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Fiber Poker Challenge from the Third Participant

Fiber Poker Challenge from the Third Participant

So far you have seen the Poker Challenge offerings from Ann and Jan. We are all members of the same Guild. I accepted to do the spinning challenge only.

My cards were
Colour – pastels only
Fibre – must include mohair
Technique – lock spinning
Structure – lace weight

I had some really lovely, top quality, pink, super-fine merino, and some pale blue mohair locks. The merino spins into lace weight very easily, almost wanted to spin that way on its own. The thing I found most difficult was lock spinning. 

Research online showed a whole range of techniques, so it dawned on me that lock spinning is what you make of it. The mohair was really slippery and a bit of a challenge to maintain control, but the results were a happy surprise. I decided to ply the mohair with the lace merino to give integrity to the yarn. Once plied the locks on the mohair opened, but were held in place with the merino and the end result was a luxurious, soft, lustrous yarn.  Unfortunately, I am not the photographic genius that Jan is and even though I chastised my camera for not using a flash to show the gorgeous soft pink and sky blue of the final product, it ignored me.

So, I took it to the next step and did a purpose made yarn of my own design.

I ordered some wonderful dyed Teeswater first clip from my favourite wool dyer. It arrived all clean, soft, shiny and tangle free; this is a special treat that I allow myself every once in a while. I used this for the lace weight ply and used some of my own dyed mohair locks for the lock spun component. I have to say the Teeswater wool is exquisite. I flick card it open on both ends and remove any tangles by cutting the knots out. This gives me a staple of approximately 15 inches.

This was spun as close to lace weight as possible. And I know my wheel needs to be fixed, I’m trying to find a craftsman/woman who can do that, any ideas??  If you look closely at the first hook you will see the groove that is nearly cutting through the metal.

The mohair is not carded at all and only pulled apart a little bit to keep the lock integrity intact. Unfortunately, I have only a picture of similar locks. I used up all the others before remembering to take out my camera. The lustre of mohair is amazing and the softness of kid mohair is delicious. Adult mohair is not my favourite fibre because as the animal matures the fibre gets so coarse it can’t be used for next to skin projects and it loses its crimp and becomes a misery to spin.

The mohair was then plied with the lace weight Teeswater to give this yarn.

My plan, among several others I’ve discussed with you over the past few months, is to weave this into a winter stole or shawl. The Teeswater is long enough to take the abrasion of being in a warp, so to that end, I made the leftover laceweight into a fine three ply cable yarn. This keeps the colour grouping together. If I were to do this as a true three ply the colours would tend to get muddy and I wanted to avoid that. I think I have enough for the project.

There are eight skeins that weigh 645 gms. If not I can always spin more of the Teeswater and fiddle the design a bit. Motivation is now the issue. You all amaze me with the energy you have, the creativity you show and your unflagging drive, thank you for showing me a whole ‘other world of fibre art.

Recycling and Upcycling silk kimono

Recycling and Upcycling silk kimono

A few blogs ago Welshfelters posted about upcycling/recycling a chinese lantern. That got me thinking about the project I’ve been plonking away on for ages now – recycling silk. I really love silk in almost all its forms, not too crazy about silk noil, but everything else is just lovely, the texture, the colours, the gloss, the sound. I have ASMR, so even thinking about silk gives me a case of the shivers.

When one of our guild members was down sizing and offered some used kimono for sale at an excellent price, I was first in line and happily took home a box of bright red, blue, brown, and orange silky bits. The construction of these kimono was amazing, all hand sewn, all exquisitely designed and all in deplorable condition. The fabric has deteriorated along the fold lines and has some tears, so re-purposing is one of the best options for most of the fabric. Hand washing and disassembly followed, along with a bit of ironing, just to make life a little easier when cutting time came.

A few years ago another friend had gifted me fabric cutters; Bliss and Frazer. They are both vintage models and well loved. When they first came into my care, I really had no immediate purpose for them but knew that ‘someday’ they would be put to good use. Along with recycling fabric, good tools also need to be kept in useful condition, so they went for a spa treatment to a talented gentleman who fixed a damaged bearing, sharpened the blades, retooled the wheel plate and generally got them both up and running optimally.

Silk is brutal on fabric cutters.

The wheel is starting to show signs of wear after cutting silk

The blade is showing signs of becoming dull, so I will probably switch to a rotary blade and ruler, which seems to work just fine. The rotary cutter has the added benefit of replacement blades that can be recycled and replaced as needed. I’ll save the fabric cutters for wool and cotton. Using the ruler and rotary cutter to cut width doesn’t yield consistent results, or as consistent as the fabric cutter, but with silk I don’t think that’s a significant issue. There are a couple of ways I can make the strips of cut silk into a single piece of ‘yarn’.

I can spin it together and then hold it together a little more with a ply of silk thrums thread.

I can do a splice and spin it as a single which allows for the little tails to become a design element in the yarn.

This is the tails and tops method of joining

or I can just weave it in as a rag technique and alternate with the silk thrums. In the end, I’m going to call it art yarn and who will challenge the inconsistency of the yarn!

All fabric that is used in our daily lives will wear out, but when it comes to a fiber that is so costly to make, so valuable and lovely I want to put the extra effort into keeping it out of the rag bag for as long as possible. Most, if not all fabrics can be given a second life before they can be purposed as rags. The ingenuity of our predecessors was impressive and there is no reason not to emulate them. Sheets, curtains, judo gis, towels, suits can all be remade into carpets, place-mats, cushion covers, dish rags, clothing material, blankets, quilts, scarves, the list goes on a long as your imagination permits. And yes rags, that’s a valid repurpose.

My plan for these red and orange silk kimonos and the red silk thrums is to weave material for a medium weight jacket for the winter. Something very simple in design, similar to a kimono but without any fitting or lining. My cousin in Japan is hunting an obi or two for me to use as trim. Hopefully this will be functional and attractive once I can solve the problem of the silk bleeding like crazy. But that is a challenge for another day.

Silk thrums easily dye wool and are difficult to control. Silk kimono also run their colour.

 

Not all the kimono could be cut, at least not by me.  This is going to be a project for another day.

 

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk thrums are gorgeous, jewel-like bits of temptation, rich in colour, shiny and sparkly, promising all sorts of lovely uses that will amaze everyone. Or not. Silk thrums are one part of the left overs from the sari silk industry. This is what can’t be woven on the loom and has to be cut off. I would like to see how saris are woven to understand the way the wastage is generated, it still puzzles me, but silk thrums are available in vast quantities to crafters all over the world. The problem with sari silk, and its a huge problem, is how the silk is dyed. There do not appear to be industry standards for colour fastness. Silk is a tricky fiber on a good day, so if dyers can’t determine dye acidity, water temperature, water hardness, or can’t properly degum the silk, the dye will run. I decided to try to use this characteristic of sari thrums to an advantage to see if there could be any benefit to be had.

I took a brilliant red thrum, trimmed the ribbon end and trimmed some silk fibers. The ribbon was soaked in hot water to leech out the dye. The colour saturation was evident as soon as the ribbon was in the jar. The water was totally red, but there is no way to do any metrics on this because the original silk was dyed with an unknown quantity of dye. All this is just a “see if this works” experiment. I snipped a tiny quantity of silk fiber, set it aside to mix with the wool roving I had chosen for dying.

I spun the rest of the silk threads into a single ply yarn. I’m taking a liberty in calling this a single ply, it is in fact a multiple thread yarn. The sari silk is made up of extremely fine thread. I respun those into a single thread with added twist. I can’t show them to you because my camera just can’t pickup the delicacy of those threads.

It was difficult to spin at first, because the fibers are nearly 36 inches long and tended to get tangled. I’ll try a different method next time, but it is possible to spin this into a reasonably nice yarn. The single yarn is plied against some of the merino top that is the basis of the dye bath test. I’ll use this later as part of the dye test.

When I plied the single merino wool with the single red silk they worked well together This is the most durable, hard to break fiber I have ever handled. Silk really is amazing.

I presoaked the remaining merino, drained, opened it along a mid-seam, sprinkled the snipped silk threads all along the centre. I then rolled the merino into a tube and wrapped it with the ribbon from the soak jar. This was set in an acid bath and topped up with the dye water from the soak jar. I use an oven to dye my wool. I cooked this for about two hours at 100C/220F. I expected a more vibrant red, not the pale orange, but this is an experiment, so expectations have to go on the back burner.

 

Another experiment with long wools

Another experiment with long wools

There is an innovative indie-dyer who to supplements my addiction from time to time. She has access to some lovely long wools such as Teeswater and Masham, great blends, and exotics that don’t come my way very often. She is superlative at using colour and just great fun in her experimentation. This past winter I decided to take the plunge and buy some of her less expensive offerings of a mixed bag of long wools. These bags can have any kind of breed. They generally are a little felted or cotted but not impossible to work with for spinning.

Because the locks were slightly felted I decided to use small dog combs as flick carders to open the wool. That was a surprise! A lock that was five inches long ended up 14 or more inches after being carded. The dog combs are very fine and do a good job on the locks if used gently.

The colours in the grab bag were mouth watering and spoke of spring.

Each lock was kept separate and spun individually. The singles were plied using the chain ply method to let the colours remain in blocks.

The bag was primarily long wool, but had a great variety of lengths, so I think it was more a grab bag of breeds.

The residual wool caught in the carders was short and had some neps. This was carded as for wool spinning, some was run through wool combs to see if that would yield any decent results, but the wastage was very high, so I gave up on that as a processing method and went back to using carders.

The wool caught in the dog combs was slightly blended and the colours were muted.
The dog combs pulled out short bits and neps that will add texture to this woollen spin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t spun the wool waste yet, but it should be fairly quick to do and easy to finish if I do long draw.  The colours will be more heather than the crisp colours that I’m trying to maintain by carding the individual locks, but they will have a muted heather look and will be attractive in their own way.

Each lock was spun individually into singles, which were then cable plied as a three ply.  This is the only way I know to protect the individuality of the colours.

Singles of different “long wool”

The final result is interesting, but a little bit “all over the place” and frankly a little disappointing. It had no clear purpose, no underlying colour theme, no direction and it shows.  If this is used in weaving I will use a monochrome warp and complimentary weft to help pull it together and make one or two specific colours pop.  Right now, none of the colours really stand out.  The yarn itself is actually surprisingly soft for long wool.  It’s lusterous, silky and smooth.

Three ply cable yarn that is lustrous and surprisingly soft.

I’ll keep trying different kinds of long wool, I enjoy them, but I think I’ll try finding my own fleece supplier if possible and see what I can do with my own cleaning and dyeing. I need to find out what the fleece are like right from the animal.  So the learning curve continues.

So…what do you DO with that stuff??

So…what do you DO with that stuff??

Spinners who participate at demonstrations hear this question all the time. After washing, dyeing, carding/combing then spinning the most delicious yarn in the world, we have to do more? Isn’t this enough? Apparently there is an expectation that all our lovely yarn has to be used for something else. For years that wasn’t my problem; that was left to the devices of much more talented weavers, knitters, felters and other fiber artists. This was when we had fiber festivals and gathers of like minded people who could touch yarn and evaluate the grist for their next project. To my great surprise, I can spin a lot of yarn in a year.

During one of the relaxed periods of lock-down I was able to buy a lovely little loom. It was a Leclerc Mira, 27 inch, four harness, sectional beam. This little button came with all the bells and whistles – warping mill, bobbin rack with bobbins, electric bobbin winder, skein winder, shuttles, extra heddles, reeds, counter, the list keeps going and going. I was truly blessed to find this loom. It did come unassembled without instructions. That is a crucial bit of information. User manuals are easily found on-line with very good information. Kudo’s to Leclerc for providing customers throughout the ages all the information they need to maintain and care for these lovely machines.

This is some of the Cotswold I used for the scarves
This is some of the Cotswold I used for the scarves

Like most of the world we were in lock-down of one sort or another, but at one point both my son’s were allowed to be in my home as long as I wasn’t, so they took the opportunity to come and set up the little darling for me. Well, that was the intention. The reality ended up with an attempt to sort out the messy meccano set called a loom, define the parts, try to read instructions, etc. that ended with one of them saying “nuts to this, I’m going to start supper and clean the bathroom”. When I got home, supper was on the brew, the loo was clean and one son was struggling with a partially assembled machine. We finished it together. Pear is a shape, and it is not a good one when skittering around under a small loom. Skitter may not be an accurate description either, but you get the idea. I’m too old for this sort of activity.

Cotswold is one of my favourite breeds and I had a lovely selection available for my first try after a long break from weaving. Several decades ago my then sister in law coerced me into taking weaving and spinning at the local college.  I loved it, she did not.  Once coming to this area, I was competent enough to be hired as a production weaver for a local artisan. We used sectional beams for warping and I prefer them to using a reel. The only draw-back for a sectional beam is the need to have individual bobbins for each thread. So if you are weaving at 10 threads per inch you will need 10 bobbins with enough yardage for the length and width of your warp. I really needed to crack out my math skills again. Thankfully, all the Cotswold I had spun, had yardage marked on the skeins, so I was confident that I had enough to use. I was going to make scarves for my sons.

I measured and did math and wound bobbins, redid the math; worried that I hadn’t done the math properly, so redid it and finally took the plunge.

bobbins all wound and ready for the sectional beam

Sectional beam getting ready to go

The weave pattern was a very basic twill.  I just wanted to get back to learning how to do a full loom set-up again.  The bonus would be having something useful to show for it at the end of the process. The idea of purchasing fiber to do this also seemed a little weird since my house was getting full of spun yarn. 

Final warp, all ready for weaving

Taking the plunge and using my own hand spun was a significant eye opening experience. The wool I chose was just too rough for the final product of scarves.  My sons are kind and tell me the scarves are warm and snuggly and all sorts of appropriate compliments, but the material feels a bit like kevlar.  

I am now more aware of producing fiber with an end purpose in mind, not necessarily for me, but for other people as well.  If I design the yarn with intent for an end use, I can explain to someone else what it will be good for.  Some hand spun is not as good for weaving as it is for knitting, and some hand spun should never be used for scarves!

From start to finished yarn – that icky fleece

From start to finished yarn – that icky fleece

Generally, when I wash a fleece I skirt it heavily. (The one exception is for suint cleaning, everything must go into that bath.) I am of the opinion in my senior years, that I have less time than money, and sheep will grow more wool next year; on the other hand, I may not be here. This year I was fortunate enough to buy from a friend who is brilliant at spotting excellent fleece and equally brilliant at cleaning them. I trust her implicitly and with reason.

Once the heavy lifting of selecting, skirting, and washing is done the wool is ready for processing. It can be spun from locks, dyed, carded either on the drum or hand carders, combed, or left to be stroked endlessly if it’s a particularly nice specimen.

This year I was going gang busters with dyeing. I had so much lovely wool to play with, so many different types, it was glorious, but every once in a while I’ll spend too much time with a fleece. I was processing lots of lovely locks and grabbed a bag just brimming full of the little lovelies. So much of the wool was amazing, just shimmering with light and reflecting the colours like petals on flowers.

In the bottom of the larger bag was a small sealed bag that I did not check for quality. This was dyed alone and produced a lovely orange/red. The locks are soft and lusterous, compact and have a great texture. The experiment for this dye bath was to treat the final rinse with a hair conditioner.  I could feel that the wool had been stripped and would produce static during processing.  I laid the wool in the sink, rubbed hair conditioner on my hands and patted it all over the wool, pushed this down in the water and watched in shock and awe as sand, debris, vegetable matter fell out of the fleece.  However, it’s full of second cuts, and cotted spots and these also started to separate from the longer locks. I suspect this was a gifted bag. My pride is saying I can salvage this…but what a sorry site, so many second cuts, so much wastage.

The locks looked fine, but these held some disappointing surprises

In a saner moment I would have set it aside, or thrown it out, but ego took over and I needed to prove to myself that I could make something out of this mess. So I started teasing out the waste material, carded the results and did a test spin.

The waste is significant, approximately 20% of the original product, including VM and sand. The fiber is half as long as the other locks from the original dye baths.

This is the wastage from the second cuts, severely cotted wool and VM

When carded, the staple length of the fiber was too short and too lofty to shape into rolags without fighting the fiber, so I left them as small batts and stacked them for woollen spinning. They are holding together extremely well and spin like a dream using long draw.

The test spin is a perfectly gorgeous, fluffy, strong woolen yarn. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final result, I would use this as a weft, or for knitting something that needs a lot of warmth. I’m not sure it could withstand abrasion. I have no idea what the breed is, so wouldn’t know if felting is an option. The staple on these batts is only 1.5 – 2 inches. The crimp is very large, hence the loft. It does shed so that might be a problem down the road.

Lofty woolen, warm results from experiment, small sample.

So, I learned a few things from this. Hair conditioner is great stuff for spinners. There is now a bottle in my tool kit, cheap stuff, but it works. And maybe I should slow down on judging a fleece as not worth the effort. This one really was worth the little bit of extra work. It’s a pleasure to card, so easy to spin and the final result is wonderful. I would have missed that. My friend knew what she was doing keeping this little bit of wool aside for special care.

Pleased to meet you, I love fibre

Pleased to meet you, I love fibre

Thank you Ruth and Ann for the invitation to the group. My name is Bernadette and fibre has been part of my life for a very long time. I started spinning and weaving in my late teens at the University of Regina. Since the pandemic there has been a lot of time available to really enjoy more indepth experiments with fiber.

There must always be purple! It’s my favourite colour and how I start every dye session.

 

 

 

 

 

I searched my stash and found loads of unwashed fleeces from so many different vendors and shepherds. There was mohair and silk, cotton, alpaca, linen, the list is pretty complete. Wool alone has so many breeds. They fascinate me with the variability of colour, texture, and spin characteristics within a breed and even within a single fleece. These past months allowed me or rather forced me to wash, sort, and dye several fleece from my stash. So with hand on heart I made the solemn promise that “I will not buy another fleece until these are all done”. I lied.

This rambouillett comes from Hutterite colonies in Alberta. These are extremely good farmers and the fleece shows it.

So I washed, dried, and dyed as many fleece as possible over the summer, Then as the weather cooled down, the wool has been either left in locks or hand processed into roving from wool combs, hand carders or from the drum carder. I’m starting to experiment with blending wool and other fibre. Over the summer I joined Jan and several other guild members in the Flax Project. Friends and family were worried there would not be enough raw material available for me and gave me fleeces, or sent me information on great resources for interesting materials. It was a gong show to say the least. I will be sharing the final results of the pandemic experience as the year progresses.

Writing and sharing my experiences is very new for me, so I hope over the next eleven months I can show you what my near geekery looks like. Being called a fiber geek no longer bothers me, its who I am. If there is any one thing that specifically interests you please let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

 

 

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