Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back to Spinning

First skein of plied Cotswald
I had some time off this week, and I decided to do some spinning.  Picking up where I left off at the Tour De Fleece last summer, I did some combing of the dyed Cotswald.  It was nice combing the pretty colors together to make a nice purple blend.  My favorite color.

First skein of Merino
Then, I had to get some of the problematic Merino off the bobbins to make room for more Cotswald, since it has to be plied and I have various different yarns on all 4 bobbins.  I had Merino on 2 bobbins, but not in equal amounts, and it definitely needs to be plied, so I decided to spin a bit more of the Merino so that I could ply those 2 together to free up bobbins.  I still had some Merino left that was already combed, so away I went.  I am trying not to be too much of a perfectionist this time.  The Merino has some nepps in it, because I processed it myself, which I have mentioned in previous posts.  But when spun up, it really isn't too bad and it is fun to spin.  It spins very fine, and is super-soft.  I would stop from time to time to let it ply back on itself, and it looks pretty good plied, so I was hoping it would encourage me to ply it and see the results.

When I had roughly equivalent amounts on 2 bobbins, I began plying.  I found that some of the plied sections looked very good, and others did not.  Being still new at Merino spinning, which is kind of an "advanced" wool, some sections were thinner than others.  Some sections did not have enough twist to really ply together well.  I also think that this is one yarn that really would be better as a 4 ply, since it is so thin, and in 4 plies the inconsistencies might even themselves out a bit more.  But it might not be so bad.  It has been resting on the bobbin for a couple of days, and I will probably wind it off with the niddy-noddy today and see how it looks relaxed, plus how many yards I have so far.
I weighed the combed Cotswald before spinning, which I plan to do from now on, to increase the chances of having equal lengths on 2 bobbins for plying.  I normally just eyeball it, and they are never equal.  I was surprised to see that one combed "nest" is about .25 oz.  I spun 4 of them, and it didn't even half fill the bobbin, so my plan is to do 2 oz. per bobbin, then ply.  I am trying to be consistent, as I have a lot of the Cotswald left to spin.  I still have no idea what I will make with it.  I will have to see how much I have in the end.  It's very glossy.  Right now I am just enjoying the process, and glad I finally got back to spinning again.

Dyeing Cotswald Fleece Sun Yellow

Years ago, I took a fantastic weekend spinning class at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine.  Among other things, we learned to blend colors on a drum carder.  We took fleece that had been dyed primary colors:  garish-looking red, blue and yellow, but when blended on the drum-carder, they made lovely heathered blends.  I left with a copy of the book Color In Spinning by Deb Menz.  Years later, I was traveling up to that neck of the woods, so I stopped by.  I bought 3 colors of their Wash Fast Acid Dyes, some Glauber's Salt, Ammonium Sulfate and Synthrapol.   A good basic beginner's dye kit, or so I thought.  I was planning to blend colors, having bought a red, blue and yellow that looked closest to primary colors of all the jars.  They were:  Magenta, Bright Blue and Sun Yellow.

I dyed some Cotswald with the magenta, and it turned out more like fuschia or neon pink.  One of my favorite colors, so though it was not what it looked like in the jar, I was still happy.  The blue, however, came out like an electric blue, which I guess matches the neon pink, but I was not sure what I was going to do with these crazy colors!  I tried blending them on the drum carder, and didn't really like the results.  I tried blending them in various amounts, but was not happy with the results.  I set it aside for awhile.  I had nobody to consult on what to do.  The internet community for fiber arts we have now did not exist, and I was not near any Fiber Studio or Guild, so I was basically on my own for problem-solving at that time.  Plus, I work full-time, and life intervenes frequently in my pursuit of various crafts.

In Summer 2010, for the Tour De Fleece, I wanted to de-stash some of my fiber.  I finally got the bright idea of blending on fiber combs.  I own some Viking Combs, but I have not used them much, so I had kind of forgotten about them.  Sometimes, I can be really dense.  Well, that turned out to be the key to it all.  You need to use the right tools for the job.  Cotswald fleece has very long and silky locks, which should be combed, not carded.  The results of some of that can be seen in my post from Tour De Fleece 2010.

However, I had yet to try the Sun Yellow.  I had often thought of that while working with the pink and blue fiber, wondering if blending the yellow with electric blue would make a nice green.  So this week, I hunted out all my dyeing equipment (the dyepot was finally found after much searching, under a rolled-up Kilim carpet which needs hanging).   Luckily, I had made notes from before on what I did, so it was fairly easy to repeat the process.  Since I will be blending this yellow with existing, highly-saturated shades, I decided to use the same strength of dye I used last time:  2 tsp. dye powder per 1 lb. of wool. 

Yellow is not my favorite color, which is probably why I did it last.  I don't wear yellow, for one thing.  But it is good for blending.  Also, as I was mixing the dye solution and preparing the wool for the dye bath, I thought  that yellow is really a good color for Spring.  The daffodils are out right now.  The dye solution even looked like Easter Egg dye.