Setting the cotton

Baumwollefestsetzen, fixant le coton, fijando el algodón, ag leagann an cadás

Now here’s where I really need some help with the translation. Wenn Ihr mir mit dem richtigen Vokabular helfen könnt; faire des fautes en français n’est pas génial, mais on n’enseigne point des mots utiles à l’école ; me puedes ayudar con el vocabulario? An féidir leat cabhrú liom le na focail cheart?

cotton1Although I had seen on Stephanie Gausted’s dvd that you should wrap cotton yarn around a cone, then boil it to remove the oils etc, I just didn’t have one. My first skein was scoured as is, and ended up like a bad perm. I searched for dishwasher spare parts, then looked towards cutlery drainers, but none were suitable, or so I thought. I then searched for perforated steel tubes and came up with car exhaust parts in 50cm lengths. Easy! Buy one of those and get the hacksaw out. Best laid plans? Yes, experience forewarned, I decided to go for an easier option.cotton2

Finally I came across barbecue smoke-chip container on Ebay. I wasn’t sure if it would be genuine stainless, or at all suitable; I wasn’t looking for cotton3Sheffield steel, just something that would fall apart or leave rust marks on the yarn. $15 wasn’t going to do much damage, so I took a chance…

After boiling the yarn in diluted soda ash, then leaving it to dry for a couple of days, it came off the tube rather flat. Would it look like yarn if I washed it again? Or would it turn out like a bad perm? I gave it a roughed-up bath in warm water, wrung it by hand, then left to dry. And the result? Scoured cotton yarn that had recovered its body. Yep, a success. Bad perm on the left, coned-and-rewashed on the right.

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Spinning the North Ronaldsay

Rinneansaigh, Rinnansey

This was definitely on the list – a rare-breed, endangered, seaweed-eating sheep living on a Scottish isle. Who wouldn’t want some fibre to spin? Although there is a shop on the island that sells fleece in various preparations and colours, before I got round to ordering from them directly a local dealer was selling light-brown rovings at the Guild one day. Say no more.

TRon1he roving was soft and lofty, but with some coarser guard hairs in it, and quite easy to spin. That’s taking into account the usual droppage. Someone “allergic” to wool – or rather the prickle factor – would probably not appreciate this one but I’m already thinking of how I can incorporate the yarn into a beanie.

I’ve found that my cops turn out more egg-shaped, but when I try to wind a round cop, the spin goes out the window and is replaced by a nonconforming wobble. I’ll stick with egg-shaped.

Plying from a centre-form egg proved impossible as I’d lost the inRon4side end. I’ve also found that centre-pull balls/eggs etc from a drop spindle usually don’t work, even if turn them on a ball-winder. Oh well, at least you end up with a couple of egg-shaped cops that don’t need to be wound round a tennis ball before plying.

And the result? Two balls of 2-ply with all the character and interest of handspun and a bit more fibre left in the bag to be spun.

Syrian Oregano

Origanum syriacum, origan de Syrie, syrischer Oregano, orégano sirio, oragán siriach

Syrian oregano1I grew some seeds of this a few years ago, about the same time that I was looking for za’atar. Some seed catalogues list them as one in the same, but with some research I found that za’atar can be Thymbra spicata, Origanum syriacum, Thymus vulgaris, Micromeria spp. or Hyssopus officinalis – depending on where you live and what grows locally.

Back to the oregano… one plant survived from the seedlings and grew strongly, and has given me several offshoots since, and last season a harvest of seeds and subsequent seedlings. What I noticed this afternoon was that the plant was not only growing Syrian oregano2strongly, but also has a couple of stems – on the one plant – with larger than usual leaves, so big that I had to run my finger down the stems to their origin to check they weren’t mint.

Huge. I don’t know whether this is how the plant now wants to grow, or if it’s due to the weather that is constantly up-and-down at the moment, but will certainly try and take a cutting to see if the leaves stay that large.

And the taste? Spicy. Like some fellow herb growers, I’ve found that the alternative Greek oregano Origanum vulgare var. hirtum, just doesn’t grow well (perhaps dodgy original stock?). The Syrian variety is also more upright and the silvery foliage provides contrast.

Reproduction colours

Des couleurs reproduites, nachgebildete Farben, colores reproducidos, dathanna macasamhla

Talking of Otavalo market (see the previous post), the colours I remember most are browns and reds – earthy colours – as well as white, black, grey and other browns, presumably natural (undyed) colours apart from the reds.

Many a conversation with a Chilean friend on all things cultural led to the idea that I might be able to reproduce some of those colours in a scarf-cum-birthday present for her. At that time the only woollen yarn I was weaving with (I was still a beginner) was a very fine blue-grey, plied double at 24epi. Why blue-grey? I’d bought some old 1kg cones of Wangaratta Mills yarn from someone who’d be given it but was unable to use it for handknitting. It overdyed well in most colours, so why not…

photo4The photo shows just how well it turned out using two shades of brown and a red at half strength (all Landscape dyes). Several small samples of that experiment remain, but very little of the blue-grey yarn. The solution? Grey handspun?

 

Backstrap Weaving workshop

No posts for a long time… organising workshops, giving workshops and finally participating in one. We were lucky enough to have Laverne Waddington come to Adelaide last week to teach us about setting up a backstrap loom and complimentary pick-up weaving.

display.jpgThe day began with a display table (photo used with permission) that was a true feast for the eyes: braids and straps in all colours and designs and even some balls of yarn in traditional colours. This reminded me of Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez on the Interweave dvd Andean Spinning talking about keeping balls of yarn until they were “hard”. Laverne showed us a warp set up using freshly-spun yarn; the threads were all spiralled around each other and didn’t want to sit straight. The “aged” yarn on the other hand was “hard” and as straight as can be.

Apparently the traditional, earthy colours that I remember from the Otavalo market in the early 90’s are no longer favoured by the artisans – the brighter colours have taken over. Progress? Maybe the former will be considered “retro” in a decade or so…

Two days of expert tuition produced three warpswarp.jpg to take and finish at home as well as an introduction to various designs and techniques, and a thirst to practise everything and try out all the fascinating designs in Laverne’s books – we were able to purchase a couple of these as well as a dvd for the Guild library. Needless to say, there’s already a waiting list!

Laverne is a fantastic teacher – knowledgeable, patient, interesting and clearly enthusiastic about sharing the craft. I’d seriously recommend signing up for one of her workshops.

Madder socks

Des chausettes en garance, Krappsocken, medias en rubia, stocaí madar

Finally, a pair of socks. These were knitted to Kieron Pegg’s Toe up Twins on socks2Ravelry. They’re a little big, but as they’re for winter wear at home, we can get away with a bit of Nora Batty. The yarn was Bendigo Mills Luxury 4-ply, dyed with the two madders – see previous post.

They’re my first magic-loop-two-at-a-time project, but I don’t know if I saved any time with this method. The 40″/100cm cable was perhaps a little too long and the needles didn’t have a no-twist function…

’Ελα ρε πάιδι μου! can you imagine someone knitting socks in the 1940’s reading this? When it comes to problem-solving, or “first-world” problems, I just think, “What would they have done in the Blitz?’ Not sat around crying about twisting cables, that’s for sure. So let’s just say I’m up for trying different needles until I find the right ones from the wonderful selection we have these days that suit me. More on that to follow…

Is fearsaid me…

dealganWell, maybe not, but I’ve got one.

The latest addition to the spindle collection hails from Wales (rhyme on purpose – it’s from NiddyNoddyUK) and is made of pear, is smooth and well-balanced.

I’d read and heard that dealganan/fearsaidí (Help with the plurals? Anyone?) wobble a lot. Hmm… well, yes, but not beyond anything that can’t be controlled with a more central spin with the fingers. I find the same with notchless top whorls (and indeed with notched), and maintain that this makes them especially suitable for beginners, a bit like learning to drive in a manual as it teaches you more control.

Overall, I’m hooked on the dealgan and am thinking now that a Portuguese spindle would be an unnecessary luxury (he says).dealgan2

An added bonus was that the dealgan came well-packed, and cushioned amongst layers of combed Lleyn fibre – a breed that I thought I’d never get the chance to spin.

ps …pun in the heading