Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Fleece and Knitting Society

Almost a year ago now, having moved 300 miles away from all our friends and family, I was very very glad to discover that the university that BF's attending allow non-students into its societies. I joined up to several, wandering round with le Boof at the Fresher's Fair, but the main one that interested me was their Knitting Society. They turned out to be a fantastic group of people, welcoming and supportive, exactly what you're looking to stave off the homesickness! The long and short of this now is I've ended up being a driving force in what's happening in the society next year. As a non-student there are a fair few restrictions on what I can do within the society, but I've been working closely with this year's committee, and next year is shaping up to be super exciting for KnitSoc.

Once we'd managed to get ourselves a logo sorted, one of the first things I put myself forward for was screen printing T-shirts.


These went down very well! I used my little Speedball screen printing starter kit (here), with the photosensitive emulsion, the same I used to make these T-shirts last year. It's very good for detailed images, and thanks to all the testing I ended up doing with exposure times last time it only took the one attempt to get the screen right! (A good photo-tute on screen printing with photosensitive emulsion here)

Exposing the screen
Ready to start printing!

We then decided stash bags would be a pretty good idea. I've just today finished the first batch of fifty!

KnitSoc stash bags!
Just a few to start... well, fifty.

Another project I've thrown myself into, mainly because of my involvement with the knitting society, is making my own wool from scratch! The fleeces were from Freecycle again. A very nice lady in a village not far out of the city takes care of unwanted animals, and in amongst her menagerie are four sheep. Three Hebridean and one Southdown (I think). She was giving them their yearly shearing and decided to offer the fleeces on Freecycle. I eventually decided this was a good idea (le Boof was not so sure to begin with) and once they had been removed from the sheep, went to pick them up.

The first thing I did was ignore all the advice and instructions on how to clean sheep fleeces I'd been reading online and chucked one into the bath. No, I could not tell you why I did this. Once I'd salvaged it from the bath (thankfully it hadn't fleeced very much) I sat back and made a plan.

A bath full of not poop, but wet fleece :S

The method I went for in the end was:

Pick over the fleeces for the bigger bits of hay and plants pieces (and poop D: ), split them into small bits and put the pieces into net wash bags like these. Then fill a bath tub full of water (I went for coolish water. There are various different methods I read up about online, but starting the fleece in a cold bath reduces the amount of effort involved, I felt), and add a bit of shampoo (nice cheap stuff worked fine). The fleece can soak for two hours, then drain the bath and repeat this step once more. Finally drain the bath again and give the bags of fleece a final one hour soak in clean water. Give the bags a good squeeze then pop them in the washing machine on a single spin. Just the spin though mind, any spraying of water onto the fleeces and you'll get felting. Which is exactly what we don't want for spinning fleeces! Once spun, hang out until dry.

I found this process to get the fleeces clean enough for me. They still smelt a tiny bit like sheep, maybe after it had had a shower, but the sheepy smell staying means some of the lanolin (sheep sweat, gross, but useful for spinning!) is still on the fleece, but this helps when it comes to spinning the fleece.

So now the vestibule in he flat is full of boxes of fleece. They are now waiting for either myself or the knitting society to invest in some carders. Carding is the next step in the process of making yarn from fleece. It aligns the fibres of the wool, therefore making it easier to spin.

I've already got myself a drop spindle ready for spinning, and recently attended a spinning class at a local yarn/fabric type shop and managed this -

The majority of it however will be going to the knitting society so we can offer the chance to spin wool to our members, which is pretty exciting (and relieving as it means I won't be having to deal with it all!)

Welp there's loads more to mention about my KnitSoc adventures, but that will probably do for now!

Currently listening to Cough Cough by Everything Everything
Currently playing (obsessively) Tekkit (A Minecraft mod pack)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

It's been a long, long, long time.

Ok, so first off I have unintentionally initiated a bit of a Beatles bender just by naming this post. So here's the song that started it for you.

But yes, it has been a very long time. I would like to say something dramatic like life's gotten in the way or I've been very busy, but to be entirely honest, I just got out of the habit of writing on my blog. It happens. I've not been idling about though, I have done many things in these long five months. Many small enough not to warrant looking back months and months to comment upon.

One thing that is definitely worth a big mention however...

Yes! It's a knitting machine! Of course you all knew that.

A very kind couple were offering it on Freecycle. They were moving house and emptying out their garage and attic, and weren't sure if it had all the pieces, so were offering it for FREE. Whelp. It has all the pieces, plus a ribbing attachment, and all the various bits and bobs it needs to operate fully! Not only that but the couple also gave me a HUGE posh briefcase full of fantastic 80's pattern books, instruction manuals, blank punch cards and punchy thing to make my own patterns. Then, as if that wasn't enough, the next day I received an email asking me if I'd like the box of yarn cones they'd just found in their attic to go with the machine!! It was an EVEN HUGER box of cones, I could only just lift it and fit it into my poor little car!

On first getting it set up, I experienced a bit of new-toy-at-Christmas syndrome. I was certain I'd put it all together correctly, but whatever I tweaked it wouldn't work properly. So followed many a "humpf" and "argh", until I gave up and trawled through the internets to try and find a solution. I eventually discovered it was something called a needle retainer sponge bar that was causing my problems. It should be a nice plump bit of sponge holding the needles down so that they catch the yarn as it's drawn across. However on inspection, the one in my machine was as flat as a pancake! They can be fairly expensive to buy replacements, but thanks to this very useful tutorial, it barely cost a thing. (DIY ftw)

So now I've been working my way through the various techniques in the getting started manual.

Two colour skip-stitch knitting
Plain knitting, I was so proud!

Skip-stitch knitting

It's a proper old school punch card machine, which, although means there are certain restrictions on things like pattern width, is fascinating to watch and learn the inner workings of. It's piqued le Boof's interests too as punch cards are a very (very very) basic form of programming! (He's a computer scientist fyi)

Needless to say I was dead chuffed when I finally got it working!

This contraption, however, I'm still figuring out. It's the ribbing attachment that also came with it. The knitting machine itself can only knit one way, so no ribbing. This adds another bed, the other way around, which enables you to do it. Not a great deal of luck with it yet though! It also puts the dinner table out of action as that's the only surface large enough to fit it on :S

I've made plans for my first pullover, just have to get up the courage to start a garment on it!

Oh yes, by the way, the picture at the top of the post is an old steam roller we spotted in town the other week. It had been used in the 1960's to flatten the roads in York and had been brought back to it's old stomping grounds by the lovely people who had restored it. It was utterly fascinating to see! Here's an article about it in the local press.

Currently obsessed with: Arrested Development on Netflix (Netflix is so good!)