Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fiber Mania

It's time to get back into working with fiber. We do just about everything ourselves, except for shearing. I've thought about having our fiber made into rovings by a mill. But every time I price it out, I think about the fact I can do it myself, and I get all frugal and won't send it in to have rovings made. In a way, I am very jealous of people who do have rovings to work from. It is easier to spin. And the thought of running down to my fiber room to grab a bag of rovings sounds like a dream! I could spin and spin and spin. I have bags of raw fiber, that I need to sort and wash, and flick before I can spin. It is more work to do it all yourself. While I love spinning, the rest of the process isn't as fun to me. I do the other stuff so that I can spin. But until my desire for this dream of rovings outweighs my desire to be frugal, I'll keep doing it myself (and if you know me, well, not much gets in the way of me being frugal). I do think we may send some fiber to be made into yarn this year. I can't spin it all in a years time, especially as we add more alpacas. And what I do spin, we knit up as fast as I spin it, so I never have any home spun yarn available for sale. So to speed up the process and get some yarn for sale, we may go that route. The difficulty comes in that the blankets I most want to spin, are the ones that would work best for the mill. I don't want to give up my favorites! We haven't figured that part of it out.

This past weekend I decided it was way past time to complete the fiber I had started on my spinning wheel. Way back over the winter, I started spinning up some of Victoria's fiber. Victoria has a beautiful reddish brown color. Her fiber is very fine, and has a smooth feel to it (some people refer to her type as a "silkie"). What she lacks is crimp. Now, here is where there is a bit of a conflict. In the show ring, crimp is highly valued. But, like many other spinners, I prefer less crimp. I find the really crimpy blankets are harder to spin (this likely wouldn't make a difference if I had the fiber made into rovings, because it's the process of flicking that is so difficult by the supper crimpy fiber). I should have the really crimpy blankets made into yarn by a mill :) Both the show ring and me as a spinner want consistent crimp. Consistency is what gives the yarn a smooth feel (variation in crimp and micron will make the yarn feel less smooth and nice). Though I prefer the medium to very bold crimp, the show ring often rewards the super french fry type crimp. I have found that our animals with very consistent medium crimp have done well in the show ring, so I do think there is room for both spinners and the show ring to love the same animals.

This project is already in process. I already washed the fiber. I have one strand of yarn already spun on the wheel (on the lower bobbin). And I started spinning the next strand, on the top bobbin:

The rest of the fiber is washed, but not flicked. So I set up my favorite spot on my couch as a fiber haven:

Note the tv remote (one must have some background entertainment) and the cup of coffee (shortly that will turn into pop), and the laptop on the couch. We have dial-up Internet at our house, so I flick fiber in between working on posts, pictures, websites.

The orange tubs hold the fiber. One tub has the washed but not flicked fiber. The other tub I hold and flick the fiber over it (this is the tub with the flicker sitting on top). That way the debris falls into this tub. I also dump all the second cuts into it.

I know it looks like there is a lot of debris in the fiber in these pictures. For some reason that shows up a lot more in a picture than it does in person. Most of what's left here falls out as I spin it. Some does end up in the finished yarn, but it's so small and minute it's not noticeable. I could hide a lot of debris in the spun yarn, but I avoid that because it can make the yarn scratchy. No one wants scratchy yarn! So during each part of the process I work hard to get as much of it out as possible. You can see from washed fiber to cloud, a lot has fallen out. Even more comes out as it's spun. (While I spin I pull out what doesn't fall out on its own).

Second cuts are the short bits of fiber that really don't work to spin. You can see them in this picture, the lumpy short bumps of fiber:

I dump this bin (second cuts and debris) into my kitchen compost bin out back. It is a nice "brown" compost item to add into all my kitchen "green" stuff. I've been doing this for over a year now, and find it composts well this way.

The longer fibers is what I flick, using the wooden handle with like a metal comb/brush on the end (the flicker is in the picture above with the two orange tubs). I flick it to spread out the fibers:

This creates a cloud (similar to a roving, though not in a straight line). A cloud looks like this:

I put my flicked clouded fiber into the metal bin (which is from a paper shredder, this bin is perfect for the clouded fiber, it has holes to let air through. This keeps it fluffed up until I spin it. It is enclosed enough to keep the cloud from floating all over the house ... well, there is some of that, I do find when I work with fiber like this, it does get in odd places throughout the house. I think it sticks to my shirt, then when I go somewhere else in the house to do something, like get a drink, I drop small clouds here and there. If you drop by my house, expect little clouds of fiber, and some dogs hair mixed it, along with some hay that always seems to end up on my dinning room floor. One can only vacuum so many times.)

This is the flicked fiber:

From flicked, I grab it and spin it. I can't get a picture of me doing this. I'm home alone and can't take a picture when both my hands are busy with spinning. Another day I'll have someone grab a picture of this stage.


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