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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A Bountiful Harvest

The fiber and whorl I ordered from Bountiful arrived yesterday.

The fiber is pretty.  It’s a bit less soft than the pure bay camel I have, but that was to be expected.  The whorl is TINY. It’s very pretty too (I like cherry).  This isn’t, per se, their doing (they didn’t make it, merely had the best price I’d seen).  But they are clever.  If you look at their website they have pages listing fiber.  Such lists are always a bit of strange pleasure, one can’t tell what they are (esp. things like, “Jacob”, as the source of some wool.  I am sure Jacob is a splendid beast, but that lets me know nothing of the condition of his wool).

With the printed catalog (all their drop spindles in one place, no need to poke about on six web pages [no, I didn’t spend much time looking in the nooks and crannies of the shop, why do you ask?] to see what they have), they included fiber samples.  Jacob, it turns out is a lovely shade of brown, not quite what I’d call chocolate; with a staple of about 5″.  Medium fine, and probably spins a very nice woolen, suitable for hats, or blending into something for a shawl.  Not suited to laceweight spinning.

It’s a very nice thing.  I am much more likely to order more fiber from them.

The whorl is nice.  It’s like changing gears on a bicycle. Not only does the flyer spin more quickly, it does so with less work.  I am now spinning as finely on the wheel as I am on a spindle.  I am quite pleased.


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On customer service.

I made a mistake in my last post, on spinning.  I mistook my niddy-noddy’s dimensions.  It’s not a 1 yd skein, but a 1.5 meter skein.  So the amount of yarn I made (and the total fiber) is a bit more than I thought.

Not 78 yds, but 117  for a grand total of 2106, when the singles are accounted for.  But my folly isn’t what I wanted to talk about.  I want to sing the praises of a fiber/spinning supply company.

I need (well, perhaps want very badly) a slightly faster set of gearing for my wheel (this will make it easier to spin thin yarns, and to balance my plies).  So I looked around and found a cherry wood whorl for about what most places wanted for a maple one.  I like cherry.  They also had a nice price on some camel/tussah top (50/50, which keeps the price down).  So I ordered the whorl, and 6 oz of fiber from Bountiful.  Since I was feeling greedy for my new toy I decided I’d opt for UPS, over Parcel Post.

Which is where the Customer Service came in.  On the web page they list Parcel post as ~$10 and UPS as ~$12.  They also say they won’t bill for shipping until the compute the price.  So I got an email, from them, asking if I really wanted to pay the extra for UPS, since the USPS was only going to cost about $6.  I sent a reply telling them that so long as I could reasonably expect it by the weekend, please sent it USPS (I happen to very much like the USPS, it is one of the underrated marvels of the world, and I use it whenever I can).  That was all within six hours of my placing the order.

This morning I got a note telling me it was packed, and on the way; telling me the whorl (a small piece of turned wood) was wrapped in brown paper, and to make sure I had remembered to make sure it was out before I discarded the box (which seems reasonable; yes, it was what I started this whole thing to get, but 6oz of camel hair/tussah might distract anyone from noticing that they’d not unpacked the wooden bit).

Kudos to them.  I will be checking back as I consider other equipment/fiber needs.