Wednesday, July 17

And then there was poodle.

Alternate titles: Never, ever again.
What was I thinking?!
Think before saying yes.

Back in November I did a craft fair thing. I only had a half booth which meant I got to share space with another half-er. The lady I shared the space with did machine embroidery and made awesome ornaments. Near the end of the first day she started asking me about spinning. Being a spinner, and I imagine this is the case with any craft really, opens me up to a whole host of questions regarding what I can spin. I've been asked about everything from the obvious (cotton etc) to the less than obvious (corn silk). Without fail, no matter the person, I will get asked if I can spin pet hair. This is a resounding yes. Anything with fur/hair/coat can be spun. Technically. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. As is usual, she asked if I could spin dog. Then she got specific. Could I spin poodle? Would I need a carrier fiber for it? She wanted all the details.

 The next day she showed up with a tuft. A tuft of poodle. She asked if it was spinnable. I told her again that it was. She asked for all the details again and somehow, somewhere along the lines I agreed to spin it. She wanted it thin enough to do bobbin work but I told her there was no guarantee. A couple months later she gave me a call. She had recently groomed BOTH of her poodles and had found some wool roving to blend it with. She asked if 1lb of wool was enough. I assured her it was and we met up. She had 2.6 POUNDS of poodle. Not only was there a metric ton of it, she had washed it by shoving it in some pantyhose. Normally, this would be fine but it created clumps and balls of tightly matted curly poodle trimmings.
 Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of fiber and the amount of work it was suddenly going to take, I moved my attention to the roving. It was a nice large ball of a lovely white. And semi-felted. FELTED. A whole pound of semi-felted roving. This "easy peasy" spin was no longer easy.

I pulled out the drum carder and started putting the poodle through. This was a giant pain in the butt. No matter how much I spread it out and made it open, it was jamming things up and just becoming a giant floofy mess with no real direction. I ran it through again and again. And again. I finally had enough that I could run it through again, this time blending it with the semi-felted roving. I grabbed a chunk of it and ripped. It was all I could do. I ripped down the length and groaned. It sounded like ripping paper. Luckily, it opened up well enough that it went through the drum carder with ease.
The end result was nice enough that I had no complaints. I still hadn't spun it yet though. That would be the final test. I feel now is an appropriate time to mention again that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
The bits that got double clipped resulted in tiny shorts tufts that wouldn't lay the right way or spin in easily. It would fly up and out of the wool and was generally a nuisance. Because both fibers were matted/semi-felted it made drafting rather difficult at times. The end result? Chunks of rough fiber that when forced to draft became rather sturdy. And unyielding. And not soft. It became such a mess that I didn't even bother to fill my entire bobbin. I couldn't. The fiber wasn't budging and I was tired of fighting it.
When I had first started this whole thing, I had plans of making a Navajo plied yarn with the entire amount of fiber. It did not end that way. I quickly spun up another single from just the wool and finished it off as a 2-ply. The wool spins fantastically by itself. Amazingly so. Ripping it all in half seemed to make it relax enough that even though it was hard to draft at times, it went smoothly. Well, in comparison to the blended portion. I quickly filled the bobbin and started plying. Which was another disaster. I lost a couple yards trying to get it all to behave but once it did, it was smooth sailing. Finally!
As soon as it was done, I finished off the wool single in a quick Navajo ply. It resulted in a mini skein of about 44 yds. The yarn is fantastic. Seriously lovely. There is more of the wool leftover and if I'm able, I will spin it to match this because AWESOME. The poodle though? Still debating.

Color wise, I love it. The delicate shifts from white to a light red are....well delicate. There are a few spots where it's a long blip of red but for the most part it's very blended. Unless you are holding it in your hand, you don't really notice it. It wasn't until a section of just wool passed through my fingers that I even noticed there was much color. The plain wool was significantly brighter and made it look like I had just attached a new batch of wool without blending it. I removed that piece and started again. The end result is a very subtle brownish red. When I say very subtle, I mean it.
The final yardage of poodle (prewashed...I'll re-measure in the morning) was/is 238 yds. Total between the two skeins is 282 yds. There is more. A lot more. I could easily get 1,000+ yds out of this but I don't want to. And I won't. Again: just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I will call the lady in the morning and explain everything to her and I know she will understand but this is not what I had in mind when I agreed to this. I was picturing this lofty, yardage heavy, soft yarn and instead I got a moderate yardage of yarn that smells (when wet) and feels exactly like the animal it came from. I envisioned whipping this out in a months time and having bragging rights galore and instead it took me about 2 months of fighting with the fiber and my equipment to get a yarn that I will happily never see again. I have no idea how this will work up (in any craft) and while I am curious enough to consider a quick swatch, I'm not sadistic enough to actually do it.
As a spinner (and knitter...this isn't just a spinner thing) I often have this grandiose vision of a project and the final outcome. I generally picture a serene evening where everything goes my way and I rock the hell out of the whole process. The reality is generally different and this project was no exception. It's a learning experience, as trite as that may be. I have learned a few things from this.
1. My drum carder is a beast of a machine and I love what it can do.
2. Poodle is something I never want to spin ever again.
3. Preset notions of a project will likely lead to a frustrating end result.
4. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Thursday, July 4

Alpaca everywhere

Back when I got my wheel I also got loads of fiber. One of them was a box full of the most gorgeous alpaca I had ever seen. Black and white and caramel brown and chocolate brown. All the colors layered and stacked together. The stuff was blissfully soft and clean and free of debris.

Except, it wasn't. The fibers were too short for easy spinning and the amount of grease left in this stuff was enough that it turned my fingers black. My lap would be covered in dust and various bits of dirt. It shed like crazy and was just, in general, a giant pain in the butt. I had started to spin it awhile ago and gave up because of how difficult it was. Then I had an epiphany late one night.

Run it through the drum carder. Why this hadn't come to me sooner is beyond me but I ran a bunch through and am thrilled with the results.

I can actually spin it now. Does it still shed? Heavens yes. Is my lap littered? Not as much. Running it through seems to have knocked quite a bit of dirt free and while I still get covered it isn't as bad. My fingers don't turn black nearly as quick either. That's always a plus. I ended up doing 8 bats and have barely made a dent in the box. I will be spinning this for a long time.

Wednesday, July 3

Shop spinning part 2

 Even more to come!