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Twist and Grist with 5 Wool Types

DISCLAIMER: Remember, I’m still a student here. I’m still learning. So what I’ve written about my findings regarding my assignments MAY be incorrect. It is how it’s worked for ME at the time, based on notes I’ve taken throughout the course. If you’re reading this for your own assignments/personal growth etc., I encourage you to read other sources as well just to confirm because there may be a chance that I’m not understanding things correctly. There is no way that this is the be all and end all of spinning information. I definitely don’t know all there is to know about spinning. That’s why I’m taking this course!

I’m taking a moment here to do an update about the next assignment due for Level III. The only reason I’m taking a moment is because I have to wait for my breakfast to cook and cool down. Otherwise, I really don’t have the time to be updating.

Once again, life has decided to throw me some more curve balls preventing me from being as on track with things as I “should” be. And once again, all I’m going to do is do my best. That’s all I can do. Family comes first. Last. Foremost. That’s not going to stop me from busting my butt though to try to get this out on time (or as close to on time as I can). Anyway…

This set of assignments is focusing on Twist/Grist and the 5 different wool classes.

The twist is just that – how much or how little twist you put into your yarn. There are three ways you can change it up – changing the ratio on your wheel, your treadle speed or your drafting length.

The grist is the amount of fibres your allow into your drafting zone. It often gets mixed up with diameter. As I understand, grist applies more to the pre-spinning/spinning process and diameter is the result after it’s spun (WPI). Keeping a consistent grist is easy (for me) when it comes to spinning worsted-style. All I do is make sure I use the same sized distaff across the board. I’m still finding my groove with with woolen-style spinning.

As far as the wool types go, there is: Fine (ie. Cormo), Down (ie. Cheviot), Medium Fine (ie. Corriedale), Medium Strong (ie. Romney) and Strong (ie. Cotswold). The breeds in the brackets are what I’m using for these assignments. Of course, there are a LOT more sheep breeds that fall under the various categories. These are only five of them.

We are to spin three skeins of each wool type with three different twists. Of course we have to document how we achieved this – right down to our washing techniques. Then we have to do a sample swatch of each wool type with the three different twists. We have to have an end use in mind and then justify which yarn/twist would best suit the end use.

The exciting part of this assignment, to me, is the experimentation part of all of it. I think that many spinners, including myself, find our go-to spinning method. We have our ratios we like. The treadle speed we like. The drafting length we like. We’re comfortable with it and often have little reason to venture outside the box unless we’re spinning an exotic fibre or something like that. Well, this is forcing us to. This is about self-discovery. Of course this doesn’t apply to all spinners, but I think it’s safe to say that it applies to many.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time to take photos, but I’m hoping to. I have taken some of the prep. They’re on my phone and I’m on the laptop at the moment (working on the documenting part of things).

 

Mohair: The Moral of the Story

I enjoy sharing what I learn. I hope that it will inspire others to try new things. I especially hope it saves people from learning stuff the hard way like I have. Sometimes we’re given a head’s up, sometimes we’re not. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many times we may have missed the head’s up. I think a lot of that comes from so much information being thrown at us in such a short period of time that it’s easy to miss the memo. There have been times though, where expectations were NOT made clear. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I won’t go into detail, but it is comforting, in a twisted way, when you find out that you’re not the only one who has no record or recollection of something being said and/or demonstrated (this is course-wide, not this unit). But I digress…

What I’m going to discuss here are my PERSONAL findings with spinning mohair. You’ll see why I capitalized “personal” in a moment. Your experience may be far different than mine. Many of my classmates had spun mohair before. Not I. The first time I had ever touched a lock of mohair was in August. So this is from an absolute rookie’s point of view.

1. Remember that your mohair spinning experience is YOUR mohair spinning experience.

My biggest mistake in this mohair unit was to read about some of my classmates’ experiences BEFORE I spun my own skeins. Some of them had one heck of a time with it. So of course, I automatically assumed that I would too. This made me nervous, almost to the point of paranoid. I shut down because of perfection paralysis. When I finally psyched myself up to do it, I didn’t have any issues with the spinning itself. I really kicked myself for worrying so much and for letting it stop me from diving in. The biggest lesson I learned from this is that you have to make your experiences YOUR experiences. Just because somebody else is struggling with a particular fibre doesn’t mean you will. From here on out, I’ll only be checking in if I have specific questions or after the fact.

2. A l’il fluff’ll do ya
This may seem a little hypocritical after what I had just posted above. However, it’s a true story. When we were given our homework fibre, I was concerned about not having enough. This was likely because I’m so used to spinning wool. Yeah, we were fine. Well, sort of… While we did have enough to complete the assignments, it would have been nice to have more mohair to work with for sampling. Because, well… ROOKIE!!!!

3. Spin FINE
This goes with the point above. Seriously, you DO have enough fibre. Remember, it’s not wool you’re dealing with. I have found that with mohair, the finer, the better. I also found that one out the hard way because the first assignments I tackled, I used waaaaaayyyyyy too much fibre and spun waaaaayyyy too thick. I really wish I could do all of this over again. I have learned from my mistakes though. That’s the whole point, right?

4. Don’t expect your singles/plying to be perfect right away
Spinning mohair is a whole new ballgame. To me anyway. I needed to bust out my fast flyer. You need to put extra twist in your singles in order for it to stay. Mohair resists twist. So that means that you don’t need as much twist when you’re plying because you don’t want to lose what you had to put in the singles. This will take practice. You could be a natural though – if so, yay! If not, understand that finding your groove will take practice. Be gentle with yourself. Make sure to acknowledge your mistakes and note what you would do differently the next time.

5. Mohair fibre weighs more than wool
This reminds me of that riddle “What’s heavier – a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?” In this case, the mohair is the bricks and the wool is the feathers. We had discussed this in class, but of course, brainy was in overload mode. When I weighed everything out to do my orthogenous assignment, I was thinking “WTH??? There is waaaaayyyy more wool than there is mohair. How the heck is this 50/50? AHA!” So remember -if you blend 50/50 by weight, you will end up with a higher percentage of wool fibres. This is where it’s super important to keep your end use in mind if you’re spinning for a specific project.

6. Lightly mist mohair and put into baggie overnight before working with it
This little gem is brought to you by Donna Hancock, our instructor and owner of Wellington Fibres. I am soooo glad she told us this AND I wrote it down! Since we were well into winter when I was working on this assignment, this was one of the most important tips we got. Static+mohair=nastiness. She also suggested that when blending with wool on a drum carder, to run some wool through first. Otherwise, the mohair will sink to the bottom and it won’t blend evenly.

I think that’s all the tips that I have to offer for working with mohair. It’s really not as scary as I thought it would be. I really enjoyed it and plan on working with it more in the future.

If you have any tips that you would like to share, the comments are open.

Mohair Assignment – Spinning for end use

During the mohair unit, we discussed end use. One of the assignments is spinning a yarn geared towards a certain project. We had to draw our projects out of a hat. The one I got was “weft for a blanket.”

I’m a VERY green weaver. I’ve taken a couple of lessons and I’m confident that I could warp a loom alone and do a very basic project. However, I’m far from knowing all of the in’s and out’s. So this assignment required a bit of research and diving into my knowledge base about what I do know.

One thing I love about weaving is the logic found in the art. When I was analyzing this imaginary blanket, I would ask myself some questions, look up answers and I would often find myself correct in my thinking!

One of the things about this assignment is that it doesn’t give you any variables. You have to justify why you’re spinning the yarn you’re spinning, why it’s a 2- or 3-ply, why you chose the percentage of wool to blend with mohair. There was no information provided regarding what the warp would be on this blanket. So the yarn I’ve spun is based on a warp that is spun from wool. I know people have done 100% mohair. The issue with that though is that mohair protrudes (that fluffy halo) and when you’re weaving, the weft yarn would stick to the warp like velcro. So if I was to actually make this blanket, I would use a wool warp until I got more experienced.

So for the weft yarn itself, I have chosen a 60% mohair/40% wool blend. I chose this for a couple of reasons. I looked online to see what blends other blankets were made of. A lot of them were 70/30 mohair/wool. I would have liked to do that blend, however, we were not supplied with a very big sample of mohair. There’s just enough to completed the assignments (I hope!). I wanted to use a higher percentage of mohair because I wanted to highlight the fibre. It’s so soft and it would be perfect for a blanket.

Mohair/Wool in progress - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Mohair/Wool in progress

Again, I took to the internet to find out information regarding how many plies I should do. I realize that ultimately the decision is up to me. However, I know that spinners and weavers are a logical bunch. For the most part, there is a method to their madness. My initial thought was to go for a 2-ply because it stretches the material to the maximum (and it’s one less singles to spin! hehehe). I was open to a 3-ply though. Then I questioned if the third ply was necessary in this case since a woven blanket is flat. Would the third ply just get lost? After surfing around, the answer seemed to be 2-ply. One of these days I want to discuss this with somebody who has weaving experience (and I hope she’s reading this!) to see if I’m correct in my thinking. I’d also like to see if my thinking about 2-ply and weaving is correct. At this point I’m a lump of clay. Mold me!

Something else I decided to do with this assignment is use my fast flyer. I didn’t see anything anywhere stating we aren’t allowed to use it. It will certainly be noted in the assignment. As we were warned, mohair really does need a lot of twist to hold up. I’ve been using my regular flyer and I’ve had to treadle like a mad woman to get enough twist so that the singles won’t fall apart. Again, considering my lack of mohair experience, I am pleased that I made it this far with my regular flyer. I spun up a 70/30 mohair/wool blend with practice fibre. I only had 2 spots where the singles broke when I was plying. I’m going to consider that a victory.

Later that day…

Mohair/Wool blend spun for end use - blanket weft - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Mohair/Wool blend spun for end use – blanket weft

I am finished spinning and plying this yarn. My fast flyer made such a difference. The ratio I used was only one higher (12:1 vs 10:1), but it still helped immensely.

On thing that had me initially concerned was that even though I weighed out the amounts of wool and mohair, the wool seemed to take over the skein. Then I recalled hearing (and recording somewhere) that mohair fibre weighs more than wool. In other words, if you had a gram of mohair and a gram of wool, there would be less mohair fibres than there is wool fibres. So when I do up my notes, I’m going to make sure to mention this: percentages listed are based on weight. It has me curious how one could change the percentages up using volume and what the results would look like there.

One more thing I want to mention is just how much mohair blooms! Now that I’ve seen this for myself, one of my future observations is going to be WPI counts before and after setting the twist. I can see this being quite fascinating. I’m not sure if time is going to allow for this at this point. It’s something I’d like to investigate down the road for sure.

So up next… A 2-ply orthogenous yarn – one ply mohair, the other ply wool. I already have the mohair ply spun up. My thoughts on that will be in the next post.

Mohair Assignment – Blend using kid

I’ve been prepping mohair all week and while I’m not ahead of the game, I’m not crashing and burning either. There have been a couple of kinks thrown in like two snow days in a row. That hasn’t been too bad though. I get to spend extra time with my hunny bunny, but he’s also at at the age now where he doesn’t need my constant attention. It’s actually quite pleasant. I love having him around, even if he’s doing his own thing and I’m doing mine. He’s happy. I’m happy.

So… What am I learning with this whole mohair process? Lots. The first time I ever touched a lock of mohair was in August. So there is lots for me to learn. One lesson I learned in this whole course is to make sure to go back and reread the notes MORE THAN ONCE (yeah, I learned that one the hard way in a previous assignment). Don’t assume you know what you’re supposed to be doing because you probably don’t! Thank goodness I learned this lesson when I did because it has saved me a whole world of pain with these assignments. It’s made a difference in how I’m approaching them too.

Mohair and BFL before blending

Mohair and BFL before blending

One of the things I read was that if I’m going to use a drum carder, make sure I separate the locks, lightly mist them and put them in a baggie overnight. Once I’m ready to card, make sure to put a light layer of wool on the drum carder first. These steps will help make the mohair distribution more even. Well, I did all of those steps. Since my mohair experience is nil, I’m not sure if I was successful at blending. I’m going to note this in my assignment (that was another biggy I learned – if it’s not perfect, acknowledge it!). I am content with the blending, but I don’t know if it’s up to standards. I know there will be feedback provided. And that’s the whole point of the course! I would have liked to run it through the drum carder a third time, but I didn’t want to risk damaging the fibres.

Open locks, mohair, BFL - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Open locks, mohair, BFL

The actual assignment gave us a choice of using a homogenous or orthogenous blend. I decided to go with the homogenous at a 50/50 blend with Blue Faced Leicester (BFL). We’re supposed to justify why we made this choice. My real reason? I knew I wouldn’t have an issue spinning a blend. I haven’t spun straight mohair (that’s today) and I hear it’s challenging. The frugal mama in me didn’t want to waste the kid mohair since it’s far more valuable. Now for the blend amount, I went with a 50/50 because I want the yarn to keep the shape of the end use project. Since the higher the mohair amount, the less shape retention, I figured this would be a good ratio. The mohair is still very obvious, but not overpowering. I went with BFL because of its staple length and softness. Since I’m choosing a shawl as my end use, it will be soft next to the neck and if the recipient were to wear short sleeves.

Kid mohair/BFL - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Kid mohair/BFL

I’m also seeing a huge difference in the hand between this sample and the yarn I spun the other day with mohair and Corriedale. BFL is softer than Corriedale to begin with. Add in the softness of the kid mohair versus mohair and…. Yowza! What a difference. This sample is so soft!
So I can see this blend being something I will enjoy spinning in the future. That’s what I’m loving about this course. It’s like a big buffet, allowing you to sample next to everything. I’m finding what I like and what doesn’t work for me. All this fibre, zero calories!

I’ve also learned that there is a difference between shooting for perfection and doing your best. Doing your best is just that – you put your all in, but you also remember your experience level. Acknowledge it within yourself and note it to the instructors. Use the feedback to get better and don’t take it personally. Because it’s NOT personal. In this case, I know my mohair experience is minimum. Am I going to spin it perfectly? Not a chance. I know this. Perfection is forgetting about the experience you have and stressing out/beating yourself up about it not being perfect. It where you let your marks define you and your spinning skills. Make or break. Do or die. I started off the course in this frame of mind. It was taking the enjoyment out of it very quickly. I had set the bar far too high for myself. Now… Ten years down the road if I’m still spinning at the same level, THAT is when I’ll be concerned about it. I already know that’s not going to happen though. I’m growing every time I touch that wheel. So no, I’m not going to strive for perfect. I’m just going to do my best. If I get a bad mark, I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m going to apply the feedback to the best of my ability and do it again. And again. And again if I need to. Those of us in the course have a golden opportunity with a small window. Now is the time to ask for the feedback and clarify if needed.

Mom always told me “All you can do is do your best.” I get it now.

Mohair Assignment Warm-up and Self Pep Talk

I’m sure I’ve mentioned a condition I have called Perfection Paralysis. Symptoms include negative self-talk, procrastination and anxiety about the task you have at hand never being good enough no matter how hard you try. It’s irrational. It’s rediculous. But it is very real.

I have some friends who believe I’m a procrastinator. I can’t argue with that. While yes, I have MANY plates spinning, the work I have to do for the assignments is not overwhelming if you break it down. It really is manageable.

No, my procrastination comes from a serious lack of self-confidence. For some reason, I have it in my head that if I wait until the last minute, I won’t screw it up as badly. As write this though, I think a big reason is that if I complete it too early before the deadline, I will have time to go back and second guess myself. It makes sense.

So this is where I need to learn to let go. Just let ‘er rip and get that bad boy in the mail before the reality of finishing my assignment sets in. If it’s in the mail, I can’t pick it apart. It’s not going to get any better than it is. I put my best into all I do. Mom always said “All you can do is do your best.” And I do.

So rather than freak myself out with my minimal mohair spinning experience, I grabbed that goat by the horns and did a practice run. This is a 5o/5o mohair/wool blend. I added some sparkle in there because the world needs more sparkle.

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Mohair/wool/Angelina blend

So now I’m as ready as I will ever be. Time to let ‘rip!

They Call it a Drop Spindle for a Reason

I must confess I’ve been using my drop spindle a LOT these days. It’s a lot more convenient to spin on the spindle while waiting to pick my Sweet Pea up at school than it is to haul my wheel. This has seriously bumped up my productivity! There’s also the part where I get so much satisfaction from it because I still feel victorious conquering this in spite of my world being shaken up the day I was to initially learn. I’m also doing it just because I can. Because I enjoy it. And because I want to have the awesome-est skein I can muster to hand in for my homework!

I’ve been using the Dorset fleece I was generously given a little while back. I washed the fleece up and carded it myself. Here are some of the rolags I made to have handy:
rolags

Hand carded rolags from a Dorset fleece

Here are my first three times with the drop spindle. I don’t know about you, but I can see an improvement. I think I need to ply my latest one a bit more. It looks under-plied. But hey, it’s a learning process, isn’t it? (and now a blank canvas for some dyeing experiments!):

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My very first attempt with the drop spindle. This is from Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) roving. It’s so soft!

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Attempt number 2, also from BFL roving

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Attempt number 3 from a Dorset fleece I’ve processed. I can see where it’s under-plied

I had my spindle in to the Kinmount Artisans Marketplace a couple of weeks ago when I was helping out with one of the kids’ workshops. A girl saw me working with it and she was just fascinated. She asked me if that was something we could add to the workshops next summer. I think I’d really like to see about doing that. My plan is to experiment over the winter to see if I can do something with polymer clay and a dowel, while keeping the costs down (the workshops were only $3 this summer). We shall see… I would LOVE if I could pull it off because that will help me work towards my goal of passing spinning on to the next generation.

It’s looking like I’m going to be doing some guest blogging very soon. Stay tuned for details and links!

Sometimes You Just Have to Give In…

Early yesterday evening I had this incredibly strong urge to spin. That does happen a lot. But I just couldn’t suppress it last night. I knew I “should” be working on a birthday gift or an order, but it was getting to the point where I wasn’t enjoying myself. I made myself a promise that if I wasn’t having fun, I needed to put the hook/needles down. So I did.

I made the mistake of picking up some fibre on the weekend. There was some pencil roving, but what was calling to me was the Merino/alpaca blend. I couldn’t ignore it.

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This is 2oz of 70% Merino/30% alpaca. It will probably be up for sale after I set the twist on it.

I’m not going to beat myself up too badly. I still did something productive and it turned out beautiful. I’ve tried to suppress the spinning due to having orders on the books, but I just can’t do it anymore. Oh, the orders will get filled. But I can’t ignore my heart anymore.