(Warning: Lots o' pics)

Soooo excited.

Remember that fleece I bought at MDSW? Remember I wanted to spin laceweight with it?

Ya, ya, ya, spun the laceweight. Tonight.

Well, just a bit. A sample.

And to do that, I had to wash it. And figure out how to prep it.

Ya, ya, ya.

Took a while to screw up my courage, eh? Almost 2 months? The experiment washing the corriedale fleece last month went so-so. Well, not so great. The majority went into a net bag and got a bit felted up. A few locks were washed in an experimental, painstaking way and came out fine:

experimenting with fleece washing washed corriedale locks
Left: tools used for sandwiching fleece; Right: results

When Barbara came over for my spinning lesson last month, I learned to use my forsyth combs, combed up a small lock and dizzed it:

corriedale nest

A few weeks ago, I spun it:

corriedale sample

Spinning stuff you've washed and combed is SO different than spinning commercially processed top. For one thing, you've still got all this crimp and energy in the fiber, it's not stretched out and flat like top. For another... well, I don't have another. It's a lot sproingier, not as slippery. It's nice.

I was going to find another way to wash the corriedale, one that didn't require a lot of work and didn't felt the fiber, before attempting the cormo. Barbara said she used water baskets (that's warter (war-der), to you non-New England folk) to wash her fleece, so I found some at Loews. It's got holes allover, except two squares on the bottom, so I thought I'd be clever and drill extra holes in to improve circulation:

adding holes to the warter basket adding holes to the warter basket

Man, love the drill, but it's so darned heavy. I only had the strength to do one side... and then I realized I couldn't file down the raw edges on the other side. Not so clever. (My pain is your gain.)

Uh oh, I'm crashing from the caffeine (from my decaf iced coffee; I'm a weakling)... better get focused...

I saw this article on washing fleece a few weeks ago and bought some tulle. Didn't use it. Thursday, I read Spinnerella's post on washing fleece and decided it was time.

I don't have the sink or baskets she does, and wanted to try the warter basket method anyway, so I did that first.

Locks o' fleece:

Washing cormo - locks

Locks sandwiched between baskets, sitting in hot water and Dawn:

Washing cormo - nested warter baskets

Locks rinsed x 2:

Washing cormo - in the warter basket

I only did one hot water wash, and it wasn't quite enough, as I could feel a little stickiness in the tips. It wasn't easy to remove the excess water, the wet locks on their own were a little awkward to handle. Also, they kinda stuck to the warter basket a bit where the basket's sticker had been. For a coarser fleece, it probably wouldn't be so bad, but for this superfine, easy to felt stuff, not good. I thought, a netting barrier ought to help. But, the size and shape of the fleece severely limited how much I could stick in there.

Instead, I placed some fleece in the netting, rolled and tied, and placed in the bucket.

Following Spinnerella's instructions, 2 hot washes with Dawn:

Washing cormo - soapy soak

2 rinses:

Washing cormo - rinse

The vinegar in the first rinse was KEY, it cut the suds big time. The use of baskets in her post, also KEY. Too bad I couldn't do that this time. I had to lift the netting sausage out by the ends, and that made the fiber slide around a bit. Upon later inspection, the cut ends of the locks got a bit felted from rubbing against the netting. Next time, I will orient the locks parallel to the sausage. Or use baskets.

(Also, I used a chopstick instead of the wooden spoon. 'Cuz, you know, I'm biased that way.)

Clean locks:

Washing cormo - almost dry

Man, stuff is SOFT. Soft, soft, soft. Sproingy. Soft. Did I mention it's soft? I kept going back to touch it. Pre-wash, it's got so much lanolin, you wouldn't know this was underneath.

So... prep? At MDSW at the Cormo Association / Foxhill Farms booth (this is a Foxhill Farms fleece), I overheard someone saying it was best to comb this stuff. I was thinking I'd use my forsyth combs, but Barbara was saying they might not be suited to fine fiber, since they only had 2 rows and the tines weren't as thin or closely spaced as a set of 4 row combs she had. On the plus side, my combs had good sharp points... but...

I also worried that the super sproingy-ness would not work well with the combs. I thought the fibers might stretch out and spring back into little knots and neps. It might be a mess.

Then I made a connection. My brother bought me some awesome spinning DVD's for my birthday (woohoo!) and in "Handspinning: Advanced Techniques", Mabel Ross combs some merino with an actual comb. What if that's what those Foxhill Farms people meant?

Off to the pet shop to pick up a lice (ewwww) comb:

pet comb for combing the cormo

Combing:

Washing cormo - combing
(actually, this is me combing the second lock; the first one was half the size and I didn't do it like this)

The ends did sproing a bit, but overall it went fine, if a little slow (esp on the slightly felted end). I created a ... roving? by pulling from one corner and gently stretching, similar to in the DVD. And spun. Laceweight. With the cormo. Ohhhh yeaaaaahhhhhh.

cormo sample

It's evener than the bombyx/merino laceweight from the last post. And finer. For comparison, Jaggerspun Zephyr laceweight on the left, and my cormo laceweight on the right:

Comparing cormo samples

And comparing to some of the other stuff I've been sampling -- the brown stuff is a sample of the Foxhill Farms cormo/alpaca from MDSW; and the blue stuff is the laceweight from the last post.

Comparing laceweight samples

The cormo I washed was not hard to spin. There were bits that bunched up, but for the most part, it went pretty smoothly. Comparatively, the cormo/alpaca was a little tougher to spin, but not bad. I definitely liked spinning my preparation better. The bombyx/merino was toughest of the three to keep consistent, but I didn't really pre-draft it. It's more handled than the other fibers from the dyeing, maybe that's part of it; maybe it's the silk.

The cormo sample is about 8 yards, spun from a small portion of a lock. I think I'll spin up a larger sample at about the same grist and then knit up a swatch to see how it behaves. My eventual goal: to spin enough laceweight to knit a shawl. Ohhhhhh yeaahhhhhhhhhh.