‘Antler Wrap’ NZ wool, alpaca and silk.
For much of my fabric there is a local and personal story attached which is the underlying structure of how the yarn came about. Each section of yarn has not only been through my hands several times but comes from living creatures.
It gets harder to buy Coloured wool locally of good quality as some of the shepherds have retired or died themselves. Flocks are dispersed and there is not the interest amongst younger folk. However I still access a few of my favourite fibre providers. Plus I still have plenty of fibre in my wool shed to keep me occupied for a while.
Above are Stuart Albrey’s Polwarth Sheep brought into the shed.
If I’m using raw fleece it has to be washed first in hot soapy water to remove the dirt and grease. I use pure soap flakes with dishwash detergent and extremely hot water. Two washes are required for greasy fleece followed by two or three rinses in clean water. I spin out the excess water and lay the wool on a drying rack outside for a day or two. Once dry I need to open it up and fluff it with my picker below.
This prepares it for carding and spinning. So already I have spent time with this fleece and handled it a few times.
The next stage – Do I blend this fleece with other fibres? What do I want the Yarn to be? Textured or smooth? Variegated colour? Etc.
Onwards to the carder.
Carding is a time consuming job even with the help of electric. Some fibres require several passes through the carder and alpaca has to go through the feed slower than wool or else it sticks to the ‘licker in’ drum. It’s a job I enjoy as I can get creative with blending and colour.
Batts of fibre are rolled and stored in a basket ready to spin. Ideally I like to card enough for a project in one go.
I Spin on both a manual treadle wheel and an electric spinner.
a bobbin takes me about 2-3 hours to fill depending on the diameter of the Yarn. Two bobbins plied creates approximately 200-250g of Yarn.
The finished plied yarns are washed to set the twist and remove any remaining oils. Then once weighed and measured are ready to sell or weave with.
A wrap or blanket will take me several hours to warp and weave on the floorloom.
Once cut off the loom that too needs checking, mending skips, trimming ends and washing. Fringes are twisted and trimmed and the fabric is checked again and then steam pressed lightly.
Labels are stitched and the article is ready go from my hands to someone else’s.
I am so grateful that there are still people willing to care for these wonderful fleece providers and I still have access to these quality fibres I put into my yarns. Raw wool commands very little financial return for these farmers often costing more to shear than they are paid. Without the diversity of local colours and fibres I would not be able to produce the fabrics I love making and wearing.