat steps 5-7 as many times as you need to get the length of cord you want OR until you run out of yarn. This is the simpliest cord pattern you can do for a lucet. If you use google you’ll find all kinds of other patterns and ways of doing it. I like this one because it’s easy and gives a nice, sturdy, square cord.

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Method Two: Weird double loopy thing I never learned the proper name for AKA Why-Aethelflied-can’t-name-things

This method uses two strands (I’m using contrasting colors for you to see clearly because I’m nice like that) but no other tools.

Step 1: Make a slip knot in each of your two threads. Slide one over the pointer finger of your left hand. Why left? Because that’s how I start.

loop1

Step 2: Take the index finger of your other hand and slide it through the loop in the same direction as the finger on hand one.

loop2

Step 3: Loop the second thread over finger 2

loop3

Step 4: Pull finger 2 and thread two through loop 1

loop4

Step 5: Tighten loop 1 around thread 2.

Finger and thread 2 now become finger and thread 1. Repeat steps 2-5 until cord is as long as you want or you run out of yarn. This method (very quickly) produces a nice round cord.

loop6

Pros and Cons:

Method 1 is easier to pick up and put down for long periods of time. And (since it only uses one strand) you don’t have to measure out your materials exactly. It also gives you multiple patterns, as opposed to method 2 where you’re limited to creating pattern by switching up your yarns. That being said I prefer method 2. I find it faster and easier and gentler on my hands.

 

Cord

This, my darling beloveds, is the process of making wool cordage. My laurel uses cord to wrap the grips of his fencing swords before applying a layer of leather over it. This is arguably a period process and so I got it into my head one day that I was going to help.

By making him handspun cord. Because I am a crazy person.

I decided to make worsted spun singles, over ply them to make them as smooth and strong as possible, and the either lucet or loop cord them. Tutorials for both those processes will come at a later date. I decided to start this process with some locks of mystery long wool I have. Namely? This:

img_20161010_112614582

I pull out the individual locks and comb them to keep the fibers all running in the same direction. This is what makes it worsted spinning rather than woolen (which is what you get when you card wool and let the fibers run all willy-nilly). Combing sounds so quaint and gentle doesn’t it? Like softly running your fingers through someone’s hair, or lovingly brushing out a cat.

These? Are wool combs.

img_20161010_112618079

Let that be a lesson not to anger fiber artists.

MOVING ON.

The next step is to take the combed out locks and spin them, being careful to keep the fibers all going in the same direction and the yarn as tightly spun with a little air and as few nepps as possible.

img_20161010_112622057

Then you ply your singles:

img_20161010_123027023

(yes that is 2 ply. Singles were about the diameter of sewing thread)

Then comes the actual cord making. I had initially opted to use a lucet. However this? Was a slow pain in the butt and not an effective use of handspun. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy lucting, it’s fun and makes a sturdy cord. However it also makes a square cord. This doesn’t make for very good sword grip texture as I think it would end up flattening out and just not working as intended. You really do need a round cord in order to get the proper ridges. So looped cord worked a lot better.

However? I am not very bright and did not take a picture of either the process of making the looped cord OR THE FINISHED CORD. So have a picture of me trying to lucet this.

img_20161010_124451106

(yes my lucet is a dragon. Don’t judge.)

Haversack for Magnus

Come on guys, you didn’t think I just did words did you?

Haversacks or pilgram’s bags aren’t really documentable for either Magnus or me, but they’re damn useful and SCA appropriate regardless of persona. This is the project that made me realize my idea of ‘effort’ has gotten really skewed. I don’t feel like I put a lot of effort into this because I used modern needles and polyester thread for structural seams.

Never mind that it’s black linen, lined in raw silk, hand stitched with fully finished seams on both the lining and the shell, with a hand woven strap based on some trim located in a find contemporary to his period. Or that the embroidered panel on the front was designed by his (sneaky, clever, and wonderful) lady and embroidered with silk, linen, 14ct gold and sterling silver. Nope, clearly no effort since I didn’t spin or use period tools. Yes I can feel your eyeroll and recognize I’ve earned it.

Anyway. Pictures!

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Boast for the Knighting of Sir Magnus Refsson

Make a path for / Magnus Refsson
Ravenous flock / ravens, murder
Feasting in his footsteps/ faithful sword Thane
Dauntless defender / of dragon crown

Honor prizing / oathkeeper he
Weighs full well all / words and dealings.
Swift bright sword of / Ser Nikolai
Fells his foes as a / fox amid hens.

Red company’s / captain titled
Honored well with / order of vanguard
Displaying valor / dragon’s tooth earned.
Now kneels to throne/ knighthood attained.

This is done in Saxon verse which is (to be perfectly honest) not right for Magnus’s persona but it’s right for mine and I was the one speaking it. This was done as a boast to herald him into court. The original version was much less polished, as rough drafts tend to be.

Make clear path for / Magnus Refssen
Ravenously / ravens take to flight
Feasting in his / footsteps. Mighty
Defender of / fierce dragon crown
Swift sure sword of / sage Nikolai
Fells his foes as a/ fox amid hens
About the only line that got kept was the last line of verse 2, because his heraldry is a fox and Refssen is “son of the fox” so that imagery needed to stay. The rest of it? Well, let’s red pen this line by line.
Make clear path for /Magnus Refssen
The biggest issue with this line? The beat pattern makes the alliteration muddy. I needed to keep M as the alliteration since I was using his name as the second half line, which means I was pretty much stuck with Make as the first word. Clear needed to go away since it was another hammer beat and that made this way too front loaded.
Ravenously / ravens take to flight
My laurel has an issue with single word half lines. Which means I needed more words for the first half line. It was also pointed out that the imagery of birds taking flight didn’t work with the next line and we needed to make them land some how.
Feasting in his / footsteps. Mighty
This line is a hot metrical mess. Footsteps wants to be before the half line not after, and while wrapping phrases is a Thing in Saxon poetry the phrase generally starts at either the line break or the start of the second half line.
Defender of / fierce dragon crown
This was ok -ish as far as metrics. But clunky and awkward and really didn’t work well with the first word of the sentence being in the proceeding line.
Swift sure sword of / sage Nikolai
Again not bad, but the “of” wants to be part of the second half line, and using “sage” as a descriptor for someone you have never met and know next to nothing about is always a bit dicey.
Fells his foes as a / fox amid hens.
I love it, it’s perfect, I didn’t change a thing.
Other issues with the rough draft:
It was two lines and a verse too short. This is why we have editors people.