Friday, September 29, 2006

A Time to Spin, Part 2: Er, it can't be that hard, right?

I arrived home with the Pennic haul in mid-August. Book in tow, I bravely began to tackle my new supplies. First, the pink roving. It's pretty densely packed, this stuff, probably felted up a tiny bit when it was being dyed and then packed up tight for a while. I wasn't sure how to prep the roving, so I pulled off a little sliver and started pulling it apart, then attached it to the spindle, and off I went. I ended up with rather light-weight yarn with a lot of twist. Here's the picture again of that first go:

That's a picture of the first attempt at spinning the roving. I had so much twist on it that one night I wound it off and then moved it back to the spindle, slowly unspinning it a bit at a time to let some of the exsessive twist out. Is that the "proper" thing to do while handspinning? Who knows, but I did it. It's now a little better than it was at first, as we'll see below.

Next, I decided I couldn't keep my hands off of it: the washed fleece. But what the heck to do with it? Card it? Comb it? Try spinning right from the fleece? I didn't have hand-carders or wool combs, and wow, are they expensive. A trip to the pet store netted me 2 dog brushes, and I tried to remember how to card wool using the instructions in the book and some online references. The last time I did this I was about 10 years old. (OK, don't work it too much, you just want to straighten it all out a bit...) I finally ended up with a few rolags, and spun those on the top-whorl Ashford student spindle. Here's the spun version of what I carded:

Neat, but it's a little fuzzier than I expected, and when I tried drafting it thinner, it wouldn't hold together. Perhaps I should buy the expensive hand-carders, I think. Maybe I should try combs! I would definitely have to order those, no one seems to stock them, not even (I checked) the ToRontO-shop-which-shall-reMain-Nameless-but-they-sent-me-Into-the-basement (Toronto knitters, you probably know The Basement.) Perhaps I'm not using the right spindle to get the weight of yarn I want... er, better yet, perhaps I should actually go and talk to someone who knows what the hell to do with this stuff!

Enter Lettuce Knit, and Laura's drop spindle class. We were provided with some lovely hand-dyed roving and a spindle (another Ashford student spindle, ah, what the heck), and 4 hours of solid, patient instruction for 2 hours, two Fridays in a row. Here's my roving from class (I bought the matching second skein for $6):

Sadly, I'm lacking pictures of the in-progress spinning or of our "homework": 2 toilet-paper rolls of singles to take to the second week's class for our plying lesson. Perhaps when I spin up the rest of this roving, I'll fill in that gap. However, I do have pictures of the finished product, or My First Official Skein (2-ply hand-dyed merino):

I have to say, thanks to Laura's wondermous roving (which she had already pre-drafted a bit for us) it suddenly made sense. It's all in the fibre preparation. The better-prepared the fibre is, the easier it is to spin. This stuff is wonderfully soft, and made learning to spin on a drop spindle way easy. In fact, it was so much fun to spin Laura's roving that I bought more:

Laura also humoured me and brought "real" handcarders and wool combs to the second lesson, and at the end we played a little with various types of fibre preparation. I brought The Fleece, and the class got to meet it, and Laura carded a little bit and combed a little bit and everyone got to see how that works. I came to the conclusion that my dog brushes are actually pretty good (just a little small, so not as much volume, meaning, slower to card everything).

And I definitely decided that I need wool combs. I'm considering calling these guys, although that would be a bit of a splurge. Alternatively, a much more affordable option is the combs from Majacraft, which I think I can order from The Black Lamb. However, Lettuce Knit can also order the Louet Dutch Combs, and I really love Lettuce Knit. And folks, service goes a long way. I'll stew on it for a couple more days and let you know.

Armed with my newfound spinning knowledge, I tackled the pink roving again. Now that I actually know how properly predrafted roving is supposed to feel before I spin it, I'm more comfortable working with the densely packed roving. Here's how it's spinning up now, compared to that first batch of spun yarn:

Improvement? Not? Who's to say. It's not as even and it's not as light, but I'm more relaxed, the hand-dyed nature of the roving colour is coming through better, and my hands don't hurt from holding it so tightly. In other words, works for me. Perfection is overrated anyhow.

And finally, I tried spinning some of the grey superwash straight out of the ball o' fluff. Fun! Different! Harder to keep it together... but if you think about it, that makes sense. [Teacher Mode]The little scales or barbs on the wool fibre (when seen under a microscope) are what allow us to do so many wonderful things with it. Those little scales are what cause wool to felt when exposed to heat (which opens up the fibre more) and agitation (which causes the barbs to rub together and get tangled up due to the friction). The little scales are also what help wool to become yarn, because the natural friction of the fibres, when combined with a little twist, makes them stay together. [/Teacher Mode]

In other words, yay friction! But the treatment to make wool "superwash", as I understand it, strips away some of the outside of the fibre - some of the little scales. And therefore it doesn't want to stick together as much. In practise, it means I'm having to put more twist on this, after very carefully training myself over the last month how to use less twist. I hear you laugh. Anyhow, here's some of the superwash yarn in-progress:

So, that's part 2 of the spinning adventure. In part 3, more roving, some combed top, alpaca and silk! Woo! And did I mention Lettuce Knit offers regular Spinning Wheel classes? Hmmm? Maybe that's for Part 4.

I leave you with this picture. As for a caption, I was thinking, "Thank you for your offering, pitiful human", or perhaps, "Yes, lovely, but I'm still prettier." Husband's response was, "It's not a hairball, honest!"


String Bean said...

Lovely roving and I love that spindle (the carved one). Beeutiful! Keep up the good spin!

mikomiao said...

wow, that roving is just gorgeous all the more reason next time i'm in TO to go to lettuce knits... and the 2nd attempt at the pink yarn is so even and pretty! you'll be a fab spinner!

Sue, aka seiding said...

Looking good on all counts! I really love the pink! And the consistency will come back, or so they tell me....