30 October, 2010

BFL BFF

Ever been out of touch with a friend then picked up again without a beat and known afresh all the reasons you like each other?

I picked up a wee bit of Blue Face Leicester wool in red and spun a short length.  I needed red yarn to stick onto a greeting card in the shape of a heart.  I've been spinning other fibers the last while: Targhee, Corriedale cross, and much too much merino.  These are all at the other end of the crimpy-short/longwool spectrum.  None were as great as spinning that little scrap of leftover BFL.

I wonder, with apologies to the Bard, whether 'tis nobler to suffer spinning through all the other fibers in my stash first, with the goal of getting down to just Blue Face Leicester fibers?  Or whether I should spin BFL now?

Perhaps exhuming my stash will help me decide.  It's either that or list the finished objects I want to produce in the next while and match them with appropriate fiber content.  Maybe both.

29 October, 2010

fifteenth hat


Here is a close-up view of the fifteenth hat I've made.  I used my seventy-fourth and seventy-fifth skeins.

The slubby yarn turned into an eye-catching stockinette fabric.  Knitting with slubs was a nice change from the ordinary.

My stitches look loose here and smaller needles probably would have been a better choice.

I didn't keep this hat around to use for display at a public handspinning demonstration after all.  I gave it to the intended recipient at the first opportunity.

28 October, 2010

Avoiding Buyer's Remorse

I try hard to get my money's worth from the spinning equipment and supplies I buy.  On a lot of things, I bought wisely.  Some things haven't quite hit the mark and blindsided me because I bought them I before I knew any better or before I knew my tastes.

There's a good pound or more left of the merino I overbought before realizing I dislike matte textures.  Once it's spun I can quit reproaching myself.

Mail order is great for handspinners but also tricky.  You can wind up with items that are a pig in a poke.  Sellers are reputable and honest, sure; judging items at a distance is difficult.  I've misjudged more than fiber.  I love books and I don't regret buying any, but since I get books about the fiber arts mostly second-hand on the Advanced Book Exchange, I don't always know how relevant and absorbing the content is going to be.  I try to find copies to look at before I get my own.

I need to get another lesson on using hand cards so that mine don't feel like such a total waste.  I much prefer using wool combs.  Even though combs take strength and time, they cut through fiber easily.  The little teeth on the wool cards, in contrast, grip and feel awkward to me.  I am told this is because my technique is faulty.  I knew I didn't get along with hand cards before I bought them because a friend let me try hers, but I ignored my instincts.

I got handcards because I had some idealized 1970s notion of handspinners all spinning lofty woolen yarn from fluffy rolags they handcarded.  Reality is much different, with commercially-prepared roving or top very commonplace anywhere spinners gather and with combed locks or drum-carded batts a very distant second.  You'll see the occasional basket of rolags at a meeting.  I am just reporting what I see.  I could be wrong about the popularity of fiber preparations.  Perhaps modern handspinners all whip up mountains of rolags when they're at home.

The oddball purchase that surprised me is the cheap spindle I call my "nerd glasses" spindle because I taped it up where it broke.  I use it more often than my prettier, better quality spindles with their custom hooks and hardwood shafts.  It has the light weight I prefer, same as them, and it is comfortable to hold.  It has a larger diameter whorl, which is a positive.  I would say I reach for it often because its cheapness and rough condition make me feel safe taking it places where it could be broken again or lost, but that can't be the only reason.  I use it at home a lot too.  I fear I am using it as a way to preserve my better ones.  You know, the trap of keeping nice things stored for that golden someday, even though mañana never comes.  Not particularly productive, and irrational.  There are more nice spindles to buy if mine get wrecked from accidental abuse, and normal use keeps a spindle in perfect condition.

There are some supplies and tools that I haven't gotten around to trying yet, so I don't know yet for certain whether I am going to have serious buyer's remorse over them or not.  The unused items bother me, but not enough for me to dig in the boxes and use them right this second.  Some are for related activities like weaving.  They will require me to learn new skills, which is why I put off trying them.

I have put them to some use: as deterrents.  They serve as a precautionary tale to stop me from loading up on more.  Fortunately, spin yarn long enough and you realize you're fine if you sit back and wait.  More chances to buy are always coming down the pike.

27 October, 2010

seventy-sixth and seventy-seventh skeins


Here are the seventy-sixth and seventy-seventh skeins I've spun.  Between them there is a total of 6 1/2 ounces of fiber and 120 yards.  The yarn is bulky three ply and the singles were spun to about 16 wpi.

The wool is local wool I bought directly from Lynn Szarabajka of Fish Bowl Farm in Dyke, VA.  The wool came from a naturally-coloured Corriedale cross sheep named Latte.

26 October, 2010

Plying Methods

I was asked the other day whether I am able to get skeins of a reasonable size when using Andean plying, where I wrap the singles around my hand in a certain way, slide them down to my wrist, and ply from either end.  The person asking the question was getting very small skeins.

I am able to get skeins of a reasonable size with the Andean method.  My Andean-plied skeins are normally 1 ounce for thin yarn and 2 ounces for thick yarn.  I weigh out the fiber beforehand.  The weights are based on the amount I can load onto a spindle before it stops spinning well and begins to get sluggish.  Whatever the yardage, I make sure it can be wrapped on my hand by running a chopstick straight up the back of my hand to take the brunt of the yarn's force.  Not exactly comfortable, but effective.

I'm sure it would be very tedious to do with cobweb-weight singles, but I don't spin nearly that fine.

I do sometimes spin my two ounces and transfer it to a bobbin, and repeat until I have three loaded bobbins for making three ply.  (Andean plying only gives you two ply.)  I really need to fill my bobbins with a total of two ounces, the amount that comfortably fits on a spindle, that is, 2/3 of an ounce each bobbin, plus a little extra in case one bobbin's singles are a bit thicker and come up a bit short.

When I have fully loaded bobbins to get through, I have a harder time removing one skein's worth from the spindle and starting another.  For an example of the nuttiness that can happen, see this picture of my poor overloaded spindle.

25 October, 2010

Country Market Demo

All four of us that did the handspinning demonstration at the farmers' market thought it was an enjoyable day out in the country and wished we could do it again. 

One of the participants was the natural dyer that I got to see dye with cosmos blossoms and walnuts last week.  She was spinning some wool that was dyed yellow with cosmos.  She says the cosmos blossoms were enclosed in a net in the dyebath to keep pieces from getting in the fiber.  Some pieces got in anyway and she had to pick them out.  She also said some of the walnuts she used were immature, so from that I take that their wizened surface must have been from the boiling and not deterioration from age.  She plans to steep the walnuts repeatedly, that is, daily to deepen the dyebath's intensity.

We had a traditional Saxony wheel, two upright folding castle wheels, and drop spindles on show along with fiber, skeins, hand cards, and a niddy noddy.  I had a selection of open skeins draped across the top corners of a cork board sign.  The sign was handlettered with "fresh spun yarn" and our guild name.  I put the board on the seat of my folding chair propped up against the back, which put the skeins in easy touching distance for people who came over to watch us spin.  They mostly went for the ruby red merino, over the naturally coloured Gulf Coast Native, Targhee, or Corriedale cross.  I also had my ball of spun Icelandic thel and some Blue Face Leicester wool top.  I talked about which skeins came from Virginia-raised sheep and what different properties in the wool were represented by each sample.  

I made the analogy between wool and human hair: curly hair tends to be dull, whereas straight hair tends to be shiny.  One person wondered if the curliness or straightness of a sheep's wool changes over time, but no, the structure goes for that sheep and for sheep of that breed.  Another person wondered if the relative dullness or lustrous appearance was determined by diet and if shine could be increased by supplementing a sheep's diet.  Certainly good feed makes for good wool, but again, the structure is the structure.

23 October, 2010

Princesses

Hope to go to another handspinning demonstration today.

The last demo I did, yet another mother told yet another young daughter that "back in the old days, you would have had to do this, all five year olds spun yarn for their families."

I'm sure this is accurate, apart from cultures that wore skins or woven, plaited, and twined unspun plant fibers, and I think kids should understand that there are handy skills that were once widespread and part of everyday life.

But I found myself countering with a different message: "back in the old days, princesses spun yarn, and they had beautiful spindles and wool baskets made of precious metals."

This is also accurate, according to Elizabeth Wayland Barber's chapter, "The Golden Spindle," in her book Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years.  When you think Helen of Troy, you don't think yarn, but apparently Homer puts her in possession of a golden spindle and a silver wool basket with gold-rimmed wheels.  (Why wheels, I ask myself.)

I stressed the princess angle to the girl so that she would associate handspinning more with choice and luxury and less with child-labour and drudgery.  Spinning yarn is not drudgery to me.  I turn my drop spindle and draft wool because I enjoy doing it.  Fleece preparation and dyeing are not my particular joy, but I hear others take pleasure in those tasks as well.

Certainly necessity was a compelling reason to spin back in the old days, but to the typical girl I'm likely to run into who wears mass-produced clothing and watches Disney, I am sure stories of handspinning princesses are much more relevant and captivating.

22 October, 2010

seventy-fourth and seventy-fifth skeins


Here are the seventy-fourth and seventy-fifth skeins that I've spun.  They are both in Ashland Bay merino wool top in the colour magenta.

One is spun somewhat erratically.  I was talking to people while demonstrating the drop spindle and I don't spin my absolute best when I'm trying to convince strangers they too can do this.  I finished up spinning the yarn at home where my hands were chilly, and that made for erratic drafting too.

The second skein is spun with large slubs put in deliberately at regular intervals.

When you start learning how to spin yarn, you make slubs involuntarily.  For quite a long time afterward you try very hard not to make any at all.

Given my dedication to gauge and consistent spinning, the slubs above are a departure for me.  There is a story behind them.

The same day that I was demonstrating handspinning with the pink wool, I also spent some time with a bit of donated blue wool, showing people how I spin and getting them to try.  After spinning in the usual way and chatting with some on-lookers, I impulsively made a large slub to provoke a reaction.

When you do the unexpected, people think more.  They have to think in order to reconcile their understanding of the world with the strange new thing that contradicts what they know.  I can't remember whether this is Bloom's theory or Piaget's or whose, but I am happy to use it during handspinning demonstrations.

In the long strand above a drop spindle, the introduction of a large slub is very obvious, more so than it would be with a flyer spinning wheel where the yarn is taken up quickly.  I got a reaction right away.  "Oh, so that's how they make yarn like that," she said, and he said, "Can you fix it?"

You can fix a slub.  Put one hand on each side about 1 1/2 inches out from the ends of the slub.  Twirl the strand so the slubby section untwists, then tug gently to thin the fiber out.  Let go so the twist runs back into the section and give the yarn a titch more spin before you resume spinning.

Anyway, for the seventy-fifth skein, I made slubs on purpose.  I've been meaning for a long time to see whether I could spin consistent slubs and what the effect would be.

The yarn will pill with hard use, so I consider it a flash-in-the-pan yarn.  I plan to make these skeins into a hat for a friend who enjoys wearing outrageously cute and stylish clothes.

20 October, 2010

Watched Flax Being Spun


Got to watch flax being spun.

The flax was prepared by children at a living history museum, so it's coarse and in rough shape.

Note the little pot hanging from the wheel.  The pot holds water.  The spinner dips fingers in and smoothes the yarn as the fiber is spun.  The finish on the spinning wheel protects it from any water damage.

She spun without a distaff, as it was easy to hold the tiny amount of flax each child would bring her.

The flax spinner notes that the quality of her spun flax isn't just determined by the quality of the children's processing.  Her spun flax also depends on the quality of the retting job.

Retting, if you'll remember, is rotting the stems to break them down to just the right stage, then drying them.  Do it correctly and the woody boon shatters properly when broken, scutched, and hackled.  The boon falls away, leaving long, strong strands that can be spun.  The method of retting can determine the colour of the fibers, how grey or golden they are.

She says that among handspinners, retting is the area where there is the least knowledge.  If you get it wrong, you lose your whole crop.  She expects it could take years and many tries to get the knack and have quality flax to spin.

19 October, 2010

Cosmos Blossoms for Yellow Dye


Here are some cosmos blossoms a dyer used to create yellow dye on a silk scarf.  The blossoms had been gathered and dried for storage, then steeped to make the dye bath.

Here is the result:

18 October, 2010

Black Walnuts for Brown Dye


Got to see someone dye yarn with a natural black walnut dye.  She steeped the entire walnuts, husks and all, in a copper pot over a wood fire.  The walnuts are removed with a strainer spoon and the yarn or wool is added.

The colour was pale brown.  To intensify the colour, she will add more walnuts.  She will keep the dye bath for as long as five years, by skimming the mould, adding more walnuts, and reheating.

The copper pot leaches metal into the water.  It acts as a mordant to set the colour and give it a slight green tinge.

I mentioned the tiny bag of black walnut dye powder I saw selling for a large price at the fiber festival.  The dyer laughed and said you never need to buy that unless you have no walnut trees.

Sorry the photo is sideways.  Also sorry I didn't get a picture of the walnuts.  They looked whole; that is, the husks had not split the way walnut husks do when the nut is ready to be gathered for food.  They looked dark and wizened not bright green like I'm used to finding walnuts.  I couldn't tell if that was because they'd been boiled in the dye bath, or because they'd been on the ground long enough to shrivel up, or because black walnuts look different from English walnuts.

16 October, 2010

Swatching for a Mitten


I am hoping to knit this yarn into a mitten.  Right now what I have is a malformed swatch that flares out in a very silly way.  Too many stitches where I switched from rib to stockinette.  Too large a needle for the rib stitches as well.

I had this knitted up once before, trying for a hat, but frogged that too.  All part and parcel of handspun's random gauge and my desire to wing it.

15 October, 2010

Resiliency

Resiliency is the ability of a population to deal with shocks to the system.  Resiliency means you can harvest wheat and edible chestnuts when the potatoes get blight.  It means there are enough reserves to outlast a shortage.  It means producers and distributors plan for contingencies and set aside resources to carry out those plans.  A resilient system has redundancies and not bottlenecks: many direct sellers or many backyards producing food, for example, so that if one part goes down, the rest carries on.

The last time anyone in my family suffered shocks to the clothing system was in England during the Second World War.  A new suit was available for purchase one day, and the next, rationing was declared.

Resiliency sounds like it is about gruesome austerity.  Rather, resilient systems prevent enforced austerity.  It means you can bounce back from emergencies or radical change and stuff still works to meet your needs.

I would like to say that handspinning promotes resiliency.  It certainly has great capacity to do so.  I don't know if my handspinning has.

Sure, handspun has theoretically given me new places to get my clothes.  I say theoretically because these clothes need some assembly first.

Sure, my equipment purchases have contributed to the income of a number of small independent manufacturers.  For the most part, that's who is making the equipment, and buying from them directly has been one of the pleasures of handspinning for me.

Some of my fiber I've bought locally and direct, and I've spun some heritage breed wool.  Unfortunately, however, the fiber I like most is Blue Face Leicester (BFL) wool, commonly sold as homogenized anonymous wool top imported from another continent.

I want to look for unprocessed local BFL fleece after I spin what top I have.  I plan to examine some local BFL/Border Leicester cross sheep fleeces next month at a shearing day but am uncertain whether the wool will have the same properties as pure BFL.

14 October, 2010

Sovereignty

Food sovereignty is the right of a population to control and determine what they eat.  Food sovereignty is at risk, for example, when shipping is interrupted, blight hits the potatoes, or a segment of the population can't afford to buy enough food on an on-going basis.  Regional government planning departments are starting to include in official community plans their positions and initiatives addressing the issue of food sovereignty.  For example, in the City of Nanaimo's OCP for 2008, food security appears as an objective, specifically increased sustainability, partnerships, and access.

Pretty much no one in the West is worried about clothing sovereignty.  We don't see any risks of having an outside party in charge of our clothing's style, fabric content, environmental impact, transportation, pricing, labour practices, manufacturing process and distribution.  That's expected.

The last time anyone my family was clothing-insecure was the Great Depression.  For one family member, there wasn't enough money to buy new shoes that fit properly.

Handspinning gets me a bit more clothing sovereignty in my life.  Or at least it would if I made myself something to keep and wear instead of eternally practicing new skills and giving the pieces away.

Ask handspinners what they like about spinning yarn and I think most will tell you they really enjoy having so much control over their projects, which usually end up as clothes.  That, and they would say they really enjoy the physical process of handspinning.  

13 October, 2010

Safety, Food, and Fiber

When I consider possible reasons why farmers' markets and relocalization movements are focusing on food rather than clothing, I come to the obvious reason.  You have to eat.  You have to wear clothes, too, but you're more likely to run out of food first so it's a good idea to make sure your local supply is assured.

In the more mainstream marketplace, supermarkets, people are paying a premium for local food and organic food.  I don't think these people care so much about local supply.  I think it has to do with fears about safety.

Food safety is a hot topic but no one is worried about clothing safety in a big way.  We worry about what we eat, but not what we wear.  I mean, we might worry whether we can afford the right clothes, or whether our clothing will protect us from flames and slippery floors, or whether our clothes make us look fat.

But we don't worry that our clothing will harm our health, that we will suffer anything like those poison-dipped cloaks from mythology.  Clothing is perceived as a surface issue, outside us, whereas food is an internal matter.  (Yes, I am stealing an idea from a Wendell Berry essay here about people's perceptions of the environment as "outside" and "other."  At least I think I am.  I read that essay a long time ago.)  We are what we eat.  The modern-day poisons of clothing are far away.  Blue jean dye waste chokes rivers in China, for example, not here.

Yet our skin and our lungs absorb.  We wear clothing produced and distributed in ways that are highly parallel to the ways conventional, non-organic food production and distribution are done.  I think it's worth thinking about.

When I think about it, my mind bounces around and keeps coming back to how limited my options are and how hard I'd have to work to source or create clothes and household textiles that meet standards comparable to certified organic food.  (I know there are items out there, thanks, so you don't have to post links for me.  I am sure there are even some nice plain organic clothes out there that aren't plastered with symbols I'd refuse to wear for religious reasons.)  I haven't got a silver bullet solution, but I continue to think and spin yarn.

12 October, 2010

Alternative Systems

If only we can move beyond the oversimplistic definitions of cheap food, we can change the current system.  In practical terms, what this means is shifting shopping patterns to follow three main principles: local, seasonal and direct...Keeping alive alternative systems of distribution is one of the most important things individuals can do in the face of ever-growing retail concentration.  That, and ensuring farmers get a fairer share from our shopping so they can survive.
Felicity Lawrence, Not On The Label: What Really Goes Into the Food on Your Plate
The system for food has changed somewhat since Lawrence's book was published in 2004.  There is comparatively little sense of urgency out there about changing the system for clothing.

There are difficulties in transferring her call to action to clothing.

The alternative systems of distribution for clothing were dismantled and abandoned much earlier and to a greater extent than those for food.  It's been a long time since the black sheep made direct sales of wool to the little boy who lives down the lane.  Peru is the only place I've heard of that retains a vibrant alternative system of clothing production and sales.

You can argue that in the West there is not nearly the monopolistic control on the sale of clothing as there is on the sale of food (especially after you read in Not On the Label how monopolistic that control is), and I will agree that there are probably more large clothing retailers competing for your dollar than there are large supermarket chains.

Try and see what proportion of your diet you can fill with the 100 mile diet principles, and then try and see if you can be clothed at all on a 100 mile fiber diet.  Go to the nearest farm gate and see whether they want to sell you raw materials to stock your pantry or your wardrobe.

Ask how many of your friends have brewed beer at home or tried bread-making or canned some fresh-caught salmon and then ask how many have knit their own mitts.  Look at their fishing rods and garden spades, then search their spare rooms for spinning wheels and looms.  Challenge them to go to the nearest bank of clay and stand of trees and come back with a drop spindle and warp-weighted loom.  Quiz them on the location of the nearest blackberry patch, then ask about the nearest fibre animal or plant.

My guildmate and I were asked at the farmers' market if handspinning was gaining popularity.  We weren't sure.

I am spinning yarn and trying to learn to make my own clothes from the fiber up.  I consider myself to be a pretty mainstream, conventional person.  Alternative, underground scenes only hold my interest in a train-wreck, fleeting sort of way.  I am not out to overthrow anything.

I want a resurgence in our capacity to produce and to trade on a peer-to-peer basis.  That's the part of capitalism that captures my imagination, the means to control production.  My rather idealistic sympathies are with the small independent producer, and in my idealism I lean toward egalitarianism.  I would like everyone to be proficient at handspinning and making handspun clothes.  Then we'd have a basis for a workable alternative system.  Realistically, I just don't think the economic incentive or the cultural mood is there right now.

I've only recently started wanting an alternative system to meet our need for food and clothing.  I used to think the conventional system of clothing manufacture and distribution was pretty smart.  I thought it met our needs quite well with little trouble.  I thought it was the only civilized way to go.  I see it differently now.  I think the conventional system lacks resiliency, is exploitative, creates a lot of waste, and floods markets, which undermines competition and sovereignty.  Even if climate change and Peak Oil doomsayers' dire predictions come to nothing and the clothes keep coming in the ordinary way, there will still be issues and areas where the conventional system fails to meet a lot of needs.

And, yes, thank you, I am aware how many handspun-wearing ancient civilizations were exploitative and monopolistic.

11 October, 2010

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

When you read the verse below, don't think of fifties girdles, think ancient-style card-woven belts.

I have cards, I have a book on how to do card (tablet) weaving, I have a warping board, I probably have suitable handspun sitting around, I just need to get around to trying again.

Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me;
O Lord, be my helper.  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, 
That my soul may sing praise to you and not be silent
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Psalm 30:10-12 NASB

09 October, 2010

Improv

I unexpectedly got to show six people how a spindle works.  That was fun.  Good thing I had a drop spindle and wool in my bag.

You wouldn't expect handspinning to come up at the tail end of a composting seminar.  They were taking questions and I asked, so, ever mulched with waste wool, I hear it's good?  And they said, you sound like you know something about wool.  Why, yes, I'm a handspinner, let me show you, I said...

I love the old, "what if the wool comes apart" question during demonstrations.  I get to theatrically play out what looks like a worst-case scenario then rescue the yarn.  "What, you mean like this?" I say as I pull the mass of roving apart with a dramatic flourish.  I cry, "oh no!" in mock horror at what I've done, then overlap the fibers' ends and resume spinning.

08 October, 2010

The Linen Project from Transition Victoria

A Transition Victoria re-skilling working group in Victoria, B.C. is experiencing the process of small-scale flax production for handspinning.  I wish I could go see their work, but the closest I can get right now is this link:
http://transitionvictoria.ning.com/photo/albums/the-linen-project

From my reading on flax, I gather that one of the steps, retting flax, takes a great deal of experience and skill to get the microbial action just right, a level of skill on par with brewing beer or making cheese.  It's the sort of skill where you'd like to see someone do it first so you can get an idea of how it's done, but because there are so few people who know how it's done, someone has to take the initiative which appears to be the case with the above project.

07 October, 2010

Spinning Some Local Wool from My Stash


Here you can see some local wool I'm spinning from my stash.  I got it at last year's fiber festival, and the complete revolution of the year propelled me to get my hands on it and spin.  Nothing like getting something done after doing nothing about it for ages.  Cathartic, really cathartic.  Makes you feel like a better person.

So does using local fiber.  Revel in the residual grease and that slight scratchiness; it's virtuous stuff.  Like hair shirts.  (And like carob.  See verse below; a locust pod is carob.  Somebody was telling me the other day that she finds carob is a tasty alternative to chocolate.  Me, I have had a "no carob" policy firmly in place from a very early age and see no reason to change.)
For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!'"  Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Matthew 3:3, 4 NASB

05 October, 2010

I Give You Strauch!


I give you the man who makes Strauch drum carders, Strauch ball winders, and Strauch hand cards: Otto Strauch himself!

Here he is at the fiber festival.  You can see a shelf full of Strauch Fiber Equipment wool cards behind him in full and child size.  He and his team make fiber tools in Virginia where this fiber festival is held, and he considers local production to be a selling point of his products.

He describes himself as frugal, and offers this frugal tip: remove the stretchy drive band off the Strauch ball winder when not in use to prolong its life.

You'll remember that last year I meant to post my photo of him from the fiber festival but didn't get his image release.  Fortunately this year I found he was quite pleased at the prospect of "being on another blog somewhere out there."  A customer was happy to be seen on the blog too.

04 October, 2010

seventy-second skein


Ahora les traemos la hilada a mano!  (And now we bring you the handspun.)  This is the seventy-second skein I've spun.

The 62's wool top, 2 1/2 ounces of it, is from Sweetgrass Wool's Targhee sheep in Montana.  I spun the singles to about 24 wpi, then made two ply yarn.

This breed is new to me.  I like the wool's white colour.  Perhaps it is the texture of the wool that makes the colour so interesting to look at.

Believe the advertising blurbs that use words like "lofty" and "bounce" for Targhee.  The wool reminded me of a sample piece of natural latex mattress foam I once got from Savvy Rest.  I found that after I spun my Targhee, every little slub expanded and asserted itself, especially after I plied the yarn.  Whatever I make out of this yarn is going to look very different from anything I've made so far, not because of the slubs but because of the way the wool puffs out.  I'm looking forward to the results.

I spun the skein shortly before the fiber festival's handspun competition submission deadline.  You can imagine the charge I got out of discovering that late in the game that spongey-type wools magnify areas of inconsistent spinning.  (You can expect inconsistently-spun skeins to place lower in the competition.)

The skein received second place in the drop spindle spun handspun class.  The accompanying prize of fiber I got was donated generously by Tintagel Farm.

02 October, 2010

Fiber for Spinning is Not Necessarily WYSIWYG


Fiber for spinning is not necessarily WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get).  I think the fiber in the picture looks quite different spun and unspun.  I need to keep this in mind as I window shop at the fiber festival this weekend.

What handspun handknit will I be wearing at the festival?  This rather ridiculous, over the top cowl:

01 October, 2010

seventy-first skein


I blogged about handspinning through the entire month of September without posting a single new finished skein of handspun.  I didn't want to mention what I spun for the festival competition and I didn't complete much altogether.

But now, I give you my seventy-first skein.  It's big.  It's actually in three skeins but I think of it as one.  The content is a Louet blend of merino and silk, spun three ply and bulky.  There's most of a bag there.  This is what I plied when I was messing around with the lazy Kate.  Spun on a spindle, then transferred the singles to bobbins for plying and from there back on to the spindle.

I hadn't spun bulky for a while.  The yardage came out very low, about 80 yards if memory serves.  It was fun to spin and use up a large amount of fiber quickly.  I regret a little that I didn't eke it out into thinner yarn that would go farther when knitting.  By that I don't mean I want to spend a lot of time knitting because I don't, but a thick yarn doesn't create as much fabric or coverage.