Spinning

Understanding “Dyed-in-the-wool”

Ahhh! I get it! Dyeing the wool before it is spun (i.e., dyed-in-the-wool) is the best way to ensure the color doesn’t fade once the wool is spun into yarn or thread, and then fashioned into a garment worn around town. The literal meaning of the phrase is simply a description of when the dye is added.

The phrase has evolved over time to mean something metaphorical as well. We use this expression “dyed-in-the-wool” to indicate a person who is committed to an ideal so deeply that it has become a permanent part of their being, as if they had been “dyed” that way prior to being “formed.” For example, I would say, “My dear Arabella is a dyed-in-the-wool romantic.”

Here, Arabella is rinsing some Corriedale roving that she dyed while it was “in the wool.”

Corriedale "dyed-in-the-wool"

I have been anxious to get my hands into the dye pot, and finally had opportunity at Arabella’s. She had received a 3-lb bump of lovely Corriedale, and shared a generous portion with me as a birthday present.

A “bump” is simply a bunch of roving, usually 1 to 3 pounds in weight.

A "bump" from a lovely Corriedale sheep

 

 

Here is what our lovely and generous sheep might have looked like when the wool was still a part of him!

Truly "in-the-wool!"

Gorgeous and generous sheep! They have been supplying us with fiber for our clothes, blankets, coverlets, coats and carpets for centuries!

Spinning

This Crochet Pattern Looks a lot like Naalbinding

My mom sent me this picture of a very cute dishcloth she had crocheted. The pattern looks remarkably like ancient naalbinding, don’t you think?

Lacy Crochet Pattern for dishcloth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s another picture up close:

Notice the loops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now compare the above image to our samples of ancient naalbinding:

Notice the loops!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It makes sense, really. Naalbinding is perhaps the most ancient form of creating garments from yarn. The craft utilizes a large-eyed needle, which could easily have “morphed” into a crochet hook; both arts pull yarn through loops to create intricate and beautiful patterns.

Compare to Naalbinding Needles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think?

Life, Spinning

Warm, Useful, and Beautiful…From Wool to Blanket

The mohair is the shiny, thicker single. The merino is the softer, fuzzier single.

Ta da!  The process still works! Take some beautiful, soft white wool from a merino sheep and some shiny, slick gorgeous white mohair from a goat, spin singles of each, and then ply them together for a lovely length of textured and interesting yarn.

Using US 10 (or larger) needles, knit with a pattern from f.pea for a baby heirloom blanket with a lovely scalloped edge. Add some color–in this case, a skein dyed aqua and salmon from Arabella, handspun thick and thin for extra texture and interest. Keep knitting–in airports, in the car, on lovely evenings at home, to avoid housework, when you should be working, etc.

Functional Art-a simply beautiful blanket

Bind off (loosely!) whenever you want to, or when you run out of handspun yarn. You have now participated in the thousands-year-old ancient collective of outfitting your family with necessary material items.

Archeologists seemed surprised to find intricate beauty when they uncover textiles (or art) from thousands upon thousands of years ago. Their surprise is odd to me–because as long as we have been human, we have infused our material objects with artistic beauty and creativity. This is what it means to BE human.

Useful...and beautiful!
Creativity, Spinning

Naalebinding, or Knotless Netting

We are definitely making progress, backward though it is, to find out more about the first fabric techniques. We’ve already found woven flax to be exceedingly ancient, and new finds keep pushing the date back (I’ve seen the date now at 6500 BC, and 32,000 BC!).

So where does that leave knitting?  The oldest techniques using needle and yarn are not what we know as knitting today on two needles; however, the variety, beauty, and usefulness of the objects made with the ancient technique of Naalebinding, make it no less a stunning hand craft. Watch this:

The Naalebinding stitches are quite simple, as the knit and purl stitch are in the knitting you might have just put down. And with the same astounding flexibility, the Naalebinding stitches can be endlessly turned into hundreds and hundreds of different patterns, edgings, and embellishments, due to our bottomless capacity for creative expression.

This picture is of a commonly used stitch. The top photo shows the stitches in white cotton, so that the shape stands out:

A basic naalebinding stitch, shown in cotton above, and bulky wool below

The bottom photo shows the beginning of an actual garment in bulky weight wool. Garments made from Naalebinding can be extremely dense and warm. When made from wool, the garments can then be felted for additional warmth.  Compare the above stitch to this more “complicated” stitch:

More complicated naalebinding stitch

You can begin to see that the variety in looping, crossing, and otherwise stitching with the flat needle and yarn can produce beautiful work in the hands of a skilled naalebinder! (Look here on Flickr at the Naalebinder Group! I knew the first garments probably included a purse!)

Also, there is a naalebinder group on Ravelry.


Stitch photos © 2001 Carolyn Priest-Dorman, used with copyright permission. http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/nalebind.html

Life

Search Engine Anxiety

WordPress.com provides great blog stats for every blog owner–we can see how many people come to the pages, and sometimes where they come from, like a search engine page.  Today, one of my visitors had come through a search page, so I clicked on it out of curiosity to see where my blog landed in the search–you know, how many pages deep did the person have to search before clicking on The Spinning Universe?

By the time I got to page 10, I thought, wow, this person was really persistent. I didn’t think most people looked past the first 2-3 pages. I usually don’t. By the time I got to page 20, I thought I had somehow dropped off the search and was never going to come to my blog. In the meantime, I had gotten interested in the many creative blog and website names that spinners and knitters had come up with, so I went to page 45, jotting down funny and interesting domain names, before I finally stopped. I was disappointed, thinking I’d show up at least before page 45.

I clicked back to page 1, wondering what great domain names I had missed before I started noticing them on page 20. What do you know, halfway down page 1 — The Spinning Universe Blog.  I had totally missed it, assuming first page status was completely out of the question.

We write and post, saying it doesn’t really matter if you read it because our joy is in the creative expression, not in whether anyone sees it. So now you know that’s a big fat lie! We LOVE it when you read our blogs!!!!!  (we being any blog writer)

Great names I came across as I searched for my own blog:

http://www.TourdeFleece.com

www.spinderellas.com

http://www.spindlitis.com

http://www.yarnwench.com

http://www.crazyfiberlady.com

http://www.YarnSpinnersTales.com

http://www.woolwindings.blogspot.com

http://www.DanceswithWools.wordpress.com

http://www.TwoLeftNeedles.com

http://www.swatchless.com

http://www.yarnporn.com

http://www.knitanon.com

If MonChere were to start a blog, she’d call it I smell yarn….

Spinning

How to Ply Singles


Two-ply yarn

When I had finally spun some yarn I was proud of and discovered I was only halfway through the process, I was a bit alarmed. Darn it! Watching the spinners in my Wednesday class left me feeling that plying might be harder than spinning. More twist to control, more yarn to feed, and all while treadling in the opposite direction (that is, if I could remember to!) But, like spinning itself, we seem to know what to do with this action called plying. In time, the brain and hands coordinate, and we are plying away.

A single is just what the name implies–a single strand of spun yarn. Yarn is spun either with a Z-twist (your wheel spins clockwise) or an S-twist (your wheel spins counterclockwise). Both “twists” perform the action of locking

Two bobbins of singles on a Lazy Kate

the wool fibers together into a stronger, now usable, strand. Singles are most often used in weaving, but rarely in knitting. Once you’ve spun two bobbins of singles, you can ply them from a lazy kate onto a third bobbin.

The important thing about all this is that you must ply in the opposite direction from which you have spun the singles. This is because the act of plying the singles in the opposite direction from which they’ve been spun “balances” the twist between the two singles. Plying in the same direction will just “undo” the twist and give you less stable yarn.

The singles twist together to make a 2-ply strand

Lastly, you must ply singles that have been spun in the same twist direction! Plying a Z-twist strand with an S-twist strand will just give you a big mess!

Arabella advised me to spin all my singles with my wheel spinning clockwise (Z-twist).  With this as the only standard for my singles, I can ply away without undoing the twist, or creating a mess!

Controlling the twist of the ply with your hand
Spinning

First Yarns Put to Use!

MonChere came over for a visit the other night, and began knitting up the reddish yarn I had spun recently.

"I need an identity!"

I am so glad!  This yarn needed to be made into something. It made me feel obligated, like I was somehow failing the yarn by not giving it an identity as a finished project. MonChere solved the problem.

I think we’re onto something here. I spin and spin, and then feel obligated to the yarn I’ve spun, having no clue what to turn it into. She has no interest in spinning, and sees finished items in the yarn, like Michelangelo and his stone.

"Ahhhh....."

Here’s a picture of the front of the bag–as far as she got during our visit.

Spinning

There’s Magic in the Spinning

Loose Alpaca wool

So what’s the big deal?  I’ll tell you–a spinner takes a handful of loose, random wool from  a farm animal, and turns it into thin strands of usable yarn, and now we can all wear clothes.

Usable yarn! We can make clothes!

Okay, so it really hasn’t been a big deal for several hundred years, but for several thousand years before that, it was a very big deal!! A spinner was a magician of sorts.

Taking loose, random wool and making usable threads and yarns….How?? Actually it’s a pretty simple bit of physics. Spinning adds twist to the fibers such that they are locked together, and can no longer be drawn apart. Until the twist is added to the wool, it’s not usable as thread or yarn.

Wool converted to usable thread! Amazing!

The spinner controls the drafting and the twisting with her hands—drafting with the back hand and controlling twist with the front hand. Drafting while spinning is the art of pulling the fibers to slide away from each other just the perfect amount to then add the twist you want to achieve the thickness of yarn.

From keeping sheep warm to keeping us warm

A magic spinner

This is the magic that happens between the two hands of a spinner.

Yeah, yeah, a modern spinning machine in a mill can spin faster with more guaranteed uniformity.  But there is no magic in that.

Creativity, Spinning

The “Modern” Spinning Wheel?

Because we live in a time when clothing is simply something we grab off a rack in a store, we’ve lost appreciation for what it takes to make fabric or cloth of any kind.  We rarely think of it at all–unless we were raised in sewing homes, like me, where our mothers measured, pinned, and cut large batches of cloth into pieces they would sew into our tops, shorts and matching Easter dresses.  Or maybe you’ve admired a period costume in a film and given a nod to the past ideas of spinning or whatever else it took to make such things.  That was me.  Until I started spinning myself.  (Yes, it was only 2 weeks ago!)

My natural curiosity got to me and I started wondering about origins of spinning wheels, who invented what, and so forth.  So I dove in to take a look, and I am simply flabbergasted at what I have discovered. Flabbergasted.

The spinning wheel itself is actually a very modern device, and used in only about 8% of the time that humanity has been wearing clothes and making cloth.  The very first images and mentions of spinning wheels only date back a mere 760 years. Here are some key context points:  The Magna Carta was established in 1212, Marco Polo was packing for China in 1271, and the Vikings were settling down and raising sheep instead of pillaging. (Okay, these things seem old, I’ll admit, especially compared to the latest version of MicroSoft Windows.  But it’s only 800 years!  We’ve been wearing clothes a lot longer than 800 years!!)

So, I next had to ask:  What on earth was used prior to 1250, and the invention of the spinning wheel?

The fiber: animal wool or hair, fibrous plants such as reeds, bamboo & flax, and silk

The spinning tool: a spindle and a pair of hands

The fibers have stayed consistent throughout history and are an assortment of animal and plant fibers. A spindle is basically a stick (or bone or other hard material carved like a stick) upon which fiber is twirled to produce a “twist” while the fibers are also being slowly drawn apart.  The fibers “twist” into yarn, and if they’ve first been “combed” in the same direction, the fibers “twist” even more easily. That is spinning in a nutshell.  But what’s so astonishing is that for 11,200 years every piece of cloth or fabric or yarn or thread was produced by a pair of human hands on a stick.

Now aren’t you flabbergasted, too?