It began with a few snow flakes.
Last week was different weather wise, beginning on Sunday afternoon with a front that brought a few flakes of snow which gradually became flurries. This is a very unusual event for Oamaru as we are at sea level. Since I live 20 minutes away from the town I left the shop early when the snow began falling in earnest.
By the early evening the whole landscape had changed. In 13 years of living here I haven’t seen this much snow on the ground. So fearful that it would be gone by morning we went out in the dark to throw a few snowballs and enjoy the still quietness of the snow falling.
We did get into work the next morning although it took more than double the time and we were very glad to have the 4 wheel drive. The roads were very empty and also icy so it was a slow cautious drive. By the afternoon it had nearly all turned to a wet slush. Good news for those few early lambs though who have enjoyed warm sunny days following the event. Icy empty road at 8.00 am in the morning.
I also ‘wauked’ my handspun tweed sampler. This involved washing, rinsing, squeezing, wringing, and generally pressing, squishing and agitating the fabric carefully in my case by hand until it closed up, began to develop a slightly fluffy surface (raised nap) and generally felt like a more substantial piece of cloth. I periodically pulled the edges to keep the selvages straight.
The broken twill pattern becomes less obvious and more intergrated into the colours if you compare it with the piece still on the loom. Before - fabric still on loom.
Finally I pressed the fabric firmly with a dry iron to compress it and bring back a little of the sheen. I did this hard press on both sides 3 times and it still wouldn’t do it any harm to have a steam press prior to tailoring. Now to choose which colour combination I’m going to use for the yardage. Waulking fabric by hand or foot on your own is such a lengthy process. Yet there is no company here in NZ that I know of, who could do some fabric for me. Oamaru ironically had a full woollen spinning and weaving and processing mill which produced all sorts of fabrics, established in the late 1880’s. The mill still makes yarns for the carpet industry. But production of fabrics has long gone.
Next time I’ll blog about how I developed the colours by mixing different amounts of pre dyed fibre together before spinning. The fibres in this fabric are mostly 60% New Zealand Romney and 30% alpaca. In the photo the yarns show the sheen of even as little as 30% alpaca.
Romney sheep are a main line breed here important for the meat and breeding industry with a long history and are thoroughly adapted to cope with climate. They are spread throughout NZ. The fibre has lost some popularity with handspinners over the last 10 years but it is such a versatile and easy fibre to prepare and spin. Not overly greasy to wash, or delicate, with good length staple. I recommend it for beginners to cut their spinning teeth. It suits the type of carding cloth most of the NZ commercial craft carding companies have on their machines and so you can purchase some good prepared sliver for a reasonable price if you don’t want all the work of washing, carding etc yourself.
Handspun yarns used in the fabric.
In fact my next fabric utilises Romney sliver from Tally ho carding here in Otago. I’m using their basic predyed colours with a few hand dyed ones of my own which saves me a little time in what is a lengthy process.
The more I weave with my own yarns the less I’m attracted by commercial threads. I can custom the threads and colours so precisely to my fabric design ideas. So any company out there considering making a really mini mechanized mill to fit a handspinners pocket, that won’t cost me $NZ 100,000, plus? Something with a couple of spindles maybe? I’m sure there would be a market for it. I want the next step up from handspinning but not quite the size of a mini mill. Any ideas?