Thursday, April 30, 2009

Qiviut can't felt...Who Knew?

So I just learned last week that qiviut (the soft downy fiber from the muskox) doesn't felt!

Maybe you all knew this, but I was so surprised! I've done quite a bit of felting over the years and never knew that. I've felted both yak and American buffalo (both also soft downy undercoats of other, rather beastly animals), so I guess I assumed qiviut would felt as well. Apparently, qiviut doesn't have the scales that other animal fibers have and that's why it doesn't felt.

What's funny is that I learned this curious fact from Lisa Klakulak when she was here teaching some felting workshops. Ironically, she learned this fact from my very own sister several years ago when taking a spinning workshop with Roby! What a small world. But imagine that it took over 2 years and a third person for that info to travel between sisters! I guess that topic never came up in conversation!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cornwall Finish

Ever heard of a Cornwall finish?

I had forgotten about this clever little Yankee trick for increasing the money made on selling their merino fleeces until I volunteered to give a little demonstration and talk to a group of 1st - 3rd graders at the local school last week.

The kids were studying Vermont history and the teachers thought spinning should be included. As I perused my old books for some fun facts and figures to give the kids, I came across an old handwritten note of mine...probably something my sister had shared with me at one point (she's full of interesting knowledge)...about the Cornwall Finish.

Cornwall is a town in Vermont in the heart of what was merino territory (yes, in the early 1800s Vermont raised some of the finest, award winning merino sheep in the world-we had 6 times as many sheep as people at one point!). Before sending the fleeces to market, the Vermont owner would rub a mix of linseed oil & burnt umber into the sheeps wool to mimmick lanolin (the natural grease of the sheep) . This increased the weight of the wool and since the wool was sold on a weight basis, these Yankee sheep peddlers got more for their fleeces! So that's what a Cornwall finish is!

It's a good thing to keep in mind as you buy your fleeces this spring. Not that anyone uses the Cornwall finish these days, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded as you make fleece purchases this spring that you are paying for the weight, so the cleaner the fleece (the better skirted it is, the less barnyard, etc) the better your buy is.

Happy spinning, Jen
Despite my skepticism that anyone out there cares what I'm doing with or learning about fiber arts, enough friends, customers, and even strangers have encouraged me to blog, that I finally decided to try this out!

So here it is....the start of a forum for sharing ideas and information, current projects and inspiration, about my passions of spinning, knitting, felting and dyeing. And maybe we'll work in some weaving too! (I did just get my Fireside Loom out and am preparing a warp for it, afterall).

Despite having engaged in all these crafts since the early 80s, it seems that I still learn something new every day. Often ,whatever I've discovered doesn't seem to me like anything earth shattering, but as students have pointed out to me, its worth sharing.

So, what to blog? Well, as I discover interesting information or techniques, am inspired by something unusual, read something worthwhile, or come across creative tidbits to share about anything related to fiber or these crafts, I'll post them here. And I hope anyone listening out there will feel free to contribute as well.