Saturday, March 01, 2008

Handspun

When I learned to spin, whole new worlds of fiber love opened up to me. I discovered that one could purchase unspun fibers dyed in vibrant primary colors. I bought a 'sample' packet of five bright red, yellow, and blue, with green and purple added for variety.




Then Roxie, being her usual generous self, shared her bounty of raw white fleeces with me. I scoured, cleaned, picked, carded and finally spun some white yarn. The experience of taking the wool through the whole process from the sheared fleece to spun yarn was incredibly satisfying for me. I learned so much about how wool should and should not be handled at each stage, and I certainly gained a greater appreciation for my foremothers' abilities to clothe their children and husbands in handspun, handknit sweaters and socks.



As if all that work was not enough, I decided I wanted to learn to create my own colors, so I took a class in dyeing at my lys.




When we moved to Los Angeles, my dyeing and spinning hours were greatly reduced by that necessity called 'going to work'. I still had miles and miles of undyed roving. One day while I was reading Spin Off magazine, I found an article about using KoolAid to dye fiber in your microwave. I was intrigued (as well as disgusted by the idea of putting into the bodies of children something that could permanently change the color of fiber). The local supermarket sold KoolAid (I felt like I was overtly doing a drug deal right there in the store).
The rest is history: an entire basket of KoolAid dyed handspun wool.
The Spin Off article noted that if you dyed the fiber before spinning, the result was a more 'heathery' yarn. I spun some of the rovings first and then dyed the skeins. Other skeins I spun first and then dyed. It was all for the purpose of scientific discovery, you understand.

The baskets of colorful yarn add so much to the decor of Willow's Cottage. Will I be able to wind these skeins into balls, cast the yarn on to size 5 (or 8) needles, and actually KNIT something? I would miss the color accents the baskets provide in the guest room and family room. However, in the spirit of using up my stash, I suppose I could make something--an afghan or a pillow?


19 comments:

Mama Mia said...

All the KoolAid colors match well enough to work up into an afghan beautifully!!

And, ahem, I think you had a bit of help with the raw fleece... Just teasing. Remember listening to Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis on tape while we picked and carded raw wool into rovings? That is a great memory of being with Mumsy! :o)

ellen b said...

What beautiful colors! This is such a foreign talent for me. It's fun to find out about it.
BTW, your photo is up on my blog...

Sara said...

Oooooh! More gorgeous yarns and colors. I really love the Koolaid story - I think that's the perfect use for Koolaid - never could stand the stuff, even as a kid. But the colors are a different story---beautiful.

ancient one said...

You amaze me! Is sheep shearing in your past also? ...LOL

Marg said...

Your post is so amazing. I was thinking all day about you because I went to the city and found this wool barn and bought some more wool. WOW! There is so much creativity in you. The Kool Aid Idea!
I learned what it was like to roll the wool into a ball. I had no clue what she was talking about. I will be posting my pictures shortly.
Anyways I added your name to my link list awhile back and after reading about the ettiquette, I just wanted to make sure with you, that I have your permission.

Monica said...

Lovely, lovely colors!! :)
I think of you when I walk past the yarn store in town.

neulekirppu said...

What a beautiful colors!

Roxie said...

Yes, an afghan would keep those color accents in the room, and add a cozy touch of warmth for those rare chilly evenings. Afghans are a great way to practice techniques. Bet you could check "The Great American Afghan" out of the library and have on-going projects for months (years?) Afghan squares are delightfully portable projects.

Jane said...

Wonderful wool colours, I think you are so clever to spin the wool yourself. My Mum had a spinning wheel which she struggled with, she went to classes and did much better but was told she had the wrong sort of wheel and that it wasn't suitable for a beginner. Finally she sold it together with a couple of fleeces, it was a shame i'd have loved a go. Perhaps when i retire (19yrs)
There are some beautiful Afghan books out there, I saw one advertised around Christmas and it had squares made with patterns from a quilted afghan it looked stunning. i just looked on Amazon but couldn't find it, will let you know if i find the title. Jane x

Barbara said...

Very clever and beautiful colours. The shepherd on my lamb post has a spinning machine and sometimes spins after shearing and he has in the past made himself a sweater with the wool and without a pattern. And yes he is a man.

Jane said...

The bunny pattern which Lucy used is from Toy Knits by Debbie Bliss (Small Rabbit). The ISBN number is 0091806879. Jane X

M.KATE said...

Hi Willow, thanks for dropping by and selamat datang too :), so glad to know someone who understand our bahasa even though staying far away, will definitely hop here often in the future, have a fabulous week ahead :)

Bethany Hissong said...

These are just beautiful!! I have heard of dyeing with Kool-Aid. Just remember that natural dyes from berries, etc. stain too. It's okay. I think our kids won't be too hurt by it!! I can't wait to see what you make with all these bright colors!!

karlascottage.typepad.com said...

How beautiful! The only good thing about KoolAid is the colors.

artgirlATL said...

Ok, this will sound a little strange... but in art school there was a guy and girl who were dating. THey bleached their hair white and then died it a matching pink... I believe with KoolAid. I heard of people using it in their hair a lot back then.
I love your colors.

nikkipolani said...

I echo ancient one's comment! Do you have sheep in the backyard? You are one amazing lady!

Flower said...

I wonder if huckleberry blue could be a new color to add to your beautiful yarn stash?
Think about that!!

twinsetellen said...

This post made me believe spring is coming.

violetlady said...

Willow,
This is so interesting. My daughter was a textiles major in college and did some spinning there. She is an avid knitter now. Someday I hope she'll get a spinning wheel. Do you have a picture of yours?