Archives for category: Spinning

The first step in making slow cloth is getting the wool off the sheep. Geraldine Heffernan came out to Riverdale Farm to work her magic as part of the Spring Sheep Celebration on Saturday. She explained, in her heavy Scottish brogue, how the sheep relax when they are in certain positions. It’s all about pressure points. They certainly looked relaxed as she worked.

A good sized crowd gathered around to watch the performance. In a matter of minutes she had deftly removed a years worth of growth with nary a nick on the lamb and the coat in one piece. Geraldine’s assistant had the hard job of winding the hand cranked mechanism. It must be the only way when out back and beyond with no access to electricity. The duo switched up to electric as you will see in the second video but it wasn’t much faster.

Shearing the sheep at Riverdale Farm – click on the link to see the second video.

I was grateful to see the care she took, especially around the tail and other tender bits. We all had a laugh to see shorn sheep jumping up at the door to watch the current customer getting a “do”. I think they felt much better without their heavy coats.

Happily Shorn Supervising the sheep shearing

The fleeces are bagged individually. Each one will be processed the same way. First, skirted; which means all the really dirty bits (or as I like to say “poopy bits”) are cut off and thrown out. Occasionally a spinner will talk about “spinning in the grease” when you spin from an unprocessed fleece straight off the sheep. It’s not for everyone as there is a decidedly “sheepy” smell and it is messier but oh, the wonderful feeling of lanolin on fibre and skin. It’s silky!

When washing, care is taken not to felt the fibre while removing the dirt and excess lanolin. This can be a BIG job! Some fleeces need repeated washing. It doesn’t remove the vegetable matter so then it’s time to pick and card the fleece. It can be done with hand carders but goes a lot faster with a drum carder.

I like to create big batts of fibre that I can tear off in strips. And now it’s almost time to spin!

Japanese Calligraphy

 

Some experiences loom large in my life and stay with me a long time. Last night was one of those magical experiences. I went to  “Kigami and Kami-ito: A slide lecture and paper thread-making demonstration by Hiroko Karuno” at the Japan Foundation. Social magic happened, from the moment I entered the door I ran into friends and acquaintances. A bunch of us happily scooped up front row seats!

I have always had an affection for and attraction to Japanese culture. A few years ago I took a workshop to learn the basics involved to spin paper into fibre. It attracted me on a number of levels. First of all, I was intrigued to learn what else I could spin on my little spinning wheel. Secondly, I liked the idea of creating fabric from paper in a way that could be cut and sewn into wearable garments. The idea of taking something that would otherwise have to be recycled or end up in landfill and give it a new life is very attractive to me. But interestingly, I had no knowledge of the long history of traditional Japanese paper making – Kigami, Kami-ito, Japanese paper spinning or Shifu – Japanese paper weaving. And so my education began!

As we watched Hiroko’s beautiful slide presentation we learned the 6 rules of traditionally made Japanese paper. In order to be called Kigami the fibre must be locally grown. Kozo is typically used. They use only one of the three layers, the white inner bark. Traditional bleaching methods are used. The fibre is cooked in a mixture of wood ash and water to soften and a root called nevi (sp) is added. I didn’t catch exactly what function it serves.

The paper is only made during the winter months of January to March after which layers of paper are left to dry on a board and then aged for two years!

Traditional Japanese paper differs dramatically from pulp paper as it doesn’t dissolve in water. Hiroko recounted that as recent as the Meiji period people would throw their account books down the well when cities were threatened by fire!

We all leaned in to learn how Hiroko prepares the paper  for spinning. She made it look so easy as she went through the many steps. Having taken a workshop, I know it’s not as easy as it looks. You can see my attempt next to Hiroko’s for comparison. Fine paper thread spun by HirokoNot so fine paper spun by me

My senses were truly blown when we were able to handle the finished skeins and woven cloth. Hiroko used natural dyes to infuse colour to the fine threads. My brain had a hard time registering “paper” when holding such finely woven fabric.

If I were to use only one word to describe last nights experience I would choose “Zen”.

 

Hiroko Karuno demonstrates paper spinning

 

The Skein

The clock read 5:09 AM. I was awake and thinking about a single skein of yarn. I’m reading your mind – you think I’m very disturbed!

This is the story. Back in December of last year my guild, the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild had a challenge – bring a skein of yarn from your stash and choose one donated by another member. The challenge? Weave a project using that skein and ONLY yarn from my stash and present the finished project at our June meeting, the last meeting of the year.

So far so good except, as you can see, the wee skein is still a skein and the months and days have flown by. I have three weeks to do this.

As the birds woke up I pondered my stash and thought the perfect yarns to complement this skein are probably living among my hand dyed and hand spun yarns.

I’ve pulled together a selection that could work: 2 skeins of hand spun wool and mohair in a heathered pink, 2 skeins of hand spun brown Shetland wool that I over dyed with cochineal ( I also over spun it to create a bouclé yarn) and 2 skeins of commercially spun yarn dyed with logwood.

The Palette

I like this palette but will wait until tomorrow night to wind the warp ~ This evening I’m off to the Japan Foundation to enjoy “Kigami and Kami-ito: A slide lecture and paper thread-making demonstration by Hiroko Karuno”