Sunday, May 15, 2011

Short Pictorial Fiber Story

If you ever wondered why handspun yarn is so expensive, here is an extremely quick overview of what goes into creating a ball by hand.  It's a lot of dirty work but the rewards are great.  It's hard to put a dollar sign on something so personal.  Typically I grow attached to the yarns after running the soft, lanolin-smelling-feeling wool through my hands so many times.

Raw wool, skirted.  That means picked through for short bits and other undesirables (veggie matter, VM for short).  I like to find local wools from small farms.  This fleece is a columbia/rambouillet cross.
Scoured wool, washed.  Sounds harsh but it's just a soaking in hot water with mild detergent and rinsed repeatedly.  This step takes an entire day to wash and dry, sometimes two but is very important and tricky.  One misplaced agitation and your wool can be felted into an irreparable lump.
Flick-carded wool, cloud.  This step removes extra dirt and VM while opening up the locks.  It's time consuming and best done while watching a good movie.  I use a pet brush for this step.
Carded wool, batt.  Carding aligns the fibers for spinning.  This was drum-carded twice.  My carder handles one ounce at a time and my spinning wheel bobbins each take two ounces.  Having a sensitive scale is a must!
Hand Spun Wool, natural.  This was spun on my antique spinning wheel.  Worsted weight, 2 ply.
Hand-dyed wool yarn, hank.  This was dyed in Sandalwood (of the incense variety) and Onion Skins.  The wool needs to be mordanted before dyeing in the case of natural dyes.  That means boiling gently in alum and cream of tartar before adding to the yarn to the dye bath. 
Balled and knitted yarn, the final product!  Hand-knitting is another labor of love, all of itself, so a knitted product made of handspun yarn is one of a kind and priceless.

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