My adventures in the world of handspinning

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thick and thin

You may have noticed the distinct lack of spinning here on my spinning blog...did you see how I managed to fill up three posts without even showing my spinning efforts?!
So where to start?
When I started quilting I already had a good knowledge of how to sew and understood the basics of the craft - with spinning - gulp, I knew nothing!!
I watched tutorials (craftsy, you tube) where the tutors merrily spun away with a whole handful (lapful?) of fibre, drafting it off and spinning a nice yarn... you too, beginners, can do this!
I tried, and made some pretty strong rope, I tried again and made fluff! Got myself all in a dither about what I was supposed to be doing and how!

The penny dropped the other day when a friend said the word 'pre-drafting'... it seemed the times I was having the most success was when I was doing something like that ie pulling (stretching!) out my fleece before trying to spin it.... a bit more google-ing and I realised I could do this to all of my fleece and not just small handfuls at a time.

There seems to be a lot of debate out there on whether or not pre-drafting is the way to go - everything in moderation I say and if it helps me get started, I'm in!
I had started with 100g of Corriedale, some I'd already tried spinning. The rest I formed into these cute wee balls, the fibre about pencil-width. This process also helped me to determine the length of the staple, which I had seen online but hadn't yet understood.

(Something I read that made a lot of sense) "Skilled spinners do their drafting during the spinning process..... people like me do it before hand so we can control our yarn."

I found it so much easier to spin using these balls; I had several less things to think about. It was still pretty uneven but I felt I was getting the hang of it. After spinning a while I remembered to have a look at the twist, lacking in places but I worked out how to remedy that issue [thanks Joanne for your advice :-)].
 Tonight I started a new bobbin and finished spinning the last of the 100 grams, Still not perfect (!!)(high expectations here) but much more even and I was even able to control my twist a lot more. You know how it goes though, as soon as I relaxed a bit much, I would lose my concentration and it would all go to custard :-)
Yeehaa I felt like I was SPINNING!!!!

Three bobbins of original homespun wool!!
First spinning was the bobbin on the left
then the one on the right.
Final spinning is the centre bobbin.
Now I have to have a try at plying as I don't have enough bobbins to keep filling them up with single plys! Wish me luck!
Till next time,
happy spinning,
Raewyn, a spinning farmgirl.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sheep and I

Growing up, I didn't have much time for sheep. Mum and Dad had a dairy farm so cows were our strong point. Sheep were used to graze the orchard areas and of course to add variety to the freezer by means of homekill. I don't ever remember talking to them or spending much time thinking about them.
Twice a year though they needed shearing - and that was when the fun and games began! The woolshed (which Grandpa had built years ago so maybe there were more sheep around then?) was a few paddocks away from the orchard and house area.
You see programmes on TV of high country sheep mustering, there are dogs and people on horseback. Whistles, barking and eye dogs seem to effortlessly move those sheep from mountain ridges back to 'the homeblock'. Hundreds of sheep moving en masse in the right direction.
Not so on the Denton farm. All hands on deck. Running, yelling, swearing, sheep darting off in all directions, us sprinting to turn them back, arms flapping, more yelling and swearing oh and plenty of sweating. Those of you who have worked with sheep will know that if one breaks free, all the rest follow - like sheep!
Each time Dad would think he'd set it up properly, more gates strung up, cunning plans made to get those sheep from A to B with the minimum of fuss. In my memory, those plans never seemed to work!
Apparently I did take notice of the sheep we had! This photo (and the 
one above) was dated 1976.
It's strange then that when I was farm working after leaving school I decided to buy a black ram so that I could have coloured fleeces to spin. Two problems, one, poor old Dad would have to look after my ram as I had nowhere to run it, and two, I didn't actually know how to spin. To my knowledge I'd never yearned after spinning until I saw that ram for sale...obviously my crafting genes were stronger than my 'sheep are silly creatures' genes!
I have this odd memory that I may have named the ram Hercules?
Fast forward a few years, I got busy going to university for a year, farming, marrying, more farming and having children. Hercules was busy siring coloured sheep all over the place. Lambs with spots, sets of twins with one white and one black. Very cute. Never once did Dad tell me what a curse it was having coloured fleeces mixed in with the white at shearing time. Never once did anyone ask me if I was actually ever going to learn how to spin.
Looking back, what a patient and tolerant family I have.
33 years later, one of Hercules' descendants.
I feel another post about 'my' sheep coming on but will leave it here for today.
Thanks for reading along, see you another time.
Raewyn, a spinningfarmgirl

Thursday, May 28, 2015

First steps

The next exciting part of my spinning journey is, of course, learning to how to spin!
A bit scary though, the land of the unknown, so I watched some youtube videos and Craftsy classes and learnt so much... and discovered how much there is to learn about spinning; there is grafting, s- and z-twist, plying, not to mention roving, comb top, sliver, draw, fold and much more!! Now I was even more concerned about my ability to master this craft!!
In Foundations of Spinning, Amy suggested some spinning games, one of which was to practise with yarn that is already spun, pretending to spin but basically just treadling and feeding it through onto the bobbbin.
About the time that I watched this class, I came across this 'cushion cover' that never was... I started crocheting it years ago but it got way out of shape and I never did anything more with it.
I decided to unwind it onto a bobbin, which does seem kinda backward but it felt like I was doing something worthwhile!
The extra special thing (to me) about this wool is that it is the same yarn used by my hubbie's grandmother to knit baby blankets for us when we were expecting our first baby - he was born nearly 29 years ago :-) After Nana had given them to us and she'd told us where she'd got the wool from I hunted some out. It seemed like the closest thing to 'homespun' wool that I'd ever come across at that stage - it came on hanks and it SMELT like sheep - it also had that lovely lanolin feel to it!! We got it from a local Emporium so I have no idea of its history, but it was a good price - another bonus. It's a fairly coarse wool but strong and has washed up nicely; and survived at least 4 babies (not all mine!) and years of storage.
The original, and inspiring, blankets.
Made by Nana Hilda Williams, 1986.
Any way back to the wayward crocheted cushion. Here it is (below), just about all 'spun'. I got 4 bobbins off it, that's a lot of wool by my reckoning!

Looks impressive doesn't it, if only this was proper handspun (by me) wool!
What was really exciting was that something happened with the last bobbin...all of a sudden it seemed to flow really nicely and I felt like I got into a really good rhythm...with some fibre arriving soon in the post, I felt like maybe I was ready to start doing the real thing!
But that of course, is another story!
Thank you for reading along,
Raewyn, a spinningfarmgirl.