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Good things come of spinning disasters too

April 30, 2007

Part First: The Purchase of the Disaster-Inciting Fibers

Last May I got to go to the Great Lakes Fiber Festival. I had been looking forward to it for months––it was a rough quarter (ain’t they all, honey)––and I fully intended to smother my sorrows in wool. The day’s greatest triumph was five lbs. of soft, white, fluffy, beautiful, soft, inexpensive alpaca. That purchase necessitated hand cards, and as for the rest of my purchases, I can’t recall how I rationalized the 4 oz. of superwash merino, few lbs.(!) of merino roving, 4 oz. of tussah and merino blend, and 2 oz. of tussah silk, but I obviously managed it with some skill. Being surrounded by massive amounts of beautiful fiber tends to make me lose perspective.

Part Second: The Initial Enthusiasm and Inability to Think Properly Make for a Bad Yarn

I was very excited to spin the silk, but I wanted to make it go farther, so I plied it with a strand of the alpaca. Then I spun a 2-ply alpaca of the same weight, and decided to try to make a cable yarn (oh, beginner’s arrogance!). I got one cabled yarn plied together, and then my drive band broke. Silly silly me, I didn’t realize I could fix it myself, so I ordered a new one. After it finally arrived, and I finished kicking myself in the pants for realizing I’d paid six bucks for a piece of twine, I fixed the old one and plied the other two 2-plies together…

…except it had been so long since I’d done the first one, I forgot to reverse the twist (it was about a month, with a trip and some house guests in between. Even still, I am fully aware how pathetic this is). Another kick in the pants, and the resulting yarn (?) went to live in a dark, dark drawer.

Part Third: The Return to the Site of Spinnerly Humiliation, and Subsequent Reconciliation

But I couldn’t give up on it. Months later, I kept thinking about my defeat at the hand of a yarn made from an animal I’d touched, and whose every fiber had passed through my fingers several times. So, I did the only logical thing: I unplied both cabled yarns. I don’t even remember how I did it. I think I used my homemade racecar wheel spindle to untwist the 2-ply strands, and then wound them onto bobbins on my Lazy Kate. I remember being in a very bad mood for some reason––also forgotten and I’m sure that’s a good thing––but whatever it was, it inspired the heightened degree of self pity necessary for such a tedious task. The end result was a few hundred yards each of 2-ply alpaca and 2-ply alpaca and silk, full of the, ahem, character common to the bronze era of my spinning career, that were welcomed once more into the light.

Part Fourth: All’s Well that Keeps my Hands Warm

Finally, inspired by cold fingers at the keyboard and many many blog posts about handwarmers, I started knitting. I thought about using Eunny’s handwarmer pattern, but it just wasn’t quite right. The yarn was too hairy and inconsistent to show the pattern. Instead, I Kool-aid dyed the silk/alpaca yarn this and started a winding, stranded rib-ish pattern. The end result is that I got me some of these, and I love ’em. I’m especially proud of the way the pattern shapes the thumb gusset. I made up the left hand on the fly, and then had to figure out how to reverse it for the right hand. Given the tale we’ve just been through together, I’m sure you can understand the mental triumph this represents for me.

Please pretend both handwarmers are occupied.

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