Sunday, July 05, 2009

Spin Journal #12B: Romney

While at Black Sheep this year, I got a wild idea for a new project: a ruanna woven from handspun Romney. Finding weft was not a problem--I still have more than 5 pounds of black Romney I purchased several years ago. The weft though, especially given my love for working with stripes, was going to require some thought. At 4:15 a.m. on Sunday morning (right after the rain and the screaming that the wheels were outside in the rain), I had an epiphany--buy a small white Romney fleece, dye the locks, and spin the warp to make stripes. As soon as everything opened up on Sunday morning, I ran over to the wool barn (getting drenched in another shower in the process), found a small bright-white Romney fleece, and carted my little fleece back to camp. It was small enough that when we packed the car, I put it in the almost empty spare wheel well under the rear deck.

When I got the Romney home, the first order of business was to get the locks separated and into nylon netting for washing and dyeing. I'm a firm believer that nylon netting is the most useful fiber prep tool around, because it gives one the ability to both wash and dye locks with a minimum of fuss. The only downside to using nylon netting is the time involved in laying out the locks (tips all going the same way), and wrapping them in the netting. It's not a quick process, especially as I take the time to pick out any second cuts or large pieces of VM. However, I just put on my iPod and get to work, laying out locks, and once three layers of locks were in place, stitching the bags closed. It took the better part of two days to prep the entire 3.87-pound fleece.

Once that was done, it was time to wash. I washed in my usual way (for information on how to do this, see this blog post), but with one difference: rather than rolling each bag into a roll, I found they got cleaner if I simply folded them in half and pinned them to the top of the laundry bag. With three per bag, I had everything enclosed in three laundry bags. Once washed, dried, and weighed, I put the nylon net bags of locks into a large pot of water to stay wet until I was ready to dye them.

Dyeing the locks was also a pretty straight-forward process, once I determined the formulas for the colors I wanted. Most of the colors were plain Jacquard acid dyes, twice the weight of the locks I was dyeing. Two colors needed some "tweaking:" Purple, which ended up a 50/50 mixture of Violet and Lilac, and Green, a 50/50 mixture of the old Robin & Russ Handweavers Dye in Hunter Green and Jacquard's Chartreuse. Dyeing went well, except for the Green: for some reason, the Robin & Russ dye didn't strike (penetrate the fiber), and the locks came out too light. Those will have to revisit the dye pot in the next few days. However, all the other colors came out well.

Next: Combing the locks.