Organizing fibers for the big project

There will be two versions of this post. I hit the wrong button and published it at the note-taking stage. If you're reading this note, you likely have the full post.


Keeping the fibers for this project organized and constantly identified is a job in itself. Having edited Spin-Off for so many years, I knew how challenging it can be to try to remember which of several closely related fiber samples the one you set on that table over there was, expecting that of course you could remember what it was . . . oops, that was day before yesterday, something came up that needed to be dealt with immediately, and was that the Dorset from project A, or the Hampshire from project B? Dang.

Anyway, I started off with what I hoped would be a flexible, strong organizing system. It evolved slightly. For example, instead of trying to economize to the penny on labels, as I did at the start, I now print plenty in both sizes and keep coming up with ways in which they're handy to have.

So the first large chunk of work to be done when I receive new fibers involves entering them in the inventory sheets (two separate databases), printing up their labels, and making the bags and cards that will keep everything sorted from receiving through photography, and perhaps beyond.


I print two sizes of labels. The large ones go mostly on the bags, and the small ones go mostly on organizing tools. Extra labels are top center. To their left, a tag for a sample skein (there will probably be at least one more skein label, which is a reason to have extra small labels, but I start with one). The large card next to the tag stays with the wool during washing and other processing. The small card goes at the edges of photos so we don't have to keep massive notes about what fiber was in which photograph. We shoot the tiny card at the edge of the image and it can be cropped out later. Small labels also get used when I pull a sample for OFDA testing (scanning for the physical fiber qualities, including length and micron counts).

There are two large plastic bags, one that will stay with the bulk fiber supply and one, marked "samples," that will go in the file that will be transported to the photo shoot. There are two small plastic bags, one for raw wool locks and one for clean wool locks. All of the labels on the plastic bags have to have clear tape put over them or they won't stay stuck to the bags. (There's one more larger card with a large label that goes in a card file, a physical inventory record, which comes in very handy despite all the computer database information.)

Once the fiber's checked in and the organizing tools are prepared, it's time for washing. This is when fibers will most likely get confused, so I need to pick batches that can be distinguished from each other and that fit my various colander-and-bowl configurations, which have different capacities.

In this morning's first batch, I have three black wools and one white. The three blacks are easy to tell apart, even though two are Soays. My larger cards from the photo above (they're old business cards) stay in the room with the fibers being washed, then travel with them to the drying racks and stick around until the fibers are dry and back in their labeled bags. I've already pulled the grease locks on all of these, of course.


Here are the pots of water on the stove, heating up to supplement the tap water for getting the wool clean.


And here are some of the washing-related systems: the baggies in the white not-a-wastebasket are the fibers currently in the tub. The box contains a few of the fibers next in the lineup (there is another large box to its left, out of sight . . . I'm pretty well caught up, but got five new samples yesterday). The post-its on the outside of the box have small labels on them. With more than forty file boxes in action, it's good to be able to tell easily what's where. The bright yellow means the sample started as grease fleece. Light yellow means it started as clean fiber. There would be a black checkmark on those labels if they'd been washed already. I'll have more shots of boxes later.


Okay, I'd better get this really posted. The truncated version would be pretty funky.


4 thoughts on “Organizing fibers for the big project”

  1. I feel like I’m into a serious canning project!

    Unfortunately, I think the rubber duckies in the bathtub will not survive the steady onslaughts of near-boiling water. We’ve lost a bunch of them, and the ones that remain are loose.
    Twelve batches today (my previous record) and heading for sixteen, despite massive interruptions of various sorts . . . and essential errands delayed until tomorrow, because I’m making headway. . . .
  2. I’m still not quite sure I understand what the BIG project is, but what you’re doing looks very cool and interesting and involved. WOW! Can’t wait to hear more…

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