Some Blog Updates Posted on 8 Aug 14:48 , 0 comments

I often receive questions about my spinning and dyeing techniques. I had some blog posts about these in my garden website blog. For ease of referral, I’ve moved the three most requested blog posts here, in the Technique sub blog, so there is some continuity in information. You can still read these, along with topics such as what to plant on a steep slope or observations about garden wildlife, on my garden site, but if you are a spinner, it seems this is a better place to find them.

A Sheepish Admission Posted on 3 Jul 21:05 , 0 comments

Words are important. I firmly believe in the proper naming of things. As an avid gardener, I know my plants by their botanical names (and, often, when doing a garden tour, have a hard time remembering all the common names). Names make the unknown known. Give something a name and it can be distinguished from other things. As a skier, for example, it is useful to distinguish powder, corduroy, corn, crud or graupel. Armed with the right terms, you can talk more easily about snow conditions with other skiers.  

 I am, therefore, somewhat sheepish that I don’t use the proper names for wool preparation. Why, you might ask. Isn’t that important for a wool dyer? Well, yes it is, but times change. So, what’s the deal? There are different types of long “packages” of COMMERCIAL wool preparation. One is a combed preparation called “top. ” Another other is a carded preparation called “roving.” Top has the fibers straightened and aligned parallel to the “rope” with the short fibers sorted out. It is ready for “worsted” spinning. Roving, on the other hand, is not sorted and the fibers are more loosely straightened and drawn with a little twist put in to keep it from falling apart in the machines. Sliver is thick version of either combed or carded, partially drawn out with no twist. In “mill talk” the sliver is a thick rope which will be drawn out more to become roving before spinning. (An interesting side note, when referring to COTTON preparation, the word, “sliver” is pronounced with a long i…when talking about worsted wool preparation, it is pronounced with a short i.) In addition, there is also pencil roving, lap, pin drafted top and more.


Maia with bumps of top, not roving

So, since there are all these nice words for different kinds of preparation, why don’t we all use them? When I first started spinning in the 1960’s, there was much more consciousness about terminology, but that has shifted rather radically. My hypothesis is that the more prevalent use of the word “roving” for all of these various preparations is related to the internet. Both the word “top” and “sliver” have a plethora of non-textile related definitions. Searching on the internet becomes a much more difficult problem with those terms. Roving as a noun is more specific to textiles, so you are more likely zero in on what you want as a spinner. On Etsy, for example, if you put in the word ‘top,’ you received over 2 million results which are mostly not about spinning. If you type in roving, you get 47K items which are about wool for spinning and felting. The last two decades of searching on the internet has, I believe, altered how we use terms. Language changes, new words are added, old ones fall away, and words are twisted into new meanings.  I sincerely doubt that we shall really return to the ‘proper’ mill terminologies anytime soon, any more than we are likely to return to the original definition of the word ‘nice’ or ‘bully.’ (Look up the etymology of those words!)

Something Old, Something New Posted on 25 May 12:00 , 0 comments

Today, my keyboard to my desktop computer died. This was an old and venerable piece of equipment. One that I have kept, transferring it across many computer upgrades. It has large, high keys and the E, O, L, M, N, S, and R markings are totally worn off from the touch of my fingertips. It is filled with decades of biscotti crumbs from the accompaniments to my morning cappuccinos. This last factor was the death knell. It was the spacebar that finally made me abandon my old friend. I pulled caps and used Q-tips and small cotton pads to no avail. Most of the rest of the keys revived their original action, but the spacebar was the hold out.

Mike dug around through our graveyard of old equipment and stores of new equipment. After three tries, he found a similar mate to my old keyboards of about the same vintage. Hallelujah!  I know that this will NOT be the same, just a slightly different action, just the tiniest change in responsiveness, but it is a good substitute.

Our house is one when the past and the future collide quite frequently. We have the usual accoutrements of new electronic gadgets and yet I tend to be very habitual and traditional with my tools. I still like nothing more than a fine cast iron pan, I bemoan the loss of my 1920’s side flip toaster which made the very BEST toast. It was sold, I think, as I was raising money for my pipe dream of a sheep station in Australia! It’s true about spinning wheels, too.

This loss and mourning of my keyboard is similar to my love affair with my original Lendrum spinning wheel. I bought the wheel in the late 1970’s back in the days when I taught spinning in a couple of shops that were carrying these new-fangled wheels. I still have and use that wheel. It’s showing more than a little wear; Mike is afraid that perhaps the main wheel bearing is wearing. I’m afraid, its days are numbered. A few years ago, I found a single treadle Lendrum in Canada and promptly bought it. Double treadles were easy to find, but the ST’s are a bit scarcer (I’m a ST girl all the way). I brought it home, removed the solid wood footman and installed a soft wire footman which I prefer on this wheel. Similar to this keyboard, though it looks the same, there is an ever so slightly different action. Nothing someone who hadn’t used my old wheel (or old keyboard) for literally decades would notice. But there is a just slightly perceptible difference. I do hope that I can adjust to my keyboard as well as I have adjusted to my new (now 5 years old) spinning wheel!