Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Move Along

There's no fiber content here.

I thought it would bother me more to type that, but life has been busy and productive in other areas, and there just has not been time to make any progress on any of my fiber projects.
Right now in my life it's all about archiving. I received a wonderful printer for my computer for Christmas. It allows me to scan my photo negatives and put them into my computer, and then burn them on a CD. I have been working through about 30 years of negatives, with the main purpose of at least getting them saved in case they were ever damaged. Why I would worry about that after they have made it through 30 years is a mystery to me too.

And when it became evident two weeks ago that our second and last VCR was just not going to work anymore, we purchased a unit that will play both VCR tapes and DVD. That means I am able to make DVD's from my vast collection of taped programs. This is not so much an archiving activity as space saver. Imagine the difference in space that 50 VCR tapes and 25 or less DVD's take. That's a big space saving.

And last of all there is the stamp closet to clean out. This is a small storage closet in my computer room that is filled with all of the inventory from my Dad's small postage stamp business. I am gradually working my way through it, keeping what I want and preparing the rest for selling. It's interesting and fun for me because I am a stamp collector, and love the bits and pieces related to that hobby. Saturday night I went through a box that had nothing but used envelopes. Most of them are trivial, and will give up their stamps to go into someone's album. But some were real gems. There were envelopes, with letters included from the early 1900's. The writing is spidery and faded and often hard to read. That which I could read spoke of details from the daily life not much different from what I would write now in an email to a friend. The part that makes me set this envelopes into the save pile, is that they survived this long already. Some have some value to them, written on Red Cross stationary, telling the recipient that their son was in the hospital but recovering. It's such a tiny slice of life in those envelopes, a peek into the past that keeps me involved in this hobby.

So this post is to let you all know I am alive and well and not knitting. I have been thinking about knitting, reading books about knitting, but no yarn has passed through these fingers for weeks. I doubt that will last long.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

What a difference a technique will make

Normally I have no problem at all spinning a commercial roving. But once in awhile I run into one that gives me some grief. I found this alpaca/silk roving when cleaning and organizing my stash, and remembered that I had stuck it away because I found it very difficult to spin.

Usually when spinning roving, I can just spin straight off the end of the roving. The fibers are aligned and I have no problem spinning a nice smooth yarn. Once in awhile, just like this roving I find that spinning straight off the end, I run into several problems. One the fiber seems compacted in some areas and not in others, and even drafting doesn't keep clumps from jumping into the twist while I spin. Another problem, probably related is I run into areas where the fiber just runs out, like all of the fibers ended right in the same spot.

At first I thought I would solve this problem roving by just drafting as evenly as I could, and spinning with a very light twist, very slowly, and making a bulky yarn. I still had lots of thick and thin areas doing this though, and was not happy with the resulting yarn. In a moment of playfulness, I tried taking the thick single and plying it with a commercial yarn from a cone of machine knitting yarn. The thought behind trying this was, if the thick single was already thick and thin, wrapping a commercial yarn around it tightly would create even more of that effect. It seems like it would work. What I found though was even spinning with high twist, the alpaca refused to be wrapped with the commercial yarn, and the resulting yarn looked like roving just barely spun. It was highlighted the two things I didn't like about the alpaca, that it wouldn't take a good twist and hold it, and that the slippery fibers refused to be wrapped. I think it might look good once knitted, but in the long run it was not a yarn I really wanted to make.

This morning, I finally remembered my solution to a previous roving like this, a technique called spinning from the fold. I got out my wheel, took a hunk of roving and folded it over my index finger and fed the fiber into the drafting triangle from that fold. It worked wonderfully, and I was able to create a yarn that will be of the same WPI as other alpaca yarns I have spun. This was necessary if I really wanted to make something from this yarn, since I only have about 6 oz of this roving.

In the picture below, the first yarn is the single plied with the commercial yarn, the middle yarn is the bulky 2 ply and the final yarn is the 2 ply spun from the fold. The commercial yarn is very thin, and is not visable in the picture, and there is so little silk in the mixture that very little shows in any of the samples. That just hint of off white is the silk.

Three samples from an alpaca/silk roving.

I am glad I found a way to spin this roving because the color is a deep brown that I love. I am sure I bought the roving for the color with no idea I would have trouble spinning it. Now I can pair the yarn from this roving, with another alpaca color in a shawl.