Tag Archives: spinning

Spring Cleaning

That’s the best way to describe what I’m working on at the moment. Or maybe it’s a cross between Spring Cleaning and Swedish Death Cleaning, because mortality has been on my mind as it has been on many people’s minds for the last year. I’m very aware that I have enough fibre and yarn to last me for several years even if I did nothing but spin and weave, and that doesn’t include the teaching stash. It isn’t overwhelming, I’m not unhappy about it, but at some point in the last couple of months my subconscious resolved that we should do something about it. So I am doing.

The fibre and weaving yarn shelves. Filed by fibre type.
Fabric and purchased knitting yarns (there aren’t many) live in the closet.
There are a couple of stray boxes living behind the loom.

I know broadly what is in every box, whether it is silk scraps for boro classes, commercial cotton yarn, handspun 2-ply wool, dyed braids of luxury fibres, bulk commercial top from UK breeds, washed fleece (no raw fleece), or bast fibre. I am pulling out odd knitting UFOs and unravelling them to send the yarns to people who want to knit things other than lace. More importantly I’m pulling out half-spun projects, finishing the spinning, finishing the yarns, and planning what I will do with them.

For example, as a baby weaver I decided I wanted to make an amazing textile version of a sunset. I bought sunset-coloured hand-dyed mulberry silk tops from any source that had them ( you know where this is going, right?). I didn’t realise that there were people who would sell silk lap as top, or that the quality varies dramatically. I spun silk lap, I spun silk top with clumps of fibre as short as short-staple cotton until I grew disheartened and stopped spinning it. Now I’m finishing it.

Some of the skeins of silk singles that have been sitting in a plastic bag for at least 7 years.

I put the skeins on the big swift, wedged storage bobbins onto the flyer shaft of the Majacraft Rose (one of the reasons I love that wheel), wound on and started treadling. Skein after skein went back onto bobbins and then onto the motor spinner. My ankles ache on good days now: I’m not going to ask them to treadle for plying.

Yarn looks a bit rough on the bobbin.

The plied yarn looks rough (‘a pig’s breakfast’ is more apt) on the bobbin because the singles twist is hibernating: the plying twist is not countered by the twist in the singles, and I have to admit that I am putting in a lot of plying twist. I don’t aim to spin yarns that are balanced (hang in a perfect catenary when they come off the plying bobbin), and this yarn would be even more strongly plied than usual because the singles are duff. But it all comes right-ish in the finishing, when gentle steam revives the singles twist, followed by harder steaming under tension (I pass the skein stretched between my hands over a pot of boiling water) to set the twist of the plied yarn. The first image below looks a bit like pink broccoli, but is in fact a part-steamed skein. Twisted mess before steaming, straight and smooth after. Silk can take a lot of twist without arguing, it just gains lustre.

Far from perfect, but it will do. The weave structure will lock the looser slubs down and reduce the pilling.

I have roughly 1500m of this silk plied, and probably another 1000-1500m-worth of similar low-end silk to spin and ply. And then I have to dig out the dark grey silk/wool blend I have in the stash and decide whether it can be the rest of whatever this will be.

But I am distracted by Teh Shiny. If my eye happens to light on something that I remember desperately wanting to spin, I can spin it. That’s how 1100m of Redfish Dyeworks yak/silk happened a week or two ago. It’s very soft. If it were >1300m it would be a complex lace shawl, but it isn’t so it will be something else. And that is fine. Because life is short and we have to take our fun where we find it.

50/50 yak/silk from Redfish Dyeworks, spun and plied on my Alden Amos motor-spinner.