A basket full of wool can feel like an endless supply of woolly goodness. After having prepared what may seem like three bags full of wool the content still looks untouched. But the supply is not endless. Sooner or later you will get to the bottom of the basket. I did this week.
I love digging my hands in a new spinning project. Fiber by fiber I get to know the fleece – fiber length, elasticity, crimp, colour, shine, fiber type, staple type. These characteristics are there for me to discover. If I only invest my time and focus in the fleece they will present themselves to me. My hands will investigate and learn how the fibers behave on their way from staples to yarn:
- How do the fibers blend in the preparation?
- What is the draft like? Is it smooth, fudgy, resistant, slippery, light?
- How do my hands adapt to the length of the fibers?
- How does the lanolin work with me in the draft?
Fiber by fiber, meter by meter, my hands are programmed with the knowledge they gain from handling the wool. Always alert, always ready to reevaluate.
The bottom of the basket
But sooner or later, believe it or not, I do reach the bottom of the basket. I look down and there is not a single staple left. The wool that my hands have become so used to, so familiar with, is no more. Just like when I finish a good book – the characters and context I have come to know and love are suddenly just gone. And I miss them. I miss the wool that have become a safe space. My hands and mind have been in this particular wool for so long and now that it is gone I truly miss it.
Time spent is knowledge gained
The wool has taught me so much. Even if I can’t always put words on what I have learned – although I try to – my hands will have adapted to the characteristics of the wool. Through all the times the fibers have gone through my hands they will know how to work with the wool. Crafting is the knowledge of the hands. The knowledge from spending hours and hours with the material, the idea, the design and the tools. That knowledge is priceless.
The knowledge in numbers
I just amused myself with calculating the time spent on my latest spin, that got me to the bottom of the basket. Each of the skeins of my rya/mohair cable-plied sock yarn took:
- 40 minutes for teasing
- 40 minutes for carding
- 2.5 hours for spinning
- 30 minutes for the first S-ply
- 20 minutes for the second S-ply
- 20 minutes for the Z cable ply.
That sums up to 5 hours per skein. I spun 13. That is 65 hours of fibers going through my hands. Plus another few hours of washing fleece, sorting, blending, washing the finished yarn and dyeing. Let’s say 75 hours (mohair takes a lot of time to wash). That is 75 hours of being in the fleece. 75 hours of the fleece telling me what it is and how it wants to be treated (for a further discussion on time and cost of handspun, have a look at this post about calculations).
When I get to the bottom of the basket I realize it is not empty. I have gained not only a pile of handspun skeins yarn, but also a basketful of knowledge and experience.
I will miss handling this wool for a while. But I will also smile and walk a little prouder. I have a basketful of sparkling new knowledge. Knowledge that I will be able to put into my forthcoming baskets.
Gotta go now, I have birthday cake to eat. Our eldest turns 18 today (the age of majority in Sweden) and I am suddenly the mother of an adult.
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