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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

This Year's Fleece Galway

The first of the 2016 fleeces have arrived.  Some Galway fleece seen here as it arrived from the farmer.  This is a little known fleece which gives a wonderful stitch definition.  The Galway sheep is the only native Irish breed and is traditionally used for Aran sweaters.  Classified as a Rare Breed and is now making  come back

Monday, 25 April 2016

Lumra Rugs Traditional Irish Rug making

There appears to very little information about this wonderful way of making rugs.   I have met many people who could explain how they were made and some even had made them.  It is done with a large hook with a eye of a needle at the opposite end and so the  work is 'locked ' in with wool yarn. 
There is a strong tradition here in the North West of Ireland in the making of these rugs but it dyeing  out fast.  As far as I can gather the word Lumra is the Irish for fleece.   To make a rug for the floor would be a big job and it would use a lot of wool.  This is a small square that I have made, my second attempt.  My first was made with different coloured natural fleece which is very affective

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Natural Dye Gorse Flowers

I love to use what nature gives to me.  It is a question of using what is out there and remembering at the right time of the year.  The gorse is in full bloom in Ireland at the moment.  Places a golden glow with their flowers.  We had some beautiful spring weather this week so I spent a morning on the edge of the Curlew mountains picking gorse flowers and enjoying the views over Lough Arrow.  Fishermen out in their small boats looking for a trout or two..  For those who do not know gorse is extremely prickly and I forgot my gloves!!
This is the fibre I have dyed ,  mordanted with Allum to brighten the colour.  
Was it worth it,  financially no but I got out in the sun enjoyed the morning with the views, listening to the birds,  so YES is was worth it and ended up with this lovely fibre

Ferment Wash Suint Method the end result

This is to prove it really does work.  Two photos of the fleece before the wash and one of the finished product.  This fleece was in the ferment tub for 2 days and then I rinsed it 3 times.   It has come out so soft and lovely.  No detergents, bleach, soap or hot water.  All the rinse water goes straight back into the woods and I use rain water, when possible, off the roof for the rinse

Monday, 4 April 2016

Washing Fleece Ferment Method

Now,  two weeks have passed and it is time to take the starter fleece out of the bin.   Already pretty smelly but the water has only gone cloudy and a small amount of scum on the top.  At least I know that the wash process has started.  After several washes it starts to go black.
The first photo is of the bin with the wool removed.  You can see how cloudy the water has become and then a photo of the fleece draining into buckets.  This water will be returned to the black bin when the wool has drained completely.
The final photo is of the 'bath' I use for rinsing the wool.  Plenty of room to swish the wool around to get it well rinsed.  I leave it to drain for several hours between rinses.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Washing Fleece, the fermentation method ( Suint )

No photos at this stage,  really we all know what a dust bin looks like.

This is a method of washing fleece that uses the natural properties of fleece to wash itself.

Think about it,  when you handle raw fleece and then wash your hands and you need no soap to get that soapy feeling.

I am now starting my third 'brew' and decided that I would blog its development.
You need a dust bin,  draining racks that you can put containers under to catch the water,  large tub to rinse the fleece.  Somewhere not too near your house or any other house as the smell is pretty awful.
I am about to have a concrete area made now that I have no farm yard.

Stage 1 :  You need a black dust bin with lid.  Any water holding container that doesn't let the light in and has a lid will do.  Sunlight will allow the water grow algae and the lid prevents bugs getting in and laying eggs.  

Fill this with rain water,   pure and slightly acidic.  Hard water will cause precipitation of calcium and other minerals.  Add some fleece that you may need to discard afterwards although I have always used them.  This needs to have lots of natural grease.   I break it up so that I can lift it out of the bin when it is 'washed'.  It is extremely heavy when it is water logged.  Put the lid on and just leave it for 2 weeks.  Have the odd peep in to see how things are going.  You may see a scum developing on the surface of the water.  This a good sign.

My brew has been going almost a week now so photos will follow when I take it out of the water

Monday, 21 March 2016

Drying Rack for Wool Fleece

At last I have organised a large rack for drying my fleece.   I have used an old greenhouse table that was made to take seed trays.  It originally had wooden slats that have long rotted away.  I have replaced these with plastic mesh.  Seen here with a complete Jacob type fleece and a large quantity of Wensleydale.  I should have done this years ago but it is only recently that I have been washing and drying fleece in larger quantities