Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010 Days 14-17

If you have been following this saga (or if you have not, just look back a few posts) you know that I have been having issues, difficulties, frustrations with spinning cashmere.  I consider myself a fairly good spinner who has experienced many fibers from sheep to goat to bunny to plants and worms but for some reason cashmere stopped me in my tracks.

I tried it on the wheel and on a spindle but could only spin a few inches before it broke.  Granted I was trying to make very very thin singles from a fiber that is almost as fly away as angora but has a staple length of an inch, maybe less.  Also, hard as it is to admit, I was cocky.  Yup, thought it'd be easy, but it got my goat.

First I tried spinning on my Baynes with the faster whorl, no.  How about the faster flyer? Still not so good. So Jim suggested I use a light weight spindle.

He then gave me a beauty weighing only an ounce but still it was voicing its name about every minute or so - DROP spindle. DROP spindle.  I was getting incredibly frustrated until T suggested I go back to beginner's mode with a beginner's mind.  Breathe, spin, park, draft, breathe.

Yup that was so much better, slow but better.   After several hour's practice I got faster but still, 0.2 oz in 2 hours.  Yikes, it was going to take me until New Year's to get a whole ounce spun up!  I keep forgetting that the underlying challenge for me this Tour is to learn to be a process instead of a project spinner.  sigh

Then, on the drive back from State College last week, I had either an aha or a duh moment.  You choose.
Skinny singles are supposed to have something on the bobbin shaft to make it fatter, therefore putting less tension on those few fibers being twisted together.  Did I do that when I tried cashmere on my wheel?  No, I did not.  Sheesh! No wonder the singles broke constantly.

Even though I have some pipe insulation specifically for this purpose I just started by adding onto a partially filled bobbin and, wha la, almost instant success.

Jim then said, "So now you will do all the rest on the wheel?"
I thought about that and decided, "No.  I'll finish the little bit left on the spindle just to be fair to my challenge."

Of course I avoided that spindle for a few days, knitting on a project but eventually I realized I was not allowing myself to do any spinning because I wanted the cashmere done.  So, reluctantly, I picked up the partially filled spindle intending to spend a few hours being a beginner.  However my habit kicked in and before I realized it I was spinning cashmere.  Really spindling cashmere, not spin, park, draft.

I figured out that I had learned just how much twist (more than you think, way more) that fiber needs so payed attention and respun the spindle as needed.   Also as those of you who have one know, Jim's spindles, hit the floor and keep on spinning.  So it became a partially supported top whorl spindle.

138 yards of fingering/sport weight 2 ply cashmere is now ready for action. It should have been a little longer in only fingering, but hey, I am not complaining.


Rose said...

Lovely yummy cashmere! I learned to spin on dog fur, which is very like cashmere, and it's definitely a feel thing to spin it. And a lot, a lot of twist. I still overspin my yarn!

So umm, Jim doesn't have a lovely spindle for a beginner that needs a home does he?....? I kind of need one for my trip that starts in a week, since I realized Rosie the wheel might have to stay home..

Susan said...

Last summer I determined I would get some spinning done. I have 2 wheels just sitting there. Here we are in July 2010 and I haven't done a thing. In fact I haven't spun in years I am not sure I even remember how to ply. Feeling a little intimidated before I even start. reading yoour blog and getting my nerve up to tackle it again. Maybe Saturday....hmmmmm

Susan (and SmokeyBlue in spirit) said...

Go for it. Start with a fiber you like but don't feel is precious. If it has a longish staple and some kinkiness it will be easier to spin. Also try to maintain a 'beginner's mind' which is non judgemental. Just get your spinning muscles back and then worry about evenness and thickness.