Friday, April 17, 2009

A Corrie-Tale

My silence has been mighty, and for that I apologize. I have no excuse, other than the "perfect" blog post that I've been writing in my head for 2 months, but which hasn't seen a pen or paper or keyboard. So I will temporarily give up that ghost, and focus on other non-ghostly white fluffy things.

What I most want to share with you is my biggest spinning project to date, that I haven't posted about since it was in its beginning stages. The spinning is long done, and it deserves a blog post of its own.

Several months ago, I bought a few pounds of a wonderful corriedale fleece. I scoured it, combed it, and spun it up into a sweater's worth of yarn. I know I posted some photos of the early parts of this project, and here is a short photo essay of some other parts of the process, starting with beautiful clean locks, and ending with a mighty pile of handspun yarn.

the last of the locks
The last of the locks, ready for combing. This was a somewhat nostalgic photo for me, as it took so long to comb all of the wool. I enjoyed the process, and was a little sad to see the end of it.

Spinning Central
A photo of my combing workspace, looking neater than it usually does. You can see my combs (Alvin Ramer Super Mini Combs) clamped to the table on the left, a small basket of combed top on the right, and a lineup of full bobbins of singles in the back.

Combing Wool 1
These are locks, being prepared for combing. This is about how much I would put on my combs at once. I used the yellow camping towel (very absorbent) because I sprayed the locks with water (and a bit of wool wash with tea tree oil), to help prevent static electricity while combing.

Combing Wool 2
Locks lashed onto the comb, ready for combing.

Combing Wool 5
Locks after 3 passes of combing, ready to be pulled off the combs into top.

Combing Wool 8
Using a diz to pull top off the comb.

Combing Wool 10
The leftovers -- short bits that weren't long enough to come off the comb as part of the top. I erred on the side of leaving more behind, for a higher quality yarn with fewer nepps and short fibers.

Combing Wool 11
Hand combed top is a lot airier and more delicate than commercially prepped top. It's a pleasure to spin.

It may be impossible to have too many photos of this stuff!

I kept my bobbins organized in chronological order, so I could mix them up in an organized fashion when I plied the yarn.

the whole thing
The (almost) final product. Six big skeins of 3 ply corriedale, worsted to aran weight. I am sending it off this weekend to be dyed, because I don't trust myself to dye this much yarn all in the same shade. (I just don't have a dye pot big enough!) What color will it be? Hmm, perhaps I'll keep that a surprise. But I have a little sample skein, and it's going to be awesome. More on that when it's done!

I am in love with the process of going from raw fleece to beautiful fluffy handspun in a quantity large enough for a sweater. So in love with that process, in fact, that I feel pretty dedicated to doing it a lot more in the future. I have already acquired two more fleeces -- a romney lamb's fleece in variegated colors, that I've almost finished scouring, and a CVM fleece in a brownish grey that will be up next for scouring. I'm hoping to acquire more raw wool at New Hampshire Sheep and Wool next month, and/or by ordering online from trusted farms. I don't plan to give up completely on commercially prepped stuff dyed in gorgeous colors by talented fiber artists, but I do plan to cut back. This Spring's fleece acquisitions are meant to sustain me for much of the next year, primarily for sweater knitting, but perhaps also for smaller projects. I've always admired gardeners who have the patience to plan for months and years ahead. I don't know if I'll ever be a great gardener, but harvesting these Spring fleeces feels much the same.

More soon, my friends. I promise.