|Working with wool and alpaca fiber recently.|
I am hand-spinning wool and alpaca and getting ready to re-learn the art of harness weaving -- you know, a loom that goes "whish swish, whump thump" as you throw the shuttle and pull back on the beater to secure the just-made fabric.
The spinning was necessary; last fall I signed on once again at church to teach children to card and spin a little at this summer's Vacation Bible School. The summer before we'd had fun together but the spinning was execrable. So over months this spring I learned to handle a drop spindle decently and fell in love with what Amos Alden calls an "ancient and honorable craft". So ancient, in fact, it's wound up with pre-civilization.
|One of the crop of pinky-red, yellow and fuzzy (!) toadstools|
sprouting in our lawn after all the rain and fog.
Not an excursion, then. Costuming? I've got a pretty beaded reticule on the way and a chintz 1770s anglaise on hold. No then, costuming's not going away. It just has to share space in the calendar and in the brain with work and family, volunteering and with wool picking, scouring, carding, combing, dizzing -- that doesn't mean spinning around until you fall over -- spinning and weaving scarves and warm alpaca blankets, and maybe, a linsey-woolsey petticoat? Let's see what happens.
Meanwhile, the last months unroll below in pictures. One fleece is worth ten thousand threads.
First there was the spinning wheel, a present for my grumumppieth birthday. Built in 1887 somewhere in Scandinavia, it traveled to North Carolina with immigrants and was held on to by their descendants until they unaccountably decided to part with it. A sort of faded reddish color, it's decorated with banding and painted designs in black. Rather chic, I think.
|Circa 1887 Scandinavian spinning wheel.|
Chic it might be, but it sat. Then I cleaned it and got everything smoothly turning, but it still sat. It's still sitting. I haven't learned to keep up with it!
Then there was the drop spindle that turned up at an antique show. It's from Eastern Europe, and I didn't know until recently that you're supposed to rest it on a surface to support it as it turns. Taking a class from a local professional, it was on this spindle I learned to spin in preparation for Vacation Bible School.
|The Eastern European spindle. It has no notch on the pointed|
top: you half hitch your yarn to hold it on.
|Obligatory cute kitty shot.|
|Second cute kitty shot. Muffin's sitting on the completed|
rolags in the box. Can't blame her, they're soft.
|Lothlorien, the creamy Shetland in back.|
Here is a lock from Tuesday, the alpaca whose hair I've been spinning. See his cute stripe? He's ticked!
Christopher holds up two balls of spun alpaca. They're for a scarf for him at Christmas.
Here's one of the balls. See all the fluffs on the edges? That's before washing, too. It "blooms" after being washed and is even fluffier.
Here's the yarn, plied from two strands, or "singles". So much terminology. Just like sewing.
I washed the plied yarn. It bloomed, all right. Big, chunky, fluffy, soft like Muffin's kitten would be.
Well, our VBS coordinator gave me some wool that was even easier for children to handle, some curly, long-locked Blue-faced Leicester. Sheep breeds have funny names. Do you see any blue on the face of the sheep below? The skin under the white wool on his face does have a bluish tint.
|Hexham Champion, 2008, from Middle Dukesfield, in England.|
So I learned to comb out the 6"-10" wool, purchasing long wickedly sharp combs, true weapons capable of really injuring somebody, at the Bluegrass Sheep and Fiber Festival in May.
The boys wanted to learn, so they got spindles, too. They're still learning, a little, as the fit takes them.
Can you see the snowball, erm, fleeceball, rolling?
At Vacation Bible School the campers handled wool and alpaca, carded and combed and spun it and two children took big balls of wool home, with hopes to buy a drop spindle and continue learning. Everyone else got an alpaca puff to pet and scare their parents with, plus a length of what they had made. Here we are on the first day of camp, learning about wool and other animal fibers.
Next day we carded and used those wicked combs to actually comb some lovely locks into fluff ready for spinning on the morrow.
The children spin. First I'd demonstrate, then they'd try it and try it again.
Here's Jenni from Living with Jane. She helped children make jewelry, do glass mosaics, and felting.
The children actually span -- the obsolete past perfect tense of "spun"? -- quite a bit of yarn, not all of which was given away. We built a yarn winder from Tinkertoys to put it in a skein so it could be washed again to finish it.
|The yarn winder. Spin the cross-shaped piece and it goes around.|
|Completed skein. The yarn thickness varies a lot. Children|
just learning made it, and it has charm.
Here's the Tinkertoy loom, with a red cotton warp on it, ready to be woven with the weft, made of the child-spun wool you saw above. That's a cardboard "stick" shuttle.
|Yes, it works. Those two rectangular-shaped things decked with|
strings (heddles) and hung from the top bar (castle) are called
One day recently the boys and I visited their farm, petted an affectionate (!) camel, a cozy-stand-next-to-you pony, admired llamas, petted rare Soay sheep, and packed up fleece after fleece that had been sheared. The back of the SUV was filled to the roof with fleeces stuffed into bags.
We brought them home, and that evening and the next morning, sorted them, skirted the sheep fleeces, a fancy term for taking off the edges, which are usually encrusted with matted, dungified, muddy, weedy bits. You see, a shearer cuts the fleece off sheep such that it's in once piece, ideally. He starts on the tummy one one hind leg and works round to the back and ends with the other hind leg. WikiHow explains.
Not all the fleeces were usable, but many were, and they were draped everywhere, drying out before being bagged.
Remember VBS? Here's the petting zoo day. Look at Mr. Llama and his buddy behind him, craning for affection and some treats. See if you can match his fleece in the piles below. I think I recognize some of the sheepy fleece, too.
Llama fleeces fall apart easily, so they're in bits: chocolate brown, cinnamon, latte, silver mist, cream, and agouti. They're my names. Must be hungry right now. Oh, so soft.
|Llama, llama everywhere.|
|Sheep fleeces, entire, drying the only super-sunny, dry place I could think of,|
the back of the truck.
|Soccer and fleece. They go together. Right?|
Meantime, it'll be back to the Journal Journey!