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Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Forgotten Polwarth Fleece

I've been getting things ready to put in the shop, and at the same time having a good clear out. I've got to the point where there's way too much fibre that takes up a lot of space. Got to be ruthless and get rid of the stuff I know deep down that I will never use.

Some things are too good to throw away though, like this Polwarth carded fleece. It's a good example of a bad cleaning job. I didn't clean it, this fibre was a purchase from last year - after which I promptly stored it away and forgot all about it:

Plenty of V.M. and second cuts which are distributed quite evenly throughout the whole lot. It's a shame as it's beautiful fibre. I suppose if it was  romney or corriedale coloured fleece and I wanted to spin it into a woollen yarn for a rustic type garment then it's probably acceptable but I want to spin this into a fine lace weight 2 ply yarn, adding plenty of twist for a fine and light lace garment.

I put it through the combs, getting very little nice fibre and lots of waste, which is fine as I would have thrown it out anyway. It's easy and quick to comb as it's been carded already, but the staple length is only 2 inches at the most.

I know some people will think I'm just being too fussy, but I like to spin clean well prepared fibre. I find it makes spinning so much more pleasurable, easier and quicker. I hate it when I have to keep stopping to pull out rubbish from the fibre. I would rather have 100g of something that's been beautifully prepped and is a pleasure to spin rather than 1kg of something that I feel is not up to the mark.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My New Online Shop is Live!

My new online shop is now live. I've been busy this week trying to get everything sorted, there's not much stock in there just yet but I will be adding plenty more over the next week. There's a little bit of Radar's beautiful hand combed alpaca in there too, along with some of the fleece I've had carded.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Half Bred Fleece....

I needed a break from all the alpaca, so yesterday evening I was sorting out my stash cupboard when I came across a half bred fleece I had purchased last year, intending to wash and prep the fibre ready for spinning of course ~ until I got side tracked by all the alpaca.

Half Bred Sheep:
A registered breed that was originally developed in the 19th century by crossing one of the English long wools such as Romney or English Leicester with the merino. They were developed for both wool and meat and are suited to hill and high country.

The staples are well defined and chunky with crimp right up to the tip. It is classed as a fine wool with medium bulk. There can be wide variation amongst fleeces.

Fibre is usually between 21 - 33 microns.
staple length is 75-110 mm
An excellent fibre when soft durability is required.

It's a waxy type fleece so needs a good wash in very hot water.

I had already prepped a small portion of it and spun it up, but the majority was sat looking at me, so I bagged some up and put it in a bucket of hot water and dish washing liquid, soaked for 20 minutes then changed the water and soaked for a further 15 minutes then 2 rinses in hot water. I set it out on a mesh rack to dry overnight:

Obviously the locks on the left are unwashed, the ones on the right washed. They come up nice and clean apart from a tiny bit on the very tip which I snip off with scissors. The combed fibre is at the back, yet more beautiful squishy nests that I will look forward to spinning. I would say the fibre is next to skin soft for me, it's lofty and light and would knit into a nice comfortable, yet hard wearing sweater.

I enjoyed spinning some of it into a fingering weight 2 ply yarn:

I have 2.6kg of this to get through and have noticed there's very little waste when combing it. I shall continue to work on this when needing a break from the alpaca.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Carded Alpaca Fibre......

I got my alpaca fibre back from the carders just before Christmas but I haven't had time to look at it it until recently. I'm really happy with it. This is the rest of little Saturn's fleece, I had it blended with 30% fine merino fibre:

It's wonderfully soft and fluffy, just like clouds. There's 1.6 kg.

This is the rest of Chantalini's fleece, I kept this one as 100% alpaca. It was a deep fawn with white patches so the white fibre was blended in together with the darker and it's come out as a mid fawn, much different to the fibre (from the same alpaca) that I hand prepped and blogged about here. It weighs 3kg and is also lovely and clean and soft:

The shearer came last week so now there's 4 more fleeces to contend with but they shouldn't take me as long to clean as the last 4, they are much cleaner to start with. I learned my lesson, I now rake out their shelter every 2 weeks which cuts down on fleece contamination with the dreaded V.M. I'm still working on cleaning Radar's chocolate brown fleece from last year, and am about halfway through it, 4 bags of it washed and dried today as we have superb weather and I have a rare day off work.

I'm going to clean up Caesar and Jupiter's fleece and get them sent off to the carders, but I would like to do Saturn's and Radar's myself again. I just wish it wasn't so time consuming. But, I enjoy it and love spinning hand combed fibre, for me there's just nothing that compares to it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pressure Cooker Cheesecake......

I know - I said there wouldn't be any more baking or recipes for a while due to the diet, but we had a birthday in the house yesterday and I had to make a cake/dessert to celebrate.

Cheesecake is one of my hubby's favorite treats and as it's quite low in wheat it seemed a good choice. It must be over a year since I last baked one and had all the ingredients to hand, well why not?

Normally I would bake my cheesecake in the oven sat in a water bath and leave it in there to cool with the oven door closed (this is supposed to prevent the dreaded cracked top, however, they do still sometimes crack). Plus there's the chilling time to add on to that.

Then I read about using a pressure cooker for making cheesecake. What? I would never have thought that was possible, but time was running short I decided to give it a whirl.

I used my regular basic cheesecake recipe:

150g digestive biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs
75g melted butter.

Mix these 2 ingredients together, press it into the base of a 20 cm springform tin and pop it in the fridge to chill. Make sure the tin is not too wide to fit in your pressure cooker!

It helps greatly if the following ingredients are at room temperature before you begin.

400g full fat cream cheese
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100ml sour cream

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and soft, then add the sugar and mix in. Add the 2 eggs and vanilla and beat until thoroughly mixed. Mix in the sour cream.

Pour into the tin and smooth the surface.

Put the trivet in the bottom of the pressure cooker and pour in water to reach just under the trivet. In my pressure cooker this takes 500ml. Carefully position the cake tin on the trivet and close the lid. Bring up to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally. Remove the cake from the cooker, let it cool then chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Run a knife around the edge of the tin before releasing the spring clip. Top with your choice of fruit, I used raspberries as we have an abundance of them in the garden at the moment and made a glaze from red quick-gel and a little raspberry juice.

Verdict - I will cook it this way from now on. There was no cracking on top and the filling seemed to be lighter in texture than when I bake it yet it was perfectly set. There was just a tiny little puddle of water sat on the top of the cake when I opened the cooker but this was easily absorbed with a sheet of kitchen towel.


Monday, January 5, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR ~ The Fast Diet 5:2

After 2 weeks of festivities - which really means eating and drinking stuff that's not good for me, I've decided to start the 5:2 diet.

Earlier in the year I dieted and lost 1 stone in 4 weeks, that was through cutting out all wheat and sugar. I have kept that 1 stone off. I also increased my exercise and have kept that up but lately I have slipped back into the old convenient routine of eating bread and wheat products and sugary stuff all too regularly, which makes me feel really bloated and lethargic. So new year new me and all that.

The idea is that you eat 'normally' for 5 days and fast for 2 days. Fast as in you are still eating, but at a reduced calorific intake. You can increase the fasting days, which is what I plan to do for the first 4 weeks. I'm going to do alternate days.

Day 1 was yesterday. My first fast day and was much easier than I thought it would be. Plus side was that the weather was so hot and I really never feel like eating when it's hot. Here's what it went like:

2 x Nespresso coffee + 200ml skim milk = 90Kcal each
6 waferthin sesame crackers 39Kcal
1 hardboiled egg 69kcal
150g serve cooked peeled king prawns 108Kcal
large green salad & cherry tomatoes 20 Kcal
Low cal dressing 10 Kcal
1/2 mango 22Kcal
1 kiwi fruit 29Kcal
1.5 ltr iced water with a squeeze of lemon juice 0 Kcal
2 cups black tea 0Kcal

Total = 477 Kcal. 500 is my limit on fasting days. I did good.

Day 2 today so a 'normal' day. I aim to cut out wheat and sugar again and will still be watching those calories. So due to my change in circumstances sadly there will be no more baking posted on here for a while.