Archive for April, 2009

This was my third visit to Wonderwool, and it just keeps on getting better! I drove up to Wolverly with Ali and Nick and we stayed with Nick’s folks in their lovely old old farmhouse (which is now in the middle of the suburbs of course). From there it was only a fairly quick run over to Builth and with the addition of Yoshimi in the back seat, she’d joined us Friday night, it seemed like no time before we were squeeing at the sheeps!

There was way more fibre there this year, which is good as I’d made a firm rule about not buying any more yarn. The rules about fibre and spindles, however, were (ahem) a little less firm, shall we say. I started off with a dash to The Natural Dye Studio, as Amanda was holding a few silk packs for me to pick from (thanks Queenie!) and then we wandered around and around only semi-systematically until we figured we’d seen most things ran out of money.

Fibre:

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Top to bottom: Fyberspates Merino/Silk, NDS Merino/Bamboo, Silk Brick from Oliver Twists, Artist’s Palette Merino, half a Spindlefrog luxury spinners set (I shared with Sarah), and of course, NDS Precious Tussah Silk (mmmmmm).

This was totally Sarah’s fault, still not sure how I ended up with it:

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A lovely black/grey merino fleece from the Coloured Sheep Breeders Association, which we also shared.

And, well, Bossies are going to be hard to get soon so it seemed an intelligent decision:

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16g of lovely Canarywood Bossieness.

The best part of course, was meeting up with people and chatting and catching up and nosing out their purchases! I met Megan for the first time in real life, which was fab. Also connected with Kerrie, Helen and Lucy who crashed with us at the pub later on where we took over an entire corner and scared everyone away with the yarny activities (I still think the owner chose to come out and sit in the bar just so he could watch us in fascination).

Wonderwool was so much fun that I think that this year I really need to make the effort to get up to Woolfest as well. Are you going to be there??

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There has been some busy scheduling going on, and there are lots of classes coming up in the next couple of months here in London. Looking forward to seeing some new faces, and maybe some old friends as well!

Classes at Stash Yarns in Putney

Superspin 1 Tuesday 9th and 23rd June, 10am-1pm

Call 020 8246 6666 to book

Classes at Socktopus in Chelsea Harbour

Luxury Fibres Saturday 16th May, 10am - 1pm

Spin Short Saturday 16th May, 2pm - 5pm

Single Spun Sunday 17th May, 10am - 1pm

Introduction to Spinning Sunday 17th May, 2pm - 5pm

Superspin 1 Sunday 21st June and 12th July, 2pm-5pm

Superspin 2 Sunday 21st June and 12th July, 10am-1pm

Click here to book

More information about each class is available on the Classes page, although not all these dates are up there yet.

I’ll also be teaching at the UK Ravelry Day on June 6th in Coventry. Due to popular demand, Jo and I have opened up some more places in the Introduction to Spinning class on the day. More information on the UKRD website.

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Part Four: Mohair

Mohair is the fibre obtained from the Angora goat, named for the region in Turkey where they were first domesticated. The fibre is well known for its incredible shine and beautiful fluffy halo. It’s no wonder: the word Mohair derives from the Arabic word ‘mukhayyar’, meaning choice or select.

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(Daisy, just before shearing)

Angora goats (actually recently renamed Mohair goats) are friendly and docile and make lovely fibre pets! Although originally kept closely guarded and protected in Turkey, the breed was eventually exported in the 19th century and the goats are now farmed in many parts of the world including Africa, the United States and Australia.

Harvesting

Mohair grows very quickly (about one inch per month) and Angora goats are generally shorn twice a year, in the spring and autumn. Although goat hair contains no lanolin, it does have natural oils which are easily washed out with mild soap. Mohair is generally carded before spinning and is often blended with other fibres to add strength and lustre to a mix.

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Structure and Characteristics

Mohair has a very smooth surface, lacking the scales found on wool. This smoothness reflects light, giving mohair its incredible lustre. The fibres are long and straight, with a curly wave. Young kids usually develop close ringlets, a sign of fineness, this curl becomes less pronounced as the goat ages.

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(Adult mohair - top, and kid)

Unlike sheep and many other fibre animals, Mohair goats produce different qualities of fibre as they get older. Finest kid mohair comes from the first, second and occasionally third clips, fibres are between 23 and 30 microns. This is the best fibre for knitting yarn, it is soft and produces a lovely halo. Clips from older goats can range up to 40 microns. As the strength and lustre of the fibre increases with age, these grades are excellent for upholstery fabrics or to blend with other fibres to add strength and shine.

Varieties

The different Angora goat varieties (including for example, South African and Australian strains) have only subtle distinctions. However, there has been much interest in recent years in developing naturally coloured Angora goats, and fibre can now be obtained in a range of colours including greys, blacks and reds. For more information, visit the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association.

Mohair for Handspinners

Mohair is a fibre which many spinners avoid, partly because they fear it will be ‘difficult’, partly due to experience with prickly mohair, and perhaps partly because they’re just not quite sure what to do with it! I have to admit to being a little bit in love with Mohair. Having access to a flock of the cutest goats on the planet helps of course, and I also love the incredible jewel colours mohair gives and the subtle halo effect that can be created.

The smoothness of mohair, which gives it its shine, does make it a very slippery fibre to work with. It needs a lot of twist to hold it together if spun on its own, but once there is enough twist, the fibres will lock safely in place and the ends will pop out and bloom.

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(carded Mohair rolag ready for spinning)

I personally prefer to blend mohair with other fibres, usually wool. It is fabulous in socks for a bit of extra warmth and strength (see my Jo pattern and tutorial in Spin! Series 1), and is gorgeous blended with wool in a woven project where it adds lustre and drape to the fabric.

Card or blend mohair with handcards, and spin fine yarns with a fairly high level of twist. Mohair has no memory, so avoid using it straight up for garments which might sag and stretch. Also, use a larger knitting needle size, or weaving sett, to ensure that the mohair fibres have room to bloom.

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* With thanks to Daisy, Bonsai and the rest of the flock at the farm for posing for photos and giving up their fleeces for us again this year!

Do you have questions? What are your experiences with Mohair – like it? Love it? Leave a comment or come by the Lingr chatroom on Sunday evenings.

Sources/further reading

MacKenzie McCuin, Judith ‘The Intentional Spinner’, Interweave press, 2009.
Albright, Barbara “The Natural Knitter?, Potter Craft 2007
Russo, Robin. Class notes, SOAR 2008.
http://www.cagba.org/ Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association

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Just before I left for Australia (literally that morning) I got this fabulous DVD by Jacey Boggs of Insubordiknit in the post. I tossed it in my bag and took it with me, mentally adding it to the list of spinny things to do while hanging out with my mum.

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I didn’t really know what to expect, although I’ve seen Jacey’s work around and knew that the content of the DVD would probably not be leaning towards the conservative - I wasn’t wrong! Coils, slubs, beads, loops, foreign objects, you name it, it’s in there. And the DVD production is top quality, with great navigation menus, on-screen tips and plenty of excellent camera angles.

A word about Art Yarns. It really bugs me when people say to beginners “Oh don’t worry - what you’re spinning is Art Yarn - lol!” Saying this about beginner yarn diminishes the incredible skill that someone like Jacey needs to produce the yarns included in this DVD. Watch a short clip and you’ll soon see that these techniques are not something you’ll be an instant expert at. In fact, one of the first things Jacey says is to put down the DVD and come back later if you’re not an experienced spinner. I love that she is honest about the skills required and doesn’t try to either mislead people about the content, or dumb down the techniques for the less experienced. With so much around now for beginner spinners, it’s refreshing to find something that’s really aimed at the more advanced.

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Each set of techniques is grouped in the DVD and nicely organised so they build on each other. So, later down the line when doing coils, you might be using a technique you learnt back in segment one. For the first watching at least, I’d definitely recommend sitting through the whole DVD in order to get a sense of all the different skills, then gather your materials and have a go at the ones that appeal to you most.

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Jacey speaks clearly, and not too fast, explaining the techniques, wheel set-up and materials very clearly. At the same time, dot points pop up on the screen to help the core skills sink in. She repeats each technique several times, with a close-up camera angle, and you can even set the DVD to loop the clip over and over for each technique. The instructions were so clear and memorable that Mum and I were able to try out some of the techniques the next day before watching a second time, although we did ask each other a lot of questions!

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Jacey has two friends with her in the DVD, working on the same techniques but including some modifications which were interesting to learn about. For example, one of the spinners had a small oriface and Jacey pointed out several times the modifactions needed for a particular technique in this case. I was disappointed, however, that we didn’t really get to see much of the other spinners working. At least a couple of times, Jacey mentions what one of the others is doing, but we don’t get a chance to see it close-up and compare to the main yarn. I also found myself wondering several times which wheel direction was used. From watching closely, it appears that Jacey uses the standard spin-z ply-s convention, but in a few places I would feel more comfortable with a confirmation on this, especially where plying singles with threads etc.

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Overall, I strongly encourage any spinner looking for some new learning to get this DVD. The bright, funky yarns may not be to your personal taste (and you all know that I am definitely Miss Conservative when it comes to handspun), but even if you don’t see yourself creating yarn with halos or eyeballs, look beyond that to the fantastic techniques that are covered. There are definitely yarns in there that I will spin, and there are loads and loads of techniques which are applicable in other yarn types and which I am now really keen to master.

Thanks Jacey for a great resource! Learn more at www.insubordiknit.com

(Photos from top: cocoons by Mum, racing stripes by Mum, cocoons by me, beehive coils by me. Please note, these are our first attempts!!)

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