Valuable Lessons, and Swearing

I’m home from SAFF now with enough fiber to keep me busy for a long time. Which is good! I’ll be posting about my various loot as I use it.

One of the things I bought was a “practice” silk lap. What’s that, you say? It’s basically like a giant silk hankie that’s several feet wide and long, and about an inch thick. Last spring I bought a totally gorgeous hand-dyed one, and I’ve been hesitant to try to spin it because it’s so beautiful I don’t want to screw it up. Solution? Buy a cheaper lower-quality one to practice on! So I did. I have asked a number of experienced spinners the best way to tackle this, and each had a different suggestion. The one I liked best is to core-spin it. Essentially, you have a thin core (like a thread) that you wrap the silk fiber around (spinning step), then go back and bind it with another thin thread (plying step). I learned how to do that in my class last spring at John C Campbell Folk School, and it really shows off the fiber. So at SAFF I also bought a very fine wool yarn to use for the core and the binder.

Back at home, here are the things I’ve learned so far: the fine yarn I bought for the core/binder is a good size but no where NEAR strong enough for what I need. It has broken a number times. [Insert swear words.] So I have to figure out something else. Next: using a color that matches the fiber is excellent when you don’t really want the binder to show, but problematic when you are practicing and need to see if you are binding properly. [Insert more swear words.] About the silk itself: it truly is low quality. The results of this practice are going to be correspondingly basically worthless. I am, however, getting valuable hands-on experience. In particular, it’s really easy to produce a wildly variable thick-and-thin yarn, but harder to be consistent. I’m getting a feel for how to prep the fiber so that I can get that more consistent result. Or at least to avoid going so thick that I have to pull it by hand through the orifice onto the bobbin because it’s too fat to go through on its own. [Insert a lot more swear words.]

So just to feel better, I”m going to spin something easy and lovely now. Until next time.

Today’s picture is the core-spun silk from today’s practice.

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