Perplexed But Not Despairing

A new year. A time for new projects. In other words, pulling out the bags of alpaca fleece and diving into them. Look at them. Sitting there in that basket. Calling.

Cinnamon Bliss

Cinnamon Bliss

And I was quick to hear it calling, I’ll admit. Last night, full of hope I grabbed a few locks and sat down in front of the Saxony wheel. I’d read that to get the softest alpaca yarn you need to spin it from the fold.

What this means is that you take a lock of fleece and bend it over your left forefinger so the tip end and the cut end are even. So it’s in sort of an inverted “U” position with your finger running up the middle.

Then you start drafting forward by grabbing the part where the lock is bent and pulling that toward the wheel. I know the method itself works, because I’ve done it before on my drop spindle, but in this case it didn’t. Bending the alpaca locks in half reduced the “staple length” to about an inch and a quarter long. When you’re trying to spin from an inch long staple, while keeping it bend over your finger, while fighting the not-very-accurate tension on the antique wheel, things get away from you. Not to mention that fact that I’m shooting for a sport weight yarn out of all of this. The Saxony wheel doesn’t handle thin at the best of times. See my nice. . . um . . .yarn? (Sort of.)

Not So Pretty

Not So Pretty

The tension would get away from me and it would suck the single onto the bobbin waaaaay before it got enough twist into it. The result? Snapped yarn.

Rather annoyed, but not defeated, I put the alpaca away for a little bit. (Overnight.) This morning I got online and did a little creative Googling. In the process I discovered that, according to several people, doing something other than spinning from the fold will not ruin the softness of your yarn. One lady recommending carding the alpaca on a drum carder, then spinning from that using the long draw method. The only hitch is that I don’t have a drum carder. I found another lady who said she made hers into rolags on the hand carders. This was more my speed. I promptly sat down and carded up a rolag and faced the wheel again.

A Fluffy Rolag

A Fluffy Rolag

I say “faced” not to denote any hostility on either of our parts. Saxony can only do so much. It’s not its fault. I think the word “faced” arises from a certain amount of toughness on my part. A mindset that said, “I’m going to spin this alpaca into pretty yarn. Try and stop me.”

Anyway, it worked better than before, but the tension was still an issue. The solution? What do I happen to have handy that doesn’t have much tension to it? The Walking Wheel of course! Perfect. I’ll just card up . . . In my fit of semi-despair last night, I started spinning the Jester batt on the Great Wheel. Just when I had the answer in place this gorgeous batt bats its little eyes at me and says, “But you can’t possibly take me off the wheel now. Aren’t I pretty?”

I’m afraid the alpaca will have to wait. At least another day. I’m almost halfway through the Jester now.

Jester Spun

Jester Spun

I decided that it would, like its Gawain cousin, become socks.

Oh, and in the middle of this drama, I decided to dig out the Half Moon Bag from way back when and toss it into the washing machine on the “Hot” cycle to see if it would felt any better than it had.
(We’ll just ignore the potential pun and the atrocious grammar that might follow.)

Before the Plunge

Before the Plunge

We’ll see what happens.

2 Responses to Perplexed But Not Despairing
  1. Mama Mentor
    January 2, 2009 | 9:01 pm

    I’m so sorry the alpaca is giving you trouble. Apparently I didn’t threaten it enough before sending it!

    The Jester looks beautiful!

    And I’m waiting anxiously to see how the second felting round goes . . .

  2. Rebekah
    January 2, 2009 | 11:47 pm

    Oh, but the trouble is fun! Learning new techniques (as long as a solution presents itself) is part of the joy of spinning.

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