Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Slippery Slope.

I never knew I wanted to be a spinner.  

Through the years old spinning wheels were regularly seen in antique shops around here; usually broken, with missing parts even to my untrained eyes. I remember carefully reaching out a finger and daring to poke wheels to make them turn a bit whenever we came across one.  
But I never really thought, "gee, I want one of these." I can make yarn now! 

Yarn I look forward to knitting or weaving with. 
And soon I want to try dyeing some of this creamy, off-white freshly hand spun yarn into lovely new colors.  NEXT!

In April my cousin Mark gave me 3 bags filled with old fleece from long ago when he raised sheep. 
I couldn't remember how long it had been, but I did know Sara & Steph were still young when they went next door with Grammie to see the baby sheep. 
I dug through some old photo albums and found pictures dated 1991. 
He doesn't remember what kind of sheep they were.
Except one was named Gloria and one Jane!    
One of them had silky long locks and in hindsight should have been kept separate.

A wiser person would probably have passed on this gift, rather than be so quick to jump in with both feet. 
Who teaches herself to process fleece with less than 2 months of practice, learning to spin?!
"I don't know what I'm doing!" has been uttered many times now.

I dumped it all on a tarp. There were rips in the bags it had been stored in. If there was anything making a nest inside I figured it was better to find out quickly. Outside!

I sorted using my own grading system:
Gross. Grosser. Grossest.
Grossest went to trashcan with no looking back.
This has not been a job for the squeamish. Veggie matter is a polite description for what these critters got stuck to themselves long ago. 
My first two skeins were done using a regular comb and a washer as a Diz. 
By the end of April I had my new Hand Carders from Paradise Fiber.
I look forward to my next fleece being not quite so vintage.  
Slippery Slope!!

Practicing with this old fleece has been freeing in a way. For as much work as it takes to get it ready to spin, I don't worry about wasting money on the expensive bags of fiber I bought, still waiting because of this new distraction. I get to figure things out and if it doesn't go as well as I liked, I get to pull a bit off and try again.  Like joining new ends smoothly.
There's no more anxiety or guilt for the time I took until I was ready to begin spinning. Simply anticipation of the next slot of time I happily give to my spinning wheel. Sometimes a bobbin will fill.  Another bobbin might be started and before I know it an hour or more has passed.  
I actually enjoy the process of plying many spinners seem to find a chore. 
It feels like accomplishment to me!
As I go about my daily routine now, my Schacht Ladybug sits in the corner made by our couch and a small thrift-store end table that I sanded, buts still needs finishing.  
Just out of the traffic flow of the living room. 
(No, it's NOT a projector!)

Jax shoves her half-peeled soccer ball under my elbow to coax me into doing something different after I've hardly gotten started. She lays her head on my left knee and makes it feel as heavy as she can until she gets what she wants. I tried to take a picture of her face looking up at me and keep treadling. Doesn't work too good. She's worked out how to get her way:
Lunch, a walk, or peanut butter, please!

Darling Blue Trail in bloom. (Distraction from first use of my new bread machine: FAIL.)
Note to Mrs. John: wait til you see one of my Tiger Trail plants!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

So, where was I . . . ?

Catching up with myself!

(There's been spinning... eventually.)

During the winter of 2013 the great Fox Project was begun. Fox Mittens were knit madly, in time for the holiday shopping rush. Every order that could be filled in time for Christmas gift-giving would be knit. 

There were many pairs sold, as well as the pattern on Ravelry! 

It paid for my new spinning wheel, and then some, for which I'm so happily grateful.  

I was also exhausted by the time this big box arrived. Plus, there were still mittens to be sent before learning to spin could begin.

And then something most unexpected, and a bit frightening, happened in January and part of February.  There was a bit of a delay before I pronounced myself ready to learn to use my wonderful new spinning wheel.  Exhaustion from not sleeping well and worry over several older relatives, combined with holiday blues and the never ending winter left me as close to a nervous breakdown as I ever want to get. It didn't help that I gave up caffeine and was experiencing withdrawal symptoms I didn't even recognize for several days. I actually went to the internet to see if it was a "real" thing. It was suggested symptoms could last a week or two. I couldn't see straight half the time and went so far as handing over the car keys and refusing to drive or be responsible for anyone's care besides Tom and myself.

(And the dog!)  We did a lot of snowshoeing, although half the time my surroundings were a blur as I focused on one step at a time. My spinning wheel sat on a desktop, safely out of harms way until I was ready. I watched lots of online video for beginners and went to the library fiber festival February 22nd just so I could stand behind a lady spinning to watch what her hands were doing. It was helpful. Drafting is a bit of a mystery until it finally clicks and just starts happening.  That was the morning I officially began teaching myself.  I got off to a bit of a shaky start, but always kept it in my mind learning how to spin could take as long as it took.  Even as I muttered laughingly to myself several times "I might really suck at this!" I never believed I would not figure it out.  Happily, I am now making "yarn"!

Okay... the first couple of skeins were more like rope! 
This was my first 2-plied carded Romney from the Woolery, spun quite thick in some places; too thin in others.  I made myself knit with it, using the thickest skeins as the bottom layer of soles for my favorite felted slippers. My arms ached from knitting with it, but it might have been a good lesson: I needed to spin thinner and more consistently so knitting would not hurt!  The slippers are finished - using all my own hand-spun! They still need to be washed to see how well they felt.