Dyeing to get started!

Happy and blue!

It has been months since I’ve posted but I have a wonderful excuse: I’ve been working on projects, and better yet I’ve been learning new things :)! I finally did some dying with indigo like I learned in the first workshop:

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My hand spun mohair dyed in the organic indigo vat – 100 g = 248 meters

Beautiful "Brogna" from The Wool Box came up this lovely 'vintage' indigo color.

Beautiful “Brogna” from The Wool Box came up this lovely ‘vintage’ indigo color.

Melissa LaBarre's lovely pattern "Madigan" with a few modifications...

Melissa LaBarre’s lovely pattern “Madigan” with a few modifications…

I also attended a second workshop on warm colors – using weld and madder –  taught by the inimitable Andie Luijk of Renaissance Dyeing. We also learned about using iron, ash water and copper modifiers.  Wow! It was too much fun 🙂IMG_0483
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 ………………………………………..In the end, I had so many short yardage samples that I decided to splice them all into a single ball – something my mother did for me when I was a kid and learning how to crochet. Now I read that they’re calling it “magic ball”, a fun new name for a time-tested way to use up leftovers.

I decided to use my magic ball as one of the colors in a new iteration of Marylene Lynx’s “Camille” – I loved the first one that I made earlier this year and I’m having lots of fun with this new color combination!

My first go at "Camille" completed this spring.

My first go at “Camille” completed this spring.

I have been up to much more since April and will try to get some more of it posted in the coming days. Meanwhile, thanks for reading and Happy Woolworking!

Purl side of my newest "Camille" - still rumpled and with the lace to go but I'm sure it will all come out in the blocking :)!

Purl side of my newest “Camille” – still rumpled and with the lace to go but I’m sure it will all come out in the blocking :)!

Can’t talk…Spinning

South African fiber and Italian know-how create this lustrous river of combed and carded fiber ready for spinning.

South African fiber and Italian know-how create this lustrous river of combed and carded fiber ready for spinning.

Using the light-weight top whorl that I made for my daughter to keep the singles as fine as possible...

Using the light-weight top whorl that I made for my daughter to keep the singles as fine as possible…

This beautiful, luminous fiber seems to just spin itself!

This beautiful, luminous fiber seems to just spin itself!

My first skein of spun mohair...20 grams / 33 meters

My first skein of spun mohair…30 grams / 70 meters

I’ve decided to start the serious spinning with this luminous, silky South African mohair that, after being processed with Italian expertise in Biella, seems to practically spin itself! Wow, only 70 more grams to go before I can make something with it! Can’t talk…spinning!

A different spin on spinning

A little more weight on the bottom…giving it a whorl

The spindle spinning workshop that I took back in June was great! I just haven’t had time to get my pictures together to write about it (sigh…time is hard to come by). I was lucky and two english-speaking friends went with me so I was busy trying to simultaneously translate while learning about bottom-whorl spinning.

One of my friends joins two spun singles.

One of my friends joins two spun singles for plying

We all started out with four 25 gram hanks of 4 different kinds of tops/roving: Norwegian, English, Italian, and Brazilian. Each type of roving had a different characteristic quality and they each took a different mindset to spin. As I’ve said before, the Norwegian wool – like BFL but even more so – practically spins itself, just enough kink to cling and a really long staple fiber. The English wool was like the Amaranth wool I’ve been spinning at home, shorter fiber but even kinkier so it’s quite sticky enough to make a really fine gauge single and so also springy enough to push back against the twist if it wasn’t drafted well. The Italian roving (from Biella and Abruzzo wool), like many things Italian, required more attention, like the english fiber, it was a shorter but less kinky and produced a dry, complexly colored yarn. Last but not least, the Brazilian was long and silky with almost no kink at all and so I found it challenging to not let it slip through my fingers!

Modular spindle and raw fleece - spinning 'in the grease'

Modular spindle with roving at top (from left: Brazilian light brown, Italian Moretta, and Norwegian Grey) On the spindle: raw fleece – spinning ‘in the grease’

After lunch we go into the grease!

The lunch at Pettinengo’s Villa Piazzo was a delicious combination of local cheeses and vegetables from the villa gardens, wonderful pasta dishes and simply prepared meat and an egg dish (fritatta). In the end, the cooking was just what Italians do best – take fabulous ingriedients, prepare them simply and present them elegantly – food that’s low on fanfare, high on quality. After the last tasty nibble, it was time to get back to work.

Given that I’d already taken one workshop and learned the basics with a top-whorl, with minor adjustments I found the bottom whorl equally fun to use and our instructor, Emilio, showed me a great trick to keep a thinner single from breaking with the 80 gram whorl (thank you Emilio!). What came next was, for me, the most interesting part of the workshop.  Emilio pulled out three bags of natural fleece, one washed but not carded, one unwashed lambs wool that still had it’s little pointed locks, and one raw fleece that was neither washed, sorted carded or combed…all from the same kind of sheep! Wow, what an amazing difference between them. With these we all got a chance to try carding with the combs and making batts. What a lot of ‘not wool’ came out of the un-preped fleece when we carded! The wool that was washed spun much like the Italian Moretta that we’d spun earlier, the lamb’s wool was light and delicate as a cloud and then the un-preped fleece…I was amazed at how fine a single I was able to spin ‘in the grease’ compared to the same fiber when it was washed (and it softened and sheep-ified my hands too)! When I got home I washed the little bit of plied yarn and it came out fluffy and clean:

Yarn spun 'in the grease' from short-staple Italian wool after washing and drying.

Yarn spun ‘in the grease’ from short-staple Italian wool after washing and drying.

Later, Emilio showed us how to ply unspun roving with commercial yarn to make ‘Art Yarn’:

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Emilio shows us how to make ‘art yarn’ on a drop spindle with un-spun roving and commercial yarns.

Then, we had a chance to see and touch some rare (and quite expensive) luxury fibers: Camel, Cashmere Ultra fine, Qivuit, Musk Ox, Yak (brown & white), Yangir and Sea Silk.

Luxury fibers spun and unspun...the intriguing dark brown is 'sea silk'...

Luxury fibers spun and unspun…the intriguing dark brown is ‘sea silk’…

In the end, the workshop was everything I hoped it would be. I solidified what I already knew, learned new techniques that are helping me spin faster and more consistently and I got to do my favorite thing: experiment with lots of different kinds of materials!

Now, I can’t wait for Andie Luijk’s indigo dying workshop in September!

Spinning with excitement!

Spinning workshop tomorrow!

I’m so looking forward to attending The Wool Box’s class for beginning drop spindle spinners at the splendid Villa Piazzo in Pettinengo that has this fabulous view:

Third Paradise Garden

Third Paradise Garden

I attended my first hand spinning class last year – at the Kid n’ Ewe in Borne, TX – as a gift from my amazingly talented mother, the Texas fiber artist Sara Crittenden Coppedge. She and I had loads of fun learning how to handle top-whorl spindles and BFL fiber from the charming and adept Seth Bruce.  I took my spindle and some fluff back to Italy and I have continued to spin even more since I came across the wonderful variety of fluff, carded and combed roving available from The Wool Box. With some practice, the quality of my yarn has improved.

The next step…

Now I feel ready for a little more information and some new techniques. The 6 hour course will offer a general review of fiber basics. Spinning of single strands with the use of a variable gravity spindle*. Plying 2 strands to make 2-ply yarn. Practical exercises to familiarize yourself with the technique. Practice spinning different types of fiber: raw fleece, combed fleece, carded roving and ‘fluff’. Preparation of fibers for making sample yarn. Creating yarn samples with two strands. Practice making yarn with more than 2 strands and an introduction to ‘artistic’ techniques….ooh, I can hardly wait! (and it’s only costing 55 euro with materials included!)

If I’ve understood correctly, they’ve also promised a sneak peak at some rare luxury fibers: Camel, Cashmere Ultra fine, Qivuit, Musk Ox, Yak (brown & white) and YangirThey look quite enticing…

Beautiful rare fibers. From top left: Camel, Cashmere Ultra fine, Qivuit, Musk Ox, Yak (brown & white) and Yangir.

Beautiful rare fibers from The Wool Box. From top left: Camel, Cashmere Ultra fine, Qivuit, Musk Ox, Yak (brown & white) and Yangir.

Then there’s the new ‘variable gravity spindle’ and the 100 grams of fiber that comes with the course. Having only ever worked with an Ashford top-whorl 90mm (3½ins), 80gm (2¾ozs) drop spindle – which is quite heavy – and the one I made for my daughter – which is quite light – I’m curious to try something different…

So I’ll be taking my camera and my notebook, along with two English-speaking friends, up into the Alpine foothills on the other side of the lake. The lunch, prepared from garden produce grown on the villa grounds, promises to be lovely as well. I wish you were all coming with me! I’ll let you know all about how it went it next week.

Meanwhile, happy wool-working!

*patent pending