Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Must See TV....

This afternoon NPR had an interview with  Kathy Bates  because she has a new tv show.

I have loved Kathy Bates ever since Fried Green Tomatoes.  So I had some spreadsheet work to do at the computer and looked to see if her show was available online.  Sure enough you can watch the pilot and this week's episode of Harry's Law by clicking on the link.  Watched both episodes and I am hooked!  Yay, finally a tv show that speaks to my demographic.

Okay now, help me keep this show going.  Go watch it, put it in your whatever to give it great ratings.  We need to chuckle and we need to look at things a little differently than they've been presented to us.


Sunday, January 23, 2011


January is usually the slowest month of the year, but not so in 2011.  We ordered the new loom right after Thanksgiving, so it should be arriving in a couple weeks.  Then we ordered some new furniture for the family room (a credenza sort of thing for the tv and matching end table) which should also be arriving in a week or two.  There was a quick weekend trip to see dh's parents.  Ds is in the throes of purchasing a home.  And there have been guild meetings and preparations for another guild's dye day.

Here was my show and tell for the last guild meeting.  It's a backed weave based on the cover fabric from Handwoven magazine, March/April 2010.  The blue face of the fabric is 5/2 merc. cotton with a cotton space dyed knitting yarn as accent.  The green face is 10/2 with some co-ordinating stripes.  You saw the warp here:

Yesterday was dye day for Michigan Weavers Guild (click of pix).  This has become an annual event the past two years, where we gather all of our cotton, rayon, tencel and other cellulosic yarns for a day of dyeing with fiber reactive dyes and Jeanne Seitz shepherds us through the process.  Preparation for this event includes days of winding warps and skeins from cones and balls of yarn to get the most out of the day.  My bag of warps and wefts are still wrapped in their plastic jelly rolls.The dyes work best at 70 degrees F.  With temps in the single digits and negative numbers this weekend, it's been a challenge to keep things at 70 degrees, so they are tucked by the radiator in the warm bathroom.  I probably won't get around to rinsing them until tomorrow....or maybe Tuesday.

The Scottish Blackface wool is spun, but I have to take more photo's before doing that post sometime in the coming week.  The wool after that will be Tunis.  It turned out to be one of my favorite wools from the breed workshop and it sort of fits in with the current events in Tunisia.

Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Spinning the Breeds - Karakul

Karakul is the third primitive breed we looked at  in the class.
Above  is about an ounce of washed Karakul locks.  Below you see the variety of fibers found in this mass which is characteristic of primitive breeds.

 Considering the diversity of the fibers, I decided to sort through the mass of locks to see how this variety was distributed.
The pile of fiber on the left side of the photo is the majority of the fiber.  The lock on the ruler is representative of that mass.  The longer fibers are at center top and the short, straight, dark fibers are at the top left.

Thought you might like to see a close up of that sweet little lock:
There was nothing about this bundle of Karakul fiber that said "Comb me!"   I looked at what was there for awhile and ran my hands through it.  The locks are strong.  The wool is lofty and not terribly coarse to touch.  It sprung back into shape when squeezed in my fist.   My first thought was that if I had a full fleece of this, I would send it out to be made into roving.  With that  I decided to pull out the drum carder and run the whole batch of fiber through it.

Above is the batt after the first pass through the drum carder.  Below is the batt after the second pass.
And finally, the batt after the third pass through the drum carder:
I didn't think it was going to get any better than that, so decided to split the batt in half and head over to the spinning wheel.

The yarn was spun with the large pulley on the medium whorl of my Schacht Matchless wheel.  I used a supported long draw to spin a woolen singles:
Here are the singles on the bobbin.  The singles had about 4 tpi and about 11 wpi.

Because of the short, dark fibers in this yarn, I kept thinking of making this into a 4 ply cabled yarn, as a means of locking those fibers into the yarn.  So I plied the above two bobbins on the smaller pulley of the same whorl with a lot of plying twist:
So here's the two ply.  You can see that there's a good amount of ply twist.  I wound this yarn into a center pull ball and switched the drive band back to the larger pulley to re-ply this yarn with a z-twist to create a 4 ply cable yarn:

Here is the finished yarn.  The skein is balanced.  The yarn has a lot of fuzz to it, is a bit prickly against the skin, and isn't terribly elastic.  If you click for big you can see the chain like structure of the yarn.  This yarn would make a warm vest, a cozy pair of boot liners, or it would be a great rug weft in weaving. 

In all honesty, this cabled construction is probably not the best choice for this wool.  I don't think the cabled construction would allow for much more fulling/felting  A balanced three ply would probably be a bit more elastic and useful for a wider variety of knitting applications. Perhaps balanced three ply would make great felted slippers.

The little bit of balanced two ply yarn that I sampled had just a bit too much "bead" to the two ply bumps for it to be good knitting yarn.  And the large amount of short fibers in the yarn made it not very good for weaving, especially for warp.

So, that's my experience with Karakul.  I'd be interested to know about  the experience of others with this breed.

The next breed will be Scottish Blackface, but not before next week.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Spinnning the Breeds - Navajo Churro

This is the second entry on the primitive breeds.   Deb defined the primitive breeds as those being closer to the wild animal vs. the domesticated animal.  She also gave us a list of characteristics that included:
  • there may be a mix of fiber types in the fleece.
  • there may be a mix of fiber diameters in the fleece.
  • the crimp may be irregular.
  • more likely to have colored fleeces.
  • and a lower yield.
There's more....lots more, but Deb has a book coming out in the spring and I just want to whet your appetite for all the sheepy, fleecey, goodness that will be served up there.

So...the Churro:

Here we have just under an ounce of washed Navajo Churro locks.  The thing that struck me most in handling the fiber was it's dryness.  It certainly wasn't over scoured, it's just that this wool did not have the grease and oils that I've come to associate with wool.  Upon the first feel, it reminded me more of the camelid fibers because of this dryness.
Here are three locks selected from the mass of fiber.  Note the variation.
This was the very first yarn spun from this fiber in class.  It's a 2 ply made from locks combed on my Louet mini combs, spun semi-worsted (I allowed some twist into the drafting area), and plied from a center pull ball.  It's a haphazard sort of yarn, but this was a busy workshop.

So I got the rest of the fiber home and decided to do the same thing that I did with the Shetland.  I combed the mass of fibers on my Forsythe two pitch combs and produced these nice little combed nests:
Yes, I am a bit of a control freak and it is sometimes to the detriment of my spinning.  But you have to love these nice orderly little nests of fiber.  I spun these nests with a worsted draw (no twist allowed in the drafting zone) and plied the yarn from two separate bobbins.  The singles came out to about 35 wpi, plied yarn about 21 wpi.  There's about 5 plying twists to the inch and the yarn is pretty much balanced.  It's not very elastic and would be better for weaving than knitting.  You'll see the yarn from these later. 

Meanwhile here's the combing waste:

Wow!  That's a lot of fiber still left.  So I sat down with the hand cards and produced these fat, sausage-like rolags:

These were spun up woolen style with a supported long draw and just enough twist to hold the fibers together.  The yarn was then plied into a 3 ply from three separate bobbins.  There are about 4 plying twists to the inch.  The yarn is nice and lofty, and would make a great knitting yarn at about 9 wpi.

Here are the two yarns together:
The worsted is on the left and the woolen is on the right.

Here's a closer look:

Two ply worsted on the left, three ply woolen on the right.

Here's a close up of some of the fibers left from the rolags:
Click for big and note the different types of fiber in the fleece.  Those short dark fibers in the upper left and in the center aren't second cuts.  They are just some short, wiry little fibers that are all part of the package.

The worsted yarn would be nice for a blanket or outerwear but is kind of scratchy for anything close to the skin.  The woolen yarn would be great for mittens or gloves.  It would also make a warm hat, but I would probably make it a double thickness with something a little softer next to the skin.

So there you go...that's my first round with Navajo Churro.
Once again, thanks to Beth Smith at the Spinning Loft for providing the washed fibers and hosting the workshop (Beth & Chelsea do mail order...I just got 2 oz. of birthday quiviut in today's mail...color me happy!)  And thanks to Deb for the great class!

Next fiber will be Karakul, but there will probably be posts of a different sort before that.