Thursday, December 27, 2012

It takes a long time to create a masterpiece

[Photo: Black kid mohair and tussah silk]

As regular readers (my mother, my sister) of my blog know, having spun for three short sweet years in my youth before putting spinning away, I am now endeavoring to roll 25 years of non-spinning, into 6 years of intensive focused and guided catch-up. Hmm, one could read I am attempting to recapture my youth through spinning. Anyway, in other words, I am paying for those lost 25 years by working on a Master Spinning Certificate from Olds College. I am now in year four of the six year program.  
[Photo: Blending on cards and making punis]
Each year you are required to do a major spinning project--this is on top of the regular years worth of spinning homework. The first year required a project that took 25 hrs. This includes selecting the fleece/fibres, cleaning, carding, spinning and, as long as you did it yourself, the weaving or knitting into a finished product. By year three we were up to 50 hours. Year four requires 75hrs! You may think this seems counter-intuitive. As the years go by, one gets better at spinning, so you would think it would take less time. Why by year four, I should be able to dash off an exquisite evening lace shawl in an evening or two of spinning and a weekend of knitting. But it doesn't work that way. Spinning doesn't get any faster, it just gets better. Last year I timed myself and it turns out I can spin and ply a yarn a meter per minute. I timed myself again yesterday and that hasn't changed. It is just my spinning that has. I can spin a decent yarn now. My yarn has integrity even at 1 meter/minute. 
[Photo: Blending on a fur carder]
75 hours sounds like a lot of time but considering I have not finished the spinning of the yarn for this years project and haven't yet begun knitting, the 25+ hours I have already clocked, points out that 75 hours will be a breeze to achieve. Reflect on my lack of knitting prowess, and you understand it will take me at least a hundred hours to knit something given my penchant for mistakes leading to re-knitting a second or third time.
So, what has taken the 25 hours so far?  
Planning 3 hrs; teasing, 4.5 hrs; carding, weighing and blending, 5.5 hours; sampling 2 hours; spinning, 6 hrs; changing my mind, 2 minutes; dying, 3 hours; re-sampling, 30 minutes; spinning up a different batch 5 hrs 15 minutes. Total 29 hours 47 minutes.

This year I decided to make another Holden Shawlette, since 

  1. I have extensive experience with this pattern having ripped it out and re-knit it at least three times, 
  2. having made many, many mistakes in the Holden Shwalette I just finished, I can easily recognize mistakes earlier in the knitting process, and
  3. I now know that I should stick to the pattern and cast on the required number of stitches and not think that I, a mere beginner, can willy nilly adjust lace knitting patterns.

[Photo: Subtle silk colours peek
 out of the black kid mohair]
The spinning goal: to spin a delicate lace weight two ply (two ply highlights the lace pattern) that is sophisticated, subtle, soft, and silky. I selected a black super soft and fine kid mohair and blended it 85/15% mohair and tussah silk. I loved the result and after spinning 408 meters decided the subtle sophistication needed a little jazzing up so I experimented and threw silk into various dyepots to find just the right colour to add the needed jazz. I ended up sprinkle dying the silk using a variety of harmonious colours. Next I experimented more with the spinning technique and blended the silk and mohair on hand cards, then rolled it into punis to spin in a semi-woolen technique. But that didn't produce much difference in the yarn (i was looking for more loft) from the semi-worsted method and it took a lot longer, so back to the fur drum carder and I blended the fibres into large batts and stripped off sections to spin in a semi-worsted style.
Stay tuned for adventures in the knitting.


  1. Can't wait to see how this works up into that shawl. It looks beautiful here with those flecks of colour throughout.

    1. I will keep you posted. I worry sometimes that the skeins are more beautiful than the knitted garment will be but we shall see.

  2. It`s wonderful to see another person tackling the Master Spinners Program. And I love seeing your plans laid out this way. It`s going to help me through the next 4.5 years! I can`t wait to see your finished shawl!

    1. Hi Belladune, I find the blog a good way to make notes and keep me motivated. The holidays really helped to get me focused. Now for the knitting (I'm not so good at knitting).