Wednesday, April 28, 2010
We start out with two itsy bittsy mini-skeins. On the right is the sleek 3-ply I spun from the leftover fluff of pulling out all the locks from the mass of fleece. I tossed that tangled poof into soapy water and let it soak and then very, very carefully loaded it onto the very edge of my hand carders and, in a way, "combed" that fiber. Since I only used the last few rows of tines it stayed pretty aligned, rather than getting jumbled up. Then I spun it from the tips. I was able to spin a very thin and smooth single.
The skein on the right is the leftovers from combing. This has lots of jumbled bits, nepps and short fibers. It is in some ways "trash". I took anything left on the combs after my four passes and tossed it in a bag. I then carded all those bits by hand and spun that batt woolen. I then wound a center-pull ball and made 2-ply yarn from that. It is much less even and a whole lot more fluffy. In fact, its quite a yummy, squishy little mini-skein.
I'll let you all know when I figure out it out!
Monday, April 19, 2010
I couldn't quite figure out how to hold onto them, when it occurred to me that the "workbench" we got for the kids a couple of years back had the perfect clamp to hang onto the handle of a plastic pick.
Now if you want a really great tutorial on how to comb wool, I'm going to suggest you go watch this four part series on YouTube which is where I picked up my basics. I'm not going to go into too much detail about what exactly you're doing when combing wool, mostly because I don't understand it that well myself, yet. I might try explaining it more later on. I feel like I need to try it a few times, first!
In general, combing wool is intended to align the fibers and open them up for spinning. It's supposed to keep the tip ends together, facing the same direction. Unlike carding, it does not jumble the wool into a tangle but keeps everything laying parallel. This creates a "preparation" of wool that is ideal for spinning into worsted yarn. It's also supposed to be a lot more gentle on the fiber and is well-suited for very fine wools that would turn into a tangled, neppy mess if you carded them enthusiastically.
So to start, I took a few locks and sprayed them down with a water and oil mixture in an old hairspray bottle. This lubricates the fibers so they'll slide easily, and so they won't go all crazy with static while you're working.
My DIY setup worked! Maybe not the best it could. As I worked I found out my washing process needs refining, too. The locks still had a goodly amount of lanolin in them. I got better as I worked through the ounce, making the transfer more easily and breaking fewer fibers. Breakage is bad. It gives you nepps (little knots of wool that broke and "sproinged!" into twisty tangles). My waste went into another bag which I later carded, nepps and all.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
What this means is that I need to learn how to process wool.
We start, in this case, with a rather unassuming package. It's about the size of a loaded Fourth-of-July bratwurst in a bun. This little plastic bag is packed quite densely with a sample of California Varigated Mutant fleece, otherwise known as CVM. Long story short on CVM is that it is really, wonderfully soft, and... it's not white. But it's worth reading up on the history of the breed.
Since the sun was fading and the kids wanted to play, I packed up my locks carefully in the towel and put the whole thing away for the next time I could devote an hour or so figuring out what to do.
I took the sock back off and on closer inspection, I found a section that had almost worn through! While not happy to find a worn spot, I was still pretty pleased to have caught it before it became an actual hole. It is much easier to repair when there is at least a thread of yarn in place.
I want to point out there is a very nice tutorial over on HSJ Studio. I've read it several times and attempted to use it to fix bigger holes. Luckily in this case it was just a matter of following what was already there in duplicate stitch and voila! I have a fixed sock.
You can hardly spot out the patch, although it does show up in the different striping of color across the area right in the middle of my heel. I don't mind. I know these socks will wear for a whole lot longer, now that I've darned them.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Really, my first thought in going the distance was not for a particular kind of yarn or color, but the idea that completing an entire, challenging project is going the full distance. And the start of any project like that is not just picking up what you want to spin and making it, but sampling your wool, first.
Yes, it's the dreaded "S" word, the "swatch" of the spinning world. The thing most beginners could happily do without. Because of the small amounts of fiber that are common put-ups, it's very hard to sample. Take out a few grams of fiber, and suddenly you might not have enough of that one-of-a-kind dyelot to make anything. But sampling is still worth it and a very good practice if you need to know if what you have will actually make what you want.
We just got our next Into the Whirled SAL fiber (did I post the old one? Oh yes, here it is!). The colors make me want to do colorwork socks, so I really need to get sock yarn out of the fiber. That meant I really needed to sample some to see how thin to spin the single.
But, I only bought four ounces. How do you sample for four ounces when you need almost that much for a pair of socks? You grab the same fiber dyed by the same lady, but in a different color! Luckily I have a grab-bag of scraps from her and I plucked out one that I was certain was the same as the SAL wool and fell to it.
In a sort of concurrent inspiration, a friend suggested that the song "I can go the distance" from the Disney movie "Hercules" could provide inspiration. It's really cute, with a nice theme and the young man singing has a lovely, clear voice. The bronze, brown and gold really called out to me and happily one of my scraplets matched!
It's perfect! But.. it's not the right fiber. After the fact I found out that the sample fiber is probably BFL, and I'll be spinning Falkland for the SAL. Oh, well. It was a good first lap!