Oh wait! I am spinning a yarn! I’d like to share the stories behind a few of the more interesting hand-spun yarns I’ve enjoyed creating.
I spin a lot of yarn that is just that – beautiful, soft, fuzzy, bouncy, or lustrous – yarn meant to be used to create fun or beautiful clothing accessories or perhaps for some other artistic purpose. I spin colors that appeal to me and spin fibers that feel wonderful in my hands; various sheep’s wool, alpaca, llama, cashmere or pygora goat, silk, qiviut, bamboo and more. I love blending various fibers into yarns that embrace what I see as the best qualities of each.
Having raised sheep and goats for many years; creating clean, smooth, spinnable fiber from my own raw sheep’s fleece or the downy undercoat from my goats … and yes, even my long-haired dogs, although time-intensive, is satisfying almost beyond belief.
I love natural (undyed) shades and do spin these quite a bit, but I also enjoy spinning up colorful yarns, which leads me down the path of hand-dyed fiber. I think that topic may be an entirely different blog post at some point. Pots and tubs of hot water, vinegar, natural or store-bought dyes, rubber gloves, yards of counter or table space, plastic wrap, drying racks … Oh my! I’ve done my share of hand-dying and do enjoy the creative process, but it’s often an all-day endeavor and to be honest – I’d rather be spinning.
Fortunately, there are lots of folks who enjoy the process of dying wool and other fibers as much if not more than creating yarn, and I lean heavily on those folks, both locally and online, for many of the colors I want when I’m looking to create a unique yarn that lives (up until then) only in my head.
On the other hand, if I find a color (or have some in my stash) that is close but not exactly what I need to create a certain shade; perhaps it’s a little too light or too dark, or the green needs to be a little more yellow or the blue needs a touch of purple to be just right, I pull out one of my manual carding machines and blend colors until I have just what I see in my head. It’s a wonderfully creative process and quite fulfilling in itself.
The drum carder (see photo) is also the means I often use of combining a variety of colors together if a blended yarn is what I am after. Depending on how many times you feed the fiber through the tines of the carder, you can achieve large blocks of color side by side in a batt, or you can continue to divide and blend so that the colors intertwine and overlap, making for a wonderful tweedy affect or changing the color entirely. Example; red and yellow = orange. Blue and red = purple!
The hand tool I’m using here to remove the partially blended wool from my carder is called a doffer. This particular doffer was hand-crafted by my husband Jerry. This doffer was created from hand-forged metal, very much like those used in earlier eras. Jerry crafted quite a few individualized doffers the summer of 2009, with personalized handles and specific curve dimensions, for the local fiber arts community here in Alaska.
Hopefully, it’s becoming easier to see why each batch of finished yarn from my spinning wheel is unique. I can make up multiple batts, using these blending methods or others, but once complete and ready to spin, these batts dictate the total number of skeins for this particular colorway. They would be difficult to duplicate.
Sadly, Jer’s accident and resultant TBI occurred the day after I returned from the overnight spinning retreat where those beautiful hand-forged doffers were sold (thank goodness I was home). They are treasured, I am sure, by the fiber artists and spinners who own them, but it’s unlikely there will be any more made.
But back to my yarn … I mean, my story. 😉 I am mostly what is referred to as a “process spinner” (someone who spins for the joy of spinning and creating unique yarns) as opposed to a “project spinner” (someone who spins to create yarn for a specific project they already have in mind). Many spinners, admittedly, are a little bit of both.
My favorite yarns are the unique, one of a kind yarns inspired by something that has caught my eye. As an example; the blue-green yarn shown above was inspired by the sight of sunlight glinting off the varied blues of a brilliant forest lake, surrounded by mossy banks. Small green frogs plopping off lily pads near the shore caused ripples in the lake surface, setting the lake shore to dancing with light and motion.
For me at least, the inspiration for a new colorway often comes from nature; a scenic view, sunrise or sunset in some new location, unique rock or cloud formations, a change in the weather, the way water foams icy green over boulders in an Alaskan mountain stream.
When I first started traveling by RV, I used to think, “Oh, those colors would look beautiful as yarn”, only to forget all but the overall impression of beauty by the time I was ready to stop for the day. Frustrating!
Then one day, I was looking through some photos I’d shot during an overnight camping trip, thinking to share a few of them on Facebook, when I came across one shot and immediately thought – THIS would be a lovely yarn! I know, I know … not exactly most people’s first thought at looking at a photo – even a really pretty photo. But there it was; all the colors, shades and even the mood preserved exactly as they were at the moment I snapped the picture. THIS I could work with!
This particular shot (below) was taken as dusk was falling in mid-October at a camping spot I’d found along a quiet stretch overlooking Cook Inlet and the Chugach mountain range in south-central Alaska. Reimagining colors and images, feelings if you will, from a photograph into a yarn that evokes those colors and mood – that is where I find some of my most creative fulfillment.
Here is the yarn I created, using that Cook Inlet photo as my inspiration:
As you can [hopefully] see, the end product is interpretive. It’s not meant to be an exact duplicate of each and every color found in the photograph, but more a pleasing yarn that evokes the feel of that evening overlooking Cook Inlet and is also a yarn that someone would enjoy knitting or crocheting with and creating something beautiful themselves. This bouncy two-ply sport-weight yarn was made from a combination of two sheep’s wools (dyed various colors); Blue-faced Leicester and Merino, blended with a small amount of silk. Both wools are soft and smooth and should give the finished product a huggable appeal.
Oh my … as usual, when I get to ‘talking’, I’ve indeed rambled on way longer than I’d planned. Let’s divide this story up and leave the tale of starting another nature-inspired yarn from inception through choosing and blending the colors, all the way through to spinning and plying the completed yarn for “Call It A Tale, Part Two”. I think you’ll enjoy the accompanying photos. Coming soon!
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