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So soft!

Have you ever met a skein of yarn you wanted to sleep with? Or to carry with you at all times so that you could pet it frequently? So soft that you’d like to keep it as a pet? I’ve actually succeeded in making one of those! Well, sort of – it isn’t anywhere near skein-length yet, but it really is that soft.

I mentioned this earlier, when discussing the dyeing, but here’s a recap: I had an ounce of camel down that I’ve had for years. It’s nice, but an ounce just isn’t much. There are some interesting luxury blends I’ve been admiring online, though – I bet I could do that. So I pulled out the camel, and an ounce of tussah, and a couple ounces of nice soft merino, and dyed them each variegated blue. I wanted the final product to be slightly uneven, but any major variation in color would work out during the blending process. I intentionally left some of the merino white so that it would add some light to the tan-colored tussah and camel fibers. And there it sat, until the Centre County Historical Museum spinning demo that I did last week. I threw the fibers in my bag as an afterthought, something to show people who were really interested in spinning, or to work on if there weren’t many visitors.

The merino is on the left, the tussah silk on top and the camel on the bottom. (Sorry for the aesthetically-pleasing background – this was taken at the museum on the spur of the moment and that’s what I’d been carrying the fiber in.) You can clearly see that the merino was white, and that the camel is darker than the tussah.

Separate fiber

I divided the various fibers into small similar-sized segments, and carded them together very lightly with hand cards. It would be nice to have finer cards, but all I have are regular wool cards. I spread the fiber dollops evenly over the cards, then very gently blended them, only once or twice, then pulled off the batts. The camel has a lot of short bits, and I tried to leave those on the cards. The blended fiber is, as you may have guessed, sooooo soft!

Blended fiber

I have to continue picking out some of the camel bits while I spin, and I certainly missed a few, but this is spinning up beautifully. The longer silk fibers help to hold the short soft camel fibers together, while adding shine, and the merino adds bulk.

Spun yarn

I’m going to ply it either double or triple, and use it to knit a lace shawl. Then I can wear the shawl around and fondle it, which will hopefully get me fewer strange looks. (Hah!)

Spun yarn

Oh, pretttttty!

I decided that I should learn to spin silk, so I took a spindle whorl and dyed silk cap (also mentioned here earlier) along with me on vacation. The spindle shaft was whittled from a handy cherry branch. As Laura noted, the spindle whorl is a replica Roman metal one that she gave me, and I though the small whorl would be good for using with the silk.

Spun silk

To spin from a silk cap, you separate off a single layer of the silk, which if you did it right would be one cocoon. I think I must be getting more than that, but it still works okay. Stretch the detached layer out and push a hole in the center. Work around the circle stretching and drafting, until the silk is nearly as finely-drafted as you want to spin. Pull it apart at one point, and start spinning.

Spun silk

It worked pretty well for me – the silk cap is very easy to spin from since it isn’t as slippery and hard to manage as silk top can be. I’d tried spinning silk top before, and made a nasty mess of it. (And let me tell you, throwing away silk is very traumatic, no matter how nasty and unsalvageable it is!)

Lyn, the weaver at the museum demo, had a loom set up to work on. She and Katie warped it up for a series of shawls, and Lyn was demonstrating, letting people try it, then pulling the weft out once they’d left. After the trickle of visitors slowed, Katie settled in to weave up one of the shawls. Earlier, she’d tried her hand at both spindle and wheel spinning, and did a very good job at both for a complete novice.

Katie took the yarn she’d spun and used it as a couple of shots of weft in the shawl.

Spin and weave

She didn’t want her picture taken, so all you get is hands. But doesn’t her yarn look nice? Your first yarn might not be smooth and consistent, or strong, or good for warp or whatever it is that you aspire to, but it will always be great for something. That shawl is now so much more special!

Spin and weave

Lyn had just gotten a selection of spinning and weaving equipment at an estate sale. I was describing the spindles – a Turkish style, a basic Ashford spindle, etc. I described the Navajo spindle, but said that I couldn’t demonstrate because I can’t do long-draw spinning. Lyn promptly gave me the spindle so I could practice! Well, I do need to learn that technique, and hopefully a spindle that sits on the floor will help me master the drafting without worrying as much about the new-formed yarn breaking.

But my, it’s different that what I’m used to!


1 Comment on “So soft!”

  1. #1 Laura
    on Aug 22nd, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Oops, I must not have told you the whorl’s pedigree–I think it’s based on Medieval examples (early but too early).

    I love the blue yarn! I need to practice spinning soft stuff. Ages ago I spun some of my alpaca, and it turned out hard. Maybe I should blend it with something fluffier. (Cat hair?!)

    Maybe I should also try my own Navajo spindle–there’s all that churro from back in Las Cruces, after all.