Tour de Fleece, Day 4.
Some time around the middle of April, Teleknitter posted her spring clip of CVM for sale, and I promptly had a fit. Here were some of the most fascinatingly beautiful fine-wool fleeces I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t justify buying one, because I had just splurged on half a Cormo. (Oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard yet about the Cormo, have you.) Which was also insanely beautiful, as you might expect from a Cormo bred by Alice Field… but it was also WHITE. And I have a lot of WHITE fleece. And I’m a sucker for naturally-colored fleeces, especially in shades of grey. And I was drooling drooling drooling over Florence’s gorgeous silver-grey and Rifle’s fabulous variegation. But seriously. I already had an attic full of fleece (Oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard yet about the Attic Full O’ Fleece, have you). I had just spent very nearly top dollar on the Cormo, and the CVM was in the same price range - and mind you, both of them are worth every penny. But there was something about buying one after the other that would have added insult to injury and overshot my guilt threshold by a country mile.
So I sternly told myself, “No CVM for you this season, my girl. It won’t hurt you to wait. The sheep will make more.”
And that lasted… oh, I dunno… maybe an hour?
I kept going back and looking. And looking. And looking.
Finally I couldn’t stand it and I compromised: I bought Rifle’s neck wool and seconds.
Not a bad compromise at that. A more modest quantity, a more modest expenditure - but I still got all of those colors and all that soft crimp. And a pound and a half is enough to DO something with.
The fleece on arrival was even more marvelous than it looks in Sarah’s picture. I couldn’t believe how soft it was, and how many different colors I was seeing in it.
It’s been waiting for an opportunity, and a couple of days ago it struck me that the Tour de Fleece was exactly that. So I broke it out, semi-sorted it, bagged it up, and scoured it.
While I was waiting for the tub to fill for the first soak, young Fosdick had his very first-ever wool-huffing experience.
By the time it occurred to me that at only two months old he’s probably too young for the hard stuff… it was too late. Don’t tell on me, ‘K? (Friend of mine looked at this and said, “Yup, that’s YOUR kitteh, all right.”)
I am madly in love with this fleece and its symphony in greyscale.
I’ve been sort of on the fence about how to spin this, but I’ve never doubted that I wanted to keep the colors distinct and use them to set each other off. I’ve been having fantasies of gradient effects, either in the spinning or in the knitting as the case may be. So obviously the first thing to be done with the clean fleece was to sort it by color.
I wasn’t sure how many colors I was seeing, so I started by picking out all the really WHITE white bits - those went into Bag #1.
Bag #2 is where it started to get interesting.
Bag #2 is the home of the pale blends. The locks that are partly or mostly white but are so intimately streaked with grey that it would be insane to try to pick them apart. I’m not being too scientific here, and what I want is to reflect the natural blending that’s already occurring in the fleece. So a lock like this one
gets to stay in one piece and it goes to live with its friends in Bag #2.
From that point on it was pretty plain sailing. Bag #3 is a soft and fairly uniform medium grey, with occasional streaks of paler grey. And so on, up until Bag #7, the darkest near-black grey of all.
Yes, sir, yes, sir, seven bags full.
(Incidentally, Fosdick is not the only feline in this household with an appreciation for fleece.
Not by a long shot.
Ptolemy and Juliet don’t insist on spinning theirs in the grease, though. And please do note how I color-coordinate my animals with my stash.)
With seven shades identified, I set out to experiment - those visions of gradients dancing in my head, I wanted to see how they would play out.
I broke out a handful from each bag, and combed each into a little nest of top.
I knew I wanted laceweight - I’ve been picturing a big lace shawl in graduated shades of grey, you know the kind of thing I mean - and I knew from my first pre-triage sample that it would be beautifully soft:
I broke each piece of top in half, and spun the same strand of singles twice over - all seven shades in sequence starting with the white.
Plied it together and wound it off.
It’s 84 yards, and it works.
Oh, how it works. It’s almost exactly what I envisioned - in fact, I can hardly stop looking at it and fondling it.
How I’m going to bring myself to unskein this in order to swatch it, I don’t know. I love it just as it is.
That said… am I going to spin the whole fleece like this?
I am not.
It would be a great parlor trick. And another cool parlor trick would be to prep and spin it as a gradient REPEAT. I can imagine doing exactly that for someone else’s use… but not for my own.
I look at this little skein in all its beautiful mesmerizing greyscaliness, and I realize: that is not the kind of knitter I am. As a spinner, I’d love to play with the color sequence. But as a knitter, I want complete control over what color goes where. It would be worse than counter-productive to make a huge single-gradient or repeat-gradient yarn and then have to cut and paste it into what I want it to be when I’m actually making it into something.
So here’s the plan. I’m going to prep and comb each shade separately, and I’m going to spin most - but not all - of each of them into a separate two-ply. I’ll have enough of each shade left unspun so that I can blend intermediate shades if I want them when the time comes. And when I knit it I will make it LOOK as if I’d spun the gradient skein of my dreams.
One way or the other - I have the oddest feeling that Rifle and I have not heard the last of each other.
Wait for me next year, big guy. I’ll be coming back for more.