Because lab this week involved working with wool and making things with our hands, there were very few numbers involved and the data collected was mostly qualitative and subjective.
Introduction: Learning to Spin
At 1:50, we began lab by learning how to spin. We each received our own drop spindles, balls of roving wool from Cotswold sheep, and a lead string. Alejandra guided us through the process of looping the lead string around our spindles and starting the wool. She had to repeat this multiple times, as she moved quickly and it was hard to follow. We each tore off a strip of wool (about 6 inches) from our roving and looped it through the lead string. We then spun the spindle clockwise, holding the wool and lead string together carefully until they combined. From there, we began to practice drafting and spinning. There were varying degrees of success in the room––some got the hang of it fairly quickly, and others had more issues. We continued to practice our spinning until about 2:35, at which point we separated into our groups and moved to our first stations.
Station 1: Weaving
At about 2:40, we began to weave. There were two looms present, and our group used the loom with more strings on it. We started with yarn from Jacob wool and looped it around the shuttle about 12 times. Our weaving pattern began with an over-under-over pattern and this flipped for each row. Rotating turns arbitrarily, and switching to our own spun Cotswold wool halfway through, we wove 11 rows in about 45 minutes.
- It was “meditative and nice, like re-shelving books”
- It was easy to miss a stitch, which would set off the entire sequence; we had to undo a row multiple times to fix this
- It was necessary to keep an arch in the yarn when we were pulling it through with the shuttle, or it would become too tight and pull in the sides of the loom to make an hourglass shape
- The Jacob wool was a peppery gray color and felt scratchy
- Our own spun wool (Cotswold) was much softer
- It was harder to use our own wool because it fell apart more easily
- The work went faster when we used our own wool because it was thicker and filled up the loom more quickly
Station 2: Carding
After about 40-45 minutes, we switched stations to begin carding wool. We had raw white Cotswold, dyed purple Cotswold, and raw Soay wool (brownish in color). In the process of carding, we turned raw wool into a “cloud” of wool that was ready to spin by roughly combing it. We rotated turns about every 8 minutes so that everyone could try carding and get a feel for the different types of wool.
- “Less is more”: it was a lot easier to successfully card when working with smaller amounts of wool
- The unwashed Soay wool smelled like sheep, and dirt fell out of it as it was carded
- The Soay wool was also greasy to the touch; left a greasy film on our hands after working with it
- The Soay was harder to card and harder to get out of the carders, likely because the fibers of the Soay are shorter
- The Soay also did not become very smooth after carding and still felt greasy
- The Cotswold wool was easier and more satisfying to card
- The Cotswold had strong curls in it, which were hard to work out when carding and sometimes ended up hidden in the final cloud of wool
Station 3: Spinning
After another 45 minutes, we moved outside to work on our spinning for the last station. Now that we knew the basics of spinning, we experimented with different types of wool to work out the differences between them.
- The Cotswold was very soft and fluffy but it was hard not to over-spin it
- The Jacob wool was more frustrating to work with; it was harder to draft and also fell apart more easily
- The Soay wool held together better than the Jacob; it seemed to cling to itself
- It was more fun and satisfying to add variety by using the colorful yarns
- We noticed ourselves improving as time went on
- It was easy to get lost in the process and just chat with each other without needing to pay too much attention to our spinning