Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spinning Bamboo - Tips

Spinning Bamboo is challenging, but I've been enjoying it. I've been spinning it on my lightweight Golding spindle, the tsunami. My best advice is to pull out and spin from very small tufts of the fiber. Otherwise it's difficult to handle because it is very fine and can tangle easily. Spinning in very small tufts, I can preserve the color variegation. You can see it in the first photo - in the fiber and on the spindle. The brownish colors are actually very similar but with careful spinning you can prevent them from blending too much and getting muddy.
To achieve this, I sort of stripped the hank of fiber so that it's in thin, very long strips. To spin, I pull out about five small tufts, three or four inches long as you see in the second photo. There's no strict rule - you can pull out about 10 tufts if you wish. It's simply for convenience to have them at hand when you are ready to join them to what you've already got on the spindle.
As you can see on the spindle, the result is a fine singles with a very nice sheen. It can be spun thin because it's very strong.

Cormo & Bamboo

More bamboo - this time blended. I bought some 70 percent cormo wool/30 percent bamboo fiber at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival and I finally got around to spinning up some of it. I used the Andean plying technique to see what a 2-ply would look like. I spun the fiber on my Golding medium-weight spindle. I love the brilliant colors, and the texture. It wasn't combed top, more like roving, so it comes out with a nice nubbly texture.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Plying Experiment

My experiments plying a singles with plain sewing thread really didn't work well at all. However, I was inspired to try to spin directly with the thread, then ply the resulting yarn on itself. That created an interesting helical effect (because they were different colors). You can see it in the photo - it's the one on the left. Try and click on the photo and you will be able to see a very enlarged version so the effect will be really clear.

Then I wanted to try it with yarn I made, instead of sewing thread. So, follow the bouncing ball (of yarn!):
- I spun a singles Z twist
- I plied the singles S twist
So far, normal two ply yarn.
- Then I spun the yarn Z twist with some fiber.
- Then I plied the resulting yarn S twist on itself.
I got the same interesting helical effect as with the thread, of course. It wasn't terribly uniform, so it created a sort of interesting funky yarn. It's in the photo, on the right. I think it's overspun and overplied.
I want to see how it knits up - I fear it might not be very attractive.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Catch-up - MD Sheep & Wool, Recent Inspirations

So, no postings since February...that is embarrassing. Put it down to doing, not writing about doing.

Over the last several months I've been part of a team learning to spin raw wool for a sheep-to-shawl competition. Summary - 5 team members, 3 hours to shear a sheep, spin its wool and weave it into a shawl. We were to compete at Maryland Sheep & Wool, but there were tremendous circumstances (really, forces of fate!) against us so we withdrew. We haven't disbanded though, and we will be giving demonstrations and I'm sure practicing in the coming months. I'm really glad I had a chance to get to know the members of my team, and I want to thank Anne at Star Gazing Farm, in Maryland. Anne participated as our shearer, and agreed to provide the sheep, Gruff. Check out her website - It's a rescue farm, so if you're an animal lover you'll understand the work Anne does.

Recent product - this handspun. I don't have enough for a large project. Perhaps it will be good for a hat.

So Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival was the first weekend in May, and though our team didn't compete at the festival, it was inspiring. I wanted to try drop spindle again to see if I can actually gain some proficiency. So I bought two Golding spindles and I have been enjoying them tremendously. Over the last two weeks I have spent hours practicing and I have gotten much better. Yes, it still drops, but it's getting easier!!

I really like spinning merino wool, but at the sheep and wool festival there are more unusual fibers available so I like to try those. Bamboo is getting very popular, and straight bamboo and blends were available at the festival. I bought some 100 percent bamboo to try with the drop spindle. The colorway is Rainforest. I didn't realize it would be so tricky to spin - very fine, slippery. It doesn't have scales like on wool to make the fibers naturally grab each other.
Another one of my purchases was a nostepinne. It's a simple tool (a thick, tapered dowel, really) to wrap a center-pull ball of yarn. There is a good description and instructions at

After the festival, at Nature's Yarns I bought the book Fiber Gathering by Joanne Seiff. There was a good section on Andean plying, which motivated me to learn that skill. I recommend the book - it's got fun descriptions of the fiber festivals all around the US, focusing on the unique flavor of each. Makes me want to jump in an old VW microbus and go to each show! The book also has projects, and great pictures.
All in all, it's been a very rich fiber immersion week since Maryland Sheep & Wool!