Saturday, January 17, 2009

spinning hamster floss

I've been busy - family affairs, the holidays (did we all overindulge at Christmas and vow not to ever again in the New year?), re-organising, and for me, a belated entry to the Bothwell Spin-In longest thread competition. I actually started spinning nearly a year ago, just to see how thin I could get my thread. I then hunted out the experts like Sue Macniven who holds the world record on a spinning wheel (and its very scary!), and a wonderful blog on spinning hamster floss.
I also found a very interesting article on-line from Rita Buchanan's husband taking a purely scientific approach to the subject, as well as the frightening statistics on cotton spinning in Bette Hochberg's book on spindles.
I started out using a tahkli in supported mode, which I find difficult to manipulate, probably because of the arthritis in my fingers, but when I used it as a drop spindle the yarn broke very quickly. I felt it was too heavy for what I was looking for, and my fingers soon cramped up. While shopping in a local discount store I had a brain wave and put together a little spindle from the wheel of a doll's mountain bike, with a plastic paintbrush as a shaft, and this little beauty wasn't just light, but very, very fast!
The total weight is 8 or 9 grams including the removeable tyre, and the total length is about 6 inches - did I say it was fast? It spins like those little dust Willy Willy's you get in Australia, appearing out of nowhere, twirling like a dervish, then moving on as quickly as it appeared, leaving a few unsettled leaves in the dust. Give it a thigh roll, and you have to be careful not to overspin, but once I learned its little quirks I thought there would be no stopping me!
When you reach a certain age of maturity the things we all take for granted start to work less well. Eyes are one of those, and it didn't take me long to work out that the lovely merino ram's fleece I had considered for this would be totally unsuitable - I needed to be able to actually see what I was spinning, and with light coloured walls and a spindle?????????? Ten minutes spinning and I'd be so cross-eyed I could no longer see anything else. Family affairs then intervened and I literally ran out of time, the closing date arrived and I only had about 5 grams spun.
Then came an announcement in one of the spinning groups I belong to that the closing date had been extended as there had been so few entries. I had just washed a lovely multicoloured merino hogget fleece from Jane Vandenbroek, a bit on the short side, but sooo soft, just like hamster floss!
Out came the Willy Willy again, and I experimented - provided I could put enough twist in the fibres, I thought I should be able to manage it, and this time I could pretty much see what I was doing - if I squinted at the right angle!
After a few false starts I had spun sufficient thread to ply up and found my lightest John Reeves spindle, the only one I have with a very long shaft, and that could take the whole amount without having to join. Strength testing was courtesy of Pepe, my fibre fiend, who happily swung off the plied fibre as I tried to wind on!

Its not as fine as the invisible thread I was spinning from the other fleece, and I am NOWHERE near the world record, but I reckon if I start now, I might be able to spin enough thread from the ram's fleece to make up 10 grams without going totally blind, and have it ready for 2 year's time. In the meantime I have given myself a bench mark to work from, and have had a huge learning curve in how to spin fine threads.
Now I have to learn to spin yarn again, hehe!

The Willy Willy spindle can be ordered through this blog or from my Ebay store Spinning Down Under