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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: Carding wool

The Right Tools for the Job

So, an enormous bag of Alpaca was arriving, and all I had to card with was 2x3 cat combs.  I'd already checked out cards online.  From WEBS I could get a pair of 72 pin wool cards for about $75, which isn't cheap, but still, I don't have to pay for any yarn for this project, so, over all, not too bad.  Fortunately, one of my Rav friends pointed me toward the Rolling Rolags group, which was hosting a hand card bulk purchase.  Through that offer I was able to get a pair of beautiful hand cards for just $45.  But I wasn't sure when they'd be arriving, so I emailed +Sarah Hartman who said, "Yes! I have hand cards you can borrow!" and so I drove over to Sarah's and she loaned me her wool and cotton cards to try out.

Clean? Who, me?
I researched a bit on line and discovered that, despite the dust and hay throughout my Big Bag O' Alpaca, most people don't recommend washing it first because there's no lanolin in alpaca wool, so you just prep it and card it and spin it, and then you wash it.  This is fine with me; I'm fairly lazy and it's a very big bag, and I have no place to spread out a bunch of wet wool to dry.  So I packed a starter lump of alpaca in my travel bag and headed off to my friends' peaceful island hideaway for a week.  Surrounded by knitters and children and wonderful spouses and a Very Good Aussie Shepherd Dog, I looked up YouTube videos on making rolags and waited eagerly for August 1.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...
Someone in Rolling Rolags suggested this video, which has lovely Irish music in the background and has a lovely companion video on using rolags in Woolen Long Draw spinning.  Naturally I didn't go any farther.  This is pretty thorough.

I'm posting a link because I don't think adding in the video is working.

Very early in the morning on August 1, I sat with my dear GazeboGal and discussed the right and proper wording and topic choices of my NEWT, and then I tweaked my proposal (which mostly already existed, just needing a few pictures and the all important topic choices) and, taking a deep breath, pressed "send."  I had decided on Potions, which is all about preparing and spinning the wool--1.5 pounds, just about a third of what's in the bag, and probably quite a bit less than the estimated 2.3 pounds I'll need to spin for this project if the first skein means anything.  The second subject was harder... finally I chose Muggle Studies, which has evolved over time.  It used to be 'an adult long-sleeved sweater,' but now it has to be intricate.  So I thought through, with GG's help, the things that will make this sweater challenging for me.  Most people think a top-down, seamless construction is easier, but... I have never done it this way.  Well, once, years ago... D1's Ron Weasley sweater was that way.  All my other sweaters have been knit flat and seamed.  It's harder, probably, but it's what I'm used to.  And DovieJay... that's Jennette's Ravname... has added this awesome panel to the sleeves that looks cool but isn't anything I've done before.  So, yeah.  Definitely a bit challenging.  Nothing like cleaning, prepping, carding, and spinning the wool--I've knit sweaters before, for pete's sake! but still.  Not exactly a vanilla sweater, either.

photo credit: Jennette Cross
The Waiting Game

And then I waited... but not for long.  Within a few hours I'd had my proposal accepted!

Fish out of Water.

I sat with my YouTube video on my phone, and my cards and wool around me, and I pulled all the garbage out of the wool (there are a lot of short locks among the brown, just so we're clear... I'm discarding almost as much as I'm keeping as I clean it out) and fluffed it out and spread it on the carder.  And GG's lovely wife came up to me and said, "First time carding?" and explained she could tell because usually when one of us does something with fiber we are very quick and sure in our motions... and I definitely was not.  My first set of rolags were kind of floppy.

But they spun up lovely!

And I have got better at it!