Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yarn- #AtoZChallenege

For the last several years I have been teaching myself many crafts. Among those crafts are crochet and knitting, which of course use yarn. I thought I'd shake things up though, so instead of just researching and spouting textbook information from the internet on a subject I am not overly familiar with (as I only use yarn, I don't produce it!), I thought I'd conduct an interview with a couple friends who either raise fiber animals, spin and dye yarn (or all three!) "Y is for Yarn" will give you an inside look at the "cottage industry" of hand spun fiber craft.

I would like to thank Lindsey Auman at Happy Valley Homestead for sharing her time with me to provide this interview. She lives in Pennsylvania, where she sells her yarn and yarn projects, soaps, animals, and eggs. I've known her since 2011- she is like a sister to me! Check out her page, and see what she has to offer, especially if you live in the US.

I'd also like to thank my friend Dianne Anderson for offering her experience as well. She is a local Tasmanian friend who spins fiber as a hobby, gardens, dances and crafts, and does it all for the love of it!

Baby angora bunnies. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Auman
1. Do you have, or have you raised, animals for fiber?

L: "I raise English and satin Angora rabbits and Shetland sheep. English Angoras produce more fiber, but require much more maintenance than the satin Angoras. Satins produce less fiber, but have more halo an incredible sheen and more intense color. Shetland sheep are small, perfect for a homestead and come in many color and wool varieties. Browns, whites, blacks and everything in between. Their fleeces also come in several varieties, from a shorter, finer and softer single coated variety to a fleece with soft and longer coarser wool in the same fleece to longer, shaggier fleeces. Each fleece style has it's purposes. Single coated soft fleeces can be used for next to skin garments. A variegated fleece is used based on the portions... Typically the coarser hindquarter wool is used for outer garments and socks while the softer wool, closer to the neck can be used for next to skin garments. The shaggier fleeces can be used for outerwear and socks or can be dehaired, by separating the outer guard hairs from the inner, softer wool and spun separately for softer and coarser, longer wearing yarns."D: "No I haven't, although I've spent time with people who do, and learned a bit from them."

This video recorded by Lindsey Auman demonstrates spinning yarn directly off an angora bunny. It is such a peaceful scene!

2. How do you process the fiber so that you can make yarn?

L: "Fiber prep depends on type and personal preference. Any fiber can be spun "raw" without any real prep. Angora, from Angora rabbits, is the most commonly spun straight from the animal without any prep work. It can be spun "in the cloud", prepped similar to other fibers or even straight off of the rabbit. Other fibers, such as wool and alpaca fiber are usually skirted (undesirable sections removed, typically around the hind end and legs), VM (vegetable matter, such as hay or sticks) is picked out as much as possible, and then the fleeces are washed based on the type. Alpaca, llama and Angora goat (called mohair) can all be washed with a lower temperature of water and a mild detergent. Sheep wool is usually washed in hotter water with more detergent to help remove the lanolin. Fleeces tend to require several washes before finally rinsing clean. After drying, you can pick the locks apart by hand, and card (with a drum carder or hand cards) or comb the fleece before spinning." 
D: "It depends on the type of fibre, and how clean it is. Most fibres need some sort of processing, even if it's just a flick of a brush/comb for the most clean...most however require picking, washing, carding or combing, and also if you choose to; dyeing. Washing can involve several stages and a lot of time with fibres like wool, as they may require scouring to reduce the lanolin, and careful temperature treatment so that they don't felt.Whilst each fibre has it's rule of thumb...there is also an element of experimentation for the best way to handle each individual fleece/fibre as it presents. Preparation can vary from minutes to days (even weeks) depending on the project and fibre."

A combination of black English and black satin angora wool,
single strand. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Auman
3. What are your favorite fibers to work with?

L: "
My personal favorite fibers are actually Angora rabbit and Shetland wool. Perhaps I am slightly biased, or perhaps I kept the animals due to my love of their fibers."

D: "Clean, short to medium staple fibres. I'll spin practically anything! I do love soft and smooth fibres like merino, alpaca and flax. I love silk as a fibre, but not so much to spin as I have found it hard to draft in the past...I'm hoping this time around, putting more time into preparation will make it more enjoyable to spin."

Left: English dyed with green, plied with moorit Shetland.
Right: Black satin plied with electric pink merino.
Center: Teal merino and white English, being plied.
Photo courtesy of Lindsey Auman
4. What special properties do your favorite fibers offer?

L: "Angora rabbit is incredibly soft, water and stain resistant, has a stunning halo and has amazing insulation properties. In fact, it's so warm that most people recommend using only 10-15% in a blended yarn, or making small projects. An Angora sweater would be too warm for most every day purposes! Shetland wool, in particular, is my favorite, because of its ease in spinning. It's soft enough to wear next to your skin, yet durable enough for wear and tear. It is warm, and has "memory", which means that it won't stretch loose like the alpaca and Angora will." 

D: "They're all unique. Wool has great thermal properties, as does silk. Alpaca has lovely drape (like silk), whereas different breeds of wool, have varying structure and "spring". The beauty of natural fibres is that they breathe, so are generally nicer to wear than synthetics. They also can be composted, rather than polluting the environment at end of life."

Mulberry silk cocoon sheet, hand painted landscape dye.
Photo courtesy of Dianne Anderson
5. What means do you use to spin fiber into yarn?

L: "
What means? Hmm. Personally, I spin with a double treadle spinning wheel. There are many, many types of wheels, from great big wheels to compact wheels and even electric wheels. Some have specific tasks that they are designed for, but most choose a wheel based on personal preference. There are also drop spindles, which are portable, but not as fast production as the wheels. The drop spindles were invented before wheels." 

D: "I use single and double drive spinning wheels, as well as a drop spindle. Each method and wheel produces different weights of yarn and some suit particular fibres better than others."

Bendigo Woolen Mills pure wool
laps and Kemp semi worsted 2 ply.

Photo courtesy of Dianne Anderson
6. What is plying and what benefit does it provide?

L: "Plying is when you spin yarn back on itself. Say you make a two ply yarn... you would spin both of them in one direction, and then ply them together by twisting them together in the opposite direction. This helps it "catch" and stay together, increasing the strength of the finished yarn. Some yarns can be spun as singles, but I don't have experience with spinning or using them.Different techniques in plying can create different designs in your yarn. Bouccle yarn, coil yarns, etc all produce different yarns." 
D: "Plying is spinning two yarn singles together (or more) It provides greater strength to the yarn, and if you ply different fibres or colours it can create unique effects."

7. Do you dye the yarns you make, and if so, what do you dye them with?

L: "Dyeing... I do dye some of mine. It depends on what look I'm going for. I use professional acid dyes, but there are lots of natural dyes that can be used." 
D: "Sometimes. It's a rabbit hole I've only just entered. To start with I am mostly playing with food acid solar dyes. I plan to get into some natural (non mordant) dyeing soon, and once I am set up, I will probably do more conventional mordanted dyeing."

Bendigo woolen mills alpaca
fill, semi worsted spin 2 ply. Photo courtesy
of Dianne Anderson
8. What is your favorite use for your hand made yarn?

L: "I don't really have a favorite item to make, to be honest. I have made many, many hats, for myself, my children, family, friends and custom orders as well as some for retail sale. They can be pretty easy and thoughtless, which is nice for my attention span. I enjoy weaving as well as knitting, but Angora halo shows up better in knitted projects than it does in woven projects, so what I do depends on the fiber and overall product look I'm after."
D: "LOL I have a reputation for never finishing a project. I'm not really much of a knitter or crocheter, although I can do both. I have great plans, but so far have only finished ...none of them.
I also have a loom, that I plan to get around to one of these days. For now, I just love to spin, and tend to pass the spun yarn to my mum, who is a knitter and more likely to make stuff than I am."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to share your comments, questions and experiences.