Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation


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Too much of a good thing

I have the trial of pleasant excess, which is to say I have a plethora of fiber. I’ve been trying, but life is busy and it’s not just that I’m failing to gain on the gifts of the holidays (when I gained 8-plus lbs of fiber), but I’ve fallen behind the acquisitions since then. I was weak. I saw that Paradise Fibers had some of a rare breed (California Red), and it sounded interesting, so I bought a lb.

Therein lies some of my problem, I want to make a useful quantity of yarn. I look at Etsy and see skeins of 1-2 oz., and think it’s inane. How is someone going to make anything out of so small a quantity, so I tend to get between ½ and 1 lb. of fiber (that, or I take a pair of 4 oz rovings and combine them to make some sort of interesting yarn.

It doesn’t help that I like to spin fine. I’ve gotten decent at it too. I’m no longer, “chasing cobwebs”, but rather I’ve moved to spinning gossamer. The cashmere I bought at Christmas is ridiculously fine. I decided to ply some of it up with the tail end of the Targhee I had left over from plying. I expected to have a thinner strand around a thicker one. Nope.   They were the same diameter. As I recall it was 1/45 for weight (these are cones used to hold the yarn for the weft on commercial looms), which is about 11,000 yards per lb. My estimation (from the skein length on the 4 oz I’d spun up) was about 13,500 ypp).

Spinning that finely takes longer.

So I’ve spun some, but I doubt I’ve managed more than a pound since New Year’s. It’s been interesting. The Finnish is nice, Polwarth is a dream. The Kraemer Mauch was really nice. The yarn has a very pleasant heather/tweedy look, and the hand is soft. It also spins up easily, needs little in the way of prep to go from roving to wheel and is easier to spin in a heavier yarn, which I am trying to teach myself to do. Right now I have two project on the wheel, and both of them are a bit frustrating.

Part of the frustration is that I want to spin a bit thicker, and I have trained myself to spin fine. That’s not too much of a problem, save that I have managed to choose rovings that don’t want to be spun “thick” (which for me means an end weight which a knitter/crocheter would think of as, “worsted”). The one is an alpaca, which is just not a very well prepped fiber. It’s been over carded and is not only chock full of noils, but clumps in the hand, so I get “slubs’ of fat fluffy stuff. At first I thought it was me having trouble with the nature of the roving, because, it’s, “pencil” (which means it’s a long thin strip, instead of a fatter “tube” of fiber). Pencil is supposed to be easier to work, because it doesn’t have to be thinned out as much to feed into the “drafting zone”, but I’ve mostly spun from the thicker sort of rovings.

That isn’t it. Looking at the slubs, when I try to thin them out, what I see is a tight yarn, surrounded by a halo of fluff. I’m going to finish this skein, and think about not spinning the rest of it at all. I may need to find someone who is interesting in felting and sell them the remainder of the two colors I have.

So decided to spin something else, and take it in stages (so as not to have something which seems a bit of a chore when I think about sitting down to the wheel). Silly me, I chose some alpaca/silk. It’s got, for different reasons, some of the same habits. First, it wants to spin fine. Second it needs a to be held with a firm looseness; a bit further back in the fiber bundle, or it becomes a slippery mess in the hand.

The other quirk is that if the twist gets into the fiber, the silk locks it right up. That makes opening a section which is too thick a lot harder than it would be if this was wool, or even pure alpaca.

I’d forgotten that. I’ve spun alpaca/silk blends before, it was sort of cranky, but I’ve gotten better, and I figured it would be ok. Mostly it is, but it’s not the best of “relaxing interludes” from the other.

The other thing making it so that my fibercrafting friends just laugh at me when I state a desire to reduce my stash, is that I joined a fiber club when I bought the California Red. My first delivery came today. Three rovings, 7 oz. total. A plain merino, a merino/tussah, and a merino/yak/silk blend. They are all lovely. The yak blend, in particular, is amazingly chatoyant. It’s a white yak, and a grey merino, it’s got a charcoal-silver effect. I may set aside the other 2 oz. of the alpaca/silk I’m using now, and spin it up very fine (which will be easier than what I’m doing now) and perhaps one of the other silvery alpaca blends I’ve got and make a 3-ply yarn with a really nice drape.

I can, of course, get the yak blend at a 10 percent discount, if I decide I want more of it; though that means I need to spin a little up in a hurry.

The last thing I’ve been doing is (finally) getting to work on spinning the Arapawa I got as a gift.  I bought some viking combs  and a set of Howard hand cards (I tested them out at WEBS, and was able to limit myself to just a bit more of the Kraemer Mauch. I didn’t buy a small loom, which was really tempting, nor any of the really pretty fibers.  We did get some dyes, so I we can play with making our own colorways from things like the California Red, or Polwarth, etc.).  I’ve got to work on the scouring, because the wool still feels a bit greasy.  It’s really fine, but crimpy, and I need to work on getting the carding done, since it’s full of vegetable matter, and the locks are kind of clumpy, which makes it hard to gauge the amount of distance to keep between my hands.


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All the fiber

For Christmas this year I got LOTS of fiber*. If I did the math correctly I added 8 1/2 lbs of raw fiber to the stash, as well as an unknown amount of unset cashmere mill ends.

Among the things I got was a sample pack of 24 different wools, from different breeds of sheep, 1 oz of each:

California Variegated Mutant (CVM)
Cheviot
Cormo
Corriedale
Devon
Dorset Horn
Finnish
Gotland
Herdwick
Icelandic
Jacob
Lincoln
Manx Loaghtan
Masham
Norwegian
Polwarth
Shetland
Southdown
Suffolk
Swaledale
Teeswater
Texel
Welsh
Wensleydale

Some of them are visually interesting (the Welsh has some very short, very thick, fibers in the mix, they seem brittle.  I can’t tell if they will disappear, or make a stiff sort of halo).  So I’ll be do doing some research on how to best spin them (perhaps I will finally get The Field Guide to Fleece and Fiber).  I’m looking forward to spinning them up, because they will be quick spins (yay for instant gratification) as well as being a chance to play with different fibers.  (I also got some quivut, I’m not going to be spinning that anytime soon, as I want to get some more, and be able to spin up enough to make into something.  I suspect I am going to have that something be a scarf, and I’m going to keep it for myself)

What they won’t be is all that useful as yarn.  They are great as a study aid/familiarisation project for me, but I don’t know they will be all that great as a knitting crochet project.  But, if any one wants to have an .oz of something new to play with, on the relatively cheap; perhaps to decide on getting some yarn made to order, I’m figuring to offer it for $15 a skein, postage included, for a 2-ply woolen, spun for knitting (some, like the Wensleydale, will be fairly fine; I can see the staple will like that; others (e.g. the Welsh, will be spun as best I can manage to the general recommendations of my research).

If you have a hankering to try one, and want it spun in some more specific way (really fine, 3-ply, spun for chrochet, etc), let me know, and I’ll spin it that way for you.

I’ll try to remember to write up the interesting ones, and may even do some youtubing.  With all of that, (and the extant stash, and the share of lopi being delivered in April) I need to spin about 1 lb. a month to reduce my stash to the level I was at on 23. Dec, by the end of 2014.  That doesn’t include the mill ends (though I already have one project in mind for them).

Among the other things I got was some really nice black alpaca (suri), mixed 80/20 with purple silk (I can’t tell if the alpaca has been dyed at all, it might have been).  The color is superb, and it’s a joy to spin, so right now I have done about 1.5 oz. of my needed 192.

I’ve got a video of it being spun out:

*the small bit of fluff I’m cuddling to my cheek, is Quivut)


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Attention leads to intention

Nero Wolfe, half of the great detective created by Rex Stout (Archie Goodwin being the other half), spends two hours, twice a day with his orchids.  It’s not that he has 10,000 (he does) it’s that it pleases him.  Some of the time is spent potting, or breeding, but a lot of it is almost certainly spent just looking at the plants.  I don’t have that many plants.  I have a few, a couple of orchids, a grape, an olive, a pair of etrogim (in the same pot, for the nonce), rosemary, gardenia, some “Peruvian Sea Lilies”, Freesia, various pot herbs, etc.

I also volunteered for the position of gardener for our condo.  So I try to spend a few minutes a day with the plants.  Some of it is to work (the forsythia is horrid, and the junipers are overgrown, in part because of the forsythia:  As a Californinian my first question when pondering a planting isn’t, “will it grow here?”, but “will it take over?”.  The designer of the landscaping does not seem to have ever considered this).

Because I can’t just rip things out and go whole hog (though some forsythia may be removed, and roses put in their stead), and because I have to consider some of the plants  (rosemary, gardenia, etrogim) as indoor/outdoor plants and some (the grapes, the pomegranite, the olive) are actual bonsai, I am forced to do a fair bit of trimming/training/constraining.  Herb Gustafson tells a story about someone who was visiting him; this was a semi-professional visit.  Herb is a a really well known bonsaist (no, I don’t know him, but some years ago we were both active on the same usenet groups, about bonsai).  This was something of a squeeful visit, and something like the “martial artist meets the great master” moment.  They went out to look at the plants.  The guest was all sorts of eager.  Herb watered some, looked at some.  Pinched a leaf, here and there, and in a short chunk of time, they were done.

The guest was comfortable to say he was sort of amazed.  He’d been hoping to see some great secret technique (you know where this is going, right?)  He had.  Staying in touch with the plants is how to make them beautiful.  By looking at them, every few days (he has enough trees that he’d need the four hours a day Wolfe spends with the orchids, to see them all, every day) he can judge their state of health, see which ones need more water, which ones less.  Where a branch is starting to go the wrong way; which plants have developed aphids, or need to be turned, or….

Doing that is how I noticed the grape had buds.‡

Bud cluster

That was a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, as I was trying to decide which growth was going the wrong way/being too vigorous, I saw the buds had bloomed.

Blooming Grapes I

Grape flowers are dull. They start as little green lumps, like tiny grapes; which are so cute, then they open, and they get that little halo of non-petalled flowers. But those turn into grapes.

Grape in bloom

Spinning is sort of the same. I try, because it pleases me, to spend at least a few minutes a day playing with fiber. It gives me a better sense of what it does (building the sense memories needed to be able to do it with an absent attention, while not losing my active intention). Spinning is sort of like running, in that regard; any amount you do is improving to your technique, stamina, etc.. For Mother’s Day I told my mother I’d make her some yarn; she knits, and crochets. She wanted some 3-ply for knitting. Since I had empty bobbins this was pretty easy to start. I’ve now done 202 yds. of 3-ply 50/50 alpaca/bamboo. I also, finally, finished the project I’ve been doing on spindles since February

On the noddy

(it’s not as bad as all that, it’s been mostly spun on the subway, and I mislaid the last third of the fiber for about three weeks).

It’s very fine. I didn’t get quite the length I thought I had, the end result was about 260 yds. My mother’s yarn is 2.8 oz. The spindled yarn is 1.8. They are both 3-ply.

How fine is it?

This fine.

Penny for your thoughts

Have a close up, so you can see that it’s three strands in concert.

The wheat and the chaff

When all is said and done, the past few weeks have been pretty productive, though to look at the fruit of that labor

Five Skeins

it doesn’t seem like so much; until I consider that’s only about ten hours of wheel time, and about 20 for the spindle (the latter is also “interstitial” time, as it’s time I was also doing something else. So rather than read, or amuse myself on my phone I spun).

Where is my spinning? It’s in a pretty good place. The interesting thing about the middle skein, and the pair on the outside† is that they represent me starting to weigh out the fiber before I spin it. The singles I spun after that, in both cases, were almost the same length (to within a yard, or so). That means, on both spindle and wheel, I am being consistent for WPI. I need to work on the Twist Per Inch, so that my plies will be more even. On the spindle it seems I am not as steady, or perhaps it’s that I can put in more twist with a lot less torsion, but the plying of the spindled yarn wasn’t as regular as I would like.  On the other hand, the end result (at 260+ yards, isn’t so much less than I thought it was going to be after all)

I also learned that I need to have a box of some sort, if I want to keep spinning on the subway, as the latter part of the exercise was hindered by the fiber being a bit felty, which meant I had more breaks, and a harder time being even in the diameter.

But by doing a little, every day (or two), my habit gets better set.  The next yarn I make is also going to be a bit on the fine side (about the same as my mothers), and then I’ll play with making some a bit bulkier (because that fiber wants to be pretty softly spun, and fine yarns are trickier to pull that off with).  I’ve put one trick in the bag, now I need to add more.

 

‡All the photos are available in LARGE, sizes.  Just right click on them to see the finer details

† those two, combined, are the spindle spun yarn. I made a rotational error in computing the lay, so I plied about 25 yards into a really ugly single. I tried to unply it, but that wasn’t happening. So I played Atropos, and cut it. I then became Clotho again and respun it, into a very “arty” 3-ply).