Monday, January 08, 2007

Oh Joy! Plucked blue angora!

What a terrific day for this english angora bunny Mom! My baby, Phillip, is finally molting off that baby wool ~ YAY!!!!!! He's 6 months old now, and while he may have molted before this, I have always just brushed him and if you've been reading the blog, you know that his baby do has been a source of fits for's very fine and mats easily, it gets weird neps at the tips, it's just a PITA, frankly. It's incredibly soft but ack! Anyway, he was a bit neglected over the holidays so I've been dealing with a few mats behind his ears and around his face and today, brought him in for some more grooming and discovered that baby hair just flying off the critter! Big handfuls of it!

So, in this box is a huge pile of blue chin english angora baby wool, which I'm dying to spin up but I have a few more days of serious plucking to go on this critter. The entire box isn't full of the plucked baby hair...there's a light layer of Phoebe combings at the bottom, that I was originally going to mix with the baby hair, when I didn't realize how much there would be. Phillip's coat is super dense and there's going to be a LOT! I've been brushing him since I got him in the fall, and had about half that box full already, but the other half I added today. So, when I'm done plucking him, I'll start spinning :)

Not sure if I'm going to blend this with anything. It's not going to be the greatest stuff, since it's super fine and will probably pill up fairly easily. I plan to spin it with quite a bit of twist and possibly ply it with something else and make a cute hat. Anybody have a cute pattern for an angora hat to share?

I'm very pleased because he seems like he's acting nicer too...he didn't get handled every day and at the first couple of groomings, wanted to bite. And it's not easy to figure out how to discipline a rabbit. But, I discovered if I hold his ears, I can work very easily around his chin and mouth and he never offered to bite even once today so that makes me happy too :) I do handle my rabbits...I pet them and talk to them and take them out every couple of days to check the bottom end and make sure they're clean but I don't have a lot of time to play with them. We do spend some quality time together once a week for grooming sessions and if not much grooming is required, we cuddle more.

My rabbits live outside and they don't really care one way or another if I cuddle with them...they're in the garage with their heat lamp for the winter and they do love to see me coming with breakfast and dinner :) The heat lamp set up we have is just a 100 watt red floodlight does the trick for taking off the worst of the chill and if it gets really bad cold (like it does in Michigan sometimes!) I can add another one. In the worst weather, I'll put in cardboard next boxes with flannel in them...Phoebe has one all the time now but Phillip just tears his up so we're going to have to make a wooden one for him soon. They have blankets over their cages as well at night so they're pretty cozy.

I'm just so relieved that the nasty baby do is on it's way out! It's just amazing, the difference in maintenance between the 2 rabbits right now. Phoebe is a dream to take care of...rarely mats and stays really clean. Phillip is clean, but requires so much more care right now than Phoebe. He may *always* require more care, particularly if his coat stays this dense. I mean, that boy is just a pouf ball! It should get easier, though, once the guard hair starts coming in.

Anyway, just a fly-by posting about my happy discovery!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dyeing Wool and Silk and Locks and recovering from furious holiday knitting...

Hi everyone! Long time, eh? I was so busy during the holidays and so burned out after that I sort of just melted and got nothing much done, including posting on blogs.

I finally got my butt back into the dye studio (ok, it's my kitchen!) because I had a couple back orders to catch up on and the usual's like sex, you know? Even if you don't feel like doing it, just DO IT and then you go...hey, I like this! This is fun! ha!

I managed to reproduce a favorite colorway that I had happened upon by accident one day. The original had sold but I vaguely remembered what I'd done and gave it a shot and came up with it! And I actually wrote it down :) I call it Summer Peaches because it reminds me of the inside of a really ripe peach...the darker reds are hard to see in this photo but they're there. This is some of the 50/50 wool/silk sliver that I cull out of the laps and dye for sale. It's amazing stuff! It's not in one continuous piece, but most of the pieces are pretty long and it's not a pain at all to spin like that. It's very open and kind of delicate after I do some post-dyeing pre-drafting, so I always roll them up into birds nests.

These are the same thing, rolled up. I don't do yellow a whole lot, but I love it ~ it just doesn't sell that well, which is a shame. It's such a great color! I always buy it when I see it at the shows because it's really kind of hard to find.
I've mostly been dyeing wool/silk laps, but also threw in the last of the border leicester locks from a recent fleece purchase.
The locks here are dyed with Key Lime...lots of variation there, because I never shoot for solids. I figure you can buy solid roving all day long and why go there? It's hard to do anyway. These are some of the locks I skirted out...they must be from around the neck because they weren't in the best lock structure and were a bit matted but teased apart, they're still quite nice.

These are dyed with a fiber reactive dye, one of my favorite colors to play with, Sunset Red. (it's a component of the Summer Peaches colorway) These locks are just the red alone, but it did the variation thing in the pot and has lighter and darker reds and orange/reds and even some yellows.

When dyeing locks, I put hot water into a huge enameled pot, with a tiny drop of soap and some vinegar, then sink the locks in and let them soak awhile before I turn on the heat. I usually add the color at that point, since the water is already hot and the vinegar will make it strike fairly quickly, which gives me the variation.

I do stir some, and try to keep the fiber moving around a bit while it's coming up to heat. The fiber reactive (which I use as an acid dye) takes longer to exhaust than the Sabraset or Washfast dyes I normally use. When the dye has exhausted, and I'm done adding dye to make sure all the locks get color, I turn off the heat and let it cool completely.

Then, I rinse once and put it into the washer to spin out. While it's drying, I tease it and keep flipping it around so it all dries and more of the VM comes out. I give it a good hard shake sometimes too, since with this fleece there was a LOT of VM. So much that I sent it off to a local mill to be was way too hard to clean myself at home.

The locks are from a BL lamb and are pretty long ~ I found that they're best prepped by combing. The yarn isn't super soft, since it's BL but it's very lustrous and strong.

More of the wool/silk sliver that I dye and sell. I can't even describe how soft and yummy they are! This is a colorway that I'm calling Swamp Thing because, at first, it looked really dark and gloomy in the pot even though it didn't end up so dark and gloomy but I couldn't come up with another name. This just wouldn't be the dark and scary Swamp Thing..maybe his cute cousin :)

The laps on the right are a deep purple, blue and violety rose colorway, in the B grade wool/silk laps. I'm not a huge purple fan but lots of people are so sometimes I have to play with purple!

And finally, the same colorway in sliver, rolled up. It's really darker than it appears in the photo.

I figure all of this dyeing took me about 8 hours...there's more than this, but I worked on it for 2 days, just not all day. I have about 3 more colorways that I didn't show here

On the knitting front, I'm totally burned out but did pick it up last night and kind of half-heartedly worked on a scarf. Didn't last long. This whole Christmas burn out thing is NOT happening next year! I've actually started a UFO Knit Club, for which there will be a blog soon, and I plan to work in some sort of Christmas Knitting Club as well. One lady on the list said she tried to have all her holiday knitting done by Thanksgiving...what a perfectly lovely thought! I'll blog about the holiday knitting another time...I'm damn sick of it at the moment!

And I have to get to work around here...the buns need some attention and so does the house. We're starting to remodel and that's a whole 'nother post my friends! I haven't had much spinning time and that's starting to get to me, but I have been playing with some "spindle crack"...tune in next time for more info on that or read my post on the SSK Blog