Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breaking the beginner's barrier.

Most beginners spin thick heavy yarns. We are proud of them, they have texture and character, and, like a mother, we love all our yarns. Accomplished spinners with a few years under their belts, spin thin yarns and when they want a thicker yarn, they tend to ply a few singles together. When I proudly show my thick yarns, they all tell of a time in my future when I will spin fine, thin yarns and lose the ability to spin thick. Apparently I will yearn for those good ol' days when all my yarns were thick. I don't know how long it takes spinners to break that beginner's barrier but it took me 53 weeks. That is one week after being told my yarn lacks integrity. A week in which I concentrated on spinning thin and consistent yarn. Yarn with integrity. Using a spindle, so that I could go slowly and carefully watching my drafting triangle in order to draw out the same amount of fibre with each draft, I broke the beginners barrier. I took a picture of the occasion. Here it is.
Harrumph. "About bloody time." So sayeth Priscilla.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yarn with no integrity!

I did not really want to admit this. It has taken me more than a week to gather up my courage to confess publicly how well, err, how much I still have to learn after attending year two of the Olds Master Spinners course. The course is starting to get technical about our spinning. Things like how many twists per inch (TPI) in your yarn, the number of wraps per inch (WPI), the number of treadles you treadle while drafting a foot of yarn. Stuff like that. Technical things that are expected to be achieved by accomplished spinners, which we were expected to be. We would be given assignments and told to spin it, mark it with all the vital yarn info (TPI, WPI, twist angle) and hand it in for assessment. The instructor would then review our attempts in a class discussion. She held up mine as...
"a perfect example of a yarn WITH NO INTEGRITY! " . I gulped.
I cringed. I grinned like a sheepishly like an idiot. She went on. "It is subject to pilling! And, abrasion! To pulling apart. Wearing out. " Oh myyy gaaawd. I wanted to hide under a fleece. I thought about the baskets and baskets of my hand spun yarn without integrity, waiting for me at home (remember the 774 grams of Gotland I just spun....down the tube.) . Waiting to pill and fall apart. And Priscilla-the-fleeceless-sheep-that-rules-my-stash whom I could hear even from this distance saying "I could have told you THAT."
So much for the learning theory that goes something like 'sleep on it and your brain will incorporate the concepts and muscle movements while you sleep.' Yeah right. If you consider that I started spinning 30 years ago and stopped for 28 years before starting again a year ago, you could say I have been sleeping on it for at least 28 years! To no avail.I spent the two day drive home in the car using a drop spindle, learning how to spin yarn with integrity. Maybe in another 28 years.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Navajo Ply

The Masters Spinners program expects you to be able to teach, hence an assignment to teach a 5 minute lesson.  Mine was to be Navajo Plying on a spindle.  Last year when I bought my first spindle from Knotty by Nature, Stephanie showed me how to Navajo Ply on the spindle.  It was too much for me to contemplate so early in the game but I stored the idea away and then a few weeks ago decided it was time to learn it.  With trial and lots of error and lots of help from Google and Youtube, I managed to be able to do a few small skeins.  So when each of the class members had to pick a topic and spindles was one of the areas, I volunteered to organize my learnings and pass them on.  So here's some notes and pictures and links to help others.

What is Navajo Ply?
It's a type of 3 ply which resembles a chain stitch but plied. Think of a chained warp, or a crochet chain stitch.

Why would you Navajo Ply?
1. It is good for colour separation in striped roving/top. Creates areas of clear colour.     It allows you to maintain colour continuity, just make sure you spin your color stretch in your single about 3 times as long as you want the stripe to be in your finished yarn. Eg. For a 12” solid colour stretch, make sure your single has 36”- 40” of solid colour. In the photo you can see the colour separation in the Navajo Ply (at the bottom, subtle but it does show colour separation) whereas the regular 3-ply above it, mixes the stands of colour.

2. You can do it on a spindle where you ply a single section, then Navajo ply it, then make another single section, ply it etc. No need for first doing the single, then taking it off the spindle while you do another single so that you can start your plying.  You can do it all on the same spindle without taking your yarn off.The yarn is complete, no need for handling it again.

How do you Navajo Ply on a spindle?
a. Spin a single three feet long (or a longish comfortable length). Spin Z
b. Fold it in thirds and it makes a loop at the spindle end.
c. Put that loop under the hook and spin the spindle in the opposite direction. Spin S
d. When you get to the end by your hand, unhook the yarn and test for balance.  If too tight, hook it back on and unspin for a twist or two and test for balance again.
e. When you are happy with the balance, wind the yarn on.
f. Pull the single through the loop to create a new loop and then put the single under the hook.
g. Spin another length of singles Z-twist, but now wind it between your thumb and elbow to hold it while you create the new loop.
h. Repeat from C – G.

It's much easier to see it being done.  Here's a video on YouTube:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Up to my #@$% in Fleece

Last night I found myself bidding on fleece at a silent auction at Olds Alberta.  Blue Faced Leicester, Leicester X Corriedale, Mohair, Llama, Alpaca, and a few more. These fleeces had been judged on Sunday and I was lucky enough to be right there to watch them as they pulled, poked, smelled, twanged, measured the fibres and gave  each fleece a grade.  And I listened to everything they said.  Well, almost.  But in any event, they were kind enough to let me peer over their shoulders and listen to their fibre wisdom.  I watched the wool and the mohair judging and peeked once in a while with the cashmere judging but I couldn't fit in the Llama and Alpaca.

And then I placed my silent auction bids, writing down on a card in front of the bagged fleece, the amount I bid.  On some fleece I was the first bidder, on others I was the second bidder. Future bidders would write their bid below mine. I imagined racing around the hall many times, upping my bid while other bidders did the same.  The auction was open for a day and a half but i would be in class for most of that time.  With so much fleece at stake, it made more sense for me to start placing my bids.  It would be too risky to be coy and wait until the last minute.

I did my first charge around the hall.  One bid for the incredible Leiscter x Corriedale, another bid for the Blue Faced Leiscter, and another for a fine Romney, but, I was careful and stuck to what I had learned.  Yup, quality, show winning fleece!  But what about the other types of stash, the luxury fibres.  Well, I should place a bid on a mohair, maybe two bids to hedge my luck and what about Llama.  What beautiful greys and blacks, better place a bid or two or three, hoping for at least one.  And before I knew it I had bids all over the place until I suddenly stopped and thought "What if no one else bids higher than my bid?  What if everyone else is in class with no time to bid?  What if I had to pay for all my bids? What have I already bid on?"  And then I realized I had been bidding hither and thither and had no idea just how many bids I had placed.  So much for only bidding on those fleeces that had won ribbons.

I walked the aisles again this time looking for my name on the cards and writing down in my notebook what I had bid on so when i did my next mad dash around the hall I could just hit those fleeces I had already bid on and ignore the rest.  I went down the first aisle and realized I hadn't put a bid on the gray BFL x Merino.  I better do it while I was there.  And the Frieson x Suffolk, why it is only at $20, it's worth more than that, why that is less than $2.5/lb, I better put a bid on that.  And so it went.  I was dizzy with bids.  I kept bidding rather than writing down what I had already bid on.  I gave up.  

I am worried, all those bags in the picture will not fit into the car.

... It is a day later.  I find myself the owner of three, 3! three, black lama fleeces.  And 7lbs! of Frieson x Suffolk.  In a sad way, I am relieved that I was not successful on my bids for the Blue Faced Leicester, the Romney, the Icelandic, the Kid Mohair, the Adult mohair, the... well you get the picture.  The trunk is full now anyway.

Priscilla-the fleeceless-sheep-who-rules-my-stash will be happy with this haul.  M-the hubby will not be.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Live from Spinning Masters Program in Olds, Alberta

Overheard at a spinners potluck....

"How did you come to be in this program?"
"I had a heart attack." replied the young mother of, oh, maybe 35.
"As they were taking me to hospital and to what I thought was the land of no return, I thought 'What am I going to miss most?' My baby? Kissing my husband?' No. the first thing in my mind was 'I wish I had spun more'."