Tuesday, March 31, 2009

spinning tales and weaving yarns

I plan on spinning some Romney to make more yarn that looks more or less like this. One pply is pure Romney, the other ply is 2 ounces of roving I dyed sometime ago and have no more of. But, I do have some recently dyed roving that is similar and should make a lovely ply. I plan to use it with the llama 3 ply I finished last week...when I learn to weave better?

I began a weaving class last night: Rigid Heddle for Knitters. Plain weave. I plan the use the yarns below. My warp is across the top.

Rainy Day Fiber

It is a rainy, snainy day. In my family, growing up in perennially cloudy upstate New York, that mixture of rain and snow was call snain, a snide sounding contraction that perfectly expresses the unpleasantness.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Completed yarn

The wild batt 2-ply yarn and the llama 3-ply yarn, over 450 yards each. The llama weighs a lot! The wild batt yarn is light and lofty. The batts were spun on the Roberta Electronic Spinner and the llama on the Ashford DT Traveler. Now I am spinning a bit of leftover pink and peach merino and some more batts.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fleecey goodness and snow flurries

Today was a studio day...no gallery work. I drew, I ran to the library and a drove across town to pick up some artwork. And I washed fleece! Some lovely Lincoln locks and mystery wool. I got some almost free mystery fleeces last year. Really they are lovely. There is not much VM, not even much dirt and grease. The locks are long and glossy. When washed and pulled apart they burst open into a soft lustrous cloud. I will dye the wool for Shepherd's Harvest. I am hoping to set up a Wild and Wooly Batt Station there. I have not figured out all the specifics...but this row of lovely additives will be part of it: firestar sparklies, faux cashmere, sari silk, silk noil...other stuff. (By the way, the Spin Dryer is GREAT!)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Processing fleece in the basement

Once you go down these un-level stairs, holding onto the wall and the plumbing-pipe-banister, you enter the maw of fleece processing!

I don't like cleaning and laundry.....but cleaning fleece? That I like. I even like the smell of it, really! Now I don't have to do it every day, so it is not a burden. I don't have to live with the smell everyday, so my house does not reek of the barnyard. But that sheepy smell is associated with fibery goodness for me.
I got this Rubbermaid tub at a used good store for $3. I cut a hole in it and inserted a tap and attached an outlet hose. I fill it with hot water from the laundry tub and from the BIG Mr. Coffee. I use Unicorn Wool wash and lots of smallish net bags which I loosely fill with fleece. Soak, rinse, repeat, as they say. Very little agitation, just enough manipulation to make sure that all the wool gets soaked. I cover the tub with a large tray to keep in the heat. Drain after 15-20 minutes.
When I was washing the grimy mohair the other day, for the second time, I spun the bags in the spin dryer between rinses to get out the muddy water. Two rinses later I had the lovely white mohair I showed you yesterday.

When the fleece is dry it is dyed and dried again and then, more than likely, put through my Patrick Green Triple Picker, my most favorite tool after my Roberta Spinner. It is a little scary, but not too hard to manage safely. I wear leather gloves, an apron if my clothes are at all loose and never do it with people around. It's a tool you want to use with the minimum distraction.
After picking the wool is often ready to spin...it is light and pretty airy...making a kind of wild yarn with lots of halo. But it could, rarely, go on to be combed or, more often, go through my PG Deb's Deluxe Drum Carder. Currently I am a fan of wild batts.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Investigating the Basement Studio

Dying and spinning happen on the second floor of my building. But the washing, spinning, drying, carding and sorting happen in the deep, dark basement. This building is a wonky, nearly 100 year old stucco number. The stairways are steep and uneven with shockingly low ceilings at every turn of the staircase! I am short, so I have no problem. But, if you are taller than about 5'2", you will not navigate my basement studio easily. Pipes lurk, awaiting the bonk of your head!
I am the proud owner of a spin dryer, 2 days old. The interior is a very shiny, smooth stainless steel. It spins wet wool at an unbelievable speed, extracting the water directly to my floor drain. It is not very heavy and will hold close to a whole fleece. The fleece comes out fluffy! Like the colored wool in the picture. It is ready to use in less than 24 hours. The mohair is denser, but far improved from my old "rolled in a towel days." It is taking maybe 2 days to dry, compared to a former 2 weeks! Stay tuned for more basement wanderings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

felt and books

I occasionally make felt and I occasionally make very fine handmade paper. When the two come together, a book happens! Journals covered in felt are occasionally available in my wool festival booths.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Waiting and working

As I dye fibers to fulfill the local needs and the needs of Shepherd' Harvest, I have learned that I am on the waiting list for the Wisconsin Wool and Sheep Festival. I have my first pile of brightly dyed merino, in braids. And a pile of spring greens in the medium mixed wool roving. Five or six pounds awaiting labels. The mohair packets will go to the Textile Center on Tuesday...all 75 of them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pictures of Llama,wild batts

Wild batt on the Roberta, Llama on the Traveller.

wild batts from wool, alpaca, mohair and a smidge of sari silk.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Early beginnings

I started spinning on a Babe Fiber starter. It is now rickety, beat-up and still beloved. I demonstrate on it at least once a month, surrounded by beautiful colors. I love to imagine lying down in a pile of dyed roving...like jumping in a pile of fall leaves that smell like lanolin! I might have an asthma attack...but it would be tinged with bliss! The right hand picture is of some of my earliest yarn from all sorts of blends of commercial roving. They are still very pretty yarns...a bit thick and thin, but serviceable. I think I may weave with those that remain in stash.

I'm a little tired and my camera and spinning equipment are far apart, but imagine me spinning yummy llama on the Ashford Traveller and a wild and wooly batt of pink and purple wool, olive mohair and black alpaca with a few specks of sari silk on the Roberta. This batch of wool still has a bit of lanolin in it, so it is wonderful for my skin.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Universe of NOW

It's Monday and the gallery work consumes! And tomorrow is "do the taxes" day...and the next day is more. But most days, in the evening, I can sit and spin for a bit and the terror of the economic crisis fades away and bliss returns. I might choose to spin from a lofty wild batt with slubs of raw silk and opal sparkles. Or I might choose from my treasure trove of hand dyed roving. These are the best choices for when my nerves are the most frayed. I can forget everything that worries me and drift in the zen universe of now.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A new blog!

I love fiber! I love wool, silk, alpaca, even wildly dyed nylon. I'm fond of cotton, but not nearly so much as wool! Currently, Romney is my favorite, although I rather wish my own hair looked as nice as this one Wenslydale fleece I have! I love fleece in the grease, I love washing it, I love spinning it. I spin mostly on a Roberta Electronic Spinner, some on an Ashford Traveler and on a Babe Fiberstarter ( my first beloved wheel!) I have multiple spindles, my favorite being a Bosworth mini.I have various combs, hand crads, drum carders (alas, none are electric!) and a Patrick Green Triple picker, my scariest and next most beloved tool after my spinning wheels.

I thought I would start this fiber blog instead of a fiber website. You can see what's up here by following the blog. I have a booth at Shepherd's Harvest Festival every year. You can see and purchase ALL the fiber I work with there.

Most of the year you can either purchase directly from me or from the Textile Center of Minnesota or from The Fibre Studio.

So, WELCOME! Got questions? email me at susan@susanhenseldesign.com
pictured above: WILD and WOOLY BATTS. A dream to spin as is, full of lofty mixed wools, mohair, silks, and firestar nylon.