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52 Weeks of Wool

52 Weeks of Wool

1/52 Weeks of Wool: Cotswold

January 13, 2016

This marks my first week of the 52 Week of Wool project, and my first handspun yarn…something I’m pretty dang excited about.ย You can find some background on this project here.

cotswoldhandspun

It was a bit of an interesting start. Being that I’m new to spinning, I’m also new to spinning wheels. I was lent an old Ashford Traditional wheel by a neighbor last Summer and when I started to try andย spin on it, it wasn’t going how I had been shown or watched in videos. I fumbled around for a couple nights, ending in frustration and bewilderment. So I consulted YouTube once again and realized there were some vital pieces missing…the tension knob, tension springs and tension string. I found some Ashford maintenance kits online, but realized I could probably just as easily find the parts at our local hardware store. And that I did. So that evening I fashioned the springs and string and a temporary knob out of a pencil…haha. I’ll replace that part once I find the right sized dowel and knob. And now it works like a charm, as far as I can tell. ๐Ÿ™‚

As I began to spin words of wisdom from my class at Verb kept coming back to me…”it’s all about the drafting”…”don’t let go of the fiber”…”steady, steady, steady” and so on. What started as fast and VERY lumpy and VERY bumpy, quickly turned into slow and steady and fairly consistent. About halfway through spinning this first batch I got so excited I kept saying out loud to David, “check it out, I’m a spinner! How awesome is this, I’m making yarn!”…about 10 times. He laughed in encouragement from behind his book. As I progressed through the few ounces of wool, I practiced trying different weights, from fingering to what might be considered worsted and such. All the sudden I looked down and all the wool was gone! It went by so fast I hadn’t even realized, the cadence of it all setting me into a sort of wool trance.

tammywhite

Now a word about this week’s wool, Cotswold.

Tamara White of Wing and a Prayer Farm is a fiber farmer in Vermont and also happens to be one of my closest friends and greatest encouragers so it seemed only fitting I kick off this project with some wool near and dear.ย Anyone who knows Tammy, knows her huge heart for both human and animal and everything in between. The amount of things this woman accomplishes in a day blows my mind and when I wonder how I’m going to get it all done I think of her and know it’s possible. Between a pie baking business, a full-time farm (Sheep, llamas, alpacas, horses, a pony, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, goats, a pig, donkeys, dogs, cats), yarn making, workshops and retreats, this woman is a machine. Her fiber flock consists of Cotswold, Cormo, Shetland, Corriedale, Merino, Mohair and Alpaca. She sent me a bag of her fluffy Cotswold,ย a wool I had notย yet worked with which made it all the more exciting.

Let me preface my description of this fiber with the disclaimer that while I have learned an immense amountย about breed specific wools and yarn making these past two years since starting the Woolful blog, I am still very much new to it all and far from an expert. My descriptions are based on my experience and gut reactions.

This Cotswold fiber is incredibly soft, something that I was slightly surprised by considering I don’t often hear about it. The luster while noticeable in the roving,ย is far more presentย in the yarn…an incredible sheen. The staple length is about 6″ and the roving I was sent was milledย by Michael of Hampton Fiber Mill, also in Vermont and a guest of the podcast along with Tammy. The finished yarn was incredibly strong too. I’m unsure if this is a common trait of handspun yarn considering it’s twist, but I love the sturdiness of it.ย The end product has a beautiful soft halo and I couldn’t be more pleased with my first adventure in spinning. I can’t wait to knit the blanket square from it.

You can find Cotswold and other fibers at the Wing and a Prayer Farm store.

52 Weeks of Wool

52 Weeks of Wool: The beginning

January 8, 2016

A few podcast episodes back I shared about a new project I’m embarking on over the course of the next 52 weeks…well 51 now. I thought it might be good to share a bit about my hopes and goals for this project.

For the past year I’ve mentioned off and on about my hope to learn to spin on a wheel, while at the same time agonizing a bit over the thought that it will take precious time away from knitting. However, the desire to spin has nagged at me ever since I took an Intro to Spinning class at A Verb for Keeping Warm exactly a year ago, and so I decided to go for it.

I am a total newb to spinning. I’ve only spun with a drop spindle twice. I’ve had a wheel in my house for the past 6 months and only practiced treadling on it. When I decided to do this project, I purposefully opted to wait and not practice, so that my first week and first spin would truly be my first.

Years ago I learned a nifty thing from Kate Bingamam-Burt called ‘Automated Directives’. You can find more info here, but the gist is to set up a sort of rule system to give some direction to your creativity. It’s something many of us already do in lots of ways, but I found the more rigid system helpful when I really want to learn and reflect my creativity in a specific task…in this case spinning. So I set up my guidelines and here they are…

-Each week, for the next 52 weeks, I will spin a different breed of sheep wool or fiber
-I will learn a bit of the story behind each fiber and share here on the blog. This includes the farm it came from and any other details I can share, such as photos.
-I will share my learnings from spinning and handling each specific fiber, as well as my learnings of spinning in and of itself.
-Each week’s wool, after spinning, will be knit into a swatch, and once all 52 weeks are complete, I will join all the swatches to create a blanket. I am SO excited about that part.

And my goals…

-Learn to spin. This goes without saying, but there’s so much I don’t know with hands on experience. I plan to learn a lot.
-Become a skilled spinner. Improve drafting, tension, speed, plying, etc.
-Experience as many different types of sheep breeds as possible, familiarizing myself with the different wools and their qualities.
-Improve my processing of wool. Some fiber I’ve received is neither washed or carded. My own fiber from my sheep is still unwashed or carded…so I’m looking forward to getting better at this and improving my efficiency.
-Share these wools and fibers stories with all of you, spreading the love for small farm yarns and celebrating the hard work of these farmers.
-Finish the project. I’ve got a lot on my plate these days and I really hesitated for awhile as to whether this was something I wanted to take on. But with some encouragement from David, I dove in and my greatest hope is that I’m able to keep up and finish the project and knit the blanket from these wools/fibers. I do however believe in grace, so if this project takes me a few extra weeks come the end of the year, so be it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lastly…I’m still looking for more wool breeds for this project. If you are a farmer/rancher or a fiber folk who knows a fiber farmer/rancher and would like to be a part of this project by sending me a small amount of wool to spin, I’d love to have you and hear your story! Send me an email at hello@woolful.com

Ok, I think that’s it for now. If you’re on Instagram you may of seen my photo this morning of my first week’s wool. I’ll share more on that specific wool and it’s farm, so stay tuned.