This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Red Silk Saga Finale

You remember the Red Silk Saga. In a way it was its own success. The silk got untangled, but it still wasn't plied.

The merino/mohair singles have been sitting on their bobbins for months.  Since March, to be exact.  When it was cold and bare outside.  

I started this project with a vision in mind: a soft 3 ply yarn with red silk highlights. I was so proud of my first silk thread.. It was a little more uneven than I'd hoped for, but I thought the unevenness would work out ok, since the fine thread was meant as an accent.

I delayed. Well, there was a good reason for that, and a not-so-good reason.  One, I was nervous, because I started this whole project with a vision in mind of what I hoped it would look like when I finished. And I wasn't at all sure it was going to.And then there was the episode with the life-threatening hives, but we won't go into that.

Summer came. There those bobbins were, staring me in the face, and the weather was, shall we say, inclement.  Inclement by Vermont standards, which means both hot and wet, with frequent thunderstorms.  No excuses.  

I tried a few different ways of working the silk into the three merino/mohair singles, but none of them looked right.  I didn't want a barber pole look.  

Finally I held the silk and one of the merino singles together and ran them through the wheel quickly in the same direction they were spun ("S" twist).  

It added some extra grist, but not so much they were kinked up.  

Then I plied all three together in a Z twist, and hoped it would come out something like what I envisioned.  

I was relieved to see that though there was still a little bit of barber pole look, it was because the yarn lay parallel on the bobbin. In the yarn, the red was nicely broken up, and formed something like the accents I'd been aiming for. 

Whenever I spin, I have a vision in my head of what the yarn might be turned into.  Throughout the process of spinning the merino/mohair singles, I kept seeing a 1930s beret style hat, with a narrow band.  I think this yarn would look very nice crocheted up into a hat like that.  Or a shawl.

It is lusciously soft, and with nearly 8 ounces of yarn, it could even be made into a dressy top, or a cardigan for a child.Makes me wish I could still knit and crochet.

After the bobbin with the red silk ran out, the other two bobbins still had singles of merino/mohair on them, so I plied a small bonus skein of plain 2 ply. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Romeldale: the story of a rescue

Remember this photo from a few posts back?  This is the Romeldale painted top/roving  that I got from a friend.  Romeldale is a sheep breed originally developed in the early 20th century in California by one family, who are still raising the sheep, but now in Oregon.  The sheep started with a cross between imported NZ Romney rams and Rambouillet ewes, and then standardardized for the fine, white wool that large wool manufacturers wanted.*  It is lovely stuff for the hand-spinner, too. 

It does felt.  When I pulled the top/roving out of the bag, I found that all of it was slightly matted, though just short of felting. In the process of dying, it had apparently either been overcooked or exposed to abrupt temperature changes. In addition, I found that there were two batches. In both, the colors were lovely, but blocky.  In one, the sections of colors tended to separate as it was drafted. The other was splotchy, with long sections of white interspersed with bands of color. Neither appealed to me, though I loved the colors.  So my problem was how to get what I had to what I wanted:  

I decided to process the two batches separately.  Both of them were going to need to have the fibres loosened.  This I could do by first "popping" them--  holding a section just long enough so that the fibres wouldn't separate and giving it a quick snap.  I did that along the entire length of each section of wool, then gently attenuated it into a roving-thick rope.  

I broke that roving into four equal length sections, laid them together so the fibres lay in the same direction, and attentuated them so they became again a single roving. After doing this several times, the blocks of color gradually softened into  more muted and shaded colors that merged with each other along the length of the roving.  

The batch with the long sections of white took more work.  Not only did it need to be attentuated many more times, I sometimes broke a section and moved it to another location to even out the colors.  I even moved a bit from the other batch to add a bit more color

The first I spun as a fairly chunky yarn.  The second is near lace-weight.  Laid side by side, you can tell they are related, and yet they each have a distinctive character.  

And they are both lovely and soft to the touch.  I think the thin one will become a scarf, and the chunkier one will be mittens, or a cap, or maybe a pair of soft winter slippers.  

 * Romeldale sheep does also come in other colors, but these were bred separately from the white commercial herds, in  joint effort with another breeder.  In the 1970s, a few sheep with badger faces showed up.  The breeders decided to work with the strain to develop a multi-colored sheep.  This became the California Variegated Mutant (CVM).  Same breed, but bred separately to keep the colors pure in the one case, and to maintain the color patches in the other. In time they will become separate breeds; some believe they already are. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius is a wonderful source of information about western sheep breeds and other fibre animals.