Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Return to Being Batty

I know, some of you may be saying, return? When did she ever leave? Ha ha. Today, however, you don't get the frazzled woman farmer/mom/knitter-freak/yarn-artist/hubster drill sgt extraordinaire - remember the ole Sunday Spinster? She's here today to talk about the journey to and from battdom. A while back (okay, maybe it was YEARS back - give me a break, already, I don't control the rapid deterioration of time), I got these sheep. Aside from devising ways to destroy my gardens and standing around our (then ) yurt (house-like thingie that serves as a house while you and hubster are fighting like cats and dogs with hammer and nails building your own little abode) braying and looking menacing and bored at the same time, the sheep just seemed to be there. Hmm. With lots of hair on their backs! So, we cut it off and put it in bags (does this sound familiar to anyone else) and hid it in a parts car in the woods. It called to us, so I started spinning more regularly. Then, on a whim , I got some dye stuffs and started making explosive color all over the place....this was very exciting. Then, a drum carder was acquired and I started trying to make my own batts. I had the eye for color, the flair for the dramatic throw something brilliant and tacky in there, and a gorgeous fiber to work with but anyone whose ever bought a raw fleece, especially a Cotswold fleece, will tell you, though, that a good batt is hard to make without one of these to pull the locks apart for you and make the fiber all gooey and springy and ....the kind of texture luxury that makes you moan orgasmically in public (a behavior I am trying hard to curb these days). I finally saved up enough money to buy one but not before I had a show to do that needed more than I could possibly make up so I decided to PRE-DYE the wool and have it made into roving. This works well, particularly if you're not exactly sure how you want it to look but know what colors you are going for. In essence, control freaks beware! I liked some of what I got back and some of it looked like troll vomit. The processing and processor were great, though - it wasn't their fault. It's just that it is wholly different to work up a batt at a time (allowing you to 'tinker' with your recipe to get a balanced, even, and still really exciting spinning fiber) than to send in 5-6 lbs. of dyed wool and hope real hard. I still like roving, and I lurve to spin it just like many others.seaweed I decided to just have all my roving done up white and hand-dye what I want to have a palette color. I like the way a hand-dyed roving appreciates color change. No surprises, but subtle manipulation of colors that are (I think) the ultimate in spinning satisfaction.

But, if you want the whistles, the roses, the good beer and glistening lover waiting to attend your every spark of desire (okay, maybe I'm over-emphasizing a bit), you want a good hand-made batt. Of course, early on I made some that I thought were awesome but in the last 2 yrs. my fiber creations have really started to 'work' most of the time. black magic womanThis batt started out being a lusciously soft black merino. Okay, so it is really soft, but it just sat there being drab and black and I wanted INSTANT GRATIFICATION. (I also realize this picture isn't of a batt - talk to flickr - it only wanted to see the yarn I spun from the batt and I have few compromising skills after the last few weeks) So, I gave it an injection of flame glitz, some pawfuls of teased and picked sari silk strands, and a few turns for EACH batt on the ole carder. Santa, if you're out there, uh, I have two things to say to you: 1)I know I haven't written in years and that in some of those years I have said really not-nice things about you behind the backs of Things 1,2, and 3 as they sang your praises. sorry. 2)If you want to make up for those few Christmas' when I was an obedient and praising child anyway and you never made it - you could get me this so I don't have to card my arms off. Now, some people say to me, "I don't know how to spin from a batt". This is only puzzling to me because when I started - I knew nothing about nothing. So, I didn't know about all the myths of pre-drafting without asking, of batts being 'different', and of roving being the one and only law. I love spinning batts. PICT0055But, if you want roving, a batt can be easily teased into long ropes and pulled into roving.

The other thing to consider is quality first and costs as well. To ship, process, and ship back roving adds a great amount to the overall cost of the fiber. Add the cost of growing it, dyeing it, etc., and you have little profit for the farmer and greater cost for the yarn-freaks buyer. The processors generally require a large minimum (5-8 lbs at least) PER BATCH OF COLOR which means if that mauve you had made up looks like troll vomit (does this sound like experience talking to you?) then you are the proud new owner of 6 lbs. of troll vomit. Not only does this drive up costs, but it makes the fiber ARTIST more nervous about taking chances which means that you get more of the same kind of color going on and less of the 'wow, I love that!' happening in your fiber life. It's like being on a diet - forever! Ick! Let's not stay in this unhappy place, here, look at some soft, silky, alpaca/tussah silk/sari silk/tropical glitz yarn. alpaca goodness This smooth single spun is soft supreme and made from this batt. Like it?

Let me just say that I love my processors and I am in no way trying to talk anyone out of using a processor. How many of us could hand-card enough batts to vend a show or to be our sole source of spinning fiber? But, the unusual should not be the vanishing species of our fiber world. Embrace the batt....it will feed you well. I'm going to be making a load of crazy batts for our September show. Is anyone interested on seeing it done? Course, that is if I can figure out how to do it. As it is, I am in the process of screaming profanities at flickr because it doesn't do ANYTHING I tell it to.

Here's an interesting parting note: It is no surprise to anyone, I am sure, that the past few weeks have been a perpetual lesson in "listen up, sister, you're not a super-hero and you might as well stop trying to pretend you can do 500 things at once because it is starting to make your eyeballs look like you're being constantly electrocuted". So, I was all about to make some silly declaration like, "I will take time. I will be patient. I will be good beyond all good (see how fast we deteriorate into the hero thing again?) when I decided it was time to 'get real' and got the calendar (you know, the one I threw in the trash last week when I was jumping up and down screaming about where all ungrateful calendars/children/hubsters should go) out and, forget that! So far, we are on Sunday (though it is late and I will have to forgo any super-hero moves because I am tired and grouchy). Tomorrow, I only have 10 things that take a few hours each to get done. Easy, peasy! Tuesday, I have to travel for 1/2 the day and then get groceries, etc. while I'm out (this and the fact that the animals will be distraught at having been 'neglected' all day so they will be in fence-hopping manic mode mean I will get virtually NOTHING done when I get home). Wednesday, a day of middle rut and hopeful bantering, will be my only real work day but, wait a danged minute, Thing 3 turns 8 on Thursday so I guess I'll be spending the nights and all of WEd. finishing his birthday presents. He's a good kid. He prefers hand-made dragons, toys, hats, etc. for presents over the newest plastic toy find. This works for us as we always manage to be one step away from total destitution this time of year. WEll, sometimes more than this time of year but, who's thinking about that depressing fact? So, there has been some spinning and the Sunday Spinster isn't just here to toot her horn about batts. norberta for Thing 3 This lovely combo will soon be made into this little dragon. The blue for the body - the lovely multi for the wings. The multi yarn is actually the fiber that Thing3 dyed with easter egg dyes last year so I spun it up quick-like this morning to do the wings with because I thought it would be really special if he got to have a made object that was derived from his own fiber adventures.