Thursday, October 15, 2009

October Spindler's Challenge

I've had this yarn spun for a while now, but the blogging took back seat to getting all the Phat Fiber Box samples finished up. They were addicting while they lasted! But now we have our monthly Spindler's challenge.

I often try to sneak the Spindler's Challenge in as some other fiber-project I'm doing for another reason. That works out well enough, but sometimes it just feels like a cheat not to give the challenge its own attention. I like to stretch myself by trying out some new technique each month for the Challenge spinning, because that puts my own little twist on it. Har. Har. This month I decided to go back to that personal promise.

October Spindler's Challenge
October's theme is "Stained Glass". I love stained glass. I love the light pouring through it. When looking for a new church, I've gone back to buildings where I didn't feel immediately that I fit in, just because I like to sit under the glorious play of color there. There is one window in particular in my home-town church that portrays Jesus's last night in the garden of Gesthemane. Not only is this a compelling story on its own, but the glass is beautifully done. On a sunny day, the blues and purples glow, with golden light shining down through them both figuratively and literally. I loved it so much that I required our photographer to get one picture of me in front of it on my wedding day.

I had plenty of bits of roving that caught these colors individually, but I wanted to have a more subtle variation like the play of light through the glass. I've also been reading lately about blending colors through the use of hand cards. So I thought I would tackle a whole bunch of different ideas at the same time.

The first thing I did was divide the roving into lots of small pieces. I jumbled these up and then picked out a few at a time and loaded them onto my student hand cards (which I still have from my very first spinning class about four years ago). I transferred all the loaded fibers from one paddle to the other. This does a couple of things. Commercially combed top is a preparation of fiber where everything is lined up parallel, and is rather compact. Carded batts jumble all the fibers together, criss-crossing in a lot of places. It also allows a lot of air in between everything. A batt is fluffy. I pulled the fibers off and carded them again until I had an even batt on one carder, and then carefully pulled that off and rolled it up for safe-keeping.

Then I spun these batts. My second challenge to myself lately has been to spin long-draw. I'm a pretty self-controlling person and short-draw suits that style much better. You always have control over the fiber when spinning with a short-draw. With long-draw, you have to back off a bit and trust the twist and friction to do their job, too. As you get better at it, it's pretty fascinating to watch the twist grab just the right amount of fiber and pull it into the growing strand. You have to let just enough more twist in to keep that going. Too much, and you get a sudden thick spot in your spinning. Too little and it all falls apart.

October Spindler's Challenge
But once you get the rhythm down, long draw is fast. I couldn't believe how quickly I got through all the batts (although I suppose I shouldn't be shocked as I had a little under an ounce to work with). Winding off an plying took almost no time at all and I was left with around 53 yards of 3-ply yarn. It's lovely and fluffy and I'm really pleased with the play of color throughout. I think I'll probably combine it with some of the merino samples I spun earlier this year for a gift.

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