Archive for July, 2010

July 26, 2010

Outdoorsiness: Castlewood State Park

View from the rim

A few weekends ago, I rebelled from city-life and joined a friend, Sahar (Sarah and Sahar — confusing, huh?) on a lovely jaunt up to Castlewood State Park.

It’s only about an hour and some change easy drive up the road in Baldwin and has some lovely trails.  We took a few mile loop on (mostly) the River Scene Trail.  Now, the name is a bit of a misnomer since there wasn’t a whole lot of a river scene except when you climb up the flight of stairs (or scramble up the rock) of the wee mountain.  It’s a lovely walk, though, with lots of shade.

Castlewood offers a lot more than I thought it would — there are picnic areas, playing fields, hiking trails, biking trails, bridle paths, and, from time to time, swimming (though it was closed when we were there for not-good levels of not-good bacteria according to a sign we found).  Despite all this wonderfulness, the trails were almost too well groomed for my taste, but they were really good for my recovering injury-ness — lots of good spots to step off trail to let others pass and not Bust The Crust.

Next hike? Taum Sauk!

July 20, 2010

How to prepare the not-so-scary fleece.

So, remember about this time last year when I went to the Maine Fiber Frolic and bought my first ever fleece?

Well, it turns out that a fleece is kind of a scary thing. It’s big. It’s dirty. It smells sheepy. It’s not all tidy and combed and ready to go. Where do you even begin?

Well, to begin with, you want to tidy it up a bit, so hand sort it so that all the really gross bits are out.
To deal with the less gross bits, you need to wash it.

Tip 1: Use a big laundry bag! It’s harder than it looks to deal with a wet fleece and it helps prevent agitation so that you don’t felt your beautiful fleece.Tip 2: Use Dawn dish soap. You can buy expensive wool soaps, but Dawn will get the job done — it gets grease off your dishes, why not lanolin off your fleece?

So, I started with a simple rinse.

Seems straightforward doesn’t it?
It is until you get this:

Only one word for it. Gross.

This brings us to Tip 3: Make sure you have an outside space where it is ok to dump a lot of water. And so you don’t bring the smell of eau de wet sheep in your house.
After a few rinses, I went ahead for the wash. I filled a tub of water, added Dawn until foamy and added my fleece. And let it sit there awhile.

And rinse.
And repeat.And repeat.
Keep going with the “wash/rinse” until the water goes (mostly) clear.
Then, spread out your fleece on a big towel or net to dry in the sunshine.

At this point, the wool is wet and sticks to your hands in long tendrils and you’ll want to just wring it out. Don’t. If you must, roll it up into your towel and pat it a bit. And then just be patient — it will dry, I promise.

Now, all of this was done in North Carolina between me moving from Maine and moving out to Missouri (remember Tip 3). Since that time, it’s been bundled up in an old pillowcase, just waiting to be loved. A note on storage: never store your fleece in a plastic bag. It’ll get warm and cosy and you may end up with moldy wool. Also, the longer you wait to wash your fleece, the grosser it gets. So do this part, and then stash it away for awhile.

Now that it’s summer and I’m mostly done with classes and the first half of my prelim (woohoo!), I decided it was time to be brave and dive in.

So, like the good graduate student I am, I started researching what I should be doing. “Comb it first” some people say. Others claim you can spin straight from the fleece (yeah, right!). So what to do?

I came across my New Favorite Fiber Website, The Earth Guild site on carding.
Now, I’ve never bought anything from this site, but it has such great tutorials that I would seriously consider it in the future.

This website taught me how to properly card wool. I tried it on my messy scary fleece that still looked awfully sheep like…and got heavenly puffy rolags.

So, what’s next?

The actual spinning. I can’t wait.
And as this wonderful website says,

Spinning, as everyone knows, is magic.