Christmas Felted Soaps

Now that Christmas is over, it’s safe to start posting some Christmas gifts. One project that we will definitely be making again is felted soap. Little A and I made these soaps for the teachers and staff at her school.

IMG_5123

IMG_5148

IMG_5122

IMG_5127

IMG_5116

IMG_5110

IMG_5114

IMG_5111

These soaps were felted with a combination of natural corriedale from Paradise Fibers, pink and orange merino from Opulent Fibers, and some unnamed fiber that came with the spinning wheel I purchased off of craigslist. I suspect it’s one of Ashland Bay Company’s multi-colored merino. What I love about this multi-colored merino are the stands of color surprise. The top was kind of brown but once it was separated and felted, you could see how the color was produced through the layer of multiple colors.

These rounded soaps from Sappo Hill were the perfect size for a soap felting project as it fit comfortably in our hands as we rubbed and scrubbed the fiber to make it felt.

I followed instructions from Thistlewood Farms, which comes fabulous instructive photos.

IMG_5132

IMG_5130

I think some of the soaps could have been rubbed for a bit longer to make sure the fibers really locked in together. And I would certainly recommend over-doing it rather than under-doing it. I was worried with all the lathering that my soap was shrinking under the felt. It seemed that there was a lot of room between the soap and the wool and that the felt would never shrink and tighten around the soap, as described by KariAnne of Thistlewood Farm. But when it dried, it tightened nicely around the soap so I was anxious for nothing. I guess I still need to learn to trust the process.

What I would try next time is setting up two basins of water, one super and one super cold. Part of the reason that wool felts, in addition to the friction that is necessary to lock the fibers together, is a sudden shift in temperature. I am hoping that in putting the wool-covered soap in the hot and then cold basins back and forth for a few times, this would cut down on the scrubbing that was necessary to felt the fiber. That scrubbing was the most tedious, and Little A grew tired of that quickly so I had to pick up the slack! Aside from that, this was the perfect project for us to do together!

IMG_5137

Un-accessory kinds of “accessories”

I’m not an accessories kind of person. I rarely sport earrings. I don’t wear my engagement ring, and V and I have yet to buy our wedding rings (Yes, we’re married). There have been a few times I regretted not wearing a belt, one of which involved a long line of parents in their cars waiting to pick their children up from school, and me walking by carrying something big and unwieldy while wearing baggy pants.  But enough said. I don’t need to cite all my scenes of humiliation as proof that I’m an accessories-deficient gal. That mutant gene, however, to V’s dismay, does not seem to apply to knitting and spinning.

Perhaps the problem is with the word “accessory” itself, which suggests that it is merely an adornment, an addition, an afterthought, and not something absolutely vitally important, without which you are incapacitated, unable to do your thing and lost at sea.

Therefore, I think all those shops out there that offer spinning supplies–these items should not be listed under “spinning accessories” but under “your right hand” or something like that. So, without further ado, let me share my  [*insert new terminology here that captures how super duper essential these items are]:

IMG_8640

Woolee Winder: The devotion to this ingenious invention is no hype. I don’t know how I can go back to spinning the regular way at all. I never realized how disruptive moving my yarn up and down the hooks was to both my spinning rhythm and to the yarn’s diameter. My spinning has become more consistent since getting this, and it has also helped with evening out my plying, which I still need to work on.

Unlike most folks, I chose to buy only one bobbin because when I bought my used Matchless, it came with some extra bobbins and I didn’t want them to become obsolete. This is the only spinning item that I bought totally new, and I have no regrets. Nada. It was worth every penny.

 

IMG_8642

Bobbin Winder: This item might be perceived as a nice bonus, something you treat yourself to if you happen to find some cash on the sidewalk. I disagree. It is indispensable if you 1) have a woolee winder and only one woolee winder bobbin; 2) want to line up the colors of your singles from the beginning end when you ply; 3) want to redistribute and relax the twist of your singles before plying; and 4) tend to be anal retentive.

Judith MacKenzie McCuin in The Intentional Spinner and Alden Amos in his tome,  Big Book of Handspinningrecommend a bobbin winder to redistribute the twist. They write that it also offers another opportunity to quickly scan your singles for errors before you ply them. And, since I am a bit of a sheep, if the spinning gurus say it’s important to get, I am compelled to follow.

I decided to get the Schacht double ended winder because I wanted to have as many options as possible, and I was lucky to buy this used from another Raveler.

IMG_7790

Someone once asked me about how I spun this shawl. It was because of the bobbin winder that I was able to line my colors up like this, so that the two singles spun from the divided braid were plied from the beginning end, which ensures that the colors line up better than if you were starting to ply from the tail end of the spun yarn.

 

IMG_8635

Styrene Spool/Bobbin: Even with the extra bobbins that came with my used spinning wheel, I needed more bobbins. Unlike the Matchless bobbins (example on the left) which cost around $38, these ones (example on right) are made by LeClerc and cost $3.75 each at The Woolery. The only minor complaint that I have about this is that LeClerc advertises this as being able to hold up to 8 oz. Perhaps if you are using really thinly- and tightly-spun yarn or thread it’s possible, but I was only able to wind 2 oz onto each. Still, it’s a great deal, and I plan on getting more so that I can have enough to start spinning adult-sized sweaters. A couple of other things to note are 1) that you can’t tension them and 2) I don’t know the difference between a spool and a bobbin.

 

IMG_8653

Spinner’s Control Card: This card keeps me in check, and often confirms, despite my intentions to vary my spinning, that yes, I’m spinning yarn that is 28 wpi.

 

IMG_8638

Digital Scale: I bought this small cheapo item shortly after I took Kim Eichler-Messmer’s class on percentage dyeing. A digital scale is absolutely necessary to measure the amount of dye powder in the dye solutions. However, since we’re currently living in a tiny apartment and I haven’t had a chance to break out my dyes, I’ve been using it to make sure that I’m dividing my fiber up evenly. I don’t mean to totally brag (just partially), but since using this scale to divide up my fiber, the length of my singles are usually no more than a few meters apart, and I am able to ply virtually all my yarn without much left over. If I had planned ahead and realized it was also going to do double-duty and also weigh my fibers, I probably would have purchased a slightly bigger scale.

There are probably other things out there that I *absolutely* need that I haven’t yet discovered. It will be a paradigm shift when I do. I just know it.

What about you? Do you have something that you can’t do without–that enables you to turn straw into gold?

 

 

Moonrover Magic

IMG_7509

If ever there is doubt about the magic of spinning, then all you need is to spin one of these batts from Lacey Ziemkiewicz of Moonrover to become a believer. The layers of color are painterly, like an abstracted landscape rolled up into a cloud. You can already see the little flicker of glitter and the surprise of nubby gems in the photo above. What you can’t appreciate unless you are at the spinning wheel is how these treasures reveal themselves in the process of attenuation and twist and transform into an unexpected whirl of colors and textures.

I’m not kidding when I say I get giddy from awe when I spin these batts.

IMG_8415

These batts are from the November 2013 Batt Club, which sadly is no more. I like clubs because I can rely on the regularity of surprises. Though Lacey has ended the Batt Club, there are the occasional sightings of batts on Moonrover’s site if you’re lucky.

And if you’re one of those people who likes to pull back the curtain to see the magician’s secrets, Lacey has an article in the Winter 2013 issue of PLY Magazine, in which she demonstrates how to card striped batts. (In that same issue which explores woolen spinning, you can also see swatches of Moonrover batts spun in a variety of ways.)

IMG_8413

Each batt is .5 0z, and I spun the batts one at a time, beginning from the same end. I then chain-plied it to get 227 yards/208 meters.

I don’t have a project in mind for this skein, but whatever it is, it is going to be for me me me.