I’ve been immersed in spinning and fiber blending on my drum carder this past week.
Although I enjoy blending complimentary fibers (fine sheep’s wool and alpaca, mohair or angora bunny, for example) in their natural coat colors, sometimes I crave bright colors and the creative energy of putting pre-dyed colors together, making stripes or changing the shade or tone and coming up with something unique to spin.
I’ve long been inspired by nature and often use photographs I’ve taken as an aid in helping me create a colorway based on a feeling, a memory or just a fleeting moment in time.
Then again, sometimes inspiration can be as simple as a scent.
This morning, while savoring a cup of steaming, aromatic dark roast coffee, I found an idea forming in my freshly caffeinated brain. Coffee. Rich, dark, decadent coffee. No cream or sugar in this pot, thank you very much.
Staring appreciatively into my mug, I envisioned wearing the rich expresso-inspired, hand knit scarf or cowl to a morning (not too early please) coffee get-together with friends.
As the idea gelled, I set aside my temporarily empty mug. I was ready to go stash-diving. If that offers up visions of spelunking in scuba gear down a deep, dark cave of fleece and fiber, you aren’t far wrong. Fiber thrives away from direct sunlight, so in my home it fills shelves in dark closets and carefully covered bookshelves and totes. I am a fiber addict.
Where to start? Knowing that coffee needs that gleam of liquid, (or perhaps the natural oils of freshly roasted coffee beans?), I reached first for my dwindling treasure trove of pure black kid mohair locks, saved from my first (and only) Angora goat.
Next, I perused my selection of medium and dark brown rovings. I passed over Coopworth and Corriedale wool as being too coarse for this project, although both are nice for other uses. I was after an impression of smooth elegance rather than just replicating a color.
My hand stopped at a rich, deep chestnut alpaca. Pausing to consider, I backtracked to the bedroom to refill my coffee. I sipped my second cup of coffee and pondered. I needed a strong brown presence, and blended with the glossy black mohair … definitely silky.
My eyes settled on a bag of Pygora roving. Dark brown, almost but not quite expresso. Lovely and fine – and now I’m thinking I might use less of the Mohair.
Retrieving my three selections, I laid them out side by side on my table and started envisioning the blend. Although these nice brown and black natural shades would blend well, I realized that between Mohair, Alpaca and Pygora fibers, I had absolutely no “memory”.
I can already see the quizzical looks as some of you wonder what memory has to do with this … and if I’ve perhaps lost mine.
Sheep’s wool has a lot of crimp and elasticity. When a garment knit from sheep’s wool gets wet and is then allowed to dry, it will quickly bounce back, regaining and retaining its original shape. This is referred to as having “memory”.
Alpaca, Pygora and Mohair have little to no crimp and thus, very little memory. Greater care needs to be taken in caring for garments made of these luxurious fibers to keep them from stretching out and losing shape. Adding even a small amount of wool to a blend adds needed memory.
After giving this some thought, I traded the Pygora, lovely though it was, for a braid of dark brown Polwarth wool. I was ready to create “Morning Coffee”.
But wait. Unless I want to make only one batt (about one ounce of fiber), adding fibers/colors Willy-Nelly and hoping for the best (which admittedly, I’ve done in the past with both happy and sad results), I have more decisions to make.
How much of each fiber should I use? It needs to be the same amounts for each batt. Do I want the colors fully blended, or do I want black depths and brown highlights? How best to layer it in the drum carder to achieve the results I can so clearly see in my head?
Keep in mind, I’m not trying to recreate coffee. I’m trying to create a yarn that brings to mind a mug of rich, dark roast coffee such as is made from my favorite Alaskan Artisan Coffee brand.
As I ran my fibers through the drum carder, I decided that although lustrous in its own right, the kid mohair didn’t really add as much shine as I was going to want in the finished garment.
Inspiration struck and I returned to my stash, rummaging about and finally surfacing with a tiny, half-ounce baggy of sparkly, black nylon “Firestar”. Sprinkled sparingly throughout the batts as they are created, the strands of sparkle will be subtle but hopefully elegant in the finished piece.