Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Spin?

Samples of blue wool, made into a Sunday Undie. As you see, one is plain and this is the back of the Sunday Undie. The yarn for the front has added white and light blue mohair splashes, along with small pieces of fabric tied to one of the two plies, just before it went into the spinning wheel.

I am often presented with the question, "Why Spin?"
There are many answers to this question. First, I like to keep the heritage and old skills alive. There is a connection with the past and all of those that have lived before me. Spinning was done thousands of years ago to clothe the family. Sheep were raised on family farms for wool fleece and for food. Fleece was sheered from a sheep, washed, dyed, combed, and spun. Clothes were woven or knitted. I prefer to get the wool from the family farmer and prepare the yarn in the old way, with a little added sparkle here or there. I do use synthetic dyes, and some natural dyes too. I don't raise sheep, since I live in the city, but I like to buy fleece raw, or unwashed and take over the processing at this point. I can color the wool , or leave it as is. I can mix it with a different kind of wool, or with added sparkle, small pieces of other fibers, such as silk, cotton, or nylon, or mix added items in during the spinning process. I can spin prior to cleaning the fiber, or after. Sometimes the lanolin helps me spin a finer and more even yarn. Yes, the wool does have an odor, but I have developed less sensitivity to the fragrance and I even enjoy it. No, I don't mean that I enjoy smelling poo, but the pleasure of spinning and the feeling of lovely fleece comes to me when I smell sheep. What I am getting at, is that I can make yarn any way I want and at sometimes for less cost. It can be very expensive buying wool, especially if the sheep are raised for their softness, or unique color. Some farmers only raise sheep for hand spinners, and these farmers may put a cover or coat the sheep, so the fleece stays cleaner and makes preparation easier for the spinner. If you buy in small quantities, the prices are usually higher than large quantity purchases. I could buy fleece ready to spin and no preparation would need to be done. That would be the easiest way to spin, and also the most costly. Obviously, the least amount of work done to prepare the fleece would help keep the fleece costs down. Fiber artists like to feel, smell, and look for visual interest when choosing fleece, or even yarn. Look around in your local yarn shop. Most shoppers will check for softness or feel of the yarn, and even smell the yarn. The visual appeal has to be there too, or shoppers will not pull the yarn down from the shelf. At times you will notice little bits and pieces of pasture left in the wool we prepare to spin, and even in the homespun yarn.

Now that I have spilled my guts about the why, let me also tell you that homespun yarn may not be what you have experienced in knitting yarns, so far. There may be more little fibers poking out of the yarn. To me, this adds to the beauty of the wool. It could make the wool more itchy and also make it harder to rip out mistakes in your knitting or crocheting. The width of yarn will vary and even vary greatly in each hank of homespun yarn. We use a term called wraps per inch, or wpi to explain the width of the yarn. We can estimate what size the yarn is, by the wpi. A small amount of wpi means a larger yarn. I personally like to make yarn that is pretty thin, and ply it with a second yarn. The finished yarn will usually be thin, and more like sporting weight. Now I can also write about how I spun the wool, whether I spun with a a certain kind of draw and if the yarn is worsted, or woolen, or what kind of wheel, or what angle the wool goes in, but I think I will toss that information to you at a later date. I did fail to mention that spinning is fun and relaxing.

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