I just had to take a spinning class with Judith MacKenzie, even if it meant abandoning Ed alone with the masses Saturday afternoon. Thankfully Jocelyn juggled her class schedule to free up the 3 hour block Saturday afternoon to help in the booth, leaving me to stretch my spinning skills.
Other than a Navajo spinning class and a colorwork one on spinning hand painted rovings I had not taken any other spinning class or workshop and felt the desperate need to expand my knowledge under someone of excellent repute.
Socks Exotica: Five fiber companions for socks! This site greeted us as we entered the workshop room. Fiber from the back left: big ball of BFL/Silk Top (didn’t get the percentage), middle back – Cashmere, right back – baby alpaca, ecru pile in front of BLF – unbleached Tussah silk, coils of colored fiber in front – 50/50 Cashmere Silk. All of which are great for plying together to make socks.
Judith explained that 3 or more plys are best for socks, spinning the singles from combed top in a true worsted manner make for the sturdiest, long wearing socks.
I had assumed that my favorite method of spinning was worsted having always preferred spinning from the tip of combed top with the fibers parallel. Turns out it was a modified worsted.
Side story: When I was first shown to spin I drafted by pulling the fibers forward with my spindle hand, my left hand basically stationary. Upon getting a wheel 2 years into my spinning journey I took it to the monthly spinning guild and proceeded to do what felt right; draw the fiber forward with my forward hand (my right hand, fiber in the left). One of the ladies told me that I needed to be drawing back with my fiber hand, thus I learned to work the wheel with my left hand and arm sweeping back to draft out then forward to feed the single onto the bobbin. The method became an entrenched method.
When Judith stopped to check my work she told me to brace my left elbow against the back of the chair and draft using only small forward movements with my right wrist, the thumb and fingers pulling out the fibers only a very short distance while the left hand is basically stationary. About half an inch to an inch! Oh my, shades of early violin lessons and practicing with my right shoulder to elbow braced against a wall so the bow arm does not swing back and forth in a sawing motion. The other action I needed working on for a true worsted was/is not lifting my right thumb and fingers to get the next bit of fiber but to slide them in order to keep the twist from advancing in front of the fingers and into the fiber. All the twist needs to stay between the wheel and the forward hand. (Right hand positioned palm up.)
We started out with the BFL/Silk, a lovely blend. Then the cashmere/silk blend was handed out and spun on a new bobbin. mmm, nice stuff! Then on to the grams of pure cashmere. The soft but short fibers were a real challenge, mostly wanting to be drafted too fine for plying with the 2 previous singles. We were also given baby alpaca and the Tussah Silk Top to spin but I was still concentrating on getting a feel for the small thumb/finger motion and a consistent thickness.
About then the class became even more informal with people asking questions and I seized the opportunity to ask her how she would handle cashmere that had been dehaired but not combed or carded.
With her large hand carders she placed fluffs of cashmere along the edge and showed how to gentle card, not meshing the teeth together at all, then she spun directly from the carder working her short forward draw across from side to side. I haven’t yet tried this with the cashmere I have but am hoping to do some this week.
Judith also demonstrated how she controls the singles with her left hand, bobbins at an angle, and no tensioning. At all. She wants the bobbins to rotate freely without any unnecessary pulling with the left hand.
Judith is a wonderful teacher! So much spinning knowledge readily shared in her calm, quiet manner. I’d love to learn more from her in the future!
I still haven’t spun the alpaca nor the Tussah silk, instead I finished spinning the cashmere then plyed the three singles together. Having initially spent a good chunk of time spinning the BLF/Silk combo as Judith worked on our short draw there was more yardage of it than of the other two. When the cashmere (also white) and the red cashmere/silk singles ran out (they were pretty evenly matched) I wrapped the remainder of the BLF/silk onto a nostie then center-pulled plyed it back on itself making an additional 17 yards of 2-ply BLF/Silk at the end of 35 yards of the 3-ply. I plan to knit this into a sampler and see how it washes and dries. Judith claims that cashmere isn’t prone to shrinking and felting (that I must test, for sure!) which is one reason she likes to use it in socks, plus it’s gloriously soft and cushy.