Thursday, November 5, 2009


Well, this is not me yet, but give me 50 years...

I am very much enjoying the spinning wheel, and love sitting down in the evenings and spinning up a small amount of wonky yarn. I am also enjoying learning more about fibres and where they come from, making me want to only buy organic and fairly traded cotton, and local animal fibres, farmed in a sustainable way. (Although if anyone is planning a visit to the zoo anytime soon, please ask for some camel hair...)
And I seem to have turned into the type of person who thinks it is perfectly reasonable to spin hair out of the contents of the dog brush - why not! Sure the possibilities for spinning seem endless!

Here are some of my lumpy efforts...
From top to bottom, a 80/20 wool/silk mix spun from top; carded merino, carded Badgerfaced Welsh Mountain Sheep (Tor Wen) (great name) spun in the grease; and Massam spun from top.

And, left to right, merino spun from top, Bluefaced Leicester (deliciously nice to spin) from top, and a thicker version of the Badgerfaced Welsh Mountain Sheep.

I've always considered knitting, crochet, spinning and such to be evening activities, best carried out by the fire in the autumn or winter. Recently reading Lilias Mitchell's Irish Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing, I came across an explanation for why this is the best time, given in the seventies from a woman in Achill Island:
It is best to work with wool while the sheep are at rest - "from six o'clock in the evening till twelve o'clock, when the fairies appear. Then...the wool is much more easy to handle and tangled threads can be undone without any trouble."

In fact, in certain houses, the drive band was taken off the wheel when work stopped, "in case the little people might be tempted to use it."
(In my home, it is usually the cat, who comes in and starts trying to play with the wheel, often removing the band in the process...)
(And one wonders when they say "any mischief might happen to the wool" whether it might have more to do with poitin consumption than the little people...) But I like the idea of using wool while the sheep are resting, so I'll go with that one!

I've been wanting to post a picture of this amazing carder for a while. A friend brought it back from Columbia for me. It is made of teasels, all sandwiched between two thin bits of wood and held in place. Its so beautiful I don't even want to use it!
I know teasels were also used in Ireland for teasing out wool, I presume that is where they got their name from.

My friend also brought me back some amazing hand spun yarn. Pictured here is one of the balls. (the other is white.) I knitted and felted a pair of slippers out of it. It was like knitting with part of Columbia - full of bits of vegetation, dirt and thorns, and with a strong smell of sheep.

I could really imagine someone making it by hand. The yarn you buy in shops is so highly processed in comparison that it was a totally different experience to work with this wool. My mind was filled with pictures of little old ladies spinning outdoors in Columbia with a drop spindle or a stone, and my nose was filled with the scent of sheep, of plants, and the smell of the outdoors. It was great to work with such evocative material, and that, especially, is what I am enjoying about spinning - how close to source you are, using wool straight off the sheep's back and going through each process yourself. It makes you appreciate it a lot more.


spewbuntu said...

I can do you a good price on cat hair.

Woolly Facade said...

Many thanks for the picture of the teasle carder. Totally brilliant, will try and make one with the teasals from the garden.