18 January 2012

Wool Carding

As our sheep flock has slowly increased, so has our supply of wool.  I had every intention of learning to spin it myself but I lacked a few essentials: the time and the tools.  Now that my time isn't occupied with knocking down plaster or painting walls or refinishing trim like a madwoman, I'm finding I have more precious time to complete other items on my wishful to-do list.  Like spinning wool.

It was so nice of Jack to get me a pair of antique (but still very useful!) wool carders for our anniversary.  Other than several sets of knitting needles, electric shears, bags and bags of wool from Magnus, Cardigan, Milly and Matilda and a Turkish drop spindle gifted to me by my mom over the holidays, carders were the only link in the chain preventing me going from wiry hair off a ruminant to a handmade sweater.
Carding wool made it onto my daily list a few nights ago.  I had watched a couple videos, read a tutorial and got to the point I felt comfortable with the idea.  After the activities calmed for the evening, I hauled out a bag of pristine Magnus wool:
Okay, so wool right off a ram is anything but pristine.  It's tangled with dirt, twigs, seeds, etc and most notably, is drenched with lanolin--the greasy oil that keeps sheep water resistant, giving sheep a very distinct odor.

I plunged right in.  Carding isn't the most stimulating thing I've ever done, but it's actually kind of relaxing, like brushing out an animal without any of the struggle.

After a few attempts, I successfully got the fibers all lying the same direction, removed from the carders and gently rolled into a rolag.  I made a few to get used to do it, hoping that I'd be able to do it faster the next time I tried.  Those wispy rolags I made will make feet of spun yarn.  They were put together with scant morsels of wool, which means the pounds and pounds of untouched fiber remaining will make more yarn than I'll ever know what to do with.

My hands were greasy and it smelled like Magnus had been trotting around our apartment by the time I finished.

However, it was an interesting experience.  I told Jack it was something I'm glad I didn't have to do--if I wanted wool socks, I could go to the store and buy them rather than debating whether or not my feet would freeze off in the night should I choose not to spin and knit socks by the fire.
Spinning is certainly a fading art that I find engrossing, not because it is particularly challenging but because of the link it holds to my ancestor's everyday life.  Nothing could help me appreciate them more than to spend a few moments doing the same menial chores they did.

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