Friday, January 03, 2014

The warp is spun

For the last 3 months, there has been a large plastic laundry basket of wool next to the spinning wheel. It would get refilled a couple of times per week as spinning progressed, so there was always at least a pound or two of wool in it.

Yesterday, there was an obsessive/compulsive spinning session, and the basket is empty.  My legs are sore from treadling long and fast, but the basket is empty. The spinning bobbin is full, all the blocking reels are full, and I need to make some more storage bobbins, but this project is spun.  12 pounds of wool into 36,000 yards of singles in about 200 hours.

That seems very slow, however, it includes climbing a learning curve on how to manage singles.  Previously, I had simply stored singles on bobbins, but I ran out of bobbins. So, I learned to wind the singles on niddy noddys and steam block them. This takes a more robust niddy noddy design. This gives some insight as to why the use of niddy noddys for measured lengths of yarn for sale was outlawed.. Yarn wound on a niddy noddy tends to be much tighter than yarn wound on a skeiner.  Steam it, and it gets really tight. Many modern niddy noddy modern designs are not suited for steam blocking - you will end up breaking the yarn as you try to remove the yarn from the niddy noddy. Thus, I had to make some better niddy noddys.  A well blocked, well  made skein wound up into a "pretzel", is stable - until it gets wet.  Then it needs to be re-blocked.  Small skeins of knitting yarn that get wet can be (sort of) blocked by hanging a small weight on them.  A hank of woolen singles that gets wet wants to be wound onto a blocking reel.

Even well blocked singles wound into a cake or ball need a core. Center pull balls/cakes of high twist singles are not stable over periods of  weeks.

Bobbins are to weavers like clamps are to wood workers - you never have enough. Today the bench was clear of  wool carding/combing stuff for the first time in weeks, and by late afternoon there was a big bin of bobbins in process.  There are a bunch of bobbins on both the cone rack and the bobbin rack with mill spun warp on them. tomorrow they will be emptied by plying those warp ends up into 5-ply gansey yarn. It is actually a very nice knitting yarn. In fact, these days, it is my favorite "mill spun" knitting yarn.  I need those bobbins.

Now to weave it.

I think about the problems of the fellows packing saddle bags of singles from the spinners to the weavers by horse train in the 13th century. They would have been out in the weather for days on end.  It would have been very hard to keep those hanks of singles dry.  If they did get wet, then winding off those skeins of fine high twist singles would have required great skill.  Those old timers still have their secrets.



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