Happy 2018, dear readers! I truly hope that you all have had a wonderful holiday season, especially a merry Christmas. I, however, have spent a good portion of my Christmas break doing something rather unusual: hands-on extreme research.
I believe I've mentioned in a previous post that I had recently received some wool from a local farm, and that I intended to make yarn out of it. Well, I've made maybe 25 feet of yarn so far, and I've learned quite a few things about the yarn-making process. Mainly, I've come to respect anyone who lived before the Industrial Revolution.
Before I did anything with the wool, I had to pick the vegetable matter out of it. This wool was dirty. It was a strange yellowish-brown color, smelly, oily, and full of leaves and sticks and hay. I haven't picked out any bugs (yet), but some of the stranger things I've seen include food pellets and the seed pods of grasses. There were also dark bits that were probably dung, but I tried not to think about that.
I wasn't able to get all of the vegetable matter out, so I washed my wool after picking out the larger pieces. By the time I'd finished washing it (very gently, so it wouldn't turn into felt), the wool was white and fluffy and ready to be brushed out, or carded. Carding was fun. I had to wait until Christmas to get my wool combs, which are more like Wolverine claws than anything else. I brushed the unruly wool into wonderful, weightless balls of fluff called rolags. and was delighted to learn that most of the vegetable matter fell out of the wool while I carded.
And then came spinning. One rolag only serves for 5-10 minutes' spinning, depending on its size of the rolag and the thickness of the yarn. And even after it was spun it wasn't thick enough to use, so I had to fold it in half and make it two-ply. Then, I set the twist by soaking it in water, beating it against the wall, and hanging it to dry with a weight on the end.
The main thing I learned was that wool processing, although not incredibly difficult, is time-consuming. After two to three hours of cleaning, washing, carding, and spinning, I have enough yarn for maybe the cuff of a mitten. The hardest part is tearing the rolag off the wool comb, and keeping the yarn the same thickness as you spin.
The thing about hands-on research is that you learn things most books won't tell you. I now know first-hand how oily, dirty, and smelly wool is before it's washed. I know that brushing through wool isn't as easy as it looks. I know that you hold the wool combs at an awkward angle, so extensive carding might result in an aching right forearm. (Either that, or I'm holding the combs wrong). And yes, there will be bits of hay and grass in your yarn.
But I also know that holding a rolag that's been folded up in a nice, neat ball is like holding a cloud. It's weightless--you can hardly feel it resting in your palm--but it's warm. It's almost like supporting a baby's head with your hand. I love that feeling.
Do you have any questions about wool processing? What's the coolest thing you've made with yarn--or any material, for that matter? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.