April 23rd, 2006

fiber: AA Norwegian Wheel

Spinning Experiments: Cow Hair

At the Kilgore Festival, there were 3 Highland cows: a bull, a cow, and a hand-raised calf (about 6 weeks or so old). The owner, a vet from Minton, LA, said he would give me some of the fiber when they brushed them....about an hour or so later, he did.

I received a tin bucket full of brush leavings. The bottom of the bucket was damp, so some of the fiber was wet, but it made no difference in the spinning.

The fiber was full of bits of hay, dirt, and dandruff; it was slightly matted in parts. (Most of this batch came from the cow; the calf hair was finer but still coarse). It resembled llama, for the most part, but was coarser and stiff. It appeared to be mostly what I would call guard hair - very little fluff, lots of hair. It felt slightly sticky (probably from the shampoo they used to get them ready for display), and harsh. The staple length was...about 6" or so for the most part.

I had no handcards with me. (I won't make that mistake again!) I briefly debated using my hairbrush on it - but the dandruff put a stop to that train of thought pretty quickly. So, prep consisted of handpicking out the VM.

I put my slowest bobbin on the Norwegian - it figures out to be 9:1, or thereabouts - loosened the tension, and jumped in. I'd pick up a handful of fiber and go.

I started out spinning from the tip end of each clump - I got a nice, hairy yarn, with a slight halo from the tips. I tried spinning from the middle of the "lock" - this resulted in a much smoother yarn, but it wasn't as fine as spinning from the tips. I had to be extremely careful - too much twist and I got wire, too little and it drifted apart if I even glanced at it. Very frustrating to keep the balance right! (Especially since this was a demo, and I had questions to answer, and people wanting to see How the wheel worked).

I had enough fiber to almost fill 1 bobbin. I decided to navajo-ply it (basically, you act like you are going to crochet a chain, but instead of pulling the loops tight against each other, you spin them closed. It makes a nice 3-ply yarn.) since I didn't have a ball winder or noste (again - I'll pack one from now on!) and the only noste-type thing around was the flagpole.

The plying went fast, but the singles were pretty twisty and I had to fight snarls.

The resulting yarn was slightly overplied. It wasn't as harsh as the singles were, but still not next-to-the-skin soft. There was a slight halo from the tips. The yarn felt very dense and heavy.

I think this would make good ropes and garden twine. It is very study; I don't think breakage would be a factor.

I'd like to experiement with a bit more - but on a wheel with much slower ratios. Again, my Norwegian is a fast wheel - and I think the Ashford or AA Jumbo array would be better suited for this.