Friday, October 23, 2015

Processing Yarn

Last Saturday I went to the meeting of the Weavers', Spinners' and Dyers' Guild where I have been a member for some years.  As sometimes happens, an elderly member had passed away recently and some of her stash was on the Sales Table.  Very revealing this process, as for some bereaved sons and daughters discovering just how much yarn their mother had stored in the house is a real shock.  "Sable" stands for "Stash enhanced beyond life expectancy": for many of us this is not a joke.

In this case, the stash could not have been more orderly: carrier bags of cones of yarn, apparently acquired from Texere.  Some of it must have been for warping on an industrial scale.  My eye was caught by these tightly wound spools of yarn, some with the letters "SH"pencilled on them.  I gathered them and made the customary donation to guild funds.

Knitting a little swatch, then washing it, proved that these were spools of Shetland yarn, oiled for machine knitting in a mill.  Once washed, the yarn bloomed.

Selecting only the tweedy colours, I knitted up a bigger test strip, revealing that a couple were finer or thicker than the norm.  Some were not blended Shetland, but a tweed type with a separate tweedy thread.

I began the process of winding off yarn on to this handy piece of kit, turned for me some years ago by my husband.  This is a niddy-noddy.  Converting the spools into skeins makes it possible to wash the yarn, to remove the oil.

 Before washing, the yarn looks like string and smells like an old engine.

After washing and drying the yarn bulks up, acquiring loft.  The blended colours become visible again.  It's a magical transformation.

Of course, the skein then needs to be wound into a ball again to be ready to use.  It's a labour-intensive process.  I know that electric ball-winders can be bought, but I don't do this often enough to make it worthwhile getting one.

I'm considering all the time how I might use this yarn.  Each skein seems to be about 50gms, so there are useful quantities.  Perhaps a Fair Isle pullover? 

I often think of how part of my patter, when giving a brief history of the wool trade to visitors at Paycocke's House, is about how the clothier did not engage in the processes of yarn production himself; this was all done by out-workers in their own cottages.  Ironically, here I am, all those centuries later, reversing the processes on factory produced yarn.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful yarn and most of the colors would work well together. I love when yarn ends up with a person who appreciates it.

withmyneedles said...

This is such an interesting post. I am always unsure about yarn on cones because it often seems string-like and rough, but I wonder if that is sometimes because it has been processed for machine knitting.