March 9, 2005

You spin me right round...

Posting late today. Have any of you bloggers figured out how to do away with those pesky real life annoyances that interfere with regular blogging? You know the Kids? Spouses? Anybody hit on a way to explain (tactfully...always tactfully) that you would really rather be blogging than earning a living?

I started up yesterday with Laurie's roving, but first (and I hear the Gansey brigade getting ready. Look at them, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to leave me comments about poor wee ganseyless Joe...abandoned, cotton clad and unloved with another Tuesday spun away) first I spun and plied another 150m skein of Joe's gansey wool. (Joe does all right around here, I assure you.)


Take that Gansey Brigade! Ha ha! You thought you had me, but I'm to shifty for you. Just when you think you have me pegged as fickle and unreliable, bingo. Gansey yarn. This brings the total to about 650m, and impressed Joe enough to lull him into my blog web, taking pictures of Laurie's roving.

I had this great spinning teacher and she was always going on about "prep". When I was a new and excited spinner, this ticked me right off. I didn't want to "prep", I wanted to spin! Spinning was fun, prepping was not. I can say with reasonable authority that I think most spinners would agree...since I have never heard "prepping" presented as a standalone hobby. You never hear anybody say..."oh yeah. "prepping"? I love it. I don't give a rat's arse about spinning, but drafting and combing are just the bomb. Why, I don't even own a spinning wheel but I've filled my whole house to the rafters with drafted rovings." As a new spinner, I didn't prep a whole lot. My spinning showed it. The teacher was always saying that the more time I put into getting fibre ready, the nicer the end spinning would be. This concept (planning ahead, investing for the long run, thinking things through...) was not me. Finally, I was forced to "prep" in front of her and was shamed into doing a good job. The spinning was so easy and pretty, so consistent and lovely, that I was immediately won over. I am now all about the prep. I'm telling you this because you don't have to be. This is my way of doing it, it gets the results that I like, and I think it's best for me.
Find your own way, there are no right answers. Spinning is like knitting, if you are ending up with something you like, then you aren't doing it wrong.


Step one: Step one is making a decision about what I want. I'm hooked on the continous change through one skein that I get with Laurie's roving if I draft it in one piece. If I wanted striping yarn, at this point I could (though I choose not too..) strip the roving lengthwise into pieces. Stripping it in half would give me two repeats of the colour change. Stripping those again would give me four, and so on. Since I want one long change, I'm just starting the drafting. Even though Laurie's roving is beautifully made the dyeing process compresses the fibres a little and makes them stick together. The first pass of pulling opens the fibres, unsticks them from each other and begins to draw the fat roving out into a thinner one.


All I'm doing is starting at one end of the roving and working toward the other, pulling the roving gently between my two hands. My hands are fairly far apart, and I'm moving pretty quickly. I'm not aiming for a whole lot of accuracy, just general looseness and lengthening.

Next, I'm back to the start with my hands closer together. I try to get them about a staple length apart. Wool is deeply variable stuff, and the staple length is the length of the hair. If we were talking about people, we would say that people with short hair had a short "staple" and people with long hair had a long staple. For pre-drafting, I start with my hands a few inches apart and pull gently. If I feel no movement, I move my hands apart a little at a time until I find the spot that the roving "gives" or starts to slide when I pull. This is about the right distance for my hands to be. I move along the roving, maintaining this distance and further lengthening and slimming the wool. This time I'm trying to even it out. I pull it apart more in thick spots and less in thin ones. I'm looking for evenness.

Finally, a third pass. This time I'm repeating the step above, again with my hands about a staple length apart, but this time I'm thinning it down to the fineness I want to spin from. I find that the thinner I make this go...the faster and more even the spinning. If Laurie's prep were not as anal retentive lovely as it is, then I would be on the lookout for neps (little knots of fibre than will make lumps in the spinning) or vegetable matter (straw, hay, grass etc) and pull them out at this point. Lucky for me, Laurie's roving is as perfect as it is lovely.
I do this last pulling in shifts, immediately prior to spinning, since once it's drawn out this fine it's pretty fragile. I take the stage two roving and put it in a pile by my spinning chair and break off arms lengths as I need them. With Laurie's roving I'm very careful to keep the colours in the right order.

Today, I spin it ...right after I try to reclaim it from Millie, who obviously thinks it's the best seat in the house.


It only seems fitting, as we discuss lovely wooly things and making them by hand, that I give away the knitting journal that Emma made.

The cover is felted wool (dyed by our esteemed Emma) and combined with the fur of her very own bunny, Gir. The spine is wood, there are blank pages, graph paper pages and project pages to fill in the details of your work. Each and every bit of it was made by Emma, and clicking on this link will let you read all about it and see more details. This of course, is so that you can all be profoundly jealous of Julie S., who owns it now. Congratulations Julie. Wish I was you.
Damn it. Now I'm coveting prizes and trying to kick Willie Nelsons arse. I'm showing so little personal growth.

Posted by Stephanie at March 9, 2005 4:43 PM