Meet Silver, Spun on the Fold

The first two skeins of my Ravellenic spinning are done – so here’s an introduction to the yarn, and how I’ve been making it.

When processing a fleece, there are several different ways you can get it ready to be spun. You can spin it in the grease, unwashed, which is kinda nasty, even if the sheep was organically raised (no sheep dip) and wearing a blanket. After washing, you can card it by hand or put it through a drum carder, or comb it.

These are all, for the most part, a way of getting the fibers organized for easier, smoother spinning. But this fleece has beautiful existing lock structure – so nice that I went through an impossible amount of trouble to wash it very precisely and preserve that structure. The fibers are organized, just in the way they grew. So I elected to use a spinning technique that requires no extra processing beyond washing: spinning locks on the fold.

For this example, I pulled off a single lock, though normally I would pull off a small handful. I found it was easier to work with if I fluffed out the tip a bit, as it was usually stuck together – and sometimes there was a little crusty yellow bit that just broke off. I decided not to reflect on what that might have been.

Once the tips were fluffed, I usually started by folding the lock over my right index finger. The idea is that I will attach the leader to the middle of the lock. Sometimes I didn’t fold it, but just laid the leader over the middle and let it fold itself after the leader was attached.

Above shows how I attached it; below shows what happens afterwards. having caught the middle, the whole lock begins to pull apart and separate into a wonderful little draft zone that I can control very easily. Sometimes it will get off-center towards the end and I’m drafting the whole lock from one end, but by that point there generally isn’t much left and I can keep the yarn consistent.

As you can see from my lap, despite the fleece being very clean and free of lanolin, there is still a lot of old-fashioned dirt in it. Maybe this is silly, but I feel like this technique allows a maximum amount of dirt to fall out, and bits of VM can be easily picked out. At the very least, all that dirt and crud doesn’t get stuck in my hand cards or a drum carder.

There are some ups and downs to this technique. The fibers are very disorganized in this kind of yarn, meaning they are going every which direction when they get spun. This is why the resulting yarn looks soooo fuzzy! (As opposed to a combed top, the most organized preparation, which is best to make a smooth yarn.) But I decided that was part of the look I was going for – a fuzzy, rustic yarn for a simple, rustic shawl. It ain’t gonna be soft – but that extra fuzz (and the extra air let into the yarn by the fold-spinning technique) will serve as insulation, making the shawl very, very warm as an outer piece layered over a long-sleeved top.

I ended up with two skeins, about 200 yards each, and nearly 5 oz. That means that this should be at least a worsted weight, maybe an aran! I haven’t measured the WPI yet. It’s amazing how often with guesswork and a solid mental idea of the yarn I want, it just turns out that way. I think I must have done something horrible in a previous life in trade for the number of spot-on yarns I get. Some sort of deal with a spinning demon involving a percentage of my soul. You can tell how imbalanced this yarn is, even after blocking, but in garter stitch, it shouldn’t matter.

As sometimes happens, I got through two bobbins of plying to see that one of my three bobbins of singles was almost empty, while the other two looked like they had another skein’s worth on it. So I stopped at two; today’s goal is to spin enough singles to make up the balance and ply one more skein. I’ll talk more about plying tomorrow, since I still have more to do. Yesterday’s two are clean and nearly dry, so there is a cast on in the future of my week-end. (I’ve been watching too much british TV – I put a hyphen in week-end and didn’t even notice ’till proofing.)

In the meantime, sheep heid came to watch primetime olympic coverage with me last night. We made it to the decreases! One more primetime and this puppy (lamb?) will be toothpick-done.

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