Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The art of spinning

I like to spin. No, not like the Shakers used to do in church meetings, but with an Ashford spinning wheel. I have a passion to see the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary. Every year I purchase what's called a "fleece" (like the one Gideon used in the Bible to collect or not collect dew), from a shepherd in our area that specifically raises sheep in order to sell their curly locks. Throughout the year, Mr. Van der Naak carefully watches over his ewes, blanketing them to keep dirt off of their wool, preparing them for shearing in the early spring. At the Fiber Faire each fall I sift through the piles of fleeces to select just the one I want, then I bring it home to begin the transformation. While the blanket on the sheep keeps redwood fronds, hay and the occasional poo from anchoring deep within its rastafarian locks, it still a sheep. Baaaaaaa..... Nearly dripping with lanolin and reeking of the barnyard, the fleece comes home with me to begin its makeover. This new look will include washing, drying, carding, spinning, plying, setting, knitting and blocking the fibers into a beautiful, warm garment. Proverbs 31:13 ...she spins wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.
I have to wash it, then rinse it (several times ) in my bathtub with hot water and Dawn liquid detergent,(see photo). Yes, it smells. But we all know, beauty has a price. Gently, gently I soak it clean. If I mess with it too much it will "felt"( really bad -I did this with my first fleece). Felting is when you agitate it too much and the wool fibers meld together into a tight wad henceforth making it unsuitable for much of anything let alone spinning into yarn. (I'm sure most of us have ruined a wool sweater in our lifetime. Same principle). Next it must be thoroughly dried. To do this, early in the autumn while the sun is still very warm and hot, I lay the fleece on a towel on a large table in front of a south facing window in my house. In a couple of weeks it is completely dried and ready for its new look.
At this point, it smells, looks and feels a lot better than a few weeks ago. So now I can begin to card it. I have what's called a drum carder (photo of my DIL) to expedite this process. The carder is very old, but it works quite well for what I need. The wool goes in curly and ragged and comes out soft and fluffy. The tedious work is done, now it's time for spinning. This of course is the end that justifies all the work mentioned above. Sitting in front of a warm fire on a cold winter day with the gentle swishing sound of the wheel spinning 'round and 'round is my idea of a good day. (My cat, Rye-Rye, also likes it.)
After enough fiber has been spun, it's time for plying and setting the twist of the yarn.
At this point, the yarn can be made into what's called a skein, wound into a ball ready for knitting or crocheting into something lovely. My first project from my own handspun yarn is a shawl. I wanted one that was lacey and light, but warm. I didn't dye the wool, I left it it's natural color. (I will post a photo later). The weather is still cold outside, so I will have plenty of time to wear my beautiful artwork. I hope I don't sound like a braggart here, but I am just so amazed and excited that with some diligence and fortitude, one can actually make a wearable piece of clothing out of something that once graced the back of a barnyard lamb. (without hurting the animal). Once again I am awed and amazed that God has orchestrated such a beautiful symphony of events that allow us to fulfill our natural inclination to "be in His image" by being creative.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the new look of your blog! I read this post before, yet it seems better in it's new form. ALMOST makes me want to shear those sheep! Very poetic. Warm memories of Mexico and S.D. mark