Friday, September 23, 2005

Adventures in spinning

Last night, my knitting pal Margie and I bravely threw ourselves into an adult ed class, "Sheep To Scarf." The course listing described it thus:
Introduction to the basic techniques you need to make a warm, wooly scarf from an Iowa-grown sheep. Using just a few simple tools, learn to clean, card, spin, dye, and then create a scarf. Materials include raw wool, fleece brush, drop spindle and knitting needles or crochet hooks. As your hands work, discuss the problem of diminishing sheep breeds, the characteristics of wool fiber, the wonderful spectrum of natural dyeing, and more.

I've always thought that people are more well-rounded when they know how to make things from scratch, be it a sweater, a loaf of bread, a song, or an ultralight airplane. So wouldn't it make sense, I reasoned, to know how to spin the yarn I knit with?

The instructor, Kay, is very down-to-earth, and understands that you probably don't want to make a big investment in equipment before you know if you even like the hobby. So instead of using big paddles to card the wool, we used this:

Yep, it's a standard kitty slicker brush. On the left is some of the prepared wool Kay brought with her. On the right is some I "flicked" myself, by holding a bit of wool on my thigh and brushing it. So far, so good.

Then, we started spinning. First, we did some finger spinning (holding a bit of wool in one hand and twisting it with the other) to practice drafting (feeding the wool out in appropriate sized bits). My finger spun bits are at the right.

Once we were totally baffled by that process, we took up the spindles. These are low tech spindles, made of 7/16" dowels stuck into a block of wood. We tied on some yarn to use as a leader, fed some of our wool into it, and gave the spindle a twirl.

Then we picked our spindles up from the floor and tried again.

And again.

I finally got a big enough hunk of wool attached to the yarn, spun about 6 inches of wool, and got stuck. Kay showed me how to pull the wool apart so it would feed better.

It was slow and ungainly, but I finally got my little handful of wool spun. I wish I could say that the photo did not do it justice, but sadly, it does. My "yarn" is tragically uneven, and has bits of fluff hanging off of it that will not go anywhere.

We have homework before the next class.

Kay sent us each home with a bag of wool, straight from the sheep and full of dirt and sheepy smell. We are to wash and dry our wool, and then start flicking and spinning it. Washing it will be my weekend project.

As we left the class, Margie and I discussed how it was probably good for us to be reminded how hard it is to teach your hands to do something new. That's our story, anyway, and we are sticking to it.


Kathy said...

This is marvelous! Sounds like some sheep would be a good edition to your place. ;-)

Cheryl said...

My place is on half a lot. We are doing good just to have a housecat. No, I still think your boys need to learn the fiber trade. They have 4-H down there, don't they?

Aser said...

I can send you bags of German Shepherd undercoat!

Cheryl said...

Aser, there are people who swear by spinning with dog hair. Other complain about the smell of wet dog hair, but I can't see that it would be any worse than wet sheep.

Kathy said...

Nuh uh, really?! I got dogs!