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December 2010
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February 2011

Blue Whale, originally uploaded by Goldfish Love Fibers.

Blue Whale: mixed wools and a touch of bright orange bamboo, plied with thread. Just for the sake of fun and pretty handspun.

The last week has seen some dutiful photo-taking of yarns that have been hanging around made and unloved.* About half of them have made it through editing, with a bunch more to go.**

Something For Everyone

Something for Everyone

This creamsiclesque yarn is probably only funny to me. I was feeling catty, reading one too many forum threads. You know the type, "Wool vs. Synthetic, the Showdown!" *** Or ethics of fiber choice, like "Bamboo! It's renewable plant fiber! vs. No, it's killing kittens with all its chemical processing!"

Anyway, I threw a little of everything in the carder. Super soft merino and BFL and scratchy Black Welsh Mountain. Bamboo rayon and bast bamboo. Undyed white wools with acid dyed wools and firestar. Batt-making humor is probably a sign I need to get out of the house and speak to someone other than the fish.



Just a little bit of everything, alpaca and wool and locks and nepps all mixed up and spun by feel. I'd like to get more comfortable with making this type of yarn. Usually I distribute the fibers and add-ins somewhat evenly through the length of yarn. Constructing a visually cohesive skein when the elements don't repeat is well outside my comfort zone.

*By which I mean "sitting out on the table for me to look at, and no one else."

**Also, I got sidetracked into knitting a sweater. Because lovely Minnesota Lady Sharon of Three Irish Girls made me do it, showing up in Stillwater with her pretty, pretty yarn. I do have pictures of the loot and her talk to share, too, if I put down the sweater and find the camera cable.

***Completely made up topic names.

Locks, locks, and even more locks. BFL lamb curlicues and big glossy chunks of mohair.

This is really why I adore buying whole fleeces. Every last one of them is a little different. Little spring-curls from the Blue Faced Leicester lambs are just adorable. Like my new toy poodle of a yarn:

BFL Grey "Poodle"

(It turns out referring to this skein as my "poodle yarn" can spiral out of control, leading to a rather confusing Q&A about whether I shaved said fictional poodle myself. No. I did not. Did not shear the lamb either, I have to confess.)

The primitive breeds are decidedly less tame, as their title might suggest. The Icelandics, like Riverstone here, are most unruly, locks flipping around all over while I try to spin. Snagging on the flyer and and tangling down on the bobbin to make unspooling only sort of manageable.


I love spinning this way, seeing the fibers in their raw form and trying to preserve it the yarn. By the time I have the fibers washed, I've got a connection to the fleece, a little bit of the story of how that particular sheep lives. The oats I picked out of the California Red ram's beard, the hay bits to flick out from a cheviot lamb who liked to stand under the feeder to get her share, or washing off the mud from the rambunctious little BFL lamb who delighted in jumping in puddles.

Mocha Tailspun

Most of the wool will end up processed more, carded into a batt, dyed, or otherwise manipulated to make a more structured yarn. It gives up some of its character as it becomes something new. But I like these skeins, pulled out from the stash before that transformation begins. There's something special about keeping a bit wild, and letting that skein remind me how much variation there is to explore.

Choco, you're up next. Let's try to cooperate, okay?

Choco Icelandic Fleece

Sea Slug, originally uploaded by Goldfish Love Fibers.

Other than a few runs at cabling to see how it works as a plying technique, I hadn't spent much time exploring cables. As an art yarn technique, it has some interesting possibilities. With multiple colors of singles held together, you can something more striped than barberpoled. A little Navajo plying of an unrested single as one of the steps, and things like eyelashes will form themselves organically along the length of the yarn.

It seemed just about right to try to capture the stripey, tendrily, feel of sea slugs. (Seriously, nudibranches are some of the coolest looking little critters on earth. And you get to say "nudibranch" frequently when discussing them.) Like this little guy:

Photo by Jens Petersen

There are a lot of longwools in this yarn, and everything is pretty tightly spun. Ropier than knitting yarn, but perfect for creating eyelashes that project themselves away from the base yarn with energy.

Sea Slug

It's a fun thing to try out with leftover singles and odds and ends. A bulky single held with a bunch of thin ones made its way through the wheel this week, too. I love the feel and the heft of this experimental one. There's something about the proportion that reminds me of curtain pulls, or military cords to trim a uniform. It's much more softly spun, squishier and stretchier.

Cording Sample

Maybe something to repeat in silky, shiny, luxurious fibers? Or stick with the scrappier colors for a hippie crochet chain belt of sorts? Fringe is always tempting.

All made from a Gale's Art mixed BFL top. This process was a whole lot of fun, and one of those exercises I rarely have the discipline to carry out when I spin on my own. Each of the different yarns is made from the same pencil roving thick strip - varying the spinning style, plying style, adding another strip to marl, or carding different color portions of the top.

The class had a range of different tops to choose from, and the differences between the colorways, and even the spinners' technique are quite impressive all lined up. My neighbor in class had this happy bright, clear top. The differences are even more dramatic in her colorway.


And I love this comparison - two different sets of samples worked off the same purply top. The differences in spinning style change the look of the top, even when both theoretically made the same samples.


There's something about that variation I want to explore further, but I'm not quite sure what that project looks like yet. Maybe a game of spinning "matching" samples on different wheels and spindles to explore the point where the equipment effects become stronger than my spinning habits. Maybe matching dyelots across fiber types. The idea needs time to rattle around and form itself more completely.

The Weaver's Guild folk were a good bit of fun and I definitely would like to learn with them again. (They bring snacks! Snacks, I tell you! Like real homemade chocolate fudge.)

The Class In Silk Caps

The crew donning our silk caps as caps. I suspect Patsy Z. has been convinced to do this repeatedly. She has twisting the brim into a rosette down to a science.

I haven't quite finished getting all the pictures from this weekend yet, but I just got home from a three day spinning workshop with Patsy Z. Really fun, and there are so many little things in the way she thinks about making yarn that I had never quite thought out all the way.

Like this card, with a pencil roving size strip of one color repeat of a handpainted braid (lovely Gayle's art BFL). It leaves a record of colorway if you're trying to dye it again. Plus it is really easy to see the range of colors - combined with some color wheel understanding you can think through how the colors will blend when spun and plied.


*facepalm* It never occurred to me to try using a swift sideways. The ends don't spin around and tangle. Uneven skeining doesn't mess with the unwinding... Yea. Clever.

Mock Boucle

And this may have been my favorite thing all weekend. I think I made 5 different samples of this. Apparently (and this will not surprise anyone who actually knows anything about sewing) sergers use cones of wooly nylon thread, which is stretchy. Used under tension to thread ply - and wet finished carefully unstretched but held in an open loop - makes a lovely mock boucle.

Off to get more pictures from the camera and spin some more.

Armful Of Army Yarn, originally uploaded by Goldfish Love Fibers.

I just had time to make it over to Susan Hensel's gallery at the end of the year to see her art yarns show, The Color of Conflict. Getting to hold all the different yarns, see up close how they were constructed - it is a wonderful tactile event.

And figuring out what to write about it has been surprisingly difficult. I've probably tossed out a half dozen posts because they didn't seem right. It's a rarity to get to experience the yarn itself as a finished piece of sculpture. And some of the individual yarns have inspired some of my own current experiments, playing with cabled yarns and other plying structures to transform a basic yarn into something weighty and unexpected.

And part of the magic lay in seeing the macro photographs of the yarn, which made me rethink the creation of yarn in a way I don't quite understand. Spinning is a linear thing, transforming loose pieces into a single, cohesive form. Seeing just an inch, or a few stitches or elements out of context of the full skein is something else.

The collections of yarns Sue made, as I understand them, carry a different narrative. Military colors, toys, and artifacts made soft, transformed into a stash of comforting, feminine objects. They are full of creative potential, ready to be woven or knit or crocheted into something beautiful or useful.