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!
As I'm typing this, I'm watching the much-needed rain outside. It's not the torrential downpour of my youth, but a light drizzle. The ground is so dry it's slurping up every drop. Depending on who you ask, we got either .2 or .4 inches yesterday, and are probably going to get about the same today. Here in the desert, we need every little bit.
Speaking of rain...when it rains, it pours. I remembered this month just why I started these monthly reviews last year, as a way to corral the overwhelming number of to-dos on my list. Over the summer I wondered why I was still doing them. It felt like I'd finally gotten my list under control, until about a week or so ago when it all hit me like a brick wall. So - here's what's coming up in October:
What are you working on this month?
I recently finished a little rug punched piece from loom waste. Instead of turning it into yet another mug rug, I plan to use these instructions to make it into a little bag. Because we all can use another bag, right?
This isn't exactly a solution for the piles and piles of trash we're accumulating on this planet. But it's super nifty.
More interesting tech - weaving meets 3D printing.
This video from the BBC archives is fascinating - how flax was processed into linen in the 1950s. It's an interesting look - there's plenty of mechanization, but plenty of traditional hands-on work happening too.
Wool prices are going up. Yes, that means our yarn is about to get more expensive, but this post shares why that's not entirely a bad thing.
Dryers aren't so great for your clothes. The short answer is abrasion weakens fibers. The longer (and really interesting) answer is here.
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