Lessons Learned – Tales of Cormo

My spinning fiber of choice is normally those lovely hand-dyed-soft-as-silk-colorful-mushy-squishy wools that are of the combed top prep variety – just open out the braid and start spinning…..  Etsy is full of awesome indie dyers that are so hard to resist and great enablers (digressing/dreaming/wait…).

But a few months ago I had the opportunity to spin some local (Ramona) beautiful grey romney.  It was so fun and ended up to be a great fluffy soft yarn.  I kicked myself for not getting more, cuz I most likely won’t see that shepherdess until the next fiber show in October.  So I thought, I need to branch out, research and find some undyed natural soft wool, go for some sheep to wheel love.  I found some cormo online that was being sold as “pindrafted roving”.  Great price about 1/3 the price of the hand-dyed – so paypal was called upon and in a few days it was in my hands shipped directly from a sheep farm in Montana.  Lovely white very soft cormo (the sheep breed) pindrafted roving (a process of running the cleaned carded roving wool through a machine that further combs and pre-drafts  the fiber as it goes through a small opening and comes out as a very long very skinny tube of beautifully prepped fiber ready to feed through the spinning wheel.

But as I checked it out I really did NOT love the feel of the fiber, pretty greasy/lanolin filled, very hard to draft and full of VM (vegetable matter from the sheep wool -sticks, twigs etc.) and lots of little slubs or tiny balls/bits of matted fiber  – obviously these cormo fleeces weren’t super clean before being sent to the mill to be processed.  Still I thought “I can do this, it’s a learning experience”.  So I immediately separated it into 3 workable bumps and weighed each out to 76 grams apiece.  Started spinning – nope, still not loving it – in fact kinda hating on it.  I knew it needed to be washed/scoured to remove the sticky lanolin, but I was afraid if I did I would ruin that beautiful pencil roving prep and possibly turn it into a matted felted mess.  So I stashed it into my now growing bin of natural undyed fibers.

CORMO haunting me from my fiber bin
CORMO haunting me from my fiber bin

But each time I opened it up, there was CORMO staring at me saying “come on just spin me already”.  So I bought some Kookaburra Scour/Fleece Degreaser and made a scalding hot water tub and gingerly submerged one of the bumps to soak.  What could it hurt?  It either works great or not so great and back in the bin it will go.  I let it soak for a good hour being very careful not to disturb it in any way so as not to felt it or ruin the prep.  There was a layer of lanolin grease floating on top of the water, and a bunch of just plain dirt at the bottom of the tub.  I pulled it out and gently squeezed it, lovingly laid it on a towel and delicately wrapped and squeezed the excess water out.  Laid it carefully out on a clean towel to air dry (all flat and pitiful looking by the way) and the next morning I woke up to the most beautiful snow-white-soft-as-can-be cormo pencil roving.  YAAAAAAY!  so happy and relieved. I washed the remaining 2 bumps with the exact same results.

Cormo prepped as pencil roving
Cormo white and fluffy ready to spin

So off to the wheel I go with the first bump and start spinning.  Drafting was soooo much easier, but it was still full of VM and little burrs/balls of fiber.  I had to make a decision on what was most important – No VM in my finished yarn or No little balls making  uneven finished yarn.  I chose to pick out every single fracking little stick and twig and leave in those uneven bits of fiber.  It was sloooow going.

picking VM every few inches :(
picking VM every few inches 🙁

I spun every day for two weeks, miles and miles of plain white fiber running from my hands, stopping every few inches to pick out VM, twisting up to my bobbin.  Was I having fun yet on my snowy white natural fiber trek?  Um NO.  But I’m not a quitter and a bit anal (some would argue very anal) and a huge Pollyanna (you know, everything will be OK, just keep on with a positive attitude blah blah blah).

Just keep plugging away at it
Just keep plugging away at it

Alas, about 3/4 of the way through that first bump I knew it was the only bump I would spin, the remaining 2  bumps were destined to live in my fiber bin forever.  I finally got to the end and had a full bobbin of beautiful white singles.

full bobbin of 3-ply - yummy
full bobbin of singles

I Let them sit overnight to set the twist.  Then the next afternoon I started to chain ply (had to be chain ply cuz I was NOT spinning another bobbin to ply it with).  Wound that chain plied bobbin onto my kniddy knoddy and ended up with a whopping 180 yard skein of beautiful, soft sport weight 3-ply pure white natural cormo yarn – yep, just 180 yards.

180 yd skein of white cormo yarn (yes, that's yet another fleck of VM!)
180 yd skein of 3-ply white cormo yarn

So here comes the “lessons learned” part.  I learned, I am maybe not as patient as I think myself to be.  I am much happier when the “hard” work is already done for me (princess yes) and I much prefer the pretty colorful sparkly side of things as opposed to the uneven, stick-filled, greasy side of things.

In the end, I love the resulting yarn, but for the time involved (about 3.5 weeks of daily work) and the total yardage (180 yards, not so much), I would so much rather pay the extra money for super clean, combed, spins-like-buttah wool!

Bonus though, I was looking for a contrast yarn to add to the handspan shawl I am about to start, and this little skein will be just perfect – see Pollyanna 🙂

Handspan yarns ready to become my next shawl
Handspun yarns ready to become my next shawl


Time To Catch Up….

So, yes, it’s been awhile since my last blog entry.  The 2015 Fall/Winter season for Hillside Soapworks (my small business as an artisan soap maker, along with hand crafted natural lotion bars and scrubs – plug when you can) was very full, busy and pretty prosperous BUT uber time consuming and left very little time for life (I do still work a “regular” job Mon-Fri as well) and frankly it all just kicked my booty!

So for 2016 I decided to put my weekly market shows on hold and keep Hillside Soapworks busy on just larger venues and hold those down to about 6 per year.  Yaaay time for other things like:

Much needed Puppy TimeSami, Petey, Mollie

Knitting Timehandspun mitts, 2 scarfs, socks

Spinning Time (hand spinning on a spinning wheel not the gym bike spinning HA)handspun yarn, bobbin, fiber braid

Nikon Timeflowers, flowers, flowers

and Family & Friends Time

Like I just spent a week with some of my family in Oregon (SW Portland area of Sherwood, Tualatin, Woodburn, Canby etc).  Great vaca and had the pleasure of sharing time with my beautiful Momma for her 84th birthday.  She is still going strong, a funny, intelligent, compassionate, gentle spirit guide.  Love her soooo much.

While in OR I got to visit Pacific Wool and Fiber located in Newberg  (you’d think living in So. Cali there would be more opportunity for a fiber addict to feed her habit locally – but noooo) and even got to try out a few different spinning wheels – more on that visit later.

Spent awesome time with family, ate good food, fun shopping, and lots of good down-time in the garden or on the deck with Mom

she's always cooking something! :)'
My Mama – she’s always cooking something! :)’

I’ve also missed my blogging time, so expect to hear more about all of the above along with my soaping adventures and anything else that I feel inspired to share.

ll be back, until next time experience your passions – life is too short to wait until you “have more time”

Tall Skinny Shimmy Challenge

Time for another Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge, this time for November we are challenged with the Wall Pour technique or the Tall Skinny Shimmy.  We had a guest mentor this month in Tatiana Serko who has perfected this technique.  I loved this one because, you really can’t go wrong, even when it doesn’t look like the real thing (aka Tatiana’s beautiful California Dreams soap), it still looks pretty cool.  I decided to keep it simple this time and go with my regular recipe and a scent/color combo from my current line of soaps –  Orange Creamsicle. This was my 3rd try and definitely my fave.

TallSkinnyShimmy Final
TallSkinnyShimmy Final Orange Creamsicle
TSShimmy Pour
TSShimmy Pour
TSShimmy Top
TSShimmy Top

I also tried  batch of my Vanilla Rain Forest, but the batter was a bit thick and didn’t pour/glide down the sides of the mold very well.  But still it makes an interesting bar of soap

TSShimmy soap #2
TSShimmy soap #2 Vanilla Rain Forest

Thanks to both Tatiana and Amy Warden for another super fun challenge.  Already looking forward to the next one…..

Soap Challenge Club
Soap Challenge Club