Friday, February 24, 2012

From Trash to Treasure

     It's funny sometimes when you finish something to go all the way back in your mind and think of where it came from. What little thing changed the course of events and ended you up where you are. This particular yarn came from spring 2010 and Zak's desire for a pig ear.

     We were driving through Rochester to pick up feed one Saturday and Zak promptly demanded I pull over at the farmers market and get him a pig ear. There is a local hog farm that has local smoked pig ears and they must be extra fresh and tasty because he loves them at the expense of all other pig ears, which are now basically crap.

     So I, dutiful well-behaved slave I am, pulled in and hooked him up to go get a pig ear. Down through the rows we passed a woman selling lamb meat. We got Zak's pig ears, and he trotted back for the car quite delighted with himself, and I paused at her booth and asked if she sold fleece.

     In fact, her husband had just finished shearing and pulled out a handful of nice fleeces, it was their first year of trying to sell them. She lived a little ways off, but as chance would have it I was trimming in her neighborhood the next week. I took her phone number, set an appointment to go look, and we went home. Zak ate all 3 pig ears while I went into Krogers and thus none of the other dogs were ever told we stopped at the farmers market.

     So the next week I was beyond ecstatic to get my fleece. I'd never spun Suffolk, but had heard good things. And the woman wanted very very little money for her fleece because she'd been told they were 'junk Suffolk' by other spinners.

     We went into her barn and there were 4 big plastic bags sitting on the floor. Tied shut. I opened the first one and about collapsed. The sheep had been shorn, the fleece put in plastic, tied shut, and left for a week. It had begun to ferment into a new life form. The smell was horrifically bad, and coming from me, that's pretty bad.  

     I was so excited about my fleece though, this was a small set back. I took a gulp of air and dived into all 4 bags. I picked the longest staple length amongst them, about 4" unstretched, snatched my bag and ran for fresh air. I believe I paid about $25 for my huge bag of very stinky wool.

     When I got home it was pouring rain, so the fleece came inside with me. After the 30 minute truck ride me and Zak were both quite used to it's aroma. I spread it out on the floor and did a quick skirting, because it was also quite filthy in general.

     But I quickly washed up a small batch and was amazed at the beautiful, soft, clean wool that came out. I was really quite pleased with myself when my mom arrived.

     Needless to say there were some very high pitched noises made over the large poo filled fleece spread over the living room floor, the smell, not of wet wool, but of dead-wet-woolly-thing-laying-in-the-sun-for-weeks-wrapped-in-plastic. I very much understand how Faithy felt when she brought me home the green, slimy, week-dead ground squirrel and laid it on my bed and I did not share her pride and accomplishment in the matter.

     So a different way of washing my prize had to be found. So for the next week I collected rainwater and set myself up a fermented suint mix. Basically, you put a really greasy fleece in rainwater in the sun for a week, and wonderful things grow in the water and eat the grease, thus giving you a washed fleece. It's a very stinky procedure, but my fleece was already very stinky so nothing lost there.

     It worked! The fleece came out quite nice, and with a lot of rinsing, stink-free! It got washed again by the usual protocol of Dawn in the sink, but this time there was no un-godly aroma to fill the house for days.

     So my fleece was then put through the drum carder to give me lots of beautiful white fluffy batts of loveliness. It's my starter kit of "the best socks ever".

     But then there is the rest. The belly wool was permanently stained yellow. Not a pleasant sunny yellow, but a sickly nasty yellow that would tell anyone it came from poo staining. Could I throw it away though? This hard-fought bit of wool? The last of my trash fleece?

     I'm way to cheap and crazy to do that. So through the drum carder it went, perfectly nice but stained yellow. It then went into my box of things to be dealt with at a later time.

     This fall I went to a fiber fest and got some more dye colors to play with. I dyed all my white handspun, some raw wool, and some roving. I wanted to try my new colors, but didn't really have an ideas for them. So into my box of 'things I also don't know what I'll do with' and out come these two yellow-ish Suffolk batts. If the new colors were total puke, no harm done. I threw color on like a blind man, and put them in the oven.

   One batt came out a multitude of greens, which is my favorite way to dye anything, and the other came out with my 3 new dye colors neon green, purple, and gold. But they'd bled together quite a lot to give me new blues, reds, and greens. They were both rinsed and dried, then put back into the box of things without a purpose.

     Now fast forward a couple weeks ago. I was supposed to be spinning some alpaca for a friend, but I was bored with it at the time and happened to wander over too close to my box. I stumbled into that loud strange purple/green/gold/all-the-muddied-colors-those-make batt. It became laceweight. But it was a bit poo-ish and muddy in places, plus not a lot of yardage out of one batt. So out came it's multi-green friend to become the second strand of laceweight. Plied together it eliminated the 'muddy' colors. Instead it became a field of wildflowers. With all the purples, blues, yellows, golds, greens, and reds. Plied with the wild greens it became a beautiful laceweight flower garden of a yarn.

     This was the trash wool off a trash fleece, that many would say come from a trash breed of sheep (as far as wool is concerned). It was dyed trashy colors, and made a trashy, muddy single. But adding it's bright trashy friend made it a thing of beauty. I'm delighted with this yarn. I have no idea what I'll do with it, and it will continue it's life in the box of things that have no current intentions.

     And Zak says this is why you always listen to your dog when he wants a pig ear. Because you will end up with 144 yds. of Suffolk laceweight.

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