Sunday, July 5, 2009

In which the Rabbit learns to spin

About a month ago, the Rabbit wandered into a local establishment called The Wagon Shed in search of roving (unspun wool that's been carded and that's ready to spin) to use in a wet felting project she was planning. There she encounted the redoubtable Kassy K. Wells, proprietor, spinner and weaver extraordinaire. Before the Rabbit knew it, she had signed up for spinning lessons and left the place, slightly dazed and without any roving. The Rabbit chalks this up to what The Yarn Harlot calls "wool fumes." (see, for example, here), which are well known to produce unpredictable effects in the susceptible. Anyway, a week later, the Rabbit returned, ready to learn to spin.

Spinning, dear reader, is difficult with paws. At first, all sorts of terrible things happened. The wheel went in the wrong direction, or the yarn got wound around parts of the wheel it wasn't supposed to. The yarn's width swerved wildly from thread suitable for knitting panty hose to extra-bulky. Huge, marshmallow-like fluff balls clogged the wheel's orifice (yes, it's really called that) and brought the entire operation to a standstill. The yarn got so twisted that Kassy had to stop spinning herself and, ever so gently, come and get things going again. But eventually the Rabbit started to get the hang of it.

The first week's yarn looked like this:

Here's a detail of that first attempt:

It's pretty uneven and overtwisted in spots—turns out that learning when and how to start and stop the wheel is pretty much the hardest part of spinning. But the thrill of actually making yarn was totally exciting and, the Rabbit fears, addictive.

Things were much easier the second time around. Here's the yarn from the second week, and a detail. The spinning is a lot more even this time.

At the end of the second lesson, Kassy gave the Rabbit some raw fleece to take home and wash. (I wish I had thought to take a picture of it, all full of hay and lanolin and sheep poop. It had such a fabulous barnyard smell.) The Rabbit loved washing the raw fleece, and kept wandering downstairs to the basement to fondle it as it dried, fantasizing all the while about where she would get the next raw fleece to wash. Driven crazy by the wool fumes, no doubt.

Here's how the fleece looked when it was washed and dried:

The next week, the Rabbit brought the washed fleece back to Kassy's to spin. First the Rabbit had to learn how to card—another challenge for one with paws. Then came the spinning: spinning this was a very different experience from working with the commercially processed roving. The carded fleece has more lanolin left in it, so the fibers have more grab. This is the result:

The little bumps are mostly from the inadequacy of the Rabbit's carding. Fortunately, she gets to have another go at it next week. In the meantime, she's researching all the fiber festivals within a three hour drive, dreaming of more raw fleece.

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