Hello Old Friend

Hi friends. I am on vacation! Huzzah and hooray! We’ve been gone over two weeks now and are having a lovely time. Being in Maryland in May is like heaven. There are lots of things I miss about the North while we’re away, but it’s a treat for a little bit to just be with my family and do all the things we used to do together, initiating my kids into the ways of long grass and skinned knees. I’ve been spamming my Instagram and Facebook with vacay pics, if you like to see lots of green things.

I’ve also been crafting.

I wanted to sell my Canadian production wheel, because I was sad that she had sat unloved in a basement for two years. But the more I looked into it, it looked like I wouldn’t be able to sell her for enough to even buy an upgrade for my Traditional, let alone another more practical wheel. I took her out, and on the advice of an Instagram friend, washed her up and oiled her down.

After the usual amount of arguing about the right amount of oil and the right drive band, working out her tension system and the installation of a little shim to even out her wobble (thanks Dad!), she was ready to spin. I pulled out a fun-but-not-precious item from the basement stash to get her used to moving again.

This is some alpaca roving – yes, roving! – that my mom bough me when we were both first getting really into gradients. That Christmas she bought me this roving, a gradient already spun into singles waiting to be plied (she knows I love plying), and a gradient yarn. The other two stages of gradient are already now finished objects, but this roving languished in the basement stash, having joined the club when spinning was already on the way out for me.

It’s 100% alpaca, or so says the bag, with some very substantial handfuls of sparkle thrown in there.  It’s from Painted Spring Farm Alpacas, which a belated Google tells me is in York County, PA.

An aside about sparkle: If you’re going to put in sparkle, put in a lot of sparkle. I love it when a sparkly fiber prep is just loaded down with sparkle, and when it’s well mixed in. A little bit of sparkle just feels like a mistake, and concentrated clumps of sparkle are fine for art yarn, but a pain for most yarns I make. This roving hit my sparkle sweet spot: loads of it, and very well blended.

See how jumbled up the fibers are, rather than being all straight and smooth? This is definitely real roving.

As we got used to each other again, my CPW started spinning very nicely. She hoovers oil like my sister does ice cream, and her hooks are so deeply grooved that anything fuzzy likes to catch on them, and I’m still working out how to use the tilt-tension system with any amount of precision. But she still loves to make yarn. All her grooves – the wear (not warp!) on the treadle, the grooves on the near edge of the flyer, the grooves in the metal nails that serve as guide hooks – they always make me wonder, how many miles of yarn has this wheel made? How many people have been clothed from her lonely bobbin? She’s probably made more yarn than I will make in my lifetime.

The roving was fun to spin; it was a new kind of challenge. I spun it long draw, or at least as long draw as I could. It was compacted, obviously, from its years of basement confinement, and needed a bit of pre-drafting; even then, it liked to stick. There was a lot of support from my left hand as my right hand pulled back. But I didn’t do any smoothing. This is as close as I’ve come, I think, to a true woolen yarn. Look at all that fuzz!

It was funny to be spinning something that was in one way very processed and in another very earthy. It was obviously carefully dyed, and had all this sparkle well blended into it, but right beside the sparkle was a lot of VM. Additionally, the finished singles were soft, but they also had a strange squidgy feeling to them – as if there was a lot of lingering dirt.

I built my second bobbin load very precisely. You can tell I’ve been on Instagram too much.

I spun the 4 oz on two bobbins just to avoid overloading, and wound them with my mom’s ball winder. When I use a ball winder with my singles, I am in the habit of turning the handle in the same direction as the yarn’s twist. I’m not sure, but I hope this means that the slight bit of twist applied by the ball winder adds to the twist in the singles, rather than taking away twist. And when I use a ball winder to wind singles, I use it to wind all the singles. I figure, be consistent?

Navajo plying was awkward, but not terrible; I’m finding it’s harder on this wheel to get high tension spinning Z twist, so in future I’ll save S twist for plying and spin my singles Z. I got it done, though, and made a yarn I’m proud of. As you can see, I didn’t hold back on the twist. I have a thing these days for sturdy, overplied yarns, going into my imaginary sweater stash. (The sweaters are imaginary, not the stash.)

Since it’s all alpaca, with a hint of sparkle, it won’t have any memory. I learned the hard way with my first alpaca handspun, lo these eight years ago, that I shouldn’t attempt to do ribbing or hats or mitts with 100% alpaca, or anything that would suffer from sag. One day it’ll be a shawl, either by itself or with a contrast yarn, or it’ll be a pop in a sweater yoke. (It sat next to some dark eggplant purple the other day, which surprised me by setting it off beautifully.)

My old friend the CPW passed the test. My parents don’t want me to sell her; they want me to keep her as a vacation wheel. Who am I to argue with people who have that much room in their house?

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