Thursday, 30 July 2009

Loosen Up!

Processing the Corriedale -- Step 1

The last fibre I chose to spin up for the Tour de Fleece (where cycling-obsessed spinners follow along with the Tour de France) was a lovely bump of 250 grams of dyed Corriedale (a sheep breed with fairly fine, crimpy wool).

At least, it had been lovely in 1999: so soft and fluffy, it filled a large bag when I bought it from Penelope Fibre Arts. Ten years of being stuffed away left it dull, compressed, and stiff as a board: that one piece above is barely five feet long, 1.5" in diameter, and weighs two ounces -- not something that is particularly spinning-friendly.

Processing the Corriedale -- Step 2

So I started by splitting it in half lengthwise and gently worked to widen the resulting pieces: the one on the left (above) has been loosened, while the right "rope" hasn't been. There's a substantial difference, isn't there?

Doing this also gave me the chance to see how the colours were dyed on it -- the yellow really wasn't noticeable at all in the compressed version -- and to check to see what kind of shape the wool really was in. The good news is that there wasn't any damage to it, so I was able to make a better decision about how to spin it.

Processing the Corriedale -- Step 3

I decided to make a fairly thick, two-ply yarn with this roving, so I could spin it up quickly and let some of the colour shifts be fairly subtle at the same time. Having widened the roving to thin it out, I decided to turn it into something a little easier to spin, loosely rolling it up and then gently pulling it lengthwise.

Doing this thins out the fibres from the mass even more, and lets the colour change work over a longer distance.

Processing the Corriedale -- Step 4

By the time I was finished, I had a lovely, long, fluffy collection of fibres, reasonably organized into a worsted-like preparation, and with a gentle colour shift.

Processing the Corriedale -- Step 5

I've finished spinning the first half of this bobbin: you can see the colour shift in the last few turns. When I'm finished spinning the singles and move on to plying, this will definitely give the yarn some visual interest.

Processing the Corriedale -- Step 6

Done! Three good-sized skeins, with just short of 400 yards of two-ply yarn. I've been using one to work on some knitted artifacts for my solo installation show in EPCOR Centre that opens September 4, and I have some thoughts about the other two skeins.

As luck would have it, I have some very fine cotton thread in my stash that is almost the same family of green: not quite sure how I'm going to combine them. Yet.

So stay tuned....

Sunday, 5 July 2009



This last month has been just one thing after another: too busy to do much of anything except keep my head down and work to finish all the commitments I had made.

From the very beginning, I knew June (and the beginning of July) were going to be just crazy, and I wasn't surprised when a few curveballs got thrown my way as well, as they inevitably do.

At least everything that did happen was fun (and remunerative, which always helps when one lives la vie bohème as an artist).

The first mostly public event was running a wine-and-cheese tasting for 45 people as a fund-raiser for a provincial politician: we had six wines from British Columbia, two cheeses from Québec, and one cheese from Alberta. Everyone enjoyed the food, they surpassed their financial goal, and I was asked to run subsequent events, so it's obvious they had a good time.

And then it was off to visit friends who raise organic bison and Scottish Highland cattle for a burger, a tour, and a chance to spend an hour or two getting up close and personal with our food. In fact, when they need to check the animals over thoroughly, the safest way to do it is to get them into the squeeze, shown above.

While we could have camped there on Saturday (just west of Olds), I still had to get ready for my time up at Olds College, so we came back home and then headed back up Sunday morning.

In the afternoon, I judged 50 wool fleeces from 11 different breeds in 90 minutes, which is a lot harder than it sounds. There are specific qualities one needs to address (all on the handy judging form), knowledge of each breed's characteristics (particularly when dealing with crossbreds), and consistency. Hard work, but a lot of fun.

Monday and Tuesday were consumed by my classes, which were full of great students who asked interesting questions and had a lot of fun, from all indications, but I was grateful to get home Tuesday night.

While getting ready Thursday to go down to the Stampede on Friday afternoon, I received a wonderfully surprising and exciting email: I had been chosen for a solo installation exhibition at Calgary's Epcor Centre, starting in September. I'll be posting details on Facebook, so if you haven't already friended me there, you might want to think about doing so.

Ah, to be a fine hieland coo, and spend me days w' nowt t' do....
Hieland coo

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