Today, we came across a stash of old photos, taken last September amidst a completely forgotten final flurry of activity before we went away to Navarra. There are others, but these reveal the frenetic and frustrations of trying to get jobs completed. We were enjoying ourselves, but several days in a row of frequently looking up at a clock is just not we are used to! J found these photos, cropped and scaled to suit the website, in a defaut folder not normally used. Anyway, according to the adage that there’s no newspaper as interesting as an old newspaper, we hope you enjoy these ‘old’ photos.
Jonathan’s Pied DK yarn of Grey Cheviot and Black Welsh Mountain
Ah, nice to see you! Yes it has been a grey day, hasn’t it – just like yesterday and the day before. You’re very welcome – the fire’s lit and the kettle’s just boiled – in fact I think D is already making a cup of tea for us all. Do come in : we can talk as I finish off this plying. The singles were spun yesterday and the day before ; and the day before that I got all the wool fibre ready. My colour consultant (ah, yes – here she comes, with the tea!) had a look at it and gave a ‘thumb’s up’, though now the singles are coming together it looks much darker/duller than I was expecting. But do come and sit down and perhaps you might take a look – I’d be interested in your opinion.
Plying Demonstration 1 : Readying the bobbins of singles on the ‘lazy kate’
Plying Demonstration 2 : Pulling the ‘leader’ yarn through the orifice, ready for tying on the new yarn
Plying Demonstration 3 : Oiling the bearings
Plying Demonstration 4 : Knot being pulled back through the orifice
Plying Demonstration 5 : Knot pulled through flyer ring – ready to go
Plying Demonstration 6m: All ready and set to go
I use the electric spinner for plying ; and yes, you’re right, the bobbins are from an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel – but they are on the Lazy Kate [that’s the thing that holds bobbins whilst you pull yarn off them) for the electric spinner, which uses jumbo bobbins – twice the capacity. But the reason I use the electric spinner for this job is not only because all the yarn from two small bobbins will go onto one big bobbin – and thus I can make a single big (150g) skein with no breaks ; but also it’s because plying generally goes along much faster than spinning of the singles, and there’s less variation in the pace and adjusting to the variability in the fibre. Plying is more of a mechanical, rythmical process, and the even pace of the electric spinner is well suited to it. And of course it says wear and tear on my ankles! Right, everything is set up, so let’s get going!
Plying Demonstration 7 : Right hand maintains separation and regulates tension of singles
Plying Demonstration 8 : Left hand controls flow of twist into the drafting zone between hands
Plying Demonstration 9 – Pickle is quality control technician
Plying Demonstration 10 : Plied yarn being pulled back of bobbin onto a Niddy-Noddy (a type of skein winder)
Plying Demonstration 11 : Winding on to the Niddy-Noddy
Plying Demonstration 12 : Two skeins and a mis-calculation!
There’s one photo missing from this second collage – and it’s the photo that was impossible to take. In fact I would have liked to have made a video, but that would have been impossible too. Impossible because the drafting of two singles into one plied yarn ( that’s the 1+1=1 ! ) takes place between the left and right hands, and I do need at least one hand to take the photo!
Whilst the drafting process in plying is much simpler than for spinning singles (which is a process that’s extremely difficult to describe, scarcely less difficult to teach – and has an almost mystical character to it), it is a technique which would be tedious to explain in words and takes a lot of practice to get right – consistently right.
I could have wound all of the plied yarn into just one skein, but at about 170g a customer would have to pay about £58 – which would be very off-putting. Denise and I prefer to wind the wool on these jumbo bobbins into two skeins – avoiding making them all the same size. That way, customers have more choices : they do seem to like the fact that no two skeins are alike, and they enjoy selecting the skeins that please them and provide the quantity they need and their purses can accommodate!
To be honest, I am a bit disappointed in the finished yarn In planning this new yarn : it is darker and duller than I had imagined. Denise says it’s good, but she has more experience in using these pre-dyed merino yarns, and may have known (accurately) what it would look like when finished. I had forgotten the rule that when coloured materials are combined, the resulting effect tends towards a mid-grey [ D > Those dratted greys again!]. Add to which the Shetland I included in the yarn (to make the finished yarn more springy – and warmer too) is itself – yes, you’ve guessed! – mid-grey. Hmmm!
And as to that Shetland, I’d underestimated the effect of adding a fibre that is more ‘woolly’ (crimped, if you like) than Merino (which is smooth and lustrous – but not so warm). When the tension is taken off the spun single, the Merino simply relaxes ; but the Shetland springs to life, its built-in crimps and twists bulking out the volume of the yarn ! Since the proportion of the yarn that is Shetland varies (intentionally) along the length of the yarn, then – logically, alas! – the volume of the yarn will vary along the length : not because there’s more wool where the yarn is thicker, but because there is more air!
Denise, bless her (and of course she’s right), says that the finished yarn might not be what I imagined, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good, that it isn’t useful – or desirable.
It’s a lovely yarn! If J wants to produce more exactly what he originally envisaged, then there’s only small adjustments to make to quantities and technique.
Well, the finished yarns shown in the photos haven’t been washed or tented, and they’ll look slightly different then : softer, both in a tactile sense, but also visually. Wool just spun and plied always looks better after washing and tenting!
BTW, Jacalyn (I do hope you’re reading this), do pass on our thanks to Beatrix and Ingrid, your Navajo-Churro sheep : it’s their wool you made into felt mats on which J’s glass of home-made gooseberry wine is standing.
It’s the two or three weeks that straddle Christmas and New Year when there is, here, the greatest probability – compared to the remainder of the winter months – of severe storms. And by that I mean wind strength Severe Storm – or even Hurricane Force. There could even be more than one.
But this year, whilst at times it has certainly been windy – too windy to do anything much outdoors, it’s mostly just been grey. As in grey skies, grey seas, grey rocks … even grey sheep! (That’s the white sheep like the Scottish Blackface – thank our black Hebrideans still look black.)
So, not so much because we’re trapped indoors, but rather that there’s little enthusiasm to be found for the great outdoors (the rare fine morning or afternoon only serving to prove the rule). It is, then, at this time of year that we are most productive in our craftwork. Thinking about it now, as we put this post together – perhaps that’s because thinking creatively with colours – applying our knowledge and skill to colours – provides a therapy that helps to banish the grey.
Three basket-weave melange lambswool scarves
Three Fair Isle Beanie Hats
Rolags and bobbin for new Shetland-Merino variegated yarn
D > Today I’ve mostly worked on weaving some lambswool scarves, using a technique for combining two colours which adds another dimension to the weaving. Two yarns of complementary colours are threaded together through each heddle, and likewise at each weft. The random variability in the relative position of the two yarns gives the finished work a subtle ‘heathered’ appearance.
This evening I finished reading a book by Kate Humble (a well-known British TV presenter) on the joy of walking, which was on the whole an interesting and pleasant read, reinforcing what J and I have long known, that at walking speed we see more, and think better, though that doesn’t always result in a sense of joy, as Kate Humble would have us believe. I do also find it rather annoying that she seems to contradict herself somewhat, as much of the book is given over to her becoming more and more accustomed to running – as a form of exercise in the great outdoors, presumably resulting in her walking less. I’ve put that book on J’s pile of books to read, but he’d better get on with it, as I’ve already listed the book on ebay!
J > This morning I was working on the croft in Eriskay : There’s still a lot to do before the new fencing is fully complete. After lunch I helped my neighbour with the technical details of installing a fire hydrant for the new tourist hostel he is building on his croft – which is adjacent to the walled garden. (The hostel will complete the development of the site, which also includes the Kilbride Cafe and Kilbride Campsite.) But, as the light began to fade – grey giving way to black, I was at last free to continue spinning for the first two skeins of a new yarn I’ve designed, combining a naturally grey Shetland, which serves as a base colour over which four colours or pre-dyed merino are added, according to a predetermined plan that should result in a random but reasonably consistent variability. Yesterday I completed one bobbin (about 80g of single strand), and as this post is being finalized, I’ve completed the second bobbin. Tomorrow I will ply them together – to make a 2-plied DK yarn. As for tonight … [looks at the clock] … it seems I’ve run out of time for a read this evening. Kate Humble will have to wait until tomorrow!