Don’t you just love computers, servers, websites, hosting???
I DO NOT! Every time I have to make a major change — it is total chaos. I share my hosting space with a few friends, and at some point one of them was having problems because my host was designated as a “spam” provider. Major upset!
So I found a new hosting service and transferred all but one site over. Everything seemed fine, and we were happily swimming along in the pond, until — problems, problems, and more problems. At least twice a month, I was trouble shooting some lack of connection issue.
Ever since acquiring the Crisp Ruthie Tapestry loom, I have had visions of the paintings I would make. They come to me at odd times, sometimes while swimming, sometimes just as I awake in the morning. I see the colors and textures of the different yarns in my GROWING collection of handspun intertwining into a beautiful, abstract expression of form and color.
It is Now February 2015 and Ruthie came to live with me in the beginning of April 2014. I have been “dreaming” an awfully long time! What has caused this prolonged contemplation? Who knows. I find that as I have aged that my ability to procrastinate has greatly improved. In my early years, if I was anxious about something then I would plunge headlong, both feet in, with Gusto! I seem to be lacking that kind of confidence these days.
I wound 172 ends of linen/cotton warp months ago — September I think. Thank God I labeled it (# yards, #ends) because looking at it the other day, I was at a complete loss as to its measure. I work in Chardon, teaching Geometry, and we have had EXTENDED snow days due to the extreme cold — what do they call them — ah Arctic Blasts, or Arctic Vortex (which sounds MUCH worse). Anyway, I organized my work spaces, wrote to a friend for instructions on how to warp a vertical loom, finished up a spindle project, putzed around, and finally decided that Saturday would be the day to dress my poor naked girl (Saturday being the warmest of the most recent Artic Vortex days).
I feel silly, it was absurdly easy to dress this loom, even winding the ends onto the back beam was a breeze – though I did enlist hubby to supervise the weighted ends, and lend moral support. The reed was horizontal, so sleying it was easy, no tool needed, and no sore muscles afterward. I threaded and tied to the back rod in groups of 8, again, easy and pain free — I did this from a standing position, taking an occasional break to WARM up by the fire.
After tying on to the front bar, I “wove” in a header of toilet paper to space out the threads, and then some pearl cotton. Now she is ready. The dreams I have had can find expression in the form of this simple device. Somehow I must recall the energy and fearlessness of my youth and plunge forward, bobbins and yarn in hand to Create!
You never know what is going to inspire you, and where it may take you. That’s the FUN of living, and I’m starting to rediscover that life can be fun.
I happen to see an excerpt of a DVD Called “Three Bags Full” made by Judith Mackenzie, this inspired me to buy the DVD. The day it arrived I watched it. Judith was showing us how to select raw fleece, and how to EASILY wash it. All you really need is a pot of hot water and a good detergent (well — I’m going to add rubber gloves to the equation). Hmmm, maybe buying raw fleece is not such a bad idea — once it’s washed, it is pretty easy to deal with, and I DO have 2 drum carders, after all.
While mulling this over, I noticed while peeking at “friend” activity on Ravelry, that Trina had made a dandy version of the Aranami Shawl using Jacob fleece that she hand prepared. Can you just see the little wheels in my mind start to turn??? I was already making plans to attend the 2013 Maryland show — EARLY Saturday for the fleece market. But really, 7 months into the future, could I really wait that long? (NO)
Time to call in Google and Internet searches. I found a place near by (just an hour or so away) called Barking Rock and another site called Three Fates Farm, in Illinois. I called Colleen at Barking Rock and arranged to come out. I picked Punkin’s Lambs fleece.
It did have a yellow stain, but hot water and soap would ensure the fleece would remain undamaged (but still yellow) — I have to say that the yellow cast makes for a lovely wool, I wouldn’t change it for the world! I will be making Jared Flood’s Quill with this super springy yarn. Washing was easy, there was a lot of VM so — carding was a bit messy — I did not clean the downstairs until I had gone through all of it! It is a bit of a bumpy spin — an extra run through the drum carder would have been a good idea.
I emailed Karen at Three Fates Farm, and she sent pictures of fleece from 4 different ewes. I already had a mostly white fleece, so I was looking for color variation. Calliope looked just perfect for me, so I bought her 2011 and 2012 fleece. When the box arrived and I pulled out the first fleece, I was amazed at how very little VM was in the fiber! I test washed some of the dark and some of the white, and it was wonderful — soft and springy. What fun.
I separated out 4 distinct color groups from Calliope’s fleece. Each went into a storage bin. For the next 4 days, after work I washed one group at a time. HOT water, textile detergent, BIG pot and rubber gloves. It took 2 hot water washes, and 2 rinses. Then into the spin dryer and hanging in a net bag with a fan on it. This was EASY.
I wanted this to be well carded, so I developed a little production line. Using my hand cards (again each evening after work) I carded through the color group — just a few passes at a time — to get any VM out and to open the locks. The next phase (on the weekend) was to run the opened locks through my Louet Roving carder, and then 2 of those into the Louet Blending carder. The result was a nearly VM free 1 ounce batt.
I need five shades, but there are 2 light greys and 2 darks — one more grey one more black. So it should work out fine. I placed all the greys with a “parter” of nearly the same shade for 2 oz 2 ply skeins of yarn. The triple carding is really paying off — it spins like butter, is very clean, and will make a super elastic, full of air, nicely fuzzy yarn. Just what you need for a light weight, but warm shawl.
I had not even finished with the first fleece from Karen before I decided that I had to have more — so I bought all she had from the other 3 she had sent pictures of, Norah – 2 Fleece (Calliope’s mother) Freya – 1 Fleece and Thea – 2 Fleece. It is now sitting in my basement, waiting to be unpacked!
What am I going to do with all of this fleece? I do have a plan! Of course, I will use all the Jacob that I want (I have at least 2 shawls planned, possibly a third) THEN I am going to spin the yarn and make up a few kits for a local yarn shop — Jacob My Shawl kind of thing. THEN I am going to offer batts of sorted, carded Jacob fleece for spinners! When those clever little wheels start turning, all kinds of good ideas take root.
What do you do to enjoy the Fall colors? I start cooking up all the walnut hulls that have been generously donated to me by my friends. I like to let em get good and steamy (they’re pretty black and a little mouldy by the time I use em!). Makes the color better.
Then — into the cook pot to make a rich, almost black dye liquor. How does it smell?? Not bad, really, it has a nice earthy smell. I feel like such an Earth Mother when I’m cooking up walnuts or dandelions (that’s the Spring blog!).
I use yarn and roving in the pot, sometimes together. They seem to rub along together quite nicely — who would da thunk!
There is this new trend in shawl making to use hues of the same color in your shawl. A few great examples are Brooklyn Tweed’s Quill, The Aranami Shawl (I’ve also seen this done with Jacob Fleece) — and The Yarn Harlot’s project shawl with Jacob Fleece and the Damask Pattern. Really you could take ANY shawl pattern and apply a graduation of color to it, but it looks especially good when the pattern has a shift in texture — time to change colors! Keeping it all in the same family makes a stunning piece.
Walnut dyeing is pretty cool. I swear it almost conditions the fiber. It feels softer to me, maybe even happier. You WANT happy yarn — then when you pick it for a project, you get the maximum cooperation and a flawless execution of form, color and texture. Remember — happy fiber is good fiber.
This year I took my walnuts — gosh I had almost forgotten them — collected last Fall and sitting around in my garage for – well – almost a year (oops). Cooked em up, and Dyed some Wool superwash roving from the Sheep Shed Studio (Brown Sheep Wool over runs), some super fine lace weight wool from the Cleveland Woolen mill (he told me it was Merino) — we’re talking 5200 ypp here folks, and some lovely superwash Merino Lace weight (2000 ypp) from Henry’s Attic. There were 3 different batches. The original strength and cook for 45 minutes, soak over night in the left over, and another batch after that — cooked for about 30 minutes. I have 3 very nice shades for each fiber, and YES they all took the dye slightly differently — each according to their tastes. It IS a wonderful life, isn’t it???
Years ago, it seems like a lifetime now, I wanted to take up knitting again. I was just married, just out of college and really poor. We just barely had enough to scrape by — thank God we lived in San Diego, where several nights a week we could go get a meal for under $5.00 at one of the beach front restaurants. (Taquitos and salad at Tugs Tavern was the best!)
I had one really bad experience knitting with acrylic. After several hundred hours of fisherman knit cables and designs, I could not stand the touch and feel of my new fisherman knit pullover. That cured me — it was wool or nothing (certainly not anything “synthetic”) 30 years ago we did not have all the cool new combinations of fibers that we do today, so I just swore off anything that was not natural.
Wool was above my price range. Then one day, while attending a free fair in Old Towne, I saw a woman spinning on an Ashford Traditional Spinning wheel. I was captivated. We spent about an hour or so, watching and asking questions. The kit wheel was $75, a whole POUND of fiber was $6.00 (New Zealand — raw fleece) and carders were abut $20.00. Once I realized that wool was $6.00 a pound I was sold, hooked, ready to get on board … I could finally afford to make a wool sweater … eventually.
The gal directed me to the only store in San Diego that had the supplies I needed. I bought a drop spindle, carders, a pound of wool, and a book “The Joy of Spinning”. Anytime I wanted to learn something new, I would say “Hey, I’m a college graduate, if there is a manual, I can figure it out!” I read the book cover to cover (it’s really an entertaining read), then tried the primitive, bottom whorl drop spindle. Here’s a thought — if you are going to try something like spinning your own yarn — get the BEST tools you can afford — right from the start. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to learn a new skill with substandard equipment. You’ll never know if your lack of success is due to ineptitude, or just bad workmanship!
I looked over at my new husband, and he watched me struggling with this $&#()^% spindle and suggested we go get the kit wheel. He has always been that way — “get the right tool from the start” — I was the one trying to save a few bucks. I finished the wheel, put it together and then sat down with my basket full of rolags and just started spinning. Sure I lost the thread now and then (it just gets SUCKED onto the bobbin before
you realize what’s going on) and it wasn’t SUPER smooth — but it looked like yarn by golly!
I loved the entire process. Put a towel on your lap, card out the raw fiber (which, gratefully, was really VERY clean and only smelled of yummy lanolin), making little sausage rolls called rolags. When you’ve got a bunch of ’em, then sit down to the wheel and start it spinning — Here’s a good one; I’m right handed, but dyslexic, so when I read the directions on which hand to draft with I got it backwards, and I draft with my left instead of my right, turning my body to the left. Oh well — it worked out great later when I wanted to learn to spin on a great wheel.
It was a slow process at first, but eventually I started to get the hang of spinning and the yarn was looking pretty good. My first couple of 3 oz skeins went to making a baby sweater for my first child. I couldn’t find fiber reliably, so spinning was a hit or miss affair, along with taking care of our son. Once we moved to Ohio, I could get fleece from local sheep farmers — but that is another story all together (see The Lure of Lanolin). Thank goodness I found Earth Guild — mail order (an actual CATALOG and SAMPLES) but at least I could now get fiber — and fiber that was cleaned and ready to go (whew, what a relief).
I would put the baby in a basket of warm laundry, and then sit and spin on the wheel — the motion of the wheel and the soft whosh and whir sound it made captivated little Jimmy — he soon went to sleep.
So what makes handspun yarn cost $50 or MORE for a 4 oz skein???
First you have to decide on the fiber, raw or uncombed/uncarded is cheaper, but you will have to do the carding — it takes me about a minute or two to make a rolag, and it takes about 2 dozen rolags to fill a 2-3 oz bobbin (maybe more) That looks like about an hour of carding for a 4 oz skein
Then you have to spin the rolags into your “single” — that’s 1 ply of a 2 or a 3 ply yarn. Now that I’ve spun for a long time I CAN do it fast if I want to, but still it’ll take 2-4 hours to fill up 2 of those small bobbins. Some wheels (production wheels — they have large drive wheels) can spin fast very easily, that’s good, cause it get’s tiring treadling like a speed demon.
Once you have filled up 2 bobbins, then the yarn has to be plied. I usually do 2 ply, unless I want to have a thicker yarn, or I want to preserve color striping, or I want to have a stronger yarn that will pill less — then I’ll do 3 ply.
It only takes about 45 minutes or so to ply up 4 oz of yarn.
Then it needs to be skeined off, washed and reskeined — another 45 minutes.
Lets do a little adding now. But First, most spinners can buy their fiber ready to go, they’ll pay $2-$5 per ounce for those beautifully processed, dyed and mixed batts of ready to spin fiber — but it’s worth it. We won’t add the carding time — we’ll just keep in mind that the spinner has spent a little money to bring you this nice yarn.
Spinning time: Take the average 3 hours / 4 oz
Plying time: 3/4 hour
Skeining/Washing time: 3/4
That looks like 4.5 hours 4 oz skein from start to finish. The spinner might like to make minimum wage $7.75/hour ~$35.00 plus the cost of materials (let’s say $15.00) and you have $50.00 — that’s if she is going to sell to you directly. Selling to a shop owner means she has to take less for her product so the owner can make some money too.
I didn’t even include if the spinner hand paints the roving or yarn — that’s an entire new process.
Why do you want handspun? A skein of handspun yarn has been prepared by someone, personally. They have used their sense of Art to create a product from scratch. If you are a knitter, you’ll love handspun, it is basically magical. The Spinner has put a bit of her soul into the yarn with which you are knitting. Her energy is in there! So far everything I have made with handspun has turned out beautifully. I like to cogitate on my handspun, and let it tell me which project would be best — then the magic really kicks in.