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Monday, January 31, 2011

Spinning With Cashmere

In 2008 I traveled to China with my daughter's college choir.   While we were touring a cashmere factory I got our translator to ask the manager of the factory if I could buy just a little unspun fiber.  I (and the translator) had to ask three times.  "No," said the manager when he finally understood.  We don't sell such a thing."  He pointed to the showroom where they sold everything from rugs to sweaters to little stuffed kittens.  He couldn't understand why any sane person would want the fluff.  I think he felt a little insulted, too.  He was real frowny.

SO since I couldn't get even a pinch of cashmere in China, I bought some here.  And guess where it came from?  Yep.  China.  Mongolia, to be exact.  The following is an account of this spinning adventure.

I bought 8 ounces of cream colored cashmere top and when it arrived I just stuck my hand in the bag and touched it.  It almost felt like touching NOTHING at all.  I fluffed the top a bit and started to spin - using the fastest ratio on my Souped up Suzie.  I wanted as many yards as possible - spinning pure gold.  To make it go even farther, I planned to ply with a fine silk thread.

I found it was difficult to keep a very even draft - lots of little slubs.  The fiber was fine but not slippery, and the top was fairly compacted.  Had I been spinning on a drop spindle I would have had more consistency, but I was in a hurry this time.

I finally settled on a long draw spinning from a hunk of the top torn off and folded in half.  I didn't fold it OVER my finger, I just folded and spun from the point of the fold.  I was able to spin fast and fairly evenly.

By the time I had two full Majacraft lace bobbins I was sick of looking at cashmere.  I still had to ply.  I figured I'd had enough.  I let it sit for a week to set the twist then plied it with silk thread.

Final counts:  4.6 ounces of silk-plied cashmere is 1693 yds.  In other words, 368 yds/oz.  You can see in the close up that the strands are not perfect - some are fluffier than others!  The overall feel of the yarn is soft, soft, soft and very cushy. 

Knitted into lace it will have a lustrous drape and will weigh next to nothing.  I haven't decided if I will knit or weave it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Side Kick - Price and Pre-Ordering

Schacht has not finalized the price on the Side Kick travel wheel yet, but rumor has it that it will retail for around $800.  The wheels will start shipping in May, but NOW is the time to get on the list if you want to be first in line.  They already have a growing number of pre-paid customers.

For $200 down I will pre-order your wheel.  Pre-orders need to be placed by the end of Feb but a queue is already forming so the sooner we get your wheel ordered, the sooner you will get it after the wheels start shipping.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Woollen Longdraw - for handspinning

Here is a nice video on how to do a woollen long-draw.  If you find the music distracting go ahead and mute the sound - the entire lesson is visual.

Happy Spinning!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Schacht SideKick! A Sneak Peek


The rumors are true!  Schacht has been working on a folding wheel for over a year.  Finally we got the announcement - the SideKick is due to start shipping in May!

As soon as I have prices I will offer the wheel for pre-sale orders.

Here are some of the Sidekick’s features:

Folds to 21 1/2" x 15" x 8 1/4".
Integrated storage of bobbins, flyer, and whorls for transport.
Lightweight at 13 pounds.
13 3/4" drive wheel allows for ratios from 4.25 to 15.25.
Long, comfortable treadles.
Uses the same bobbins, whorls, and flyer as the Schacht Matchless and Ladybug wheels.
The Sidekick can be purchased without the bobbin-flyer assembly.
25" orifice height for comfortable spinning.
Employs Scotch tension with precise control knob.
The drive wheel spins on ball bearings. The flyer turns on self-aligning bearings.
Drive band tension adjuster allows for all whorls to be used with one drive band.
The Sidekick comes with 3 bobbins, 2 whorls, threading hook, and adjustable carrying strap.

Also available: The Sidekick Bulky Plyer Flyer Package can be added at any time.

This wheel will have all the Schacht features that discriminating spinners have come to expect - solid construction, precision engineering, and good looks to boot!

For comparison, the LadyBug weighs 13.5 pounds too, so this wheel isn't lighter.  Its advantage is that it can be packed up into a smaller package.  And, unlike the LadyBug, it does not have the option of double drive.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Weaving a Handspun (mostly) Blanket

This adventure started with a couple thousand yards of gray Romney-Mohair 2-ply, dyed blue.  Read here about the dyeing adventure.  I could have made a sweater but couldn't summon the Knitting Muse.  I decided to weave a blanket instead, and give it to my son for Christmas.  He's a doctoral student at the U of Iowa and is grateful for any and all free stuff.  I knew that no matter how it turned out he'd like it.

My big loom is only 35" wide so I calculated for twice the finished length at a fairly loose sett of 8 ends per inch.  I figured on a lot of shrinkage during finishing and wanted the blanket to retain a drapey, soft feel.  I dyed white sport weight Bartlettyarn in three warp groups using the kettle method and two colors - scarlet red and royal blue.

After the loom was dressed it only took a few sessions to do the actual weaving.  When I cut the piece from the loom it was 15 feet long and 34" wide.  I zig-zagged the raw ends (which had a wool header)  and washed the whole thing in the washing machine, delicate cycle, with Woolite.  Then I dried it on the FLUFF cycle in the dryer.  It was nicely fulled when I took it out. 

I cut the blanket in two and once again zigzagged the edges with black silk thread,  and then  seamed the two pieces side-by-side by hand with weft yarn in an overcast stitch.  The last thing I had to decide was how to finish the ends.

I thought about making a binding of some kind but the blanket fabric is quite thick and I didn't want a "hard" edge.  After a couple of trial runs I decided on a blanket stitch hem along the turned-over edge.

Here is the finished blanket on my studio floor.

And here it is, on my son.  (I sewed the gnome hat by special request.  He's an English Lit scholar and said that if Scrooge has a nightcap, he wanted one too.)

I'm glad I took the risk on a BIG PROJECT!  The finished size of the blanket is 62" wide and 74" long. It is fuzzy and has a nice drape, and is WARM!  Best of all, it was Made By Hand, With Love.