Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bite Me...Again

Yes, I am still working on my knitting projects. No, I can't show you any pictures of things finished. Not even one part of each project...not a sleeve or single finished socks, or a row of fish...quite sad really, since I have been knitting like mad. Sigh. I have been keeping myself busy, though. Outings with friends, music, and coffee shop rendez-vous are partly to blame for my lack of progress...spinning is the other major culprit. I've been bitten by the spinning bug, and I think it's gonna leave a scar!

At Rhode Island Sheep and Wool last year, I purchased my first drop spindle, a Louet starter, and several bags of fiber. 1 oz of young and old fiber from the same sheep (cute!) to practice, 4 oz of Merino Top in two different colorways for later, 4 oz of Black Border Leicester also to practice, and 6.5 oz (the remaining quantity) of alpaca for 10 years into the future when I finally learned to spin.

Well, I spun up the young sheep wool almost immediately, and it looked a bit wonky to me. The color was beautiful, but the yarn was thick in some parts, thin in others, and the twist was really random. It held together, and I think I can use it as something, but I wasn't that thrilled showing it off anymore. But you know something? It's not that bad. I went to my first ever Spinner's Guild meeting on Saturday (yay!), and everyone thought it was actually nice! It was encouraging to know everyone struggles with consistency and twist.

The inspiration to spin struck me again last week, and I got out the old sheep wool and spun that up on my spindle. It took a bit to refamiliarize myself with the techniques...drafting and I need to take a walk on the beach together, because right now we are kinda not feeling each other. Anyway, I plyed it up, soaked, vinegared, conditioned, and hung it. I am in love! The color is gorgeous, and the yarn actually has a defined twist after plying. I wish I had bought more of this fiber, but I didn't know it would be so great or that I could make something that looked good using a spindle.

That success gave me courage to try some of the Merino at the Spinner's Guild meeting...too soon! It was really frustrating. The fiber seemed especially hard to draft and when I pre-drafted and separated it into thinner strands it broke! I did give it the old college try for about 25 minutes, and then I gave up. No sense wasting good merino when I know I can't make anything with it right now. SO back into the bag it went.

I was shown how to use a drum carder, and even carded my first batt! And when I was done, I was given the batt I had carded! A heavenly, soft white fiber. I spun up a sample's drying, so pictures later.

After show and tell, the merino mishap, carding, and relearning to drop spindle from two experts, I was advised to give my alpaca a go...I was nervous. It hadn't been 10 years, yet! So I carefully pulled all the fiber out the bag to find the end, and pulled off a piece about 18 inches long. I predrafted and separated it into thinner sections, took a deep breath, and started to spin. I was AMAZED how much easier it was to spin the alpaca than the stickier wools or the slippery Merino. It practically spun itself, and the singles were coming out really thin. After I spun up a small sample, I was shown how to Andean ply what I had to finish it off. A fabulous technique that looks harder than it is.

So today before I went to my French culture brunch and TV event, I researched fibers and spindles and books, because now I am smitten. I can actually spin yarn that is usable in actual knitting projects. In fact I think I will knit up the alpaca and mystery samples to see how they look in captivity. I can't wait, although I do so like looking at them in cake form! I am also going to start saving for a full fleece so I can work on a sweater's worth!

Until next time...

1 comment:

Iris said...

Wonderful post! You know, in retrospect I would suggest your merino might be best spun up "from the fold" - a technique you might be able to learn just by searching on YouTube videos, or ask around at the next guild meeting. It's something I only learned six months ago, but it turned out to be the best method for spinning a slippery merino/tencel blend that was troubling me.

Your alpaca looks great! Congratulations!