Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Paradise .... and some silk questions

Doesn't look much like paradise, does it? But it is. My two children are in summer school for a couple of hours each morning for the next month. This means (oh, bliss) that I can spin OUTSIDE while it is LIGHT out and yet it is QUIET enough to hear the birds. And since there are no fast-moving, shrieking dynamos in the yard, just one sluggish middle-aged spinner tucked back under the porch roof, there are lots and lots of birds and squirrels and rabbits and so forth to watch. No pictures -- I forgot to take my camera out and I was having such a lovely time I didn't want to go in.

The drying racks surrounding my chair are filled with the Icelandic fleece I bought at Rendezvous last month. I'm going to card it without separating the coats since the outer coat is not very coarse. I think I'll spin the darkest areas separately, but blend the rest.

The fleece only weighed about a pound and a half before washing, so I expect to get a vest out of this. I'm thinking of a puffy three ply in a light worsted weight, but I'm not sure yet. I've got a sample batt waiting to be spun but right now I'm absorbed in this:

Silk! I don't have much experience spinning silk. This is some tussah sliver dyed with drink mix at the OKC fiber retreat last fall (can't remember the event's official name right now). I'm enjoying it a lot but I'm having some problems.

If you look at the bobbin you can see some spots where the yarn is kinked. This puzzles me because I'm having a hard time getting enough twist into the yarn -- that is, when I do a test two ply by pulling some of the singles off the bobbin and letting them twist back on themselves to make a balanced yarn, the two ply has a lower angle of twist than I want. Everything I read says that silk should be spun with a lot of twist. I'm using my woolee winder with a ratio of 19:1, and drafting about an inch and a half with each treadle, maybe even a little less. It's as little as I can bear to move my hand! I could switch to the lace head for a higher ratio, but I'm not trying to spin laceweight, and I really don't think I should need a higher ratio. Plus spinning with the WW is so hypnotic and relaxing -- I really love it.

I think the kinks might come when my hand is moving a little faster than the bobbin winds on, and that maybe a little more tension on the bobbin will fix it. But I also think that more tension on the bobbin makes me draw out a little more yarn with each hand movement.

All in all, it's nothing that spinning a few more ounces (or pounds...) won't fix. I'll figure it out.

But this has me puzzled:
On the bottom is the sliver as it looked after being dyed -- all shriveled, compacted, and crunchy; most unattractive. On the top is the sliver after it has been "popped" between my hands to open it up -- lovely, soft, easy to draft.

Except that there are spots that stay hard, crunchy, and compacted. I'm sure you can see them in the top section. Is that sericin? I have popped that section of the sliver over and over, and they never open up. They don't draft smoothly, and I'm not sure what to do about them.

I don't have much of this dyed sliver left, so I'm just going to keep spinning it as is. But in the future (I have lots more) should I degum the sliver? Before or after dyeing? Anyone have more experience with this?

No pictures, but I also spun up some silk hankies that we dyed the same day. What fun! Knowing that there really wasn't any way to spin a truly smooth yarn from hankies made me pretty casual about the whole thing. I think I might get some more and try knitting from drafted but unspun hankies.

And now for something completely different: an onion flower. This isn't any fancy ornamental allium, just an onion that didn't get harvested last year. Isn't it lovely?

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