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Getting faster to live slow

Apples 2015
Apples 2015

September is a crazy stupid busy month.  The last of the fleece that will be spun up and knitted over winter needs to be scoured whilst there is still power coming out of the PV panels and sunshine to dry it before storing.  The garden is banging out so much fruit and veg that needs eating (yum my favourite thing), freezing, pickling and jamming/chutnifying. There is no more room in the freezer, the pantry is nearly full, as is the workshop. The green tomato chutney is on the hob as I write and this weekend is all about Christmas booze.  Sloe gin, damson vodka and getting the cider on the go.  Oh I’m very amused when I read about ‘Slow Living’. An oxymoron?  You tell me.  I can’t move fast enough nor have enough time in September.

Its just about over now and I have some space to focus on Spinzilla.  Spinzilla kicks of next week 5 – 11 October – go Team HSN UK!  Which incidentally also coincides with UK Wool Week 2015. I’ve been thinking about my own personal challenge.  I have two.  The first is to spin enough yarn for two projects.  A cardigan with some cabling in Castle Milk Moorit and a circular shawl that has been in my head for a year but more on that one in another post.  My other personal challenge is to speed up my spinning.  Yes, I am well aware that this may appear contradictory to my own ethics.

The fundamental reason I spin is the very slowness of the whole process.  Particularly if you are working with raw fleece fresh from the farm.  It allows for a very deep connection with the things made. From what the weather was like when I collected it, who I have to thank for providing it and the conversations we may have had, to the very sheep it came from embedded in the smell of its fleece and how it feels in my hand.  Everything made is unique and has a story woven into its making.

As an activity spinning is a repetitive, mindful activity that I find totally immersive and (mostly) relaxing.  My mind is occupied enough for it to loosen its focus on the brain babbling and helps deal with anxiety. This is well observed, creative activities, such as spinning and knitting, can ease stress,  help with anxiety, depression and pain may counter the effects of stress-related diseases (see for example this review by Gutman and Schindler 2007).

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me spinning in pyjamas

Spinning faster is not necessarily a contradiction.  During a week of intensive spinning (a luxury that life very rarely affords) I want to work at improving my hand (drafting) and feet (treadling)  co-ordination so I don’t have to concentrate so much, to let the rhythm take over, and the mind to become freer.  The whole spinning process ought to become not only more productive but, more importantly a more relaxed and deeper meditative experience.

The spinners nirvana.  A perfect state of bliss.  Just ask any spinner.

From competitive spinning comes the road to enlightenment…who knew.

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Amassing some Masham

Lock spun Masham
Lock spun Masham

Whilst the weather has done its usual summer thing (looking forward to seeing the sun again when the schools go back in September) I’ve had some time to get to know those two Masham fleeces Jason the splendid shepherd sold me back in July.

The story behind these fleeces is one of those where curiosity lead the way.  We were walking at Blickling Hall (home of the Boleyn’s – yes the one of Anne fame) and saw a flock of the prettiest sheep, smallish with a lovely long wool and a speckled black face. Our walk quickly descended into me rushing about hither and thither distracted by all the lovely bits of wool that the sheep had shed, testing Seans patience. Curiosity peaked I started thinking just what do they do with their fleece?  I tracked down the estate manager who put me intouch with Jason the shepherd. A few phone calls later and I gathered two Masham fleeces.  These are they of the FSM post if you want to know about that.

I’ve never spun Masham.  It’s a longwool and it’s not going to be ‘next o’the skin’. It does have a wonderful curl and gorgeous soft lustre to it. Of the two fleeces, one was just lovely, relatively fine staple with a well-defined curl and softness.  The other…oh dearie me, not so lovely, really coarse, straight structure, great rug wool.  Both were quite tender so needed a gentle hand when combing.

Is it something within the psyche of a spinner to be a natural womble? There is no such thing as waste – it’s just material that we lack the imagination to do something with. The coarse stuff won’t be headed for the veg patch, I have in mind to dye it up and spin it into a really thick low twist roving to for a felted cat bed.

I took a sample of about 100 g of the locks, splitting into two samples.  The first I left natural and the second I dyed the locks a pale aqua.  It took the dye well and didn’t felt.

Talking of waste. The lovely sheepies were sheared quite late in the season, so there was quite a definite break which meant there was quite a bit of shorter, softer, material from the combing. I didn’t throw into the stuffing bag but chucked through the drum carder and pulled of a batt, it was very ‘textured’ (artist speak for a bit crappy and full of neps and knots) but I was interested to see what sort of a yarn I would get out of it.

I wanted to try spinning it in various ways:

A traditional two ply lace, which I am really pleased with. The yarn blooms up with a nice halo, I tried to keep this to a minimum by not thwacking it or fulling it just a basic wash.

Lock spun – omfg spinning lockspun yarn takes a stupid amount of time! But isn’t it beautiful. Absolutely worth it. I’ve since discovered how to do a speedier cheats version from Natalie Redding of Namaste Farms which is basically coreless corespun chopped into lengths and hooked onto a knitted (or crocheted base). So will give that a go next time.

Coreless corespun (my personal favourite, I think the great Judith Mackenzie may call this wolf yarn). I wanted texture so rather than combing, I pulled the locks apart into a fluffy mass with some lock structure still in place and span straight from the cloudy mass. Teasing out the central ‘core’ and allowing the fibre to wrap around this. Isn’t is just gorgeous. The photo hasn’t really done the lustre justice. Its not as shiny as mohair but it has a beautiful sort of translucent glow to it. Want to bury myself in it.

For the dyed samples I span a corespun with a commercial lace weight wool/mohair core.  I didn’t want as much texture here so the locks were combed into a more orderly fluffy arrangement and spun from small packets of this tip first.

A faux boucle textured corespun plied with a thin single and a silk thread carrying pearl beads. I had a lot of threaded beads left and some of the combing waste.  The combing waste I span up into a thin single and plied with the beaded silk thread.

I also wanted to try a low twist worsted weight single haven’t had the time.  That’s next on the agenda for a shepherd’s hat for the shepherd to say a big thank you.

I’m still enjoying their beauty hanging in the workshop. I might knit them up into something funky that plays with their fabulously different textures. But for now I’m just enjoying stroking them as I walk past.