31 July, 2012

one hundred, fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth skeins

My one hundred, fifty-fourth skein is an ounce of Heinz 57 wool, two ply, and the singles spun to about 18-20 wpi, though I was aiming for 16.  Much, much thicker than my usual.  I spun it while listening to a film production of Shakespeare's Richard II and the DVD player gave me my start and end times.  For the little yardage I got, I sure spun for a long time.  I got all the way to
Queen: And must we be divided? must we part?
King Richard: Ay, hand from hand, my love, and heart from heart.
in Act V which is pretty bad.  Next time, I thought, I will spin and not stop every other minute to check my gauge.

The one hundred, fifty-fifth skein took fifteen minutes less.  It's the same except spun the opposite direction so I can try an experiment in språng cloth structure.

Still haven't found my camera, and anyway, the skeins aren't very noteworthy apart from being bulkier than my usual style.

30 July, 2012

No Surrender - The Hollow Crown: Henry V


You want to insult somebody and boast?  Tell him you're gonna take his coat.
And my poor soldiers tell me, yet ere night
They'll be in fresher robes; or they will pluck
The gay new coats o'er the French soldiers' heads,
And turn them out of service.
–William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, scene III

And here is a gratuitous Shakespeare clip, just because the music is good, the modern setting is cool, and it's so fun to identify the characters:

28 July, 2012

"Spinning the Wild" article

Some notes about nettles I took from Judith MacKenzie's "Spinning the Wild" article, Spin•Off Winter 2009, p. 56:
-impervious to water and mildew
-collect in late summer or early fall
-look for the stem to yellow two-thirds of the way up, after seeds start to form
-collect before the seeds absorb all the oil from the stalk to get durable fibres
-pull up by the roots
-let dry hanging by the roots
-when dry, strip leaves and roots
-use water retting
-stop retting when the outside layer comes off when rubbed between fingers
-rinse and let dry
-comb
-spin wet

And I will tuck that information away in case I get the chance to collect some nettles.

27 July, 2012

The Textile Tools of Colonial Homes

A quote from Marion Channing's The Textile Tools of Colonial Homes: From Raw Materials to Finished Garments Before Mass Production in the Factories (Marion, MA: Channing Books, 1982):
So everyone spun years ago, just as most everyone drives today.  One might substitute "automobile" for "spindle" in the following sentence from "Book of Husbandrie" by Anthony Fitzherbert, dated 1523.  "No rank is above the use of the spindle; princesses only have them gilt." (p. 25)
Besides the quote, I like the author's use of primary sources.  Channing refers to museum holdings, archival documents, and a number of works of art that give historical information through their depictions of textile artists or tools.  These include Millet's "The Spinner" and "The End of the Village of Greville," and Van Gogh's painting of a weaver in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, Romney's portrait of Lady Hamilton, Hogarth's "The Idle Apprentice," and a Giotto fresco in the cathedral of Florence's bell tower.

Channing doesn't restrict her information to American colonial tools.  For example, she states that there are spindles in the museum at Housesteads Fort on Hadrian's Wall.

26 July, 2012

V&A Conservation of an 8th-century Egyptian Tunic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cdhnORIAvo
"Conservation of an 8th-century Egyptian tunic"

Such a contrast between the flat piece on the table in the video–so simple apart from the ornamentation–and the reproduction piece, how the tunic drapes when worn and fits the forearm snugly.

This post is rather long and even more finicking than the last one, sorry.

Burnham's Cut My Cote shows a similar piece from the 4th century along with a diagram that lays out how the cloth is woven on a warp-weighted loom from one sleeve cuff down to the other, then turned sideways to wear.  This is why the Victoria & Albert museum conservator, Elizabeth-Anne Haldane, indicates in the video that there was a selvage originally at the back hem.  Not that woven cloth can't have three or four selvages, but in this tunic let's say two.  The (weft-wise a.k.a. hem to hem) width dimension (252 cm / 99 inches) in Cut My Cote would make the loom wider than I can find in a quick read of the beam dimensions of much later Northern European looms listed by Hoffmann in The Warp-weighted Loom; these run around 200 cm.

Burnham discusses the underarm holes and the tuck that appear in the video.  Haldane says the tuck indicates the height of the original wearer.  Burnham calls the tuck a way to adjust a one-size-fits-all tunic.  You see how the hem curves when the man lets his arms hang down.  Burnham writes that the hem hangs straight when the tuck is sewn in a curve.

I suppose the sides of the V&A's replica tunic are sewn together.  Burnham's diagram shows that the side seams don't have to be sewn due to the unwoven warp threads in the corners which are "later cut to make short side fringes."

Burnham calls this style "a seamless robe," a phrase that might interest Christians because of these verses in the Bible:
Then the soldiers, when they crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.  So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "They divided my outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots."
-John 19:23, 24 NASB
There is a footnote in the NASB that says translated literally the tunic was woven "from the upper part through the whole."  The NIV's translation is "woven in one piece from top to bottom" which might lead you to think in terms of clothing construction, from neck seam to bottom hem.  However, consider how a warp-weighted loom is used, that weavers construct cloth on it working from the top beam downward, so:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpbnQhXL39Y 
"Greneveving - Ratnogoddin del. 4.flv"

(The video shows a blanket being woven, not a tunic.  A blanket is woven across the whole width.  For a tunic, the sleeve portion is woven and the right and left sides are left unwoven until the body section is reached.)

Using a different method, double weave, you could construct a seamless tunic from the neck to the bottom hem.  It's possible to wear a long unshaped piece of cloth without seams (also woven on a warp-weighted loom), as with the chiton.  So I'm not saying that the tunic above is the sort of garment Jesus wore for sure.

Some, who find significance correlating aspects of Jesus' life with parts of the Old Testament, make something of how Jesus had a seamless robe and the high priest Aaron wore a seamless robe to minister in the tabernacle in Moses' time.  They also make something of how Jewish law forbids a high priest to tear his clothes (Leviticus 21:10).  The relevant passages in Exodus don't specify a seamless robe exactly that I can find:
You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  There shall be an opening at its top [footnote states "at its top" could also read "for his head"] in the middle of it; around its opening there shall be a binding of woven work, like the opening of a coat of mail, so that it will not be torn.
-Exodus 28:31, 32 NASB
Then he made the robe of the ephod of woven work, all of blue; and the opening of the robe was at the top in the center, as the opening of a coat of mail, with a binding all around its opening, so that it would not be torn.
-Exodus 39: 22, 23 NASB
Italicized words are ones added by the translators for clarity, not translated word for word; therefore you can skip the phrase "at the top."  You see in the video that the opening for the head is in the centre of the flat cloth.  It's not merely in the centre in terms of bilateral symmetry (at the top centre of the tunic's width when worn); it has quadrilateral symmetry.  The V&A tunic makes it clear how an opening for the head could be in the middle of a robe.

Exodus may not say it but historian Josephus says the Jewish high priest wore a seamless robe in the tabernacle:
The high priest is indeed adorned with the same garments that we have described, without abating one; only over this he puts on a vestment of a blue colour.  This also is a long robe, reaching to his feet, [in our language it is called Meeir,] and is tied round with a girdle, embroidered with the same colours and flowers as the former, with a mixture of gold interwoven.  To the bottom of which garment are hung fringes in colour like pomegranates....Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the breast and the back.  A border also was sewed to it, lest the aperture should look too indecently: it was also parted where the hands were to come out.
–Josephus: Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1960) p. 74
Similarly Josephus states that later in Solomon's temple the high priest wore "a blue garment, round, without seam, with fringe-work and reaching to the feet." (p. 556)

The V&A tunic and Burhnam's diagram have no sewing on the shoulders, only under the forearm.

I guess what I'm saying is that a reader gains more from a text when he or she learns about the text's contextual material culture, or at least older material culture than ours that contained holdover technology.  Your eyes don't glaze over anymore when you read archaic weaving instructions once someone lays out a really old tunic and talks you through it.

25 July, 2012

The Φ in Osberg

I found the dimensions of the Oseberg frame (an archelogical find from a sunken Viking ship) in small print in the end notes of Hoffmann's The Warp-weighted Loom: height 119 cm and width 75 cm at the base (about 47 x 29.5 inches).

I plugged that into the calculator: 119 divided by 75 = 1.5866.  That's so close to the golden ratio, Φ, phi, 1:1.618, the proportions the Parthenon were based on.  Ooooh, aaaah.

I am using artist canvas stretchers for a frame when making språng fabric.  I have 50 inch pieces for uprights with 16 inch cross pieces, and I have 31 inch pieces I can use for cross pieces instead.  That would get me very close to the size of the Oseberg frame.  I hear from someone who has made a full-size one that a reproduction Oseberg frame has quite a lot of mass especially at the base.  Thin stretcher bars won't get me the same stability, unfortunately, and that's a problem.  You need to have your hands free to plait the threads.

I saw the same picture of the Oseberg frame in a different context with the label "sprangvævstol."

Hoffmann doesn't call the Oseburg find a språng frame at all, she calls it a loom.  Reading the passage, she must have found rather galling that its attributes and those of the frame in the Hrabanus Maurus MS De universo didn't make sense to her.  She was trying to make them fit the mould of a warp-weighted loom.  All her objections (such as the thin line in the MS that runs across the warp like a cord, not a heddle rod) get resolved when you think of working språng.  But she writes, "We do not know for what purposes the looms were used," (p. 330).  Earlier in the book (p. 167-170) in the context of selvedges and tablet-woven starting borders, Hoffman discusses the språng stocking or sleeve from the Tegle find.  She speculates that it was done on a two-beam tapestry frame.  This indicates that she did understand språng.  Perhaps this section was written later than the one about the frames.  Anyway, neither she nor her editor caught the connection.

24 July, 2012

The Broom of the Cowdenknowes

Heard "The Broom of the Cowdenknowes" the first song on The Thistle and Shamrock's June 14, 2012 Archie Fisher broadcast.  It's a melodical ballad about a banished shepherd, sung by The Black Family.  That broadcast will be available for a limited time, they keep the ten most recent shows available on the NPR Player.

"The Broom of the Cowdenknowes" is also around the six minute mark on The Thistle and Shamrock's June 20, 2012 Bass Rock broadcast, an alternate, harp-heavy arrangement performed by Danny Thompson, June Tabor, and Savourna Stevenson.
"Fain would I be in the north country..."

23 July, 2012

Uniquities Fibre Farmers' Market and Freeman Museum

I arrived early for Uniquities' fibre farmers' market in Vienna, VA and wanted to stretch my legs.  The weather was what a Vancouver Islander considers excellent, 24 C / 75 F and such a light mist of rain falling I couldn't decide whether to put my hood up or down.  I went for a walk down a handy rails-to-trails path and visited the Freeman store and museum.

Upstairs in an exhibit case are a Civil War-era (and thus pre-embargo) ivory bodkin and a tortoise shell comb.  I hate to think of the poor tortoise but the material was beautiful.  No wonder manufacturers imitate it (inadequately) with plastic.  The shape of the comb reminded me strongly of reproduction combs sold by The Spanish Peacock and Crossman Crafts (both of whom also sell fibre arts tools).  The museum had the bodkin labeled "bobkin," not sure why.  Both bodkin and comb are delicate in size and workmanship, and functionally streamlined, not fussy like some Victorian items.

There is an open photograph album on exhibit and the signage draws attention to a photo of Civil War soldiers.  On the facing page is a photo of an elderly woman in a hard-backed chair.  The photo is partly damaged, blotting out whatever she is holding in front of her.  Likely she was posing with needlework of some kind.

Bought ripe peaches on the way back at Maple Avenue Market, fragrant peaches, something I don't find even at a good health food store.  (Yes, peaches have nothing to do with handspinning unless you want to talk about modern versus traditional production and marketing, biodiversity, heritage breeds, and living things bred to take their qualities out of them.)

The fibre market was good.  At the Uniquities' booth, the saleswoman gave a good explanation of the uses and qualities of every fibre I picked up to look at.  They were selling a clever breed-specific sampler bag for handspinners, all local fibres, containing wool from breeds representing five different categories of wool and stacked from finest to coarsest: California Variegated Mutant, Tunis, Dorset, Cotswold, and Karakul.  I went for a tried and true item, a quarter pound of un-dyed Sweetgrass Targhee top.  I continued around the room and discovered that Avalon Springs Farm and Solitude Wool both had Virigina-raised Targhee roving.  I felt some regret for not getting the local product but not enough to buy more Targhee.

Now, longwool, that's a different case.  I can go for more of that!  I bought a quarter pound of un-dyed Cotswold lambswool pin-drafted roving from Solitude Wool.  So soft, so shiny, and locally-raised.  I was interested in a two pound bag of their local washed grey-beige Romney locks, as the wool was very clean and the price was economical compared to top.  (For comparison, a two pound bag of Romney locks would cost slightly less than two wee quarter pound bags of the Cotswold lambswool roving.  The Cotswold was priced competitively, it is simply a different product in a higher state of processing.)  I might have bought Romney locks if they'd had the dark brown there, which the staff said they didn't bring, or if I'd realized I could dye the wool, which is never my first instinct.  I tend to be literal and WYSIWYG about fibre.

Overall looking at the fibre at that market, most was synthetically-dyed and so off the menu for me given my synthetic-free-fibre resolution.  Un-dyed wool made up a tenth of the un-spun fibre there, maybe.  I felt underserved in that regard, but colour sells and I understand.  There was a fair bit of yarn, if you like your yarn ready-made.  I got to handle the one yarn I'd been wanting to see in person, Solitude Wool's springy Suffolk and Dorset blend sock yarn.  I would buy it if I'm ever able to knit a well-fitting sock and am unable to properly spin sock yarn out of the Hampshire wool I have.  There were some fibre tools at the market.  I window-shopped at The Spanish Peacock's booth, as I already own one or two of every in-stock item of theirs I want.

21 July, 2012

So Much to Learn about Sprang

Am re-reading Collingwood's The Techniques of Sprang and am trying not to go cross-eyed going through all the variations there are to learn.  I follow more of it this time around, which is good.

I have some leftover crochet cotton set up on a frame and I am trying to decide what interlinking try out with it.

I see that it's possible to work sprang like double knitting, which is impressive.  That should go on the list of things to try.  But not in cotton.

20 July, 2012

Your Yarn Dyeing

I think most useful section in Elsie Davenport's Your Yarn Dyeing is the set of directions on when to harvest dye plants: "Leaves in early summer; flowers just coming to full bloom, fruits when just ripe, roots after plant has died down, whole plant when flowers are in bloom, bark in spring." (Tarzana, CA: Select Books, 1953, p. 113)

I also want to remember that she says you can get grey and black from alder (alnus glutinosa) with iron mordant–alder is considered a waste tree on Vancouver Island–dark grey from fresh young blackberry shoots mordanted with iron, blue grey from ripe blackberries with alum mordant, black from acorns (she notes this is hearsay), and crimson from St. John's wort buds with vinegar (again, second-hand knowledge for Davenport).

Davenport states that you use hard water to dye with madder, a confirmation of what I came across and posted yesterday: "Dyeing processes demand a plentiful supply of good water, either rain or soft water.  The one exception to this is the dyeing of tomato red with madder." (p. 48)

There's an astringent tone to this book, unlike the other two of hers that I've read on handspinning and weaving.  Davenport throws out zingers and uncompromising advice in the same breath: "Good dyeings, in addition to being fast, should be level, and the idea that uneven dyeing is necessarily desirable, and indicative of the work of a handcraftsman, merits little respect." (p. 58)  It's funny to come across this perspective in a time when braids of fibre in mottled colours are among the most desirable products for handspinners to buy.

19 July, 2012

Historic Clothing Project at Weald & Dowland Open Air Museum


I suppose many museums make clothing to try to replicate historical pieces and see how they wear.  I happened to run across some online material about the Weald & Dowland Open Air Museum's Historic Clothing Project, in West Sussex, U.K.

I'm not so much into interpreting old things as I am keen to learn how to apply good techniques to textiles now.  I like to find out useful facts such as this: "[S]almon-coloured linen fabric for Tudor breeches was dyed with madder, for example, which produces a strong red colour in hard water areas but pink or orange when used with soft water."
Rosie Clark, "A stitch in time at the Weald and Downland Museum in Chichester," Culture24, July 16, 2009, http://www.culture24.org.uk/history+%26+heritage/work+%26+daily+life/art70426

I'd much rather have a strong red colour than orange, so this is good to know.

The more I poked around the museum website, the more I found about handspinning there.  The site says the musuem often has spinning demonstrations in its different buildings using methods appropriate to the periods.  Half a dozen buildings house spinning demonstrations.  The museum's buildings span from 1300-1910, but the ones with spinning seem to go from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries.  There's a nice though distant view of a great wheel in one of the houses, Bayleaf, here.

Until the end of next week, the museum is hosting The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers National Exhibition, which includes live demonstrations.  Then on the 27th the museum has a rare breeds show; its handspun/fleece entry form gives many sheep breed categories.  Torwen is a cool name for a sheep, eh?

And completely off-topic, I was delighted to note that the museum runs a course on wattle and daub house construction.  The building on the left in the video is a post and beam frame with wattle and daub walls.  There is a fair amount of imitation Tudor architecture on Vancouver Island, so when I see the real stuff I associate it pleasantly with home.  Glad to know people are learning how to create more.  The construction is kind of brilliant: no power tools, and humble clay and twigs that make a wall which can last for centuries.

17 July, 2012

one hundred, fifty-second and fifty-third skeins

My camera is misplaced somewhere and therefore there's no photo of these skeins I just spun.  They look just like the last BFL skeins I did and I've thrown them on the pile to accumulate and be put in a woven jacket later.

12 July, 2012

Rita Buchanan's How I Spin

I watched Rita Buchanan's How I Spin and was interested in one of the samples.  She demonstrated a number of sample variations, such as twist, but this particular one involved three skeins.  Like the three bears, one was large and bulky, one was medium, and one was thin both in the skein size and the yarn size.  I'd call it meager.  What got me was when she said each was the product of twenty minutes spinning.  Yow!

11 July, 2012

Approaching Colour

I came into possession of most of a braid of indie dyed Gales Art BFL top in the colour proud peacock.  I pulled off a little piece, pulled off all the purple at the end to just spin the green section, and spun yarn while I waited in a restaurant for my takeout order.


Result: one restaurant worker who looked curious but didn't ask, and some yarn that might as well have been spun from a semi-solid braid.  Didn't take advantage of the subtle colour transitions.  Needed a new approach.


I played with the braid and discovered I could suss it out as being three distinct parts.  (I'm sure it would be four if I had an entire braid.)  Each part is a small enough amount of fibre for me to handle on a spindle without the spindle feeling logy.  (I'd use a larger spindle than the Crossman Crafts spindle shown above.)  The colour sequence of each part is a palindrome so there is a chance that when I ply using an Andean bracelet working from either end toward the middle, I could get clear colour without much of a barber pole effect.  And the transitional sections between one colour and another, those will show.  That is the plan.

There are handspun things I must make before I spin the proud peacock braid, including plain vanilla skeins that are going to be dull and unremarkable to post about.  Apologies in advance.  Colour adds a little more challenge to manage.  I recently watched Deb Menz's Color and Yarn Design for Spinners and the planning and blending techniques were far more advanced than anything I aspire to.  At least I know now what I was supposed to be doing with the many bits of different colours I was issued in a past guild challenge.  Menz seems a great deal fonder of heathered yarns than I am.  I hope to be able to apply her information about the role of colour value sometime.  Her method of working out colour combinations from inspiration reminds me of Alice Starmore's discussion of colour in her Fair Isle book, though the colour blending was achieved there through stranded knitting.

On another note, this braid will be the third-to-last synthetically-dyed braid of fibre I'll ever spin.  My stash holds this, another from Gales Art in lapis, most of a Gales Art velvet Elvis braid and that's it.  Everything else is either undyed–most of the stash is undyed–or dyed with plant material.  I don't have much of that, only two ounces Romney dyed with Scotch broom and one ounce DevonxHampshire dyed with walnut which I did myself, and a little mohair that was given to me already dyed with something that gives red.

10 July, 2012

Hot Water Revives Cheviot Wool Top

top, Louet Cheviot wool top out of the bag
bottom, same stuff after a soak in hot water
When I bought some Louet Cheviot wool top, it felt flat somehow.  I put it in hot water and if I'm right the crimp reset itself into something a bit more like my idea of what a down breed wool ought to be.  The Tunis locks and Shropshire roving I got from other sources were still much more spongy than the Cheviot.  Nevertheless this is better than it was.  (Yes, I know Tunis is not a down breed.)  Roving and locks are different from top anyway, loftier.

09 July, 2012

A Friendly Call


Here's a piece of handspinning-themed bas relief art, A Friendly Call, a thrift store find that's something like the kitschy brass plaques I found last year only in a different material.  The composition is well done, and I love the cat.  It rings the chimes on every stereotypical assumption about handspinners and thereby amuses me all the more.

07 July, 2012

Local Dollars, Local Sense

Two quotes from Michael Shuman's Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2012).
These cars, appliances, gadgets, DVDs, computers, toys, housewares–all the stuff that is increasingly manufactured abroad–only constitute about a tenth of our total consumer spending.  Most of our expenditures on goods are for "nondurables" (goods that tend to be used or consumed quickly) like food, building materials, wood, textiles, clothing, office supplies, and paper products. 
The distinction on durability is critical, because imports of nondurable goods are particularly vulnerable to rising oil prices.  Compared with, say, durables like microchips, the nondurable goods tend to weigh more and contain less value per pound.  As energy prices and shipping costs rise, nondurable imports will be the first casualties.  This means that local production of food and clothing, coupled with local distribution, will once again be competitive against Walmart's cheap imported goods as rising transportation costs swamp long-shrinking labor costs.  We could see a renaissance of local manufacturing of nondurable goods worldwide.  (p. 31)  
Another approach to investment can be found in rural Sweden.  Exasperated by mainstream financial institutions that had been sucking up the savings of businesses and residents in Åres Gröna Dalar for investments thousands of miles away, an organization called Fjällbete organized some simple ways to invest in local food production.  Everyone from modest farmers to wealthy venture capitalists in the region can now invest in sheep, their sheds, their grazing land, and machinery for processing their wool and meat.  People can buy shares of these capital assets and then trade them with one another.  Because a land embankment defining the edge of a sheep-grazing area is called a vallen in Swedish, the locals joke that this is their Vall Street. (p. xxiii)
Shuman's book is about the merits and potential of local investing in local economies.  He covers regulations in the United States that largely prohibit and (in limited, specialized cases) permit a small, unaccredited investor to put money into small local enterprises.  An example would be equity in a cooperative store that returns a dividend to members.

I follow news from the Transition movement at transitionculture.org, and some of the initiatives they report on have to do with local investment in the United Kingdom.  For example, cheesemakers, bakers, and brewers borrow money from small investors to buy equipment to start or expand a business.  The business pays back the capital along with cheese or bread or beer that has a value that equals a return of so many percent.  It's not an equity arrangement, like a cooperative.  It's more like buying a bond.  So I hear these stories coming from the United Kingdom and I think, they must have different regulations compared to the United States.  I've never heard of investment opportunities like this in Canada either.  Not that I'm really in the loop about Canadian investing at the local level, since I'm living in another country right now.

This blog is about handspinning yarn and you are probably waiting for me to bring this around to spindles, spinning wheels, and the sheep next door.  I'm getting there.

In the quote above, Shuman states that at some point it could be cost-effective to produce cloth locally.  I think the crossover point is much further out there for cloth than for small-scale local food, which in some cases is competitive with imported food and domestic mass-produced food already.

I can see local cloth getting rejected for looking distinctive, for being marketed as a cheap domestic alternative, and for performing poorly.  Not that local cloth necessarily has to perform poorly but expectations today are narrow: we are used to colour-fast dyes, fine threads, few slubs, stretchy knits, consistent sizing, variety, and low prices.  (Cowichan sweaters have sidestepped pretty much all of these attributes and succeeded.)

There's a lot to do before startup manufacturing operations can produce local cloth.  I've posted before about how the infrastructure for cloth has gone away.  How textile machinery is gone from communities, shipped to other countries.  How local mills scrounge for parts to repair what's left.  How much is involved in getting materials harvested and processed to the point where the end user will buy the product.  The sticking point, in my view, is whether you could make a local textile product that people want now while you wait and bet that in the future imported goods will become prohibitively expensive.  If you can't, then it's pointless to get funding to manufacture any because you won't be able to pay back the lenders.

I wonder how much folks would need to be educated about local cloth manufacturing before they could evaluate business proposals for viability and decide whether to invest.  I mean understanding and shrewdness, not a sense that local cloth is worthy.  I talk to people and often find that cloth-making is like a black box to them; the process is mysterious until I demonstrate.  "This is how twist goes into the wool and holds it together.  This wool feels rough and this one is soft."  The onlookers catch concepts quickly and ask good questions but lack the correct vocabulary.  They tell me how astonished and delighted they are to see handmade cloth.  They wonder out loud how I know these things.  You can be intelligent yet uninformed with no basis for an opinion about what's possible, feasible, and desirable: a hazardous place to be in as an investor.

Shuman's book focuses on local investing in terms of trade, capital investment, business, and manufacturing.  The last chapter, "Investing in Yourself" goes over other strategies.  He writes about the benefits of building personal cash reserves so you don't have to rely on credit and pay interest, of paying for education to boost wage potential, of improving a house's energy efficiency to reduce utility expenditures.  Think critically about the author's assumptions, I spotted some that don't hold up in my experience.  Nevertheless.  I would like to say if you are looking for ways to reduce vulnerability in the marketplace then consider obtaining more durable and versatile textiles.  Get cloth that lasts longer and you lay out money less often.  (This tactic is similar to seeking energy efficiency and conservation before ramping up alternative energy production.)  Magazines tout classic styles that don't have to be replaced, but there's actually cloth that lasts longer than average because of its structure and its properties.  Flax, hemp, kudzu, the more sturdy wool breeds.  Naturally-coloured cotton, wool, and alpaca.  Some of these you can buy in shops, but others you can only get by sourcing and making the cloth yourself, commissioning it, or buying direct from a producer.  I've read that kudzu cloth clothing can be worn by three generations and some wool rugs will last a hundred years.  There are cloth structures (collapse cloth, sprang) and garment styles (pleats, deep hems) that allow for children's growth, maternity wear, and other changes in fit.

When making cloth at home with handspun, a person might consider return on investment.  But few use ROI to determine whether their handspinning is worthwhile.  As it stands, with the cost of spinning wheels, the time needed to re-skill, and the effort of getting good fibres, investment is usually greater than payback.  As far as I can tell all the handspinners I've met have been able to bear the costs without taking on debt and without having to generate cash from their products.  Out of those who stop making yarn, usually it's for lack of support and knowledge in their early stages or it's for lack of time.

Profit is not a big justification for owning personal collections of looms, spinning wheels, and boxes of wool.  It's about getting something done, not making a living.  When you look at this attitude in light of our wider culture's attitude toward kitchens, it's ordinary.  We want to make a pie at home, we get a pie pan.  We expect ovens in permanent dwellings, even folks who never cook.  Anyone who figures out a cost benefit analysis is deciding between a basic and a deluxe one or mulling the merits of an extra convection model.  We're not choosing between oven and no oven.  Yet there was a time in jolly old England when common people in the city didn't have ovens.
And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the baker' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch.
–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Right now local cloth is uncommon.  It, and the means to make it, could increase.  I don't necessarily think such change all has to come through manufacturing and formal investment.

06 July, 2012

one hundred, fifty-first skein


I spun this skein from Tunis wool that was washed with its few matted tips brushed out a little.  No more preparation than that.  There are a few slubs in the yarn, a small price to pay for avoiding prep work.  You could say I spun it from the locks except the lock structure was indistinct.  The yarn's texture is springy and spongy. 

The fibre wanted more of a backward draw than I'm used to; that is, the hand holding the fibre moved backward away from the spindle instead of the other hand nearer the spindle pulling fibre down away from the mass.  My hands were farther apart than usual.

For now this skein goes on the shelf.  It could be useful knit into a small object for showing heritage breed wool at demonstrations.

03 July, 2012

one hundred, fiftieth skein


This yarn is rather inconsistent because I spun it during public educational demonstrations while talking to people.  The wool is a blend called Heinz 57 which I bought from The Woolery.

02 July, 2012

one hundred, forty-ninth skein


My one hundred, forty-ninth skein, spun from Blue Face Leicester to match the last one I did.  I expect I will weave with it at some point once I spin enough yarn to make a jacket.