Dogged pursuit of completion

But for the binding off and sewing on of 12 buttons, Feather’s boot socks are finished! They will be incomplete until they are actually measured against her legs when we see her, and little brother, Gus, on  Wednesday.  Her legs were measured in April. It’s a rare six year old child that doesn’t grow by leaps and bounds during the summer. Despite pleas for length measurement this past month no one has taken the time. So, they’ve been knit an extra inch but am resisting the urge to bind-off and be done, just in case.
(Last row in progress – I didn’t want to once again forget to take a picture. I hope Feather will be willing to model them.)DSC03733
The Never-Ending project that was begun in midwinter has been one dog-gone challenge after another. The one that started out on the Great Wheel. No, it goes back earlier in time. To a retired, slightly built woman who dearly loved her companion Great Pyrenees with all her heart. She often told the community dinner workers of his exploits during the previous week.  Then one week she arrived with bruises and sore muscles. He had almost pulled her arm out of socket dragging her down the sidewalk. It hadn’t been the first time but apparently the most uncontrollable. Her doctor told her in no uncertain terms that if she wanted to live she had to find the dog, which outweighed her, a home that could love him and safely exercise him.  She begged Ed to ask me if I’d spin the hair removed during his weekly visit to the groomer. The next week, even before hearing my answer, she arrived at the dinner dragging 2 garbage bags full of dog hair.  AKA Chiengora. Over 3 pounds of the stuff!
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I separated the dark hairs from the white, dividing the various shades of grey into little batches. Though it smelled a bit doggy, for the most part it was clean and not obnoxious. The spinning commenced with cheerful attitude, curious about how it would spin up and eager not only for the experience of spinning chiengora but getting to know the Great Wheel better.

Except. There were a great deal of short cut ends. Everywhere. The hair in the second bag was quite dirty, though it didn’t seem to have the short bits. That bag was set aside. I tried spinning it alone. Blending it with BFL wool on hand cards and with combs. The cards worked better though I was slow. I’d card during the evening news then spend the next 20 minutes or so spinning it. Night after night. Short dog hairs flew covered the floor around the Wheel and flew through the air. I doggedly carded and spun the small increments.

Several weeks into the journey Dog Lady and I met at the community dinner and I mentioned that it was slow going what with all the short cut ends. Would she be happy with handwarmers? No? A scarf or hat perhaps? No, she didn’t want something to wear. Oh dear.

By the time the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival rolled around in April Ed knew I needed some serious help if I was ever to be free of the task. He talked with JoAnn Duncan who was set up with their drum carders across from our booth. He returned to tell me that JoAnn will teach me how to use it first thing in the morning. The last smallest one was coming home!

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Even blended with longer staple wool, it wasn’t very cooperative. It wanted to spin either very thin or thick. I never did find that good consistent lace weight that I was aiming for. I finally decided to stop fighting and let it spin fingering and not ply it so that it wouldn’t be too bulky. Hairy stuff!

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Eventually the loose floating hairs started bothering me to the point that it didn’t take long before sneezing and mild itching would occur during the spinning.  By then I’d spun up several cops. It was time to stop. I was plotting to weave a simple tapestry of a Great Pyrenees head against a green background.
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I’ve had second, third thoughts about the decision not to ply. There is so much thin/thick variation that might be evened out, or made more obvious.

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For now, when I come to a too thin area I remove the thin spot entirely, skipping ahead to where the yarn is thicker.

It’s not the wisest, speediest course of action to not only tackle a new, temperamental fiber, but a brand new loom. A tapestry loom. Something I haven’t touched since we moved from the Navajo rez when I was 17 and didn’t have the space to lug the huge loom my brother had built for me after I fell in love with weaving in 8th grade home ec.

With pamphlet manual on the table I warped the loom. With a limited amount of spun Chiengora (indeed, there are still pounds in the bags) I didn’t want to take the chance of using it for the warp, nor does it have a high twist. The cotton that I’d spun on the Great Wheel before embarking on the dog hair seemed perfect for the job.  Setting the dog picture behind the loom the weaving commenced and all was looking acceptable as it progressed to under the chin where I started introducing some greys. (Doesn’t this sound good! In reality it looks quite elementary!) Thrilled at how quickly it was coming along I  entertained the notion that I’d be done with dog hair within a week.
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Oh. But. Do you see that wispy bit of white curling up just above the green on the left? Note the sagging bits over to the right, just about the working line. Nope, it didn’t do any good to tighten the warp. To my horror the cotton warp was unraveling with each beat of my little hand fork. There weren’t enough tricks up my sleeve to stop a weak warp from stretching and separating. The cotton had been spun and plyed without thought to what it might be used for. There was not enough twist to handle the beating that a warp must endure. Scissors were brought out, the warp and partial tapestry cut off. Digging tencel yarn out of my stash the loom was rewarped and the weaving begun again.

The execution is so vastly slower than the telling it’s hard to believe that I’m only up to the nose. The set-back  dampened the remaining  scent for the hunt that developed when I could smell the end coming. For now I’ve been playing with Ed’s GW #3, trying to pinpoint that sweet set-up for a good sustained spin of the wheel. Once OFFF is over I plan to tackle the loom again and complete the task once and for all. We won’t be selling at OFFF but we plan to demonstrate GW3 at the Aurora Colony Handspinner’s Guild booth on the lawn on Sunday. Saturday afternoon, the 28th we’ll be demonstrating spinning, with spindles and GW, at the Marquam Hills Alpaca Ranch which is only 4 miles from us, and 16 miles from Canby (OFFF). They will be having an open house /barn that afternoon and invited us to demonstrate. They have a wonderful Alpaca set-up, friendly Great Pyrenees dogs, lots of friendly alpacas and a store area with their products.  The winery/vineyard next door to their place is also have a wine tasting event that day.

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Author: Wanda J

I never dreamed my life would be entangled with fiber and the tools used to produce fibery items. When I bought a boat shuttle Ed looked at it, decided to make a better one and the rest is history. For a decade he made shuttles, crochet hooks, knitting needles, until his spindles became so popular that he had to devote his time to making them, as well as Great Wheels aka Walking Wheels. Free time is spent reading, trying to coax food from the ground, and playing in the creek near our place. I love long walks and camping far from crowds. Playing my fiddle beside a stream or with good friends brings sweetness to my soul. Sundays we try to set aside for worshiping God with our small Quaker meeting.

6 thoughts on “Dogged pursuit of completion”

  1. I saved my dog’s hair for a year. Still haven’t spun it yet, and now I am nervous to try! All those short bits flying around will not make my allergies happy. Guess I should wait for winter. I kind of fell out of love with the idea when I realized I didn’t actually want to wear dog hair. The idea of a tapestry is much more appealing.

  2. Oh my, you did bite off a big dog project, didn’t you! 😉

    I will look forward to seeing you on Sunday at OFFF. My parents had to delay their trip so will probably be here then, but I think they will be up to an excursion to see something new (to them).

  3. I hope you show some finished pictures of the tapestry. What a lot of work! My dog sheds terribly. I am constantly vaccuming and there are still dog hair bunnies roaming around. I’ve often wondered if there was someone who’d like to spin and knit a black retriever sweater! Right now my life is turned upside down. My husband had a heart attack and is in hospital waiting for bypass surgery. Going back and forth to the hospital is about all I do these days and knitting handwarmers is what calms me down.

  4. Oh, wow. I have never had the least temptation to spin Tilly’s fur, and I think you’ve just reinforced that! That said, I understand why you’re doing this, and I know your friend will treasure it forever.

  5. This tale reminds me of the story of my spinning 19 skeins of shelty hair for someone’s grandfather only to have said grandfather pass away 3 weeks after completion of the project. Who knows what happened to all that yarn.

  6. What a project. You are too nice. I have been learning the hard way to say no more…..seems a lot of people want a lot.
    These days my time has become more limited. I am helping Steve at the shop and helping tutor my grandkids…..yeah…..
    Oh, and I murdered my computer (I was provoked), so I am email-less…..you may not hear from me often, but it was good to catch up today.
    Sounds like your garden was very productive, and the great wheel! Man, would I love to try one of those!
    I know your dog project will be gorgeous……I hope it is more than appreciated!
    Have a great fall.

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