Do you know that "I have nothing to wear" feeling? Usually I feel it when there's a lot of laundry that needs folding, or when there's something I want to wear, but it's in the dirty pile. There are really more than enough clothes in my closet, but sometimes that feeling still sneaks up on me,
The same thing happens with my knitting and spinning! I have plenty of things to work on - more than enough to keep me busy for a very long time. But sometimes it seems like I have nothing to spin. What that really means is usually that I'm putting off another part of a big project. With spinning, I'm usually putting off plying because it's my least favorite step.
That's exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago - I had plenty of plying to do, but really wanted to sit and draft yarn out bit by bit. A quick stash dive revealed some rose grey Cormo from Dresow Family Farm. I'd picked up about 12 ounces of it from them when I went to the Montana Association of Weavers and Spinners conference last summer.
The Cormo breed of sheep is a cross between Corriedale and Merino, and was first bred in Tasmania in the 1960s. This fiber really is lovely - it's soft and springy like Merino, but drafts easily like Corriedale, making for a lovely spinning experience.
I'd seen plenty of white Cormo before, but never a natural color, which is part of what prompted me to buy this roving last summer. The color is called "rose grey," and it's difficult to get a true representation of it in a photograph - a light gray, with a bit of a beige undertone.
The fiber came to me already prepped as pin-drafted roving. There's a decent amount of vegetable matter in the roving, but the light and airy fiber prep more than makes up for any time spent picking out bits of grass. And of course, it's so soft that it's hard to complain!
The singles are spun to about 40 WPI, and plied to about 18 WPI. I'm spinning the singles on my Guild's single treadle Schacht Matchless, and plying on my Hansen e-spinner. So far, I've spun almost all the singles, and plied one skein. I might run that one skein back through the wheel to add some ply twist, since it's looking a little underplied to me.
Currently, I don't have any specific plans for this yarn. I'm guessing that once everything is plied, I should have about 1,000-1,200 yards of it. And then I'll have to think of something new to spin. ;)
What do you do when you feel like you have "nothing" to work on? Let me know!
Have you heard of differential shrinkage? It's a scary-sounding word, and googling it doesn't help - you get a very technical description of building construction principles. Yuck!
In weaving, differential shrinkage is actually a very simple idea. It means that some fibers shrink more than others when you wash them. And you can use that idea to create interesting textural effects in your woven fabric.
Combining a shrinking fiber like wool with a non-shrinking fiber like silk or cotton in a single piece of fabric can create interesting results. When the fabric is washed, the shrinking fiber will pull the non-shrinking fiber into puffs. The looser and more open the fabric is, the more susceptible it will be to this effect because the fibers have more room to move around. The tighter the fabric is, the less it will be able to shrink because the fibers are already very close to each other.
The first key to working with differential shrinkage is knowing which fibers will shrink and which won't. Wool is the most notable fiber that shrinks because it has scales that act like Velcro. Wool felts or fulls as heat, moisture, and agitation are applied to it. Some wools will shrink more than others - wool from Merino sheep felts easily, while wool from Southdown sheep is more resistant to felting.
I've also included Lycra and elastic in the list of fibers that shrink because when they are on the loom, they are stretched out to their longest length, and when they are taken off the loom, they can shrink, creating textured effects. Subjecting them to heat will make them shrink more - think of stretch denim that has gone through the dryer one time too many!
Fibers that Shrink:
Plant-based fibers don't shrink as much as wool because they lack the scales that cause wool to felt. Some animal fibers, like silk and mohair, don't shrink either. And many synthetic fibers like rayon, polyester, and tencel don't shrink.
Some wools have been through a process called "superwashing," which either removes the scales from wool or smooths them down. These wools won't shrink as much, but I do find that they can shrink up to 10%, especially if they are subjected to very hot water or put in the dryer.
Fibers that Don't Shrink (as much):
Sometimes we achieve differential shrinkage on purpose, and sometimes it's an accident. I've woven pieces where I used all wool, but the wool was all different breeds and/or brands of yarn that were spun differently. The differences in the wools and yarns meant that some shrank more than others. What I thought would be a basic striped rug was a wavy, rumply thing that would never lie flat.
Other times, I've woven things where I combined different fibers on purpose, knowing I would get a textured effect. The weaving in the top image is one example - the warp was cotton, and the weft was a combination of cotton and a wool/silk yarn. Of these three fibers, wool is the only fiber that will shrink substantially. On the loom, the cloth looked flat. But after a trip through the washing machine on the delicate cycle, I ended up with a boucle-like fabric. That's differential shrinkage in action!
There are lots of different textural effects you can achieve with differential shrinkage. You can create a fabric with allover texture, like I've done here, or you can create small areas of texture within a bigger piece of fabric. The possibilities are endless!
Textural Effects You Can Achieve with Differential Shrinkage
Not a weaver? You can also use differential shrinkage in crafts besides weaving.
If you're a spinner, you can ply a shrinking fiber with a non-shrinking fiber. I love to use plying silk, which is very fine, to create a textured effect in my plied yarn. When you wet finish your yarn, you can full the shrinking fibers to create a textural effect. Maggie Casey of Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins calls this "Boucle the Easy Way."
If you're a knitter, you can use differential shrinkage in felting bags, hats, purses, and other items.
If you're a felter, you can add effects with non-shrinking fibers to create dimensionality. You can also use different thicknesses of wool layers to create puckers and bubbles - this video gives a great overview of the how and why.
Lately, I've been using differential shrinkage most often in creating boucle-like fabrics like the one pictured at the top of this post and my autumn leaves ruana. It really is a fun effect!
As you practice your fiber art skills, have you ever wondered about the craftspeople who came before you? The ones who figured out how to spin, the ones who figured out how to weave, the ones who figured out how to make fabric stretchy by interlocking loops of yarn with one another?
Unfortunately, their stories are lost to history, in part because textile production is so embedded in our culture that it began before humans had a written language. To add to the obscurity, many of the early tools used to produce and work with fabric didn't survive in the archaeological record. But the clues we do have are fascinating, and they indicate that spinning and weaving are very old indeed.
This Saturday, November 10, I'll be giving a presentation at the Black Sheep Handworx Studio. There's lots of interesting historical information about wool, fiber, sheep, and how it relates to us as fiber artists. Whatever fiber art you practice, there's something here for you!
In addition to the discussion, there will be demonstrations, explanations, and hands-on experiences that walk you through how wool is processed before it can become yarn, and how yarn is worked into cloth. The possibilities for customized cloth are endless!
You can purchase tickets at the Black Sheep Handworx Studio, or at 970tix. I hope to see you there!
Spinzilla is a yearly competition to see who can spin the most yarn. There are two categories: teams and "Rogue" spinners. There are winners in each category, based on yardage spun. It's all a friendly competition, and registration fees help fund the TNNA foundation, which helps to educate the public about fiber arts.
I wasn't so sure I was going to participate in Spinzilla this year. Last year I signed up to participate, and ended up spinning almost nothing. All the emails asking me to submit my yardage were a little depressing, since I was so disappointed with myself.
This year, I knew I was feeling overwhelmed with other commitments, and thought it would be silly to add one more thing to my plate. Naturally, I signed up! As I had done in the past, I chose to sign up as a Rogue spinner. I don't usually participate that much on forums, and there wasn't a team close by, so "going rogue" seemed like the best fit.
I decided to be gentle with myself this year. Just spin a little bit in the morning and evening, and don't worry about how much yarn there is at the end. I figured that schedule matched my habits anyways. Plus, I thought it would be interesting to see just how much I could spin in a week without really rushing myself. I often spin for projects over very long periods of time, so using this week's spinning as a baseline for future estimates seemed like a good idea.
In the end, I spun 1,708 yards of 2-ply yarn.* Since I don't have many bobbins handy at the moment, I plied as I finished spinning the singles for each colorway. The middle red-orange colorway had one single that was significantly longer than the other, so I plied that with the bits left over after plying on the other colorways, resulting in a few mini-skeins that are slightly different from their "main" color.
The fiber is Dorset Horn top from the Woolery, chosen because it was their "special" Spinzilla discount fiber this year. I bought 2 pounds (4 eight-ounce packages), and dyed each one a different color. The two darkest colors are very similar, and then there is a red/orange colorway, and a yellow/orange colorway. There wasn't really a method to the madness when I started dyeing the fiber - I just wanted to use up some pre-mixed dyes that were on the old side! I had a lot of red, orange, and yellow, so that's mostly what I used. The darker shades also have some purple and black in there to get the color to a deep burgundy.
I used my guild's spinning wheel, a single-treadle Schacht Matchless, to spin and ply all the yarn. This wheel is really one of my favorites to spin on, since it goes so fast. Lately I've been experimenting with double drive as a tensioning system, and really enjoy that setup.
I'm still undecided as to how I'll use this yarn. It's definitely not a soft-next-to-skin sweater yarn, at least for me. In researching the wool, I thought it would be a good rug yarn, and planned to use it in a warp. It might be a little bit sticky for what I had originally envisioned. I've also toyed with the idea of rug punching with it.
Once I took the pressure off myself to break records, spinning for Spinzilla this year was really a lot of fun!
*Because of the way Spinzilla gives credit for yardage, this is actually 5,124 yards (1,708 yards of single ply, multiplied by two, plus another 1,708 yards of spinning for when they are plied together). That's just under 3 miles of yarn!
Last weekend I had the honor of teaching at the Sneffels Fiber Festival in Ridgway, Colorado. On Friday, I taught a dyeing workshop, and on Saturday, I taught a drop spindle workshop.
Naturally, I forgot to take any pictures of my classes, but my friend Sharon managed to sneak a few pictures of the dye workshop. You can read her account over on her blog - Day 1 and Day 2.
The marketplace was open on Saturday and Sunday. I did a tiny bit of shopping Saturday during my lunch break, where I picked up some plying silk and sari silk cloud from Phoenix Fiber Mill. I used some of the sari silk cloud in my blending board project - a little goes quite a long way, and I still had some leftover, but it's such a lovely fiber to work with I didn't want to run out!
I spent a good bit of time scoping out the other vendors, too, but didn't buy anything because I needed to make sure there was room in my car! The only downside to teaching is that there's a lot of equipment to bring, and not a lot of space for extra cargo on the way home!
On Sunday I had an afternoon demonstration of rigid heddle weaving. I think I might have blown a few minds when I described the direct warping process - it really is a lot faster and easier than the traditional warping process!
Before and after my Sunday demonstration, I did quite a bit of shopping. I reconnected with Scott from Corn Creek Fiber Arts. He's the guy who taught me to spin on a wheel! I also picked up a merino/silk braid from them.
I might have gone a little overboard with fleece purchasing...but more on that later!
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies