The beginning of 2012 hasn’t been good for me and fiber. I felt my interest waning a little bit in the weeks leading up to our vacation to California. Other things were SO much more fascinating than boring ol’ yarn and fiber: namely, a burgeoning interest in accounting, of all things. Given the chance to spin, knit, or read about non-profit bookkeeping — I’d choose the latter, every time. I know. Taking fickle mindedness too far!
Unfortunately, by the time I got home from California to the dreary gray February Pacific Northwest, ennui and disinterest had bloomed into an outright revulsion for all things yarn, fiber, spinning, and knitting. I looked at my stash and wheels and I shuddered at the waste of space…and then I recoiled at the complete break in my own personality I was experiencing! This wasn’t me! I now think there was something like Seasonal Affective Disorder bringing me down.
The annual Whidbey Weavers Guild Spin-In was approaching at the end of March and my attitude toward fiber still had not lightened. My parents urged me to attend (egging me on with offers of free babysitting), and I resisted at first, but at last I relented, hoping to see some friends there. And as I prepared to go, something started to re-kindle within me. I looked at my wheels and instead of complete disgust, I saw a window of opportunity…I was struck by a vision of using a petite and portable and extraordinarily quiet little wheel in the living room of my house while my children sleep. Not making unusually fine yarn or complicated or difficult yarn, but just yarn. Usable yarn. Plenty of it. So I looked at the balance in my checking account and decided I hadn’t used my “mad money” allotment in a few months — I took a check with me to the Spin-In, to put a deposit down on a Pocket Wheel. Step one of re-entry into the world of fiber bliss was complete.
As I sat and listened to the lecture (on wild silks of India) I basked in the presence of super neat fiber folks. The next day I headed back to the event bright and early, and got some shopping done. While idly browsing (thoughts at the back of my head involved a sweater quantity of dark rich brownish something or other) I stumbled across the Island Fibers booth, where I noticed the bags of fleece. The first one I beelined my way to was the most incredible deep black shot through with silver and tipped with ruddy red-blond.
As a clear vision of a gorgeous heathered yarn popped into my head, I saw the tag on the fleece…in lieu of a breed it was marked simply, “Sally Bill Special”. I think my jaw dropped at this point. Just last summer, in a class on choosing and spinning fleece for socks, Judith Mackenzie had shared with us a Sally Bill fleece. Sally was a shepherdess on the San Juan Islands — on Lopez no less, an island with which I have a deep affinity and a decently long history. She imported a Romney/Lincoln flock to the island, but closed gene pool being what it is, she used any local ram to procure lambs. As it turned out, she was something of a genius when it came to selecting for the traits she preferred in a handspinner’s fleece, so even seeming-random breedings were chosen to improve her flock and she culled the remaining ewes carefully to progress her wool toward an ideal. Judith raved about this flock and held it up as an example of how a flock can excel in producing handspinner’s fleece despite its lack of pedigree. Judith! And here was one of the golden fleeces, within striking distance!
I didn’t hesitate. I nearly elbowed the customer out of the way who had been checking out when I discovered my prize. I had never purchased a whole fleece before, and I knew that the $16/pound price was a bit of a premium, but I didn’t care. I had to have it. And this was step two of rediscovering the joy in fiber. I beamed so wide I feared my face would split. I ran around finding everyone I was on speaking terms with, shoving handsful of raw smelly sheepswool locks at them. “DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST GOT???” I shared my bliss with everyone.
The majority of the fleece went to the fiber processor on site, who happened to be Taylored Fibers. I hadn’t worked with any of their roving before, but I really liked what I’d seen and fondled at their booth in previous fiber shows. I put my faith and my fleece in the capable hands of Mr. Taylor, keeping just about 8 ounces to play with.
And once I got home, play I did. I washed the fleece and then started preparing it. I started by combing a few locks and it seemed I was exactly right, that the silvery bits and sun bleached tips would lighten and warm the black fibers into an interestingly flecked shade of deepest espresso or dark chocolate.
I spun some worsted samples from combed top, and at the other end of the spectrum I spun some woolen and semi-woolen samples from hand carded slivers.
I loved these yarns. I remained so pleased with my purchase.
And then today, Mr. Taylor visited my island and brought my roving with him! The final tally was 4.75 pounds of roving from 7 pounds of fleece, and it is GORGEOUS.
It resembles nothing so much as my own hand combed top, it’s nicely blended and has minimal veggie matter and almost no neps. As soon as I could I grabbed a chunk and introduced it to my CPW, using my current favorite semi-woolen draw (attenuated short draw with twist in the fiber supply for a lofty and bouncy but fairly smooth and even result). Spinning it was HEAVEN. I have never, ever had such a nice spinning experience. It drafted almost on auto-pilot, it enthralled me with its dancing colors, it was so soft and touchable! The diameter and twist it wanted to spin at with my default spinning was a lovely versatile singles. I wound it off and did my oft-used sampling method of winding an Andean bracelet, then re-winding the resulting two strands into another bracelet, so that I could ply together four strands and get a round yarn from just one singles without the added complication of Navajo plying. I spindle plied about 9 yards, then finished it somewhat roughly.
I LOVE THIS YARN. I love the color. I love the handle. I love the bounce and the slight sheen, I love the evenly consistent grist. The whole experience of creating it has nearly left me breathless with the pure enjoyment of it. LOVE.
I even started a little swatch, knitting it up on US 6 needles in a k3p2 rib. Do you see the squooshy 3-dimensionality? This yarn wants to be cables! I think it might be a little too fat for the project I have in mind, but I predict a 3-ply might be just what the doctor ordered.
So there you have it. I’m back. I am more in love with wool than ever, and I’m feeling a little more sedate about it. Instead of ambition and braggadocio, I’m feeling a quiet and steady, deep and abiding satisfaction. It’s wool…it’s all good, man.