20 October 2007

Fibre Day

Today was an entire day dedicated to playing with fibre. How much fun is that, eh?

Princess Girl 'helped' me most of the day, which was quite entertaining.

I ordered some lovely black Corriedale wool awhile back, and was awaiting the arrival of the drum carder before doing much with it. Well, the drum carder is here, so it's time to play! Black sheep usually have wool in a few different shades - this particular fleece has everything from chocolate brown/black to mocha brown to gray, and when it's all carded together it makes for a beautiful heathered black look. I can't wait to see the resulting yarn!.

While we were playing with the drum carder, we dug out the Kool-Aid dyed wool that we did back in the summer, teased the locks open with the dog comb (you have to loosen them up a bit before putting the wool in), and ran the purple stuff through the carder. It wasn't very nice wool to begin with, so even after drum carding it's kinda slubby and weird, but it spun up into an interesting thick/thin/slubby yarn that Princess Girl would like made into a scarf. She helped with the entire process: dying the wool, getting it ready for the carder, and spinning. (Okay, her 'help' in spinning consisted of sitting beside me and playing with two little plastic ponies in the batts of fibre, but hey, she was there for all of it!). I cast on a few stitches of the spun singles and will get that scarf made up quickly - weird slubby yarn tends to look reasonably good when done up in garter stitch on really big needles. And it goes quickly!

Let's see, what else did we do? We washed some of the wool from my Cola, the Icelandic/Southdown lamb - and had our first unanticipated felting. I should've known better - Icelandic is finicky for felting, but I wanted it to dry quickly so I put it in the washer just to spin out the water. I've done this before with Southdown, which is almost entirely resistant to felting, but it's clearly a very bad idea for something as fussy as Icelandic! So ... we now know that Icelandic/Southdown fleece felts beautifully. Ah well, it wasn't the whole batch of fleece, so we washed up some more and laid it out very, very carefully on the drying racks. The good news is that the stuff from the washer wasn't a complete loss - I was able to rescue quite a bit and card that up into big fluffy (very fluffy!) batts.

I've been very interested to see how the crossbreed fibre spins up, so I can make my breeding plans appropriately. After all, if a particular cross yields yukky wool, we're not gonna want to breed more of them, this is a handspinner's flock! So, on to the experiement: the resulting singles are rather fuzzy ... this wool is like the thel part of Icelandic wool (the soft inner stuff) with hardly any of the tog fibres (the guard hairs). Now if I could spin a nice loose single on my wheel, I bet it'd be beautiful, but I'm not that good yet. I'll see what it turns out like after plying and setting the twist. Hmm, maybe I'll try spinning some on the drop spindle ... I can get loosely spun singles that way, but can't quite do that with the wheel yet.

Speaking of plying and setting twist, last night I spun up a second bobbin of purebred Icelandic (from the rovings I got done at the mill) and plyed that up. Today I washed and whacked it*, and it's drying on the racks with the raw fleece. It ended up as a 9 WPI** bulky yarn, which is waiting for me to decide on a use. I may see if I am able to spin up enough to make something larger (shawl? sweater, even? I certainly have lots and lots of roving...), but I'm still very new to spinning, so it'll be interesting to see if I can recreate that 9 WPI on the next bobbins.

So... after a day of playing with wool, I have a box by my wheel containing several batts of Southdown fibre (which doesn't spin up so well thanks to my less-than-ideal-shearing, but the batts are still good for pillows and quilts), a couple of batts of black Corriedale (that I cannot wait to spin!), some pink KoolAid dyed commercial wool batting (which we ran through the drumcarder just to open it up a bit), and a few batts of some 'mystery sheep fleece' that was a gift from my sister back when I lived in the city. I wish I knew what kind of sheep it was, because the wool is wonderful! And I have a ball of purple slubby weird yarn that is on it's way to becoming a scarf, and a third of a bobbin's worth of Icelandic/Southdown singles.

Whew. What a day! We sure had fun, though.

And I bet a few of you learned some wool processing terminology out of the adventure, too!

* washed and whacked: this is that 'setting the twist' thing mentioned earlier - after the wool is spun and plyed, you wash it one more time ... this relaxes the fibres a bit, and then as it is almost dry, you whack it on the floor a few times to felt the fibres together ever so slightly ... this sets the twist in the yarn so it doesn't unwind or go all fuzzy later in it's life

**WPI = Wraps per Inch, a measurement used to identify the thickness of handspun wool


  1. Anonymous10:53 am

    Whew!!! I'm tired after reading all that! Sounds like work to me but it would be fun to watch!!

    Love you, AC

  2. Anonymous4:33 pm

    I read one of your links. Wow! who knew that "fibre" was such an organized hobby? What an amazing way to spend your free time...and to think you "grow" your own wool. We can always learn and grow and as someone obsessed with decorative painting, I appreciate your obsession with fibre.
    Keep the faith

  3. Playing with wool is an amazingly relaxing thing, somehow. I think part of this is due to the fact that I spend so much of my time in cyberspace, where nothing is tangible, and indeed, given that I'm on the QA end of things, I don't produce *anything* in my day to day work that I can point to later and say "there, I did that."

    When I play with fibre, though, I can say "I did *that* today." It's very concrete, very tactile, and a whole lot of fun!

    It's probably best that I don't sit down and figure out the cost/benefit ratio just yet ... but I'm working on ways to make this into at least a break-even venture, where my sheep and wool products at least pay for the annual feed bills. :) Then the rest is just a free bonus!


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