Sunday, September 27, 2015

"That Stuff Is Nasty!"

See:  "Here Come the Judge!"  below.
These days I go back to the bins of stuff that I set aside for felting, but did not use, and I am spinning it, because it turns out that it can be easily spun into fine threads  --   if one knows what one is doing  --  and today, I know more than I knew then.  And, I have better tools.  On the other hand,  without DRS no amount of modern fiber preparation tricks will make spinning wool super fine easy.  DRS is differential rotation speed per Alden Amos's, Big Book of Handspinning.  If you want to spin wool  very fine, DRS makes it ever so much easier.

As I was first getting into spinning fine, I read Northernlace's book, and the section on fiber preparation made a strong impression on me. I put in the effort, and learned to properly prepare wool fiber.  If you are spinning high grist singles and not using DRS, then fiber preparation is critical. 

However, if you are spinning with DRS at grists above 5,000 ypp (11 m/gm), then most of the veggy matter will just drop out, and if you are spinning at grists higher than 20,000 ypp (45 meters/gram), then essentially all of the VM will drop out at the point of drafting.  With DRS, fiber prep is less critical. These days, when I have fiber with some residual VM in it, I simply spin it fine enough that the last of the VM drops out or I can flick it out with my thumb nail.  Spinning very fine is the fast and essay way to get rid of VM.

These days,  I worry less about the carding and combing.  When my finest singles were 5.600 ypp, I was sure that I needed finer combs and a drum carder with a finer cloth. I even bought flea combs and cotton cards.  Now, I know that my standard 5-pitch English combs will produce top that spins well at 45,000 ypp (90 m/gr).  The top from Peter Teal's preparation is better than is needed to spin worsted at the wool's spin count (e.g. 90 m/g for fine wools), just use a smaller diz. If you have DRS, you do not need to go all the way to Northernlace's procedures to produce perfect Shetland lace singles.  If you do the Peter Teal wool prep  thing, and you have DRS, then you can very quickly spin miles and miles of fine worsted singles (e.g., 30,000 ypp, 66 m/gm) very well suited to high ply sock yarns.  

Now, I know that my standard Clemes and Clemes drum carder will produce fiber that can be easily spun at any grist. 

Watch Henry Clemes make rolags, from his drum carders or blending boards and then you can use the same technique with chop sticks or DPN, and you will have rolags for perfect, super-fine woolen singles.  (26 tpi produces a very soft, lofty woolen yarn from Rambouillet or similar.

I drum card Rambouillet (or similar) into rather thin batts, and diz off through a diz with an 1/8" hole to make roving that spins into semi-worsted at 45,000 ypp or  90 m/g.  Still at 26 tpi, this is a much firmer yarn than the woolen. 

Or, the batts from the drum carder can be loaded into standard English 5-pitch combs, combed, and dized off through the same 1/8" diz, to make top that can be spun full worsted at 26 tpi to make a strong, firm dense thread with 20 staples in the cross section and a grist of ~45,000 ypp (90 meters/gram).  Today, I use the same combs I bought from the Woolery years ago when I was first spinning worsted. 5 rows of tines on 10 mm centers is fine enough to comb fine wool so that it can be spun at its spin count (e.g., singles with 20 staples in the cross section).

Long ago, hand spinners were spinning at their wool's spin count. They did have DRS, but they did not have most of our other modern fiber preparation technologies.  DRS allowed them to produce fine, high-quality yarns, with a lower level of  fiber preparation technologies.

Northernlace works mostly with Shetland fleece, which is low lanolin and easy to prepare.  It is so low lanolin that some are tempted to just spin in the grease.  However, even tiny amounts of grease in a fleece will hold significant amounts of grit.  Grit makes uniform spinning impossible!!  Grit  reduces the durability of the yarn.  Fiber for spinning does need to be clean!  Not, "Almost Clean", but really clean.

And, I encourage folk to use Alden Amos' formula for spinning oil.  the only thing is that I find much of the imported olive oil is adulterated with soybean oil that gets sticky over time, so I use California olive oil.

The bottom line is that I take fleece that others would discard for various reasons and spin it fine, and produce a quality yarn.

Holin and I can spin the same grist and type of yarn,  then we can tie them together, pull on the ends and see whose single breaks!  All my warp yarn gets run through a tension box to make sure the yarn is competent.  It is better than having the yarn fail on the loom.  Having run 30 miles of warp through the tension box, I have confidence in my warp.  In making knitting yarns, every inch of  my  plies goes through a tension box and is tested for competence.   I have confidence in the competence of  all my yarn.  (Except the stuff that is spun with the intention of cutting it in to short little pieces to check its grist.)

Mostly this blog has been about trials and prototypes as I searched for a better way. It has been about learning things nobody wanted to teach.  Mostly, I did not post about the products resulting from proficiency in what I had learned.  Rather, I kept posting about the ongoing learning. Now,  you can see that I did actually develop some skill in the craft of spinning.  Look at the skills of who is talking.  Can they spin fine and fast, or do they make excuses for failing to develop the skills?  Musicians learn scales and learn notes that they do not need to preform every day.  Spinners should do the same.  Even if a spinner does not need to spin singles at 90 m/g every day, they should know how to do it.  Then, once you know how to do it, it is ridiculously easy. It is like riding a bicycle - it is not something you forget.  Ask Holin to sit in the light of day and show you how she spins 90 meter/gram singles.  Ask Holin if she has the basic skill of spinning wool at its spin count.

One final note on clean: First fleece that I scoured were Shetland and American Jacob.  These are low grease breeds, and I suggest using one of the modern high tech wool washes for them.  It is cost effective. However, as I have moved into finer, higher grease fleece, I have moved to scouring them with very cheap hand soap granules with borax.  I dissolve the soap in water.  I rinse/soak the fleece in several changes of cold water.  Then, I add a carefully add a measured amount of the soap/borax  solution depending on the grease in the wool, and SLOWLY heat to 135F.  I drain and rinse. A small amount of lanolin will be left in the fleece. Then, I use some  modern high tech wool wash.  It is better and safer than trying to get the wool really clean with just soap and heat as was done in the old days.

PS  At this point, "Holin" is a my name for all of the high status spinners that have been very rude to me, and have never apologized.  I know high status spinners that are among the politest and most diplomatic people in the world. I know high status spinners that have been rude to me and have expressed appropriate apologies. I know high status spinners that are never rude, but always tell the honest truth.  Holin is my name for the class of spinners that are rude, ignorant, and dishonest.

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