Every once in a while, the fact that I’m basically an optimistic person with a persistent nature bites me hard on the hind parts. Today would be one of those days.
I have once again spun something that is either terrible yarn or awesome bailer twine, although since I was aiming for yarn, I think it must be the former.
I’ve been working with that huge green and white batt that I showed you the other day, and I feel that I must tell you that I bought this batt of my own free will and under no duress several years ago, when I knew almost all that I know now, and I didn’t think it would be a problem then, and was totally blindsided by it now. The minute I saw that batt I imagined a beautiful circular shawl (odd, that… since I usually don’t care for them, resembling large doilies as they sometimes do) a beautiful shawl with a white middle that gradually shifted to beautiful green – like a blossom, and the minute this thing of wonder was fully visualized, I snapped the thing up and brought it home.
Now that’s not shocking. (Headline “STEPHANIE BUYS WOOL, NO-ONE STUNNED”) because I buy wool all the time. What is shocking is that this batt has characteristics that aren’t to my taste, have never been to my taste and will never be to my taste – and that somehow, I forked over the cash and loved it anyway.
The honeymoon had to end though, and this week the minute that I picked it up and started working with it, I thought: This is absolutely not going to work… and then carried on, still married to the idea of the shawl.
When I felt that the wool was coarse and difficult to spin, I reminded myself that I enjoy lots of breeds of sheep and that I’m not married to just the ultra soft ones. When I saw that it had lots of nepps I thought “That’s ok. I can pick them out as I go, I don’t mind that (much.)” When I realized 10 minutes later that this batt had a lot of VM (VM= vegetable matter- like grass, seeds, bits of hay etc.) I gave myself a little talking to about picking it out and not being such a baby.
Now, in it’s defense, this batt is Romney – a fibre that (while it’s the finest of the longwools) just doesn’t scream “soft and cushy” and isn’t ever going to be the softest thing you’ve ever felt. I’m fine with that. It usually has lustre and durability on it’s side instead, and is often a fleece I actively seek- although with real discretion for the quality – and the VM was there when I bought it, I just didn’t notice it. Holding the batt up to the light revealed how much VM there was.
Secondly, this is a big batt, not a combed top, and it makes sense that the fibres would be jumbled up and not draft as smoothly as it’s more elegantly prepared cousins, and I accept the presence of nepps (essentially knots) in a reasonable quantity… but when I found myself really struggling to get a smooth yarn out of it, I wondered (finally) If I hadn’t imagined a bad match between fibre and project. No matter what was happening in my head, this wasn’t what was happening between my hands, and I realized that this fibre was not ever going to be the yarn I want it to be.
At that point I sighed a little, and took a step back and thought it through. Okay. This fibre wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’m a flexible spinner and I’ll figure it out. I thought it would get better, or… I don’t know what I thought, but I do know that I thought that whatever was wrong with it was something I could overcome with skill somehow, and I kept spinning. I kept picking out the nepps, picking out the grass and doing the best I could, but I really wasn’t having fun – but I still spun into the evening and night – and went to bed pretty sure that somehow, even thought this batt was almost everything in a batt that makes it less fun for me, that the good times would start to roll any minute if I was persistent.
This morning I got up and looked at the singles – and in the proper light I noticed for the first time that the white was yellow stained in places. Spinning concentrates colour, and so a flawed fleece (if you think yellowing is a flaw – you might not it you like to dye- there’s a lot of yellow fleeces out there that hit they dyebath and ended up lovely) might not appear so until you’ve spun it. I certainly didn’t think this had as much yellow as it does. It looked to me like it was yolking (normal yellow stain of sheep sweat and lanolin) which usually washes out… so I kept spinning – even though now the batt had another strike against it. The imagined shawl was whitish/ivory in the centre. Not that pale yellow.
I finished the whole bobbin before I could admit that it probably wasn’t worth spinning another, but even then my optimistic nature demanded that I make sure. Maybe it was one of those fibres that really improved with the plying and washing. How could I come this far and not find out? I chain (or “navajo”) plied the yarn – since if I did move onto a second and third bobbin, that’s how I was going to preserve the colour changes, and because three plied yarn looks more even than two ply yarn… and this needed all the help it could get.
Plied, the yarn still looked rough – especially in the colour department, but it hadn’t been washed yet. (It was also still really rough and itchy and full of VM – but somehow I had brought myself to believe that washing was going to fix all of that.) I immersed it in a sink full of hot water (hoping to scour the yolking out) and left it to soak for a good long time. About 60 minutes later, I rinsed it, pressed the water out of it, and hung it to dry, doing my level best not to judge it until judging time.
Just now I went and collected it from the back (It was drying in the squirrel proof system devised last year) and had a look and feel.
It’s crap. Whatever the yellow is (canary stain maybe? That doesn’t wash out) is still there. The VM is still there. I can see in the daylight that some red fibres are into the creamy part (that may be from hanging out in my stash- who knows what it was consorting with – although it was wrapped up the whole time) and it still possesses all of the softness of cheap steel wool or a high school vice principal.
In short: I hate it and although it goes against my very nature….. I’m quitting.
Life’s too short to spend on wool you don’t love, and since this fibre was wrong when I bought it and is still wrong now… I’m not doing it. I gave it a fair shake, but this batt is out of here. I’ll give it (and the skein of 250m of fingering weight bailer twine) to Denny who can usually find the redeeming qualities of any fibre and we’ll see what comes of it.
I hope it doesn’t let the door hit its arse on the way out.
PS. I finished some socks: