Saturday, October 15, 2016

Coopworth arrived, dyeing continued, and learning goes on apace

While I was waiting for the exciting Coopworth roving to arrive, from New Zealand sheep via Louet and Dharma Trading, I thought about including spinning into my meditation practice.  I had got pretty calm learning with the merino, and started even making better yarn. Ambitious thoughts about mindful spinning, creative sugar plums..

So the Coopworth arrived, smelling wonderfully clean-sheepy, and all the meditation went out the window. It's different. Despite all the places where I was assured it was easy to spin, that did not prove to be my experience.  

After breaking the fiber umpteen times, hardly ever happened with merino, and getting very annoyed with everything, I checked it out.  After I decided I was no good at spinning, that I had the wrong fiber, wrong house, holding my mouth wrong, all that. Turns out that I was probably using the wrong weight spindle. It just wasn't spinning long enough to draft and move the twist up the yarn, hence the breakages.  

I have three of these spindles, Schacht, if you're interested, maple, 4, 3 and 2.5 inches, forget the weights.  I was using the lightest, which had worked fine with the merino, as had the medium. I'd used the biggest with my own fleece.  But now I had to switch.  

Here are the experiments, and though the yarn is beginnerish, you see it's fluffier than the merino, so better for a less fine yarn. On the left you see older spun yarn, including the ball of newly dyed merino and the red mixture one is random dyed with Koolaid, using the fleece I processed, proud of having done that.

So I tried all three spindles with the Coopworth, and the larger ones are definitely more the ticket.  I also found that I can't spin it as fine as the merino, so this is for sturdier yarn.  At least in the hands of this spinner.  

I think there's a lot of personal variation in how spindles and yarns work, despite the assurances of expert spinners who can do all this on their heads with their eyes shut.

So now thoughts of the meditative aspect are beginning to return. Like knitting, it's very calming once you are adept at it, but in the beginner mind stage it can be a quick route to a stiff drink.

And the yarn I already had spun, from the fleece I processed years ago, and spun years ago, has had its turn in the dye, turmeric this time, and do admire this wonderful gold result. It looks as if there's a light behind it, just wonderful. On the right is a ball which I unraveled to let it dry,but the other bits are random stuff from the bag, which will probably end up in weavings.

Oh, and I measured the length of the yarn I dyed with the red maple and red onionskins, and it turns out I spun about 30 yards, amazing, really. Now I believe people who say they spin miles of yarn.

Natural dyes don't keep the smell of their original materials long, in case you wondered, so you don't have to be concerned that your yarn will smell of onions or turmeric or whatever you used to dye with. I've been asked this a number of times when people have seen me stuffing bags of onionskins into the water to cook for dye. Same with using vinegar as a mordant. The smell dissipates pretty fast.

Unlike the lovely sheepy smell of good yarn. Or llama smell, or alpaca, or whatever it is.  That seems to be hardwired into the fleece.  And the urge to acquire more roving of different kinds, and many more spindles, seems to be coming over me..But I think I have to resist.  I still have to buy groceries.

1 comment:

  1. Having extremely limited knowledge of spinning am very interested in your detailed report(s) the way you face a challenge...even if its a choice between spindle or groceries !


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