One of my goals for this little farm, is to create a special blend of yarn, wool and roving from our lovely flock of Shetland sheep and Angora rabbits. We have 4 beautiful Angora rabbits and the 7 sheep and in the spring, we should have fleeces galore.
Problem is, we’ve never spun or carded wool or anything like that!! Perhaps we ARE putting the cart before the horse, but I just knew in my bones that I would like to be able to spin and create yarn as I enjoy knitting, crocheting and weaving.
We had gotten a lovely pair of Holland wool cards as well as a drop spindle. And of course, several good books to help us out. I’ve been watching YouTube videos late at night (when we have free access to the internet, instead of the measured service during the day) and watching as all manners of people spin and card and pick their wool.
Problem is, we were afraid to just get in there and try it.
We were going to spend the day putzing and cleaning, but then we did that the day before very throughly and there wasn’t a whole lot left to do! (Having half of your house locked away makes it easier to keep the active half clean and tidy!) Since we had gotten that couple inches of snow as promised and it was barely 15 degrees out, it seemed to be a good thing to stay home and stay put. So I got this little bug in my ear that today should be a good day to give it a whirl. Let’s try and create some yarn. What would be the worse situation? We would mess up. But learning is all about trying and failing and trying again until you get it right. Jessy was game, so we got started.
We have this big bag of bunny fluff that weighs nearly four or five pounds! That is a LOT of bunny wool! It is fairly clean and nicely picked free of lumps and straw and little icky bits that wool likes to gather. Mostly white, but with a little bit of Odin’s light carmel wool in there. And a little grey from Gwennie.
We began by loading up one of the cards with fiber, by drawing it across the little metal picks. It looks almost like a wire dog hair brush, but they are bigger and curved. After you load up one card, you draw the other over and start to align the fibers. Wool has this lovely feature, a sort of little barbs on it, that once aligned in the same direction, likes to attach to other fibers in the same direction. Once twisted with the aid of a spindle or a spinning wheel, or a spinning machine, the yard becomes very strong and it is called yarn. Of course, there are lots of variations in the process, but that is basically what happens. Pretty simple, yet we were really unsure of the whole process!
After you card the wool back and forth a few times and pick out any little nasty bits or clumps in the fiber, you then pull it off the card. Our first try was too thin because we really didn’t charge the cards with very much fiber. But second time was much much better. We loaded the fiber on, carded it a bit, and added more until we had a nice considerable batt of wool on it and then worked to make it lovely.
Now, you might wonder why we “card” the wool and not “comb” the wool. Well, there are cards and there are combs! Just that simple. Combing, if I understand it, is done first to some wool, to get it ready for the hand cards or a drum carder. I think we will want a pair of combs, to be honest. I saw a couple videos where people used the combs to pick the wool clean and also to blend various fibers. We might just wait and spring for a nice box comber/picker, which really looks cool and is very reasonably priced.
Once you’re ready to roll off the wool from the card, you are pretty close to getting started spinning! It’s really not that hard. You carefully roll off the carded fiber into a roll that is called a “rolag”. We think that sounds like Viking name for “roll of wool”! You need quite a few rolags to make yarn, so we carded for almost 2 hours and made up 5 nice loads of wool.
Soft fluffy rolags laying and waiting to be spun! I decided to use one of my vintage picnic baskets as a good waiting basket for the rolags! And to store the supplies when we are done.
When you are done carding, you have to create something called roving. You take a tube of wool and gently pull and draw out the fibers to create a sort of thinner long draw of the wool fibers. This is pretty important, because I didn’t do it as nicely to one of the rolags and ugh, it was not pretty. It broke and was really lumpy and just wasted one of our rolags of wool. Drawing the fibers seems to pull in the air gaps and begin the first process of basically, making yarn. We did them one at a time. Draw out a rolag, then spin it. I suppose that you could draw them all out, but we weren’t sure where to lay them to keep them from picking up cat hair or bits of stuff we didn’t want in there. I guess that might be tonight’s YouTube search!
The drop spindle is a curious little devise. Of course, there are top whorl and bottom whorl, Turkish, Greek, Russian and probably a ton of other styles, but basically, it’s just a weighted stick with a little hook on the end. Apparently, they are very easy to make, in a basic form. I thought, at first, that it had one function, and that was to spin yarn. But actually, it sort of does two things. One is to spin or twirl the fiber to make yarn. But then the stick part is to store the yarn that is spun. So you do these two tasks… basically, you attach the fiber bits to the hook and spin, drawing the fiber between your fingers as a sort of gauge or limiter from the yarn spinning crazy. If you’re good, you can “drop” the spindle with a hard spin and then spin your yard until it pretty much hits the ground and your arms are not long enough to hold it up higher. If you’re not good, you can twist the spindle or spin it along your leg, which is slower but a little easier on beginners.
You can see how I was doing it!
But you know what? I didn’t care. All I loved was that I was spinning the very first yardage of Windhaven Angora rabbit yarn and I just was in love with every thin, thick and lumpy bit of that 5 yards of yarn that I made. Jessy was busy trying to get a warp on her inkle loom but was intently watching as I struggled through the process.
I couldn’t believe it! We did it! It might not look like a lot, and yes, 5 yards is not very much, but it was our first yarn and we did it without having hardly a clue or really seeing anyone do it correctly. We learned all from books and the internet. I suppose we did see someone spinning and carding, but you know what I mean. No hand holding mentors to give us guidance!
Now I am totally sure that we are not doing everything book-perfect and that there are going to be TONS of tricks and special ways to do things more effectively, or consistently, but the fact remains… it took us two hours to pick, card, spin and then crochet our first little bit of bunny yarn!!! And most people will agree, that Angora is one of the hardest fibers to spin properly. Most people mix Angora with sheep wool, or alpaca, something else. I would love to try sheep wool now, but I hate to consider shearing any off my babies right now, it’s much too cold for that. And their fiber is still a little short. You need nice 3 to 5 inch locks to really do nice yarn. I think I might order a bit of fleece online, there are lots of people selling it on eBay and such. I want to be much better at this by the time we have our OWN fleeces to work with!
I almost considered just keeping that lovely little first ball of yarn as yarn. But then I thought, I just can’t wait, I need to see how it works, how it crochets! So I decided to make something for Jessy, from her bunny’s wool!!!
Yes, Jessy is probably the only Angora rabbit owner that will have a hand spun, home grown iTouch pouch of her very own!!! I have to spin another 5 yards for the back side, but I think I will wait and blend some yard with sheep wool, so we can compare the two sides!!! Aw… how cool is that?
Of course, it does make a nice Colonial wig for Luna Kitty. Don’t you think?