Gretchen Austin

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since Nov 20, 2015
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Recent posts by Gretchen Austin

For making wool stuffing, I think a picker would do an excellent job, and is much faster than carding. I used a Pat Green picker and it did a wonderful job of fluffing up the fleece, getting some of the vegetable matter out, and was much faster and more brainless than carding. I also want to mention that blending some alpaca fleece with the wool does wonders for the softness and warmth of the finished product. Not useful so much for pillow stuffing, but for garments or blankets, the blend is really nice.
I want to do this too.
3 years ago

Here is a website from an Irish company, called MiniMills. Mini Mills 4 Spindle Spinning Machine

Belfast Mini Mills is in Canada, in our smallest province, Prince Edward Island. Their accent does sound a bit Irish, but they are Canadian.

I was thinking a boat because r ransom mentioned sheep on islands. A boat wouldn't have the same width restrictions that a trailer or truck would have. I'm thinking a larger boat, more like a small ferry, with the same ability to be fixed to a port so vehicles can drive on and off it. Wool could also be moved on and off the boat the same way we move bales of hay into lofts of barns, with a motorised conveyor belt.

He said five pounds an hour. I wonder if he meant 5 lb per minute. That would be 300 pounds per hour.

I think he meant 5 pounds of fleece per hour, which is not the weight of the finished yarn that is produced per hour. Because the yarn is made of fleece wrapped around the sisal twine, the finished yarn is considerably heavier than the fleece used to make it. I have seen this type of yarn made with alpaca fleece, and it is nice for rugs but some of the sisal does poke through, so not likely the kind of rug you would want by a bed, to be stepped on with bare feet, though I imagine the sisal gets softer with time and washing. It certainly does get softer when it is out in the weather for a few seasons!

I am excited about making things like sections of moccasins with wool blend felt. I watched a video recently about the need for our bare feet to be in contact with soil in order to reduce inflammation, so that free electrons which are a big cause of inflammation, can return to the ground.
I am certain leather and wool felt conduct electricity better than rubber shoes or boots. Does anyone have a cheap way of making felt, either using water or felting needles? This is totally a rabbit trail, but now I am thinking of how to build an earthen floor in a basement with a moisture barrier under the floor surface which does not stop the flow of electricity. And making wool and leather shoes that won't stop the flow of electricity from the ground.
3 years ago
What about having the fibre processing on a boat? And recovering the lanolin from the wool? The rest of the dirt in the wool is probably valuable as fertiliser. If there was a very good filtration system, maybe the water could be returned to the ocean or lake.  Of course a boat wouldn't work in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and much of the US. But for BC and the eastern provinces in Canada, and also much of Ontario and Quebec, the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes would provide a passageway that would be somewhat accessible from fibre growing areas. I am in Ontario but a good 10 hours north of the Toronto area. I had fibre processed at Wellington Fibres in Elora, Ontario, and was shocked by the over $1,000 bill for about 5 garbage bags of roving and some yarn. I was told if I had pre-washed the wool even once my bill would have been significantly less. Belfast Mini Mills in PEI makes a machine that washes 3 fleeces at a time that they sell for around $2500. (They also sell other wool processing equipment.) A few co-ops of sheep and alpaca farmers in a region should be able to get together and buy units like these together. For the rest of the processing, what about paying individuals to do the carding by hand with either a drum carder or a pair of hand cards or combs? Then the equipment cost is manageable, the labour cost is rightfully the biggest long term cost, and is covered by the price the product is sold for, and the whole process stays local. Having it done by hand would help maintain quality, given some training. However, this is probably not possible given the recent hike in minimum wage. A sock machine might help, people seem to be willing to pay $30 a pair for alpaca blend socks, and there aren't very many knitters who can turn out a pair in an hour, but a hand crank sock machine can do that. L'Islet is a brand of sock machine still being made, for around $1,000 per unit; sometimes used ones are available for a bit less. I am looking forward to hemp being less regulated in Canada, and wondering what a hemp/alpaca/wool blend sock would be like. Wool adds stretch, alpaca adds softness, and hemp would add strength and absorbency, but may not hold up in stress areas at the toe and heel as well as the usual nylon.
There would be fewer regulations for fibre processing than meat processing.  
3 years ago
Has anyone tried sprang? I'm certain we had a sprang hammock when we lived in Mexico. There are videos on Youtube. I have yet to figure out what to do in the middle, when the piece is nearly done, to keep all the threads from untwisting. Looks fun!
Yes those sites help! Though since I posted about needing help on the Inkle loom, I've made a back strap loom (it works! Really well!), and really enjoyed making the continuous heddles, so I'm wondering if it would be possible to make continuous heddles on an Inkle loom. I like having the cross in the warp, which seems only half there on an Inkle loom. It also seems that the tension would be different between round 1 warp threads and round 2 warp threads, but I suppose since they are connected, even if the two rounds are a slightly different length, the tension will even out once the heddles are in place and looped on their peg. I like how the warping is done right on the loom. I'll have to give it a try!

I bought the video tutorial from Interweave Press by John Malarkey on tablet weaving, which gives some good starting projects, but I haven't actually tried any tablet weaving yet. Hopefully this winter. The nearest city is hosting a big weaving/spinning conference in May of 2018, and I am hoping I can teach a few workshops there. Backstrap weaving, Inkle weaving and tablet weaving are the best ideas I've come across so far, so many thanks to all of you for bringing these techniques up! I grew up in Guatemala (from age 7 to 15) and so was exposed to all kinds of backstrap weaving. My sister learned how to weave when we were there but I always thought it was too difficult, and became a fairly proficient knitter during that time instead. But now since moving to northern Ontario, I have learned to weave on a harnessed loom and now have 3 looms that are all 4 harness looms (a Dorothy Leclerc, a 36" floor Leclerc, and an older tabletop Ashford 24" that is 'out of print' now), and I love them all. Plus I have hooked up with the local yarn store and hooked them up with a fellow selling off a deceased weaver's possessions, so they bought a 70" 4 harness Leclerc loom for $100, and I get to weave on that too. Currently working on a blanket that will have some semblance to a Canadian flag, by intersecting the red and white weft shuttles, bringing the shuttles up to sit above the warp while I change the shed, and then passing the shuttles back into the new shed. I know this technique has a special name but it's late at night and I can't quite remember what it is called. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to post a picture.

If anyone has any questions about setting up a loom with 4 or more harnesses I would love to help. I know the threading process can be tedious, but for making blankets and other wide cloth, it is a great way to grow the fabric with a little time each day. I'm also frequently trying to think of simple weaving tools that can be made at home, and it is such fun to share these ideas with other weavers!

On another topic, has anyone tried spinning using a spinning top that is meant to be a child's toy? (Not to be confused with top for spinning where top is the cream of the fiber from a sheep!)
Does the pile have aeration? As I understand it, if the pile doesn't get enough air, it becomes anaerobic. Hydro line chips I got before went moldy fairly quickly- possibly mold could be messing up the bacteria. I would try dumping a bottle of live apple cider vinegar spread on the heap, and put some 4" pipe with 2" holes, placed horizontally through the heap to make sure air is getting to the center of the pile. If you can add some fresh grass clippings, that would probably help too. So many variables it's hard to guess. At least the tree species you got are good at decomposing- no hemlock or cedar I hope. If you make one change per day, then record temperatures before the next change, you can get a better idea of what helps. I'm hoping to set up a Jean Pain system to heat my barn this winter with in-floor heating. We get such low temps and have thick clay soil, the barn floor heaves horribly every winter. Also hoping to add extra heat to the water troughs, which get about 4" of ice in one night if not heated in the depths of winter. Let us know what works!
3 years ago
If I post a picture of my inkle loom, any chance one of you could try to explain to me how to thread it? I'd love to try tablet weaving on it. Thanks in advance!
I'm pretty sure there are some plants that grow near roadways around here that could be used for cob. Hopefully I can get some pictures.
3 years ago
cob
I'm planning on using some bits of hay on a round bale that has been sitting in the weather since the spring. Basically just the cellulose and not the starch is left on this hay, and I will be careful to just get the yellow bits that are on the outside, nothing that looks like hay that could still rot. I'm going to be building a cob oven so won't need too much. I'm sure wild plants would have some fibrous bits that could be used for the binder in the cob. Another option I thought of recently is the old twine off bales of hay, chopped up so it doesn't tangle up too much. Sisal twine would be best, but I think the plastic would also work, but not too close to the hot part of a cob oven. Some hay is wrapped with netting, and this also could be chopped up and used for cob I imagine. Any beef farm that feeds hay would have quite a few pounds of twine that they likely throw out.
3 years ago
cob