House Blend

One of the problems I’m having in the studio is pacing myself. I want to try everything, all at once, while simultaneously mastering every detail. (I think there’s a contradiction inherent to this sentiment.)

Lately, I’ve been drawn to the allure of fiber preparation. Not having any raw fiber handy, I consoled myself with combing together an ounce apiece of baby camel down and tussah silk. I took to my trusty Ashford spindle with the resulting globs of fluff. I think this will turn into a weft yarn for a warp of some leftover Tencel that I have lying around.

This is coming in at about 45 wraps per inch, and 6400 yards per pound. I think it wouldn’t mind being finer, or being spun on a lighter spindle, but I’m liking this grist.
A plied sample incorporating various grists.

I used a dog slicker for the actual blending. Here’s a comparison of the fibers before spinning:

From left to right: tussah silk, camel down, and a 50/50 blend.

I’ve also been trying to learn different methods of drafting on the spinning wheel. Strangely enough, I’ve got my antique wheel to a point of relative stability, and it’s spinning well. I’m still planning to take the flyer in for a permanent repair as soon as possible, but with a little bit of shimming here and there, things are moving just fine.

I’m comfortable with a couple of different drafting techniques on a spindle, but the options for wheel spinning are numerous and new to me. I’m working my way through the techniques in the DVD A Spinner’s Toolbox, and discovered that what I’ve been doing naturally is actually a variant of woolen spinning. (When I heard Judith MacKenzie say that everyone is either a worsted spinner or a woolen spinner, it was as the footsteps of doom. Worsted spinning seems the logical choice for most of the projects I want to make. But this long-draw thing is… weirdly compelling.)

In fact, spinning with a short forward draw at all presents me with some ergonomic challenges. Why? Well, on my wheel, the mother-of-all on my wheel sits to the left, and I treadle with the right foot. But my hands are used to spindle spinning, where I hold the fiber in my left hand and draft with the right.

How I tried to spin a short forward draw with my right hand in front. Not good: sitting like this makes you twist uncomfortably to the left, no matter how you angle your seat.

The technique I’ve slipped into could be classed as an attenuated long draw. It’s not ideal for what I want to do (spin warp yarn), but it should work.

How I’m spinning now: supported long draw with my right hand in front.

I’ll still probably have to figure out how to draft left-handed– not a bad idea in any case– but I think it will take some time to get my hands coordinated.

How I should probably learn to spin: left hand in front. I don’t have as much control over the yarn like this, but I’m making an effort to practice.

This is the resulting yarn, before washing:

I did whip up a woven sample with some of the wheel-spun yarn. This was a one-morning warping job: 60 ends go fast. I took the opportunity to work on my plain weave, which is a surprisingly challenging thing. Any unevenness in the beat or selvedges sticks out like a sore thumb.

Since the warp was short, and I was weaving at ten picks per inch, I had the sample off the loom and into the bathtub in no time.

I can’t actually wear much wool (due to a strong inclination to sneeze), so this will remain in the Basket of Interesting Experiments, but I do have an official Finished Project to share. I’ve been knitting this hat on the sly as a gift:

Okay, the shuttle is gratuitous. But the light was better on the weaving bench.

I’m surprised to find that I really enjoy knitting stranded colorwork. Innumerable possibilities present themselves.

Now, it’s time to get ready for the Tour de Fleece. More to come!

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