What’s on the wheel?

I’m very aware that I’ve not posted anything about my own projects here for ages.  I’ve been very tired and off-kilter since Wonderwool Wales (which is a bit scary, given that Woolfest is just around the corner now!), but it doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing.

My spinning wheel has received the most attention, because it lives near the sofa and is marvellously relaxing, no matter what else is going on…

I started spinning this wonderful silk brick early in May, at the last Rampton Spinner’s meet:

I bought it years ago, at Textiles in Focus.  It came from Silk Sacks, and the colourway is ‘Storm clouds‘.  Silk brick is not cheap to buy, but it was the one thing at the show that year that really spoke to me – so home it came.  Silk Sacks do not cater specifically to spinners, but it is a very spinnable fibre: this is actually the second brick of theirs that I’ve spun, the first being in ‘Aegean Waters’, I think, and was used for the Peacock Feathers shawl (Ravelry link); I still have a small amount of that yarn left (in fact – it’s for sale!).

The plan this time is to make a fine, smooth 2-ply yarn, and to weave a wide scarf/narrow stole, probably in some complex, undulating twill.  The first bobbin (half the fibre, by weight) is finished:

And the second is underway:

I’m enjoying spinning this a lot: it’s by no means a quick spin (I’m aiming for fairly fine singles, with lots of twist, and a little silk can go a very long way indeed), but it’s very satisfying.  Different areas of the brick draft and spin differently: some parts are sticky, with the fibres looking almost crimpy, and others are smooth-smooth-smoooooth.  (those are my favourites!).

Some -most- fibres are very long, but you also encounter the occasional little nest of short, fuzzy pieces.  I’m learning to overcome my natural instincts, which beg me not to waste a fibre, and to pick these out.  You can spin them – carefully – if you add lots and lots of twist to that area before you move on, but they never make a properly smooth single, and will inevitably create weak areas.  Weak not just in terms of tensile strength, but also abrasion resistance.  Since I want to weave with this yarn, both these kinds of weakness are bad news: warp threads must be able to withstand both tension, for fairly obvious reasons, and abrasion from both passing through the heddles and from the motion of the beater.  And when I say ‘inevitably’ weak, I really mean it.  Short fibres need more twist to make a similarly strong yarn, and twist is energy that moves as it wills.  Twist distributes itself along a single according to the thickness of the single – thinner areas accumulate more twist – but I know of nothing that makes twist stick to shorter fibres.  Even if you intentionally add more twist to an area made of short fibres, it will not stay there unless you are *extremely* careful and clever with your subsequent yarn handling.

I think it took me about three weeks to spin up the first bobbin’s worth  – we’ll see if I can keep up the pace for the second, though as I said, this is a long, slow spin. I’ve spun for at least an hour every day for the last three days.  The ‘second bobbin’ photograph was taken at the start of those days, and this is what it looks like right now:

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