Friday, August 27, 2010

Skuld Spins Stuff

My week at home has happily coincided with a series of spinning workshops run by Seema and Janelle of the Carbon Footprint Workshop. I find the inspiriation for and behind the project really interesting - using local wool and the spinning thereof as a metaphor for climate change and how economics has changed. Wheras Donegal wool and the products made from it are sought after commodities around the world, in Donegal the wool is virtually valueless, with farmers using the raw fleece from their sheep for soaking up tractor oil. By spinning and knitting, felting, crocheting with our own local wool, we are avoiding the heavy carbon consequence that might otherwise be incurred turning this raw material into something deemed to be of "value", for example by flying to the Far East for cleaning, spinning and making into a garment, before being flown to North America for retail You can read more about this project, as well as it's goals and inspirations, over at the Carbon Footprint Project blog. The upshot of all this is that Seema and Janelle are teaching the people of Inishowen to spin, huzzah! I've spun with a drop spindle before, having got my first for my birthday nearly exactly a year ago (you can see some of my spinning here. Last Saturday I got to fulfill a long time ambition - to spin on a wheel!

I really really enjoyed spinning on the wheel, and it didn't take that long to get the hang of....well, kind of! What I did find much harder to get the hang of was using the raw fleece, as is Seema's preference. When spinning with my drop spindle, I've always used fibre which has been carded. Carding is taking the raw fleece, which is an bit of a jumble, and either carding it on hand carders or using a drum carder, to literally comb the fibres to all the strands lie along the same direction.Also, previous to this I've always pre-drafted my fibre. Drafting is a little tricky to describe....Well, if you imagine you have a big thick hank of your carded fibre - you're not going try and spin that all in one go, are you? Your yarn would be as thick as your wrist, and also would be far too thick to hold much twist, which is what makes yarn different from roving (the carded fibre). Drafting is the process whereby when spinning, you tease out a few strands form the mass, and spin these, achieving a much thinner yarn which holds a lot of twist. When spinning on my drop spindle, I always did this teasing before hand, as I couldnt' seem to acheive the knack of doing it while I was spinning. And this seems to hold true for spinning on the wheel also - I just couldn't really seem to get the knack of drafting as I spun, and as a consequence, my spun yarn is pretty bumpy with big bits of fluff in it. I think I could get the hang of this drafting malarky with more practice though.

I'm delighted with my first wheel experience. The trouble now is that, while previous to this, I wanted a wheel but knew it would be crazy to buy one when I had no idea how to use one, now I have just enough competence to maybe (but not really) legitimately buy one. I guess in some ways it's lucky for me that they're so darn expensive! I doubt I'll be getting one for a while, but I'll defiantely be keeping my eyes open in used furnitures shops and of course, the best website ever.

Right now I'm on a bus back to Galway, just sobering up from mini-birthday celebrations last night (it's my birthday this Sunday but Galway is awful far from Donegal). This week I have also been crocheting a cardigan, but in my drunken rush to get the bus this morning, I left my camera behind. Boo! So pictures of it and the other spinning workshop I attended will have to wait. 

Be good y'all.


  1. That sounds like great fun. Spinning wheels are really nice, who knows you might find one...

  2. Nicely put miss Skuld, I might have to nick that for the carbon footprint blog.
    As we speak there is a pot on my stove cooking up red onion skins with which to dye my first proper carbon footprint skein. I hope it works! Oh the joys of crafting.
    I'm going to come visit as soon as i can. Can we knit in the sun?

  3. Wow, soon you'll be raising sheep in the back garden--can't wait! :) Also looking forward to seeing the progress on the cardigan!