Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spinning and a problem

Last week had in it some time set aside for my new-to-me spinning wheel. I know I won't spin well on it right away, so I'm being patient and using fiber I won't regret ruining - some undyed brown wool with rather a lot of hay and oats in it from sheep of a breed I couldn't begin to guess at.

However, this technique may be backfiring on me.

I'm making some progress - I've gotten across the whole surface of the bobbin - but I'm still getting a very blotchy single:

I assumed all these lumps and clumps were a drafting problem since drafting is a bit of a challenge with this stuff. I pre-drafted a lot, several times, to see whether things improved, and they didn't. This picture doesn't show any drafted fiber, by the way. Just that I spun right up to the non-drafted stuff in my despair and desperation to make this work.

After a while, I quietly put away the wheel and slipped to the yarn cupboard for my spindle and the green wool fiber I bought in September, for a bit of an ego boost.

This is bouncy, fuzzy stuff that spins up superfast, with almost no drafting at all, and is the most beautiful shade of green. Really the whole thing is downright addictive: if I weren't so set on finishing my Carrot cardi, I'd have all the rest of it spun and plied by bedtime today.


I still love spinning.

The green sheep produced drafting-friendly fiber.

I know how to use a spindle.

I don't know how to use a wheel.

The brown sheep's fiber is hard to draft.

So - is the problem the wheel or the fiber, or both? I have been stymied by really, really very much not wanting to ruin any of the gorgeous fibers I have in my stash, but now I'm wondering whether I should try spinning the brown stuff on a spindle, just to see if it goes better - and if it does, I'll know I have to try spinning something else on the wheel.

Only I'd better not think about this again for a few days, because

both my spindles are full
and I'd have to clear the green one
and if the green one was yarn off the spindle I'd want to spin the rest
and then ply it
and then wash it
and then knit with it

I really, really want to finish the Carrot.

* * * * *

updated to add:

I'm not the only person to want more green sheep!


NessaKnits said...

"Where is the green sheep?" Ask Mem Fox and Judy Horack. They'll know. http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780670041497/where-green-sheep

Mary Keenan said...

Ha! That book looks great - I'll add it to the post ;^)

Kathleen Taylor said...

All wool is not equal. Some is just hard to spin. Your brown wool may be partially felted (it happens sometimes in processing) and if that's the case, then nothing you do will make an even yarn. Some yarn wants to be thin, some wants to be thick- maybe this wool wants to be something different than what you're trying. Try not to worry about it- just spin the yarn however it wants to spin, and call it good. It sounds like it's not good wool anyway (with lots of hay etc in it)(that's VM by the way- vegetable matter). I wish I could be there to spin with you, I'll bet we could get this problem worked out.

p.s. lumpy bumpy yarn is perfect for rug hooking... just sayin'

Kathleen Taylor said...

p.s. It really does take time (and sometimes a lot of it) to get your hands and feet working separately but in tandem with a wheel. It's a whole new process (unless you're a drummer).

Anonymous said...

It could be the fibre--preparation has a lot to do with how your spinning comes out. However, certain kinds of wheels may make it harder to spin. For example, I can't spin anything decent on a bobbin-lead/Irish tension wheel. What kind of wheel do you have?

Karen said...

There's a knitting maxim that I think might apply here: no matter what your skill level, knit with the very best fibre you can afford. If you work with the cheap'n'nasty stuff, you'll hate what you produce, no matter how technically brilliant it might be.

Mary Keenan said...

@slipstream - it's an Ashford Joy, single treadle, with um - I don't know what kind of tension? oh dear! But it sounds like everybody thinks I should try another fibre. Maybe I can bear to sacrifice some undyed Polworth? I have rather a lot of that...

Anonymous said...

The Joy is a Scotch Tension, which is probably the easiest tension set up for beginners. I would definitely try another fiber--hold it up to the light and check to make sure it's even throughout, with no excessively thick or thin spots. If your prep is inconsistent, your yarn will be too! If you don't want to use a special fiber you've been saving, just get some non-descript wool top from Louet or Ashland Bay. it might need predrafting but will be more consistent throughout. Good luck :)

Mary Keenan said...

Thanks so much! I'll definitely try it with the Polworth - it's very smooth and consistently pre-draftable. And then I'll see what happens if I spin the brown stuff with my spindle, just for closure ;^)