Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Doggie yarn

I needed a break so I sat down at the spinning wheel the other day with a bag of fluff I'd combed from Ralphie, the English Shepherd. At the time, his sheddings were mostly the soft, fine white undercoat, though there were enough of the longer buff guard hairs mixed into give the yarn an interesting variagation. The yarn on the spindle itself is from Ralphie. The fluff to the left is from Bebe, who's a Rough Collie & English Shepherd cross. I was comparing the color tones and trying to decide whether to include her combings in the Ralphie yarn.

It took about an hour to spin what's on the spindle, and that's much longer than it would take me to spin that much from sheep's wool. Dog hair handles differently, though, and thus I had to learn the subtleties. It's not so slick as the Angora from my rabbits, but enough so that I found some of the finer techniques I learned on Angora worked well on Ralphie's 'wool'. The yarn on the spindle has a very tight twist, much too tight for knitting as singles. I plan to ply it with a strand of sheep's wool singles, and that process will absorb much of the twist to leave a yarn that I hope is just right.

Usually I prefer a finer singles so the end result with two or three strands plied together isn't too bulky. This time, that wasn't happening. Ralphie's yarn is about worsted weight thus far, and has the typical beginner bumps and thick-and-thin spots. That's the learning curve at play, but that's okay. It'll definitely have that handspun look, even after plying with the smoother strand of sheep's wool. I expect the end result will be a bulky yarn that's stronger and holds its shape well. It should knit up quickly in a simple scarf pattern.

The project has earned me eye rolls from the dh and a couple of my children, including the daughter who last year requested that scarf made from Ralphie's combings. They called me a goober. Oh well. I can live with that. And I don't have to share my scarf. So there!


Anonymous Cathy said...

I didn't know you spun! What kind of wheel(s) do you have? I have 2 Ashfords, both single drive single treadle. (A Traditional and a Traveller.) And I'm thinking maybe a third one to go with me....

10:32 AM  
Blogger LauraP said...

Cathy - Yippee! Another spinning addict! I have a single treadle Louet that I still use occasionally and a reproduction Italian wheel from Lehigh Valley. I have five or six hand spindles around, too, that I play with now and then. I'm not very good with those.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I just got my first drop spindle from my MIL. I need to buy some roving and figure the whole thing out. Can you give me any advice about where to buy the roving or any classes you know of? I live in NYC, if that's of any help. Your advice would be greatly appreciated! I really admire you spinners and I'd love to figure out the mystery of it all.

By the way, I just love, love, love that you're using your doggies hair - very cool and very un-goobery if you ask me!

11:18 AM  
Blogger Kenyetta said...

I need to learn to spin! My rott sheds soo much, I have to sweep and swiffer everyday!

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

Let's see....Kenyetta, rotti fur would probably be too short, unless you mix it with wool.

Kristin--I live in VA, and have never been to NY. Most of my instructions came off the internet (I think it was but could be mistaken) or out of library books (I eventually bought the one that had been the most use to me there.). As for where to get roving? My first rovings came from eBay (copper moose and little barn fibers both have some excellent ones) and just in the past month, there's now a new spinning/weaving shop that opened about half an hour from here called Colonial Fiber Arts and not only is she very nice, she ships anywhere in the continental 48. You might ask her if she knows of anyplace in NYC.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Thanks Cathy! I'll check them out. Watch out credit card, there's a new spinner in town! :)

11:12 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Kristin, what exactly is a "drop spindle"? I'm reading a book set in Italy during World War II and the country women keep taking out their "drop spindles" from their pockets. Since you own one, I thougth I'd ask an expert.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Cindi Myers said...

This is so cool! I don't know anything about spinning, but I found this fascinating. I've been combing the undercoat from my chow mix and was thinking it would make very soft yarn. The hair is quite long, jet black and very fine and soft -- very close in feel to rabbit fur.

How much fur did it take to make the amount of yarn you have on your spindle?

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

Nancy--a drop spindle and a spindle are pretty much the same thing. Picture a dowel with a round (usually wooden) CD shaped thing that it sticks into. The dowel is the shaft and the disc is the whorl. Usually, there is a hook on one end to hold the yarn you're spinning, but some versions have T-notches, and some you just have to put a half-hitch on your shaft. The whorl can be on the top or the bottom (I prefer top). Drop spindles were used for all spinning purposes for centuries before spinning wheels were invented. All the ancient Egyptian linen and cotton, all the Chinese silk, all the Icelandic wool, were all spun on spindles. There are even places in the world where people still use them today, mostly because of their portability. Check out Habetrot for a few photos of spinners with spindles working while they're on the move.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Thanks for the explanation and the link to Habetrot, Cathy. I found a video through one of her blogs and watched someone actually using a drop spindle. Fascinating!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Ohhhh Nancy! You found a video? I've got to check that out. I have a drop spindle, a book called "Spinning in the Old Way" and no roving. I have no earthly idea how the darn thing works - but I'm looking forward to getting it figured out. Who's with me?

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

Kristin--for a bunch of how-to's, including drop spindle, spinning wheels, and spinning different types of fibers, go to Joy of Handspinning. I'm going back to learn how to do my flax. And naturally, I stopped at the spinning/weaving store yesterday, so another drop spindle and more wool folowed me home..... This drop spindle is huge--about 5 oz., but I tried out the demo one in the store, and the thing spun on one twist all the way to the floor (and I was standing), so I got a good 4 ft. of yarn on one twist. I think I will spin the wool for my sweater on it--it should make a good two ply.....

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:01 PM  
Blogger LauraP said...

kristin - my daughter learned the drop spindle using Cotswold wool - long fibers & good crimp, which makes it easier to learn on than some of the shorter, slicker fibers. I get my Cotswold in the fleece from a farmer in my region, but have bought a lot of wool from Little Barn. Great stuff.

I'd recommend sticking with 100 percent wool in the beginning. Cotton & silks are more challenging to spin, and angora is so slippery. Mohair isn't bad. Llama & alpaca are beyond me on the drop spindle, but I can handle them with the spinning wheel if I'm having a good day.

Cindi - I drop the dog combings into those standard-sized plastic bags from the grocery store and used one loosely fluffed bag for the yarn on the spindle.

10:38 PM  

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