7 Jul 2013

More on Navajo Plying and Musings on Handprocessing Fleece

Still enjoying my purple fleeces - here they are drying out back, by the way, along with fabrics for sewing some summer clothes for my daughter (a project I finished WEEKS ago, yay!).  

I don't leave the fleeces to dry exposed that way, though -- I'm too worried about squirrels stealing some or leaves landing in it or someone next door mowing their lawn and the wind blowing the clippings over the fence into the wool - not to mention a bird flying overhead and having a terrible toilet accident or a gust of wind scattering the whole lot over the hedge and into the wide world.  I feel like I don't want to add any more dirt into the wool to clean out than I already have to.  So I lay another layer of gauze fabric over the top (like I have underneath to keep the wool from falling through the clothes rack) and pin it down with clothes pegs.

The fact that there will be VM (vegetable matter, like seeds or bits of leaf and grass) that has to be combed or picked out from the fleece is one of the ways we pay for cleaning wool by hand rather than getting a mill to do it.  But the thought of using chemicals to break down the VM as they do in mills bothers me on many levels.  Not only the addition of these chemicals to our environment, but also the wool suffers and loses some of its softness, some of its bounce and luster.  I know some mills are better than others, and I also use mill-prepared wool for spinning on some projects.  But one thing I love about the many types of wool that there are is each wool's own particular qualities of texture, softness, lustre, sproinginess, how it takes dye ... and I love yarn that combines a bunch of these different fibres and mixes them into a lovely melange where they each promote and display each other's beauty.  So more and more I prefer to prepare my own fibres by hand, simply picking apart the fleece by the handful and allowing the bits of VM to fall out, or if there's more than the occasional twig or leaf, combing it all out.  I guess it makes me feel connected to my yarn.  But time consuming?  Yes.

A short entry today, after all that environmental musing.  My batt building blocks are once again based in purple with additions of whatever struck me as I sat pondering alone in my craft room, dishes done, children on their way to bed, while the old CD player entertained me with murder mysteries borrowed from the public library.  Ahh, libraries.  

You should be able to recognize most of these purples from what's drying on my rack in the
first picture, plus I added some of that lovely grey from the other day, fuchsia and blue -
altogether including the following fleeces:  Corriedale, Border Leicester x Bluefaced Leicester,
Romney x Merino, Bluefaced Leicester x Romney/Cotswold, and Bluefaced Leicester x Shetland
I always have trouble photographing batts - the pictures just don't do justice to reality.  I guess I should experiment more with the rolling and twisting up that Etsy sellers do to try to get across to us how lovely their creations are.  The problem is the DEPTH of the batt, and the amount of colour and fibre that gets hidden inside.  So here's the top of the batt:

Wool batt lying flat - you can see some of the colours and shimmery shine from the BLxBFL locks

And then here is the same batt, pulled in half along the grain, and each half flipped 90 degrees to show a cross-view of the layers of colour:

It really puffs out thick when you take it off the carder -- consider that this is probably about 1/2 inch thick on the carder -- here each half is a good 8-10 inches thick.

Then spinning the initial single from the batt:

Although I only carded this batt once together so the colours wouldn't mix too much and those purple locks would kind of stay together a bit, the different wools were already well combed or carded by hand, so that this batt is spinning very easily and I don't have to do any pre-drafting to get a nice even ply.  

Drafting is when you kind of pull the wool out and feed it into the wheel (I guess that's one way of putting it).  Pre-drafting is when you do some initial drawing out of the wool to loosen it up a bit, almost into a thick pre-yarn, before you actually draft and spin.  This allows for a more even thickness to your yarn and more control for the spinner, especially when you're in the early stages of your spinning life.  Really experienced spinners (which I do not consider myself to be) seem to do very little if any pre-drafting no matter what they're spinning from. They just have the most amazing control over their wool.  

For a really lumpy bumpy yarn, you often don't want to do any pre-drafting, because the unevenness of the fibre as it comes off your batt is part of the random beauty of the yarn.  But for this yarn, I wanted to spin something more even (but not completely even -- I always like some small variations in my yarns).  

My spindle full of spun single yarn, with a strand of plied yarn over top
Because plying yarn untwists the fibres a bit, the colours open up and soften, the wool gets a bit squishier as the twist is released.  You can see the stripes of colour in the plied strand run parallel because the twist has been released, while in the single they're twisted diagonal.  Navajo plying, which is three-strand plying, produces a nicely rounded yarn.  Some day I'll remember to photograph the process...

Two spindles - on the left the spun single, on the right the plied yarn feeding in.

And here it is finished:

Quite a hefty skein at 216 g (7.6 oz) measuring 70 m (77 yards) and bulky at wpi 4-5
You can see it in my shop HERE

And a few other Navajo-plied yarns I just added to my shop:

A mix of Bluefaced Leicester x, Romney x Merino, and Lincoln Longwool in many greens
This is available in my shop HERE

I spun this from start to finish at Upper Canada Village during a spinning demonstration
for the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild - many pinks, a touch of blue,
and the shiny curl of Mohair - You can find it in my shop

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