Better than salt money

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


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When the shit hits the fan

I am a prepper’s wet dream.

I’m male. I’m a vet (and a combat vet). I was in Intelligence (and better yet Interrogation, with time spent instructing). I know how to make gunpowder, and turn that into grenades, bombs and rockets.

I’ve studied martial arts. I know how to use bladed weapons. I can ride a horse, and a motorcycle. I know how to make minor mechanical repairs. I’ve studied fortification. I can use swords, pikes, axes, knives, bows, crossbows and firearms. I’ve made cannon.

All of which makes their eyes glaze over as their breath gets short. They see me as some massive asset in the bloodbath they expect to come when The Shit Hits The Fan.

And they are wrong. Not only is that not the likely scenario, even if it were I’m not on their side. I’ve studied history. All those times of death and destruction from one end of, “the world” to the other… were not because society fell apart. Nope, the death and destruction were why society fell apart. The plague comes, people hunker down and try to ride it out (or they move to cities. France didn’t recover the population she had in 1300 until 1900, but the distribution of population changed, a lot).

Preppers don’t get that. Even the ones I’ve interacted with who seemed to get it (that more than just gun and guts are required), still fail to see how things work. I was on a couple of panels with John Ringo a few years ago. Now John seems a tolerably decent fellow, but in the course of a couple of hours of discussion I realised he’d picked up some of the same blinkered ideas that so many End of the World sorts have; mainly that the end will be sudden, and then it’s warlord city.

So when the conversation got to farming, he was dismissive of pretty much everyone; until I told him I’d run a small farm (and I do mean small about ½ an acre). That said, with a bit of work, and some knowledge of what was required, that’s enough to add a fair bit of food to the table for a family of six (which is what I was doing with it).

Some chickens, some attention to the compost and putting in a balance set of crops (such as with the milpa systems in Meso-America) can get a lot of food out of a moderate amount of land. It’s not that tricky to set up, and a small investment in practice (a working vegetable garden is often enough to see what’s needed), and some books are all one needs (that, and seeds).

Want to have fun with a prepper… ask them where they intend to get socks. Most clothes are pretty durable, so it will be a couple of years before the supply of pants, shirts, coats and hats run out. But socks, socks get a lot of wear, and (as one who spent a lot of time in the Army) if they don’t get washed frequently your feet rot. Also, if they don’t get changed/washed regularly, they wear out. I have a lot of socks, and I change them. A four day weekend means I pack six pair (yeah, I might obsess a bit about socks).

That’s where my predilection for books, and futzing, comes in. I’ve done a lot of crafty stuff. I was a machinist for several years. I can run a lathe, or a mill. I understand the basics of using brakes. I’ve done a bit of forging. I make yarn. In theory I can weave.

This is where the preppers fall apart. They think of marauders. They contemplate a world of scavengers, living off the plunder of those fools who didn’t prepare. They imagine Mad Max, and envision the wasteland of the 30 Years War. They forget it was marauding soldiers who made that wasteland.

They don’t know how to make things, and they don’t know how to run things. I’ve been fortunate. The choices I made in my life mean I’ve never been rich. I have (through good fortune, and the help of my friend and my partners) been able to live a life which allowed me to indulge in hobbies which are modern luxuries, but used to be essential skills.

Take my spinning. I have a wheel at home. It cost, all in, about a grand. I paid for about half of it, and my partners kicked in the rest (as an early holiday present). I spin when we watch television or when I need to take a break and compose my thoughts for some piece of writing. I use it as therapy when I see something ungodly stupid on the internet, and as a way to unwind at the end of the day (the moreso when the winter comes and I can’t garden). It is, for me, an interstitial pleasure.

For much of “civilisation” it was an interstitial need. Women did (and do, if you look at the Andes today, as well as the highlands of Afghanistan, parts of India, etc.) spin when they had, “nothing else to do” (women, largely, did the spinning, while men did the weaving). I’ve got a project on spindles right now. I have about an oz. of Merino/silk spun up. I think I might be able to get to an oz. and a half before the total weight is too much to keep working.

That oz. is about 450 yards of fine yarn. To make sock-yarn (you thought I’d forgotten the socks), needs three plies. It happens I intend to spin three singles (ea. of which becomes one ply), and then make some sockweight yarn. For the other singles I have alpaca/silk (80/20) and pure merino. Socks last longer when you have cellulose, like tencel, or bamboo, or silk in them, which is part of why I’m adding to this yarn; but mostly because the fibers I had were blended, and I thought they would be pretty together.

I do most of my spindle spinning (up to about .9 oz. before the spindle start to be too heavy to manage when the train slews) while I’m on the subway, so it really is interstitial. I’m making yarn when I don’t really have a task at hand. I could, read (or play games on my phone, but I do this (and it ties me into the work of women going back some 10,000 years, maybe more). I will probably sell this yarn, so I can afford to buy more fiber to make more yarn (it’s sort of Ourborosian).

So, to get 450 yards of sock yarn, I need to spin about 1,500 yds. of singles (because twisting them up to get the final three-ply will reduce some of the total yardage, which varies based on how tightly the yarn is spun). I’ve spun about ½ oz. of the second spindle in the past five days of commuting, but it’s the sort of thing preppers don’t account for.

They see cans, not chickens (to quote @civilwarbore), and don’t think about the nature of the lifestyle they imagine. Yes, one can be a marauder, if there is a stable society to pillage, but as with any predator, the prey can’t be depleted if they want to survive. Since the actual prey of Vikings, Mongols, Huns, etc. was the fruits of urban cultures, it behooved them to not destroy those cultures (which is why they tended to settle down, and set up shop… thus becoming potential targets for the next wave of marauders).

And they somehow think it’s impossible for people to co-operate. They ignore the aftermath of disaster. New York has a blackout… people come together. Post Sandy, when Lower Manhattan was dark… restaurants were running on cash, or tab. There wasn’t any light, but the gas worked. They didn’t have refrigeration, but they could get deliveries. I stopped into a liquor store, and they offered me lunch. The vast majority of people are, at root decent. Not saints, maybe not even nice, but decent.

So, when I said, in one of those panels, that while I didn’t have experience in lots of things (e.g. I’ve never tanned leather), but you should see my library, John Ringo laughed, and said that wasn’t going to be good for much. Perhaps, for him, it wouldn’t, perhaps he’s not good at research (one of his books says black powder has more energy than smokeless), but for me, they would be.

In part because I trust that other people will pitch in, that we can divide the labor, and find materials to let us make mistakes. Some things (like brewing, and pickling, and salting), I’ve already practiced. But when the “Next Dark Age” comes, it will, as with Rome (both of them) probably be more a gradual loss of the trappings of easier living than some cataclysmic catastrophe.  I know how to do more than I can do (run a herd of cattle, tend sheep, grow grapes, grow cereals, thresh grain, harvest corn, make pots, build ovens, dry lumber, felt wool, make a yurt; or a tipi, build a weir, build a dam, make a catapult (or a trebuchet), fashion bows, entrench a town, set an ambush, cook, knit, plough, sharpen, play pennywhistle, play baseball, football, soccer, skittles, turn wood, make glue, make wine, beer, and vinegar, press olive oil, prune fruit trees, &c. &c. &c.), and I can teach.

And for that, I am as prepared as I can be. Preppers aren’t. Because people who can do violence (and well) are easy to come by (e.g. me). People who can do the rest of it are more common than people think. People who can do both aren’t thin on the ground. And people who value comity will band together, where those who are good at violence will (in all probability) leave the plough as needed, to put paid to those who plan to live off the sweat of other’s labors.

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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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On fibers

I’ve not been spinning as much as I ought.  Given the way this year is scheduled, I’m never going to catch up to the fiber in the stash.  It doesn’t mean I’m not spinning, I am.  Right now I have two active projects on the bobbins (a blue and white twining cable, spun Z/S/Z, to end up with a 2×2 cable, which I am sending to be used in crochet), and a striping Targhee on the wheel right now (2-ply Z/S: which means it will be better for Continental/German/Pick knitting: It turns out I’ve been making yarns for the less common style of knitting in the US, which is British/Throw knitting.  On the flip side, this seems to be the more common style of yarn, so no one has complained.  It seems the books I was using as reference assumed the default was Continental, that or I misunderstood them).

I’ve also got a batch of generic white, which I’ve dyed with saffron. It’s got a lovely yellow shade to it.  I’ve washed about 6 oz of dirty wool (from an Arapawa fleece I was sent), so I need to pick/card that and see how it does.

But I’ve spun about ten different fiber types in the past year. I have been “chasing cobwebs” (i.e. I spin pretty fine yarns).

Merino:  Smooth, but a bit grippy.  It want’s a lot of opening our before drafting.  It’s also pulls fairly slowly, even when being done as a woolen.  I’ve gotten better at avoiding “slubby” patches, but I’m still not spinning it as evenly as I’d like.

Herdwick: Not sure what I think.  Short, tough, rough.  Has some kemp.  Spins to a very durable; if prickly, thread when fine.  I’ve not managed to spin any up with any bulk.  Would be great for weaving carpet-backs.  Could be used as an outer sweater.  Face the cuffs and neck.

Lopi:  Easy spinner.  The yarns I’ve had the easiest time getting some intentional bulk into.  A bit less than soft, but not all that rough.  Blended with some silk it might make warm, long wearing, socks.   Good for sweaters.  Not best for large areas against the skin, but would be nice as a hat.

Polwarth: CREAMY!  This is (to date) the nicest spinning I know.  It’s a long-wool (like the Targhee, and Merino), but it slides easily, so pre-drafting is both easy and less critical.  It’s smooth through the fingers, responding well to being semi-worsted (by passing the yarn over, then under, the fingers in my orifice hand).  As with all long wools it benefits from a more open hand position.  It’s very nice to spin fine. The time it takes seems to be less, because the feel is so nice.  One gets a little lost in the sybaritic pleasure of it sliding through the fingers.

Suri (Alpaca): A different sort of longwool.  Not as grippy as those from sheep.  Has to be handled with some care, as it gets really wiry (and harsh) when overspun.  Underspinning is easy to do, and that can make plying a bit more tedious (to say nothing of the frustrations that can lead to when one loses the drafting end and has to fish it off the bobbin; at which time bit, after bit, after bit, just frays to nothing).

Huacaya (Alpaca): Shorter, a bit less soft.  Easier to spin woolen, though it also needs to have a careful balance of twist.

Yak: Very short.  Warm, and soft in the hand. Not as elastic a yarn as wool, nor even as Alpaca, but the spring to the plied yarns is wonderful.  It’s plush.  Good for scarves and gloves.  If you can find some white/tan yak it would make a very nice shawl; from fairly open, to middling dense lacework.

Targhee: A lot like Merino.  Feltier, so it needs more opening before drafting, but it’s more forgiving in the working; both sliding a bit more before it locks up, and locking up pretty solidly when the twist sets in.  Spins very finely.  It would probably full very well,  so weaving it into peacloth, or a a beret/tam o’shanter would be a good use for it too.  Might not be as good for socks (felting), certainly that would want a fair bit of silk/tencel/bamboo added to the wool.

Suri Alpaca/Silk (80/20):  Nice to be done with.  The silk makes it very prone to the top/roving developing halo (this might be static, so a little water/spinning oil might help, if you don’t mind the way they make the fiber feel in your hands).  Once it’s spun it’s lovely stuff, but it does need more handling.  It’s also very slippy, so you have to be careful with your hands, not to tight (or the twist runs tighter than anything), nor too loose (or it flies out of your hand, onto the bobbin, and needs to be fished out).    [I’ll be playing with some plain silk, and that should help some.  I wonder what a 70/30 ratio would do, since the silk has a different luster (larger bundles stand out, as chatoyent gleam).  I suspect being better with silk (which has huge issues with trying to fly away), will help with this.

Finnish:  Very nice.  Easy spinner, moderate staple.  Can be spun fine, so 5-plies for guernsey/aran sweaters with lots of clean cabling would be doable.  Has a moderate halo (but not prickly), so blending it with some alpaca to make it a bit softer (with looser decorative elements) would still look/feel good.

 


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A color runs through it

A livejournal post, on progress in spinning was the spark to do more than just the recap of a really nice skein of yarn (which I will also do).  I’ve been spinning on the wheel for about a year (not quite, I got the wheel in mid-November).  According to my spinnenboek I’ve started 16 projects on the wheel in the past nine months, and 15 of them have come off of it.  That’s not too bad.  It’s not great, but it’s more than one a month, and as I’m spinning in the odd moments, or when we are sitting watching television, etc. it’s not too bad.  As a crafty-purchase it’s not sitting idle in the corner, so it’s a win.

I’ve still got my first skein of yarn, and as I was promised, I can’t do it again.  The slubby-mess it is (which is both a term of art, and a misnomer.  I don’t care for it much; though it’s got some charms; I know people who will pay good money for skeins of thick and thin.  I saw a shawl made from some just yesterday.  It was attractive, so what do I know, me with my aesthetic for more even yarns?), it no longer something I know how to make.  I have become a fine spinner.  I may not be a “good” spinner (by my lights), but the yarns I make are not thick, though I can still see the ghost of that first skein.

How has my spinning changed in the past nine months?  I’ve gotten more confident.  I don’t look at a hank of roving and say, “OMG… I’m going to screw it up!”.  I have taken to planning my yarns.  I’m also managing to get what I want (mostly) out of them.  I need more practice to have a solid sense of how the colors work out, but I’m getting there too.  I’m willing to take commissions.  I’m not looking to make a living at it.  I’m not even looking to make pin-money.  I’d like to make it pay for itself, so that I’m not pouring money into fiber, and in need of giving the yarn away to have room to make more.

So, for a basic commission (i.e. some sees a roving they like, and want’s to have some yarn from it), I’m happy to do that.  If they send me twice as much fiber as they want yarn.  It’s a pretty good deal actually, given what it takes me in terms of time, and what yarns cost on Etsy, etc.

So what does my present level of skill look like?

I started with a varigated roving, and split it down the middle, end to end.

Top in the Bowl

Then I spun it up.
Single on the wheel

You can see the banding.  It’s a bit more evident when the full bobbins are next to each other.

Ready to Reel

Once it’s been spun back, to make it more even on the bobbins, for more even plying, the striping isn’t really apparent.

Ready to ply

This is how they look, coming together off the lazy-kate, and into the wheel.

Twist

As you see, the two singles are from the same part of the roving, so they blend into a single color.  There are some differences in the way the two sides spun, so the transitions have some interference, which has its own charm. When done the bobbin was pretty full.

Plied

But it was balanced.  The yarn hung straight, and draped easily, before I set it. Afterwards it looked like this:

Drying

If you look you can see some of the interference zones.  This is all I had left

Remainder

So, all in all, I’m getting better. I’m not where I want to be, but with an average of about 3oz per project, I’ve only spun 45oz, or a bit less than 3lbs. It’s not that much, so I’ve really got no reason to think poorly of my work, in fact, when I look at it objectively, I’ve every reason to think I’m coming along fairly well.


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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).


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Pretty pictures

Just a quick post of photos straight out of the phone. I’ve spun up a bit more than half the batts in the post on process, and I’d like to have a record of them, in a place more accessible than buried amongst all the other photos I’ve taken with my phone.

Spinning out of the batt is pretty easy, esp. because this is really fluffy alpaca.  It was a bit, “neppy” (i.e. it had little lumps of felty fiber).  There wasn’t much “scutch” (i.e. crap which isn’t fiber).  Oddly the most common type was bits of some sort of beetle.

Bob, Bob, Bobbin along

Yarn on the bobbins. I’ve reeled it from the bobbin I spun on, to a different one, so that plying will be easier. The colors seem pretty clear, even if the focus is a bit off (if I’m going to use the phone, I need to get some sort of tripod for it).

On the Noddy

That’s what it looks like wound on the niddy-noddy.

Skeined

And skeined. It’s nice, and seems to be balanced. I’ve not set the twist yet, but it hangs pretty much dead-straight.


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Fiber management

As I was spinning the alpaca singles, I would remove the cop (the aggregate collection of the yarn being spun.  It goes around the spindle, which means the weight/balance of the spindle increases/changes as one spin), and set it aside.  Sometimes I wound it off, into a ball, and other times I just slipped it off.

I also had at least one ball which was off a turkish spindle.  All of them have been living in a bowl I threw back when I was still doing pottery.  This morning I niddy-noddied the lot.  Lessons learned.  Balls are much better than plain cops to unwind.  Bobbins are easier still.  These are all “S-laid”, so they will make a more open structure when crocheted, and a tighter one if knit Plying/cabling reduces this tendency, a bit, but it’s apparently true that if one want’s a tight piece of fabric from crochet, one needs to have the yarns spun in a Z-laid manner… another reason to get yarn made, rather than buy it off the shelf if one is doing crochet.  Knitters are much better served by mass-production yarn.

I have to say getting the wheel has done more for my confidence about my spinning.  Even the sloppy work I’m doing on the wheel seems to be no worse than much of what I see when I go looking for information on spinning.  Etsy has been useful in this, because when looking for fiber I see yarns for sale.  It interesting to guess at the production.  I know what the fibers I’ve been looking at cost (I’ve been drooling over some yak/tussah, but at $50 for a 4oz roving, I’m not going to be spinning it anytime soon).  I know what time is worth.

So I can estimate what sort of wool/alpaca has been spun, and take a guess at the preparation (I tend to assume that someone charging more for the same quality of fleece has been working from less prepared wool; though some people are also owners of sheep/alpacas, and so I assume they are able to charge less, and still get a fair return for their labor).  I also get to see the sorts of yarns people are willing to try and sell (concomitantly I also see the yarns they think people will buy).

My yarn isn’t that bad.  My spindled yarn is at least as even as a lot of the stuff I’m seeing for sale.  So I need to have someone knit/crochet some of it up, so I have some sense of it being liked, as a product, by other people; as well as my liking it as a process.