The thing is, it isn't just about the spinning. I have a long way to go to become a good spinner. I realized a few weeks in that I could MAKE YARN! The tools were right in front of me. I can combine fiber in so many ways to make exactly the yarn I want to use in my tapestry. This was a revelation.
For the last class we had to design a project. Mine will be a small piece on a Hokett loom... but with handspun. I figure I can manage to spin enough even yarn to weave a 2 inch square tapestry, right? Even if it takes half a pound of fiber. I'm on a pick and pick kick lately (some of you refer to that perhaps more correctly as half-pass) and have some new ideas related to color blending in spinning. Since I already know how to dye and a friend loaned me a drum carder, I think the options are pretty much endless. I'm just missing a set of those English combs.
Here is a little of what we did this week playing with various fibers. Maggie started us out with silk. It was good thinking on her part. Who doesn't love silk? We started with a cap. It was fascinating to hear the story of the Bombyx Mori and how silk is produced. There is a website called Worm Spit that details the way these silk moths are raised. What I didn't realize is that silk moths are domesticated. They have been so changed by cultivation that they couldn't live on their own.
|Maggie separating the silk cap into layers. Each layer is one cocoon.|
|Silk cap. You can also buy it in "hankies"|
|Maggie and Kathy pull a layer of the cap off.|
Then we moved on to some Tussah silk. This had been cut and combed and it was fast! It seemed very hard for my beginning spinning skills. But it was lovely.
|Silk worm cocoon|
The story is still good. Flax preparation involves rotting (rhetting) the fibers and lots of abuse including the use of a medieval torture instrument, the hackle. There is an article about linen in the Twist issue of Ply magazine that talks about this abuse in great detail... in such detail that you really start to feel sorry for the plant. But then she comes back and becomes a better fiber the more abuse you give her.
This fiber did not run away from me. The staple is very long and the fibers very thick. I doubt I'll ever spin linen again, but once I got over the fact that it isn't silk, I enjoyed it.
|spinning linen (flax)-- Look at me spinning with a long draw!|
The staple is exceedingly short and I couldn't manage it. We started with some lovely processed cotton which I was mildly successful with. At least it held together long enough to wind onto the wheel.
To make up for that misery, she ended on a Merino/Silk blend. It was absolutely lovely and I will be buying more of this fiber when my skills improve a little bit. I was able to manage the fiber nicely and my resulting bit of yarn looks pretty good!
When you look at yarn labels, generally you just see the stuff called WOOL. But there are so many different kinds of sheep and they have such different characteristics. It is a fascinating magical black hole that I have fallen down.
I'll be experimenting with the drum carder and some ways of making tapestry yarns next. I don't expect great things from my ability to make an even yarn, but hopefully I can make something consistent enough to test on the loom... at least on a little lap loom.
When does the next class start Maggie?
|Production of silk kills the silkworm. In Korea, they make use of those worms too! Snack food.|
**Maggie Casey is a celebrated spinning teacher and co-owner of Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins in Boulder, CO. She teaches workshops all over the country though I recommend coming to Colorado. She is the author of Start Spinning: Everything you need to know to make great yarn.