Saturday, September 8, 2012

Spinning and Weaving

I thought I'd show a little of what I do at el Rancho de las Golondrinas. Cay took some photos yesterday.

Spinning on the malacate:

This predates the spinning wheel. In this photo, I'm working on rug yarn. The amount of wool you let out as you spin determines how thick (or thin) the yarn is.

That big puffy stuff I'm pulling thread from is called "roving", it's wool from our sheep at the ranch, and has been milled so that all the fibers go in one direction and can be worked with easily.  This is the natural color of some of the sheep on the ranch.  The roving can be black, white, or shades of grey depending on the color of the sheep.

After the yarn is spun, we wash it, stretch it, and often take it down to the dye shed to be died with natural dyes which we also make at the ranch.  Last week I was working in the dye shed, but have no photos.  Hopefully I'll have some photos after Ren Fair on the 22nd.

Yesterday I was also practicing on the loom. The loom I was using was over 200 years old.  Working with a loom is a little like a miniature work out. You have pedals on the floor, kinda like a little step machine, and you're reaching with the shuttle, then pulling with the beater, so it's stretch, step, pull, push, stretch... all day long.

I didn't have too much trouble with it, but I know sometimes new weavers have back pain at first.

Right now I have a couple skeins of yarn stretching off the bathroom curtain rod, being prepared for the dying process.  One is Cay's, the other is mine.  I'm thinking now that I'll leave my skein undyed, and because it's thicker, use it as an accent texture on my first full weaving piece, and today I'll be spinning out some slightly thinner yarn from both grey and white sheep to make the body of the project (we each get to make a large satchel or purse) and dye the thinner yarn.

One of the things that's interested me in all this the amount of ingenuity people had 200 years ago, and how your average person was involved in multiple activities that involved some degree of skill.  These days people don't create as much, except as a hobby, and then generally for show rather than as a practical use item.