CLARIFICATION: Yesterday I accidentally used the word "roving" instead of "top". Shoot me now! A number of readers quite correctly called me on this. (Strangely, no one commented on the REVOLUTIONARY advance in indigo dyeing, but what are you going to do?) Here is the deal: top is combed, with all the little fibers going in the same direction, for the single purpose of spinning worsted. If you strip top, you defeat the purpose of combing into top...you mess up all the little fibers along the strip line. Try it. Now, as for stripping roving, you can if you like*.
Officially, it's a Collection. One of the unexpected purchases at MDSW last week was, yes, another wheel. Shelley made me do it! (Turnabout is fair play: I made her buy a Pat Greene picker a few months ago, but that's another story.) We had been discussing "travel" wheels for obvious reasons: since I was driving to Maryland and she was flying in to meet me, I provided both wheels and plying boxes. Fortunately, we both have Lendrums so she was comfortable with a borrowed wheel. But, the Lendrum isn't really that "portable" except by car, so we went exploring other alternatives in the short stretches of free time we had outside of class.
Saturday morning, early, we were wandering through the Main Building trying to find a few vendors open, when Shelley came running up to grab me and take me back to see this: It's a travel wheel made by Robin Wheels and is called the Wee Robin. Isn't that CUTE?! Anyway, we spent more than a few minutes talking to Gilbert about the features of the wheel (it fits in the OVERHEAD on a plane!) and then went off to think about it. Shelley disappeared at one point, only to come running back to say she had given him a deposit! I decided to wait until I had a chance to try it, which I did on our short lunch break from class. I really liked it! So, I also put a deposit on a cherry Wee Robin (Shelley may have hers made from her own walnut, but I'll let her tell that story!) and was more than a little distressed to find the waiting time had gone from the "about a year" in the morning to "maybe two years" by noon. Well, he did get three more deposits on wheels in the interim. The good news is, this little sucker is expensive and it will take at least a year to save the money. The bad news is, I probably won't have it before SOAR next year and that might mean the difference between going and not. I surely won't have it in time for Black Sheep which is what we are considering doing instead of Maryland in 2007.
More pictures. I sure hope he puts some stain on the underside of MY treadles! In any event, I am having some doubts and some issues I will have to discuss with Gilbert, but it looks like another wheel will be joining the family. (I expected horror from Himself and so softened the blow by saying I planned to sell the Kromski Minstrel. His response? "What, you are going to sell your "first wheel"? Hmm, maybe not!)
As for our experience at this year's MDSW, I've been trying to figure how to reduce the experience that is Judith MacKenzie McCuin into words. Words that I have time to write, anyway. It may be impossible, but I will throw out some of the wisdom from the 3-day Comprehensive Spinning class. (Spinning to Knit was the other class we took together...that is another day.) The first thing I wrote down in my fractured, hard-to-read notes was this quote: "Everything you do makes a difference." Well, duh, you say? You have no idea how true this is as a spinner! Anyway, we learned so much about sheep and where they come from (all sheep originated genetically in Iraq) and how they made it possible for primitive man to emerge from the cave, etc. Then we got into the spinning.
One of the things mentioned in the class description was that we would learn six different draws. Judith loves worsted spinning. Me, not so much, but I'm getting better and as I improve I find I like it more. This is "inchworm" spinning. But, it can make perfect yarn. It is smooth, silky, lustrous, and the best, when 3-ply, for socks because it wears well and is comfortable. The other end of the spectrum is "woolen" spinning, what we know as "long draw". I think I finally got it! This is loftier, softer, warmer, and much faster to spin! The singles don't need to be perfect as all can be corrected in the plying. (udith says that the "perfect" knitting yarn is a cabled woolen. Bet you didn't see that coming!) Moving on, we also have semi-worsted, or "from the fold", which is great for spinning alpaca. Semi-woolen is what has become my "default" draw, although I found out quickly that I wasn't even doing that right. Sigh. Then there is "slub" and there is "boucle", both of which I thought of as novelty yarns.
Back to wheels for a moment. We did go into the various types and which does what the best, and of course, care of the wheel, adjustments, and all that. This was the most stunning thing to come out of the three days: we spun many, many different thicknesses of yarn by doing one thing. Changing the tension! Nearly all those yarns displayed on Judith's knee were obtained by simply changing the tension on the wheel! Try it. Starting with the middle whorl, spin a little then loosen the tension a tiny bit. Your yarn will automatically get thinner. Keep loosening, bit by bit...eventually, you will get something that looks almost like hair! Same thing goes in the opposite direction. Start gradually increasing the tension and your yarn will get heavier. For the most part....you might have to move up a whorl or down a whorl, should your yarn start getting uneven, but basically, that's it. Amazing. Another thing I never thought of was that the size of the drive band makes a difference: small d/b, small yarn. Big d/b, big yarn. Wow. In no particular order, some other things I got from this class:
- Most yarns depend on plying for structural integrity, even novelty yarns. You never save time by using a single instead of an unplied yarn. Knitters should always use 3-ply yarns.
- Spin all your singles before plying, if possible. The only way to make sure the finished yarn will be consistent throughout.
- For worsted, overspin and underply. For woolen, underspin and overply
- For Continental knitters, spin to right and ply to left works fine. English knitters, try reversing your spinning and plying direction.
- For easier felting, sprinkle baking soda over your project or wash in Tide. Judith thinks Tide is EVIL!
- Avoid hair conditioner which is alkaline (wool loves acid) and contains silicone. Use vinegar for rinse.
- Comb and drum card your fibers damp. Really. She uses a fine spray bottle with water and a drop of essential oil. She also puts fibers into the D/C sideways! Try it..it works.
- The least desirable way to get color is with dyed rovings. They mat. Dye the locks, or spin and dye your singles before plying.
- DON'T strip your rovings!
- Spinning cotton (are you paying attention, Cassie?) uses an "attenuated" long draw. It needs WAY more twist than wool to stay together. Dampen the fibers. Steam them in the microwave in a plastic bag with a few drops of water. Then draw out, put lots of spin in, then hold tight at the far point while working out bumps with your other hand and still letting in twist. I did not enjoy spinning cotton!
There's more, I'm sure. A class with this woman does get to be overwhelming after a while. She
made me buy introduced me to the new Forsyth 4-pitch combs, which do just about everything but wash dishes. Seriously. They dehair double-coated fleeces easily. They blend colors and different fibers. Oh, and they comb beautifully. Unfortunately, mine don't work on my counter, so I haven't had a chance to try them out yet. A notch will have to get chiseled out of the counter edge this weekend. This photo shows the stationary hackle part loaded with locks of Shetland (didn't know that was a double-coated sheep!) but I don't seem to have a photo of the comb itself. Amazing tool.
The other big thing for me to come out of this class was the new form of indigo that I mentioned in the previous post. I am fascinated by indigo but it sounds so complex and chemical and iffy to do it the old way. Judith raves about the freeze dried indigo "invented" by a man in India. It's in crystal form (and apparently more pure than any other form of indigo) and simply goes in water. Judith uses some Rit Dye remover, but the lady at Earth Guild recommended some other stuff that I can't remember the name of. It's way simpler, safer, cheaper than the old way....I plan to try it soon!
Whew...for someone who was going to cut back on blogging, you couldn't tell from this! But, I wanted to share some of these things we learned with everyone. It was a privilege to take these classes and I want to pass the knowledge around. I will do another post on the Spinning for Knitting class, some of which was new to me, some not, but I will end with this picture of a very happy spinner at the end of the day on Sunday as the Novelty Yarn class was closing. (I took the day off to shop!) Shelley told my husband that this was a "once in a lifetime experience, better than a cruise"! Only a spinner could understand.
* There is a saying that is quite common in Montana, a polite way of saying "no". It's "You can if you like." We heard that a lot.