Fiber Corner

Daily life of a knitting designer/publisher of handknitting patterns

Friday, November 11, 2005

Spinning for Gossamers

Since I posted yesterday about the great spinning/knitting class I took at Michigan Fiber Fest last August, I thought I'd share some pics of what I learned in the spinning portion of the class. My teacher, Galina Khmeleva, learned her skills in her native Russia and this class was about making traditional Orenburg shawls.

The Orenburg region of Russia (think Ural mountains and what it looked like in the movie Dr. Zhivago) is famous for its shawls. They are traditionally spun from goat down and plyed with silk thread, then knit into light as air lace shawls. The process of spinning goes like this.

First take the best cashmere you can find.
Actually the Russian knitters might start with combings from their own goats but since I haven't any of those, I used some beautifully prepared Mongolian cashmere top.

The fiber is spun on a long narrow tapered spindle which is supported in a bowl or cup of some kind. After enough twist is added, the single yarn is wound onto the spindle.
This pic shows one of my authentic Russian spindles and maple bowl with the beginnings of a new bobbin.

After the spindle is full, it is transferred to another larger, heavier spindle for plying. As the cashmere single is wound onto the second spindle, a strand of silk thread is held next to it and wound along with it. At this point the two strands are only laying next to each other not twisted together. Here you can see how much shinier the yarn looks with the addition of the silk. And, you can also see my cone of silk thread, which Galina says "will last the rest of my life".

When plying, the two strands are twisted together and loosely wrapped around a small cardboard circle. This makes the bobbin of finished yarn.

After all the bobbins are steamed, the yarn is finished and ready to be used for knitting. The one little bobbin pictured here weighs only about a half an ounce and at least 3 ozs. will be needed to knit a shawl. The Russian knitters produce enough handspun in a weeks time to knit a shawl. This one bobbin took me several months.

Guess more practice will be needed.


At 11:12 AM, Blogger Angela said...

Wow! Now that is something truly beautiful for me to aspire to.


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