Primitive Skills · Spinning



I keep thinking how to start this post.  There is just so much in my head when I think about the past week.  So much more than just teaching and playing with fiber for 5 days.  When I was asked to teach at this event, I was really not sure what to expect.  I was super excited to share my knowledge of wool with my students and see how far we could get in 5 days.  Slickrock is not your usual skills gathering.  It asks a person to commit to learning just one thing for the entire week.  My class was small.  More people wanted primitive hunting or plant medicine or yucca sandals.  So I had just two AMAZING students.  I also had a couple of drop in people from town.

One of my students brought our fleece.  She had gotten it last year at sheering time from a local farmer.  It was a Suffolk fleece.  Suffolk is a very underrated sheep in the spinning world.  Most fiber people snub it in favor of other breeds.  Many growers simply throw the wool away.  I have had growers themselves tell me they can’t give their fleeces away.  That being said, in level 1, Suffolk was one of the breeds I used in my studies.  I found it to be a nice serviceable fiber.  In fact, PLY magazine just published an issue on Down breeds.


The above picture is our giant pile of unwashed Suffolk.  The first thing I had my students do was to dip wash some locks.  We heated water and added some Dawn to it and then had a second bucket of hot rinse water.  Just dunking the locks into the clean water made an amazing difference.  This was a beautiful Suffolk fleece.  IMG_3131

After dip-washing, we then moved on to scouring in mesh bags and making little envelopes of fiber out of window screening.  We sat and sorted out the best of the dirty fleece, skirting out the excessive veggie matter and tags (Poo) as we went.  At the end of it we had a pile of washed white wool.   We also still had a large amount of unwashed wool that I had my student take home.  You can really only process so much wool in such a short time.  IMG_3132

While pots were boiling and wool was soaking we moved on to spinning with the park and draft method.  Soon, my students were making yarn.  IMG_3186

We covered flicking locks open for spinning with long wool and using handcards to make rolags and sliver to spin from.  IMG_3135

Day two had us doing more wool washing and spinning.  One of my students plied and  finished her first skein of yarn. IMG_3137

I took this picture when I looked down and realized we were surrounded by a whole bunch of fiber stuff…IMG_3139

Day three we decided to try some nature dye on some of our scoured yarn.  We had mordanted some fiber overnight for a logwood pot and decided to harvest some native plants from the site to dye in the Navajo all in one pot method.  Along with some yellow dock (Canyaigre) that I had with me.  The yellow dock produced the yellow I expected and using iron as a modifier made it a khaki color.

The first native plant we harvested was cliff rose.  According to the Navajo dye book I have, they use a 2:1 ratio of plant matter to dye.  We found quite a few cliff rose bushes on site.  The dye book adds only add a small amount of alum to the pot for our 8 oz of fiber it was only  2 T.  We ended up adding more alum to achieve our desired color.

The first pot of it we tried in an iron pot hoping that the pot would turn the dye green instead of the yellow.   The fiber never accepted the dye and ended up weird, so we tossed it into the logwood pot.  The second try in my stainless pot turned a nice yellow.  we allowed it to sit on the dye-bath overnight.

The other natural dye we harvested was mountain mahogany root.  The Alder leaf variety.  According to the Navajo dye book if we made a solution of the ash of juniper leaves and water and added it to the dye it would make for a stronger color.  Being adventurous and surrounded by juniper we decided to try it.

The color that we got was a pale pink. We also allowed this to sit in the pot overnight.

Below: (Purple = logwood, green= yellow dock + iron, Yellow= yellow dock, and pink is mountain mahogany root)IMG_3199I think that to get a stronger red color we needed either more root bark in the pot or to simmer the root bark for a longer time.

By day 4 everyone had plied their first skeins and then spun some more.  So I taught Andean plying as well as Navajo (chain) plying.  The skeins were quite lovely especially hung from the ramada.  You can’t see that they are frozen because it had started to snow on us!

On the last day, we did a dye pot of Cochineal as well as a pot of Madder root.  The madder root was some I had used in a previous dye pot.  The color we got was a pale rose.  It was nothing compared to Cochineal.  IMG_3211

Now that we had all of this fiber washed and dyed, we needed to start to process it for spinning.  So I taught them to comb and to do more rolags and sliver for spinning as well as some drum carded bats. Oh the fluffy clouds of happiness!

I think during the week we processed between 2 1/2 and 3 pound of fiber.  Here is a picture of us with all of our fiber that we were able to comb and card.  Maria, Heather and I (left to right).IMG_3217

The other really fun thing was that the yucca pathway was working side by side with us. When it gets cold everyone wants to be by the fire. One of the men working on yucca sandals really wanted to add some yuca to the dye pots.  I had no experience with dyeing yucca, but was willing to experiment, and so he tossed some fiber into the logwood and some into the cochineal.  Both dyes turned out amazing! here is a picture of his finished sandal. I have no idea as to how colorfast these dyes are on yucca.  IMG_3220

All of the instructors at BOSS we very welcoming and accommodating especially when it got cold and snowy.  We were allowed to do some of our work inside the store to keep the tools out of the weather and to allow the wool to dry.  Because Slickrock is focused on skills, the food was pretty amazing.  All in all I feel a bit spoiled after spending a week out there camping in the cold.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s