Monday, January 08, 2007

Carding and Spinning Cashmere

It's good to be home from a deeply exhausting trip.

I've been wanting to write about my first carding experience and spinning cashmere.

Last spring a friend gave me some cashmere from her goats. Between us we'd removed the guard hairs but the remaining cashmere was a small gobs and batches. Talking with various vendors at Black Sheep Gathering in June lead me to buy Strauch Hand Cards (255 teeth). I didn't make time to try them, or do anything with the cashmere until a couple weeks ago when Ed made some bamboo spindles.

They each weigh only .9 oz, perfect, I thought, for trying my hand at the cashmere. Excitedly I dug up the hand carders from their dark resting place, laid some cashmere on one card and began brushing, pulling out previously unseen guard hairs.
Many years ago I'd watched Navajo women card wool and thought I remembered how they did it. But I didn't look to learn only to watch, and so I really didn't know how to card. The cashmere wouldn't card into smooth segments so I flipped the carders around and tried again, this time brushing deeper. Please don't chuckle and scoff at my ignorance. Rolling the cashmere off the handcarders, I again laid it on the teeth and carded once more then realized I'd best stop as little balls were appearing. Twisting a length between my hands I attached it to the shaft and starting spinning.

The lightness of the spindle was different than any I'd handled before. I had to stay ahead of the twist or the spindle would quickly reverse and backspin. So far the bamboo spindle is not a long spinner, I'm getting spins averaging 30 seconds. The cashmere was cobweb whispy and I couldn't help but spin a lacey yarn - with lots of bumps of the balled up bits.

Getting the feel for a fast spin while drafting more quickly to stay ahead of the spin, the yarn became a bit more uniform. Here's a portion of the singles on printed paper to give you a sense of the thinness. The singles is twisted back on itself in several places.

Dismay crowded on the heels of disbelief as I wound the yarn around the spindle arms. See how grey the cashmere yarn looks! With each cycle my fingers, and the shaft, turned a shade greyer. How could this be? It had to be coming from the cards. Nothing to do now except finish spinning the small carded bit then ferrett out the cause of the problem. (The small white pad was used to remove the grey from the spindle. We use these all the time in the final finishing process of our products.)

Soaking the plyed yarn in warm soapy water, followed by a warm rinse soak helped a bit. The yarn measured 5 yards when loosely wrapped around warping board pegs to dry. When dried I had a 22wpi grey cashmere yarn.
In the meantime I'd sent Mr Strauch an email asking him about the grey residue. The very next day he called! What a pleasant, most helpful person Otto Strauch is. He patiently explained that hand cards need to float across the fiber, never digging in or meshing the teeth, a huge no-no. (I'd definitely been gnashing teeth.) He then directed me to a previously overlooked link on his website that explains the handling and care of hand cards. He and his wife raise cashmere goats so was able to inform me that cashmere doesn't like to be handled very much - it needs very gently and only the bare minimum carding. I am so grateful for his contact and help!

After a day of being a total zombie and a day of trying to catch up with housework, computer bugs, emails and orders, I'm hoping to start catching up on everyone's blogs tomorrow! I haven't forgotten any of you, I just haven't made the rounds, yet.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad you're back home, hoping all the chores run smoothly for you.
This was a most informative post, for me, as I know nothing about the carding of fibres. Thank you, and get some resting up in there too. :)

7:07 AM  
Blogger The Spindling Scot said...

Ow dear, I knew I should check in sooner, cashmere is very delicate and hates overcarding...( the same applies to cashgora, and angora).

Still the finished yarn is looking good :-)

Just as important what are the bamboo spindles like to spin with?

I posted on Grandad's spindle, it's fab! A beautiful crepe angora was spun for new year first spin. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I sent an email and wanadoo bounced it back to me unopened. don't know what went wrong there. Is it ok to send your fibre to the PO Box address or not? I have 300g ready for you!


1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is fascinating, Wanda - a whole new subject for me. Please tell us more as you go along.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Teyani said...

I haven't had a chance to try out my bamboo spindle yet - but I hope to soon!
that cashmere lace weight is looking great!
I think I need to get out my hand carders and practice again :-)

6:12 PM  
Blogger Charity said...

This is great, Wanda, thank you for sharing all your experiences! I can't even imagine spinning up cashmere, I'm still on the very cheap and easy wool! :0) Still, I found the whole process fascinating, and the yarn is lovely.

So glad to hear you arrived home safely!

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely to see you back, very impressed with the spindles, and the cashmere looks lovely, I'm experimenting with a drum carder on loan for a week at the moment

4:15 AM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Great and informative post about the cashmere!!...(something I don't see written about much at all)..thanks!

7:32 PM  
Anonymous DebbieKnitter said...

ohhh I LOVE your spindling and I LOVE your spindle, it is breath-taking!!! Here is our advice..if they have already charged or taken at least $3,000 THEN and usually only then do the police actually listen. We had to close our accounts but you can't just close them, you HAVE to file them under identity fraud, contact ALL your utilities, cell phones, car loans, andything that deals with money you MUST contact them and alert them or close the accounts. Then file with Experidan,Equifax and the name slips me but there is a 3rd major credit compnay and you MUST file identity fraid with them, you have to keep re-newing it every several months until every last detail is resolved. This will stop them from attempting any large credit flops (like a house). You will also have already contacted the police BUT you must ALSO contact your local FBI unit. Then you albsolutely MUST change your social security numbers. I know it is awful to think about but it has to be done, and KEEP all of that information forever incase you would have an issue with retirement ect.

The FBI nor police have ever actually done anything to find these thugs but they did tell us that the problem was RAMPANT and that the President was being forced to actually open up a whole seperate devision of security for fraud because it is just to large for any one small unit to handle!! It's a damn shame I tell ya. I also think that anyone who can put THAT kind of effort into stealing identities and taking all your money ect., if they took THAT intelligence and used if to actually get a REAL job...well, they would be masterminds in their own right AND they would actually work far less than they do being a crook!! I hope they are happy and can sleep at night when they do this. They RUIN whomever they have robbed, they took food,clothing and medical items from my children. They took medications that my son uses to live!! They took specialty foods from my family that they need to eat to survive...I truly hope they can live with themselves. They ruined my husband and my credit and it is taking FOREVER to fix it, keeping us from any major purchases for our family. I know if it were me, I could not sleep at night but they OBVIOUSLY have no problem what-so-ever ruining peoples lives and taking their hard earned money for themselves!!!

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to say the fibre went today airmail. It is in a box all by itself getting lonely...Charolais and silk neps(pieces) spin worsted for a great textured snow yarn! Snow socks! giggle LOL

7:35 AM  
Anonymous marjorie said...

That was a very interesting post! I don't know anything about carding or spinning although I've seen it done. I have a feeling that carding and spinning is going to be in my future. I'd like to see the drop spindles being used. What are you going to make from your lovely cashmere?

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Beautiful work with the cashmere Wanda it's pretty fussy stuff under the best of circumstances but you've made it into a lovely yarn.

6:32 AM  

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