I've been taking a proper spinning class, and despite the humbling feeling of not knowing how to make my fingers interact with the fiber in such a way as to produce knittable yarn, I've been enjoying it tremendously. But this week, I'm positively singing with creative possibilities.
On the first day of the class, we touched raw fleece and did a little carding, to get the feel for how to separate and then line up the fibers, how to draft and add enough twist. The carding was cool, and it did produce the most lovely little fiber nibbles, but I couldn't honestly see how it was useful for doing volume work -- and it's not. It's a technique for those who have all the time in the world to just enjoy fondling fibers.
Cut to now, some 9 classes later, and we're all working on the long draw drafting technique. For those of you who don't spin, it's like this -- you build up a bunch of twist on a short bit of the yarn you have just made, pinching it so the twist doesn't travel down, then (if all goes well) you quickly swoop your fiber-holding hand down and away, and a perfectly even strand appears almost like magic from the fiber mass.
If all goes well. In practice, my early experiments with this technique have led to slubs, micro-fine thread, and broken bit after broken bit.
I'm not tangenting. Back to fiber preparation now. Last week, we were given some dyed but otherwise unprocessed Romney wool, and told to card and spin it. Carding, as well as neatening up the lanolin-covered fibers considerably, blended the colours up -- yum. Here is my basket of hand carded, sprinkle-dyed, raw romney locks:
I spun them using the long draw method, and even though the fibers were not expertly carded (read: they were still tangled), and even though they were sticky as all get-out with lanolin, I still managed a relatively smooth (read: I didn't keep breaking the strand as I made it) long draw. I felt proud. (I'd show you the yarn I spun, but there is no good light for taking a picture right now; I'll try to take one tomorrow.)
Today in class, I used the drum carder. I created a batt, which is much like a rolag except bigger. The fibers were all aligned, but they were so airy and light, they just drafted like a dream. I actually achieved the "swoop" with very little breakage and slubbing.
So, here are the pieces I have put together now. 1) Home fiber preparation, leading to airy fibers and the possibility of creating my own blends of fiber type and colour. 2) A successful, quick long-draw.
Suddenly, exciting yarn possibilities are open to me. Heathered yarn, which is made from different coloured fibers blended together to create a single colour of marvellous depth and movement, like watershot taffeta, is a possibility now. Tweed is possible.
Did you hear me? Tweed. Am I the only one who gets a somewhat indecent thrill at the idea of a gorgeous tweed?
I have this bag of dark blue faced leicester that I've been saving to do something special with, and I think I have a plan now. I'm going to dye it either blue-red or magenta. I'm going to drum card it with flecks of electric blue, canary yellow, and forest green. I'm going to make tweed batts, spin it up to a worsted or aran weight, and make myself a sweater. A hooded sweater -- it will be my demo project for the next class I teach in knitting sweaters without a pattern.
Then I will never take it off, not ever.
Anyone have a drum carder for sale? I'm looking to buy.