Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spinning class

Not spinning as in that newfangled bicycle-that-doesn't-go-anywhere spinning, no, boys and girls, I'm talking about the real deal, the age-old spinning of yarn. Spinning one's own yarn, to be exact. Since I'm a knitter, I thought it would be a good idea to see what the whole yarn-making process involves, in order to better appreciate why yarn is so gosh darn expensive.

Soooooo, one cold February day last year, Luke and I went to a local mohair goat farm and helped shear some goats (that's right, right to the source). In return for our help, I received a whole oodle (six large garbage bags full) of raw fleece (yep, raw fleece--unwashed, smelling like goat, and full of poop and straw bits) and rough instructions on how to process into yarn. I also received a free drop spindle, which I thought was nice at the time, but now realize that it was the donor's idea of a sick joke (you'll see why later). She also let me borrow some hand carders.

I set to washing, and washing, and washing, over and over, each fleece. This stuff takes some HOT water to get all the smelly stuff and dirt and poop out, and you have to wash and rinse each batch about three times. Then I put it through the spin cycle in the washer and let it dry next to the wood stove. I just finished washing the last of the fleece this year. Not that it's that hard, it just sucks that much. Your whole house smells like goat afterward.

I started carding the first batch right after it was washed. This was the nicest fleece that I had--a cute little charcoal-colored yearling with super soft fur. Carding is hard work, especially with itty-bitty hand carders. Imagine an extra large dog brush, about six inches by eight inches. Then imagine brushing a goat with it, only the goat's in a trash bag and you have to take a handful at a time and brush it. Then I tried spinning it on the drop spindle.

Then I realized I was in hell, or at least purgatory, and had willingly taken on something of Sisyphean proportions. Keep in mind, I had six trash bags of this stuff and I'm not a very patient person anyway.

About this time, one of my husband's relatives was the nicest person in the world and let me borrow her spinning wheel. I thought, "Hell yeah! I'll have this done in no time!" Well, there was still the carding to do, then summer came, and work...

So, six months later, someone lent me a drum carder and I started carding again, woo hoo! I got about two-thirds of my whole fleece stockpile carded, when I had to give both carders back, so I figured I'd start spinning on the wheel.

It actually went pretty fast. I finished the first fleece in two sittings, then dyed half of it. So, over a year and countless hours of labor later, The Result:

Super uneven, chunky, something. I don't want to call it yarn. Super-bulky doesn't even begin to cover it. I'll call it OMFG bulky weight. And being a thrifty, somewhat inconsistent knitter, I tried knitting this stuff with #10 needles.
HA HA HA! Look at the tightness of those stitches!
I could knit bullet proof vests with this stuff!

Here's the yearling spun into yarn.
Not as ungodly-thick as the first try, but still pretty uneven. Hopefully I'll be able to knit something somewhat decent with this. But anyway, my point here is, I have mad respect for all those people who spun their own yarn and knit their own clothes out of their spun yarn for all those years, and for those who still do.

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