Sunday, February 5, 2017

A day for learning

Many of you know that The Mannings closed  a couple years ago. Two of their anchor teachers, Tom Knisely and Sara Bixler, opened a new studio called Red Stone Glen Fiber Arts Center, where they offer many weaving, dying, and spinning classes. I finally found a class that met my needs and fit my schedule, and yesterday I spent the day with Tom and two other spinning students.IMG_5410

One of the things I learned is that I’m no longer an intermediate spinner – at least as far as wool is concerned. (Caitlin, you were right!) But because the class was so small, Tom adjusted and worked with us wherever we were.

One skill I was very glad to have some assistance with is preparing fiber with cards and combs. We made rolags with hand carders and combed wool into top. I own some hand carders (purchased at KDO last September) but haven’t even used them yet. I JUST got the first shipment of Sheepspot’s Fleece Club, which sends smaller amounts of cleaned, undyed fiber that still needs to be carded or combed before spinning, so this was just the information I needed right now.

I spun my sample of combed top very fine and made a quick, 2-ply sample using the “Miss America” alternative to Andean plying (you can read how to do this in Patsy Zawistoski’s article in the Winter 2016 issue of PLY magazine). I set the twist on my tiny skein last night, and look at the result – I got some really fine yarn at 19 wraps per inch! IMG_2475

I quite enjoyed spinning this hand-combed top… enough that I started to ask questions about which combs I should buy. And buy them I did. I ended up getting the 5-pitch English combs, because they will work well a range of fibers. They are more expensive than the other Viking combs I considered, but I could see myself wanting to move beyond the single or double-pitch Vikings and then I would just have to invest again. So I bought a tool that is a little bit more than I need right this minute. They have 5 rows of tines in graduated lengths and are quite wicked to look at: IMG_5422

Then we moved on to silk. I had a fine time spinning it (both bombex and tussah), but things got rougher when we got to cotton. Tom showed us how to card cotton into punis (which are just the as rolags – but for some reason you use the word “puni” when they are cotton). Making these is fun. You end up with an airy tube that is both substantial and light. Punis are spun woolen-style (aka longdraw) because the fibers are so short. My longdraw with wool is quite competent, but it just doesn’t feel the same with cotton. I’m willing to work on that a bit. I’m not sure I’d want to knit with handspun cotton, but I’d weave with it. Here are some cotton combs with punis I made:IMG_5420

Then Tom got out some flax. This stuff LOOKS a lot like hair, but it feels much rougher – like straw. IMG_5419

I had a hard time with it. It needs a LOT of twist, and even though I spun on my smallest whorl (16:1), I just couldn’t seem to treadle enough before winding on. It is hard to imagine how something so rough and brittle becomes a very soft fabric after being woven and washed. Because of cotton (which also needs more twist than wool) and flax, I am beginning to see how spinners end up with multiple wheels. The Ladybug has been a fantastic beginning-intermediate wheel for me, but she does have her limits.IMG_2457

Here is how my bobbin looked when I got home – a little bit of this and that, all jumbled together. The grassy gray stuff near the middle is the flax.

All in all, it was a great day. I returned home with some new perspectives on how to spin the prepared fiber I already have, as well as plans to stretch my skills by preparing fiber myself.

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