Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oof, my back!

Thanks for all the kind comments about the fleece (and about my hands. I'm blushing, that's so nice!). We are getting along nicely! I gaze at it adoringly, and it rewards me by remaining beautiful. This week I scouted the hardware stores of the Sunset district for washing equipment: the perfect rubber cleaning gloves (pink, of course), some regular old blue Dawn, mesh lingerie washing bags, and some large, deep containers for water. I ended up with a set of rectangular basins that are just the right dimensions, a little bigger than the mesh bags, and small enough to fit in my kitchen sink. I really wanted to be able to wash some of the fleece one evening this week, but it took longer than I anticipated to gather my supplies. I was even all set up to do some washing last night (Thursday), but a mini-emergency at work called me away for most of the evening. It happened so suddenly, and I had to leave right away, so that my Honeybee stole got an extra-long soaking while I was taking care of business. Today I've got a bit of a backache from bending over to stick all the pins in. Here's the stole blocking on my living room floor (DVD box for scale):

Honeybee Stole Blocking in Progress

I laid it out on a beach towel so there would be something absorbent between the carpet and knitting, which is probably a really good thing considering how long it's been since I vacuumed in there. After pinning out one short edge, I did every fifth tiny side scallop point to get the basic dimensions right, then did the other short edge. Then I spent another 40 minutes or so pinning out all the little "winglets." Sheesh. Why did I want to do the bigger size again?

Honeybee Stole Blocking in Progress

It's about 2 feet wide and really long. I kinda wish I'd counted how many pins I used, because it was a very meticulous process. It's probably the kind of impressive number that makes you feel like you've conquered a huge task when you say it out loud. If I'd been smarter I would have worked out some improvised blocking wires or something. Anyway, the stole got a second spritz of water after getting pinned out completely, and was bone-dry by dinnertime today. I have to weave in the ends and then it'll be ready for a photo shoot!

As if bending over and shoving so many teeny little straight pins into my carpet wasn't enough, today I decided to lug around tubs full of water for a few hours. Yay, I did my first round of fleece washing! I was a bit nervous to start with, but everything turned out fine. My fleece didn't felt, I successfully removed the dirt and most of the lanolin, and I learned a lot about the process doing it all myself. Here's some of the realizations I made:

1. If I'm going to wash 3 bags of locks, I will need 4 water containers (and the sink does not count as a container, see #4).

2. My bath faucet gets hotter water straight from the tap than the kitchen sink, and it gets up to maximum temperature faster.

3. I probably don't need to add nearly boiling hot water to the rinses.

4. If the kitchen sink gets used as a rinsing station, then the basins need to be carried to the tub to be emptied.

5. Water is really heavy.

6. I am ridiculously paranoid about accidentally felting this fleece.

7. The little random black stripes in some locks of the fleece please me to no end.

8. There are lots and lots of variations on the color grey.

Fleece Washing!

9. Even a wee little apartment kitchen is big enough to wash fleece in! Hooray!

I'm basically doing six steps for each bag of fleece: one pre-soak in really hot water, two wash soaks with blue Dawn (first one enough to tint the water blue, second one with a little less), then three rinses. To dry, I gently squeezed out as much water as I could by pressing the bags in a dry towel, then draped an old towel on our wooden drying rack and laid out the locks. It wasn't easy this time around, but I know what I will do to make things go more smoothly next time. It still doesn't look like I took a big chunk out of the fleece, but I'll keep washing when I have the time until it's all clean.

Now that the Honeybee is done, I'm getting to where I really want another big project to cast on and sink my teeth into. Or maybe I'll just spin for awhile so my fiber stash doesn't get backed up. I have a new project on the needles, but it's a gift and I know the recipient reads this blog, so it can't go up yet. If you've seen me knitting over the past few days, yeah, it's that thing. I'll tell you all about it when the gift is given.

In other news, Prudence (the Kromski Prelude I picked up for free in August) has gone to live with her new family, who will love her as much as she deserves! I don't feel bad, she would have just been second fiddle to Birdie if I'd kept her. Tomorrow I'm off to Verb's birthday party in Berkeley, and hopefully I can be an introvert on Sunday and do some more washing. I'm so excited! Now I just need to decide how to prep and spin those locks when I'm all done washing.


the Lady said...

Hmmm, nice tubs. Yes, water is very heavy - I've got the name of a fabulous chiropractor, should you ever need one!:-) Wow, that honeybee stole is HUGE! It should be nice and warm.

Knitsonya said...

I missed the Verb party and your fleece washing process looks very precise. I've been told just to make sure you not to agitate and no sudden changes in water temp. Looks like you have everything covered. And the stole is a masterpiece!