Friday, September 23, 2011

Fiber animals, spinning wool, and making yarn - my dreaming and beginnings

Have been thinking about getting angora goats for my own supply of mohair for doll hair. Planning and researching for over a year now and I feel like I am ready, just need to save up the startup cost...which is quite a bit. I have the land space but nothing else, no barn, fence, etc. So I think it might be something I do when I retire ;)

For now I will try out buying raw mohair from other goat farms and process it into doll hair for my own supply, and maybe some extra to sell.  It is a long process from washing, separating locks, combing, dyeing, and ending up with beautiful soft locks that are perfect for art dolls.  Buying doll hair from others is expensive and when you try to do it yourself you can see why! Lots of time and work.

Then it got me thinking about the leftover mohair that I would have after processing it into doll hair...maybe I could use it in a wool mix and make yarn.  Kid mohair is very soft and makes a nice yarn, but adult might be a bit scratchy, and adult is what I use for doll hair.  Hmmm, so I could make yarn used for rugs, outerwear, bags, and things not next to the skin. Or mix it with a softer wool for hats, mitts, slippers - at least being able to use every last bit somehow.

So on I went learning about different sheep wool and micron count. Now from what I have read it seems like anything with a micron count of less than 25 is ok for next to skin, 20 microns being a very soft wool and not itchy.

examples I found:

merino sheep - 12-24microns
angora goat (kid to adult) - 20-45microns
shetland -20-25microns
targhee - 21-25microns
blue faced leicester - 22-25microns
alpaca - 13-30microns

and others that could be added in small amounts to add extra softness (angora rabbit, cashmere goat, yak, bison, musk ox)

So, dreaming, I am wondering how many of these fiber animals I could have living together in 1 flock. No idea about that one. I think sheep have some different mineral requirements than goats and I'm betting there are other complications. But I like to imagine having 1 or 2 of each fiber animal that I would like to use. Angora goats, cashmere goats, sheep, and alpaca all living happily together.

For now buying the fiber from farms that already have these animals seems a more realistic way of doing it for me.  The cost may be higher per ounce of raw fiber but I wouldn't have to put in the time for raising the animals, shearing, shoveling manure, hoof trimming, dealing with illness, and all that work. Although in a weird way I would love to do all that!

I went to a local fiber mill store and bought a 3.5oz bag of pink dyed roving. An unknown mix of wool, alpaca, mohair and maybe other stuff. Very soft and only a tiny tiny bit itchy. My skin is very sensitive to wool itchyness.
Made a drop spindle for instructions online with a wooden dowel, wooden toy car wheel, and a hook. Watched utube videos to learn to use the spindle and off I went! 
It worked! I was amazed.  I turned this beautiful fluffy soft roving into yarn!

Then I learned to knit and made a little bag. Now, my knitting is not so beautiful but still rewarding knowing I made it from scratch. Well, not straight from the animal, a step past carding it myself.

I needed more I need coffee in the morning. Seriously.

Bought some blue faced leicester (BFL) roving and merino roving and waited for them to arrive in the mail. I have the BFL now and made 2 batches.

The first one I hand painted-dyed in what I named 'wildflower rainbow'.  Spun a single strand on my drop spindle, then spun it into a 2ply yarn. Really interesting seeing how it looks and changes from roving to yarn to knit. This roving made 2 skeins of 1.5oz each. Total yards=66, wpi 9

The next yarn I dyed and spun is called "Autumn fog".  62yards, 8wpi

As I knit up the sample it started looking more like it should be called "zombie skin"...but the first one sounds more appealing.
These 2 yarns are for sale on etsy (kristarobertson5)

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