I sat down and spun on my Scottish wheel last night - in 30 minutes I had a 3/4 filled bobbin - and it got to me thinking about processing, and why it is such an important part of the whole making yarn thing.
I am currently spinning the purple/green/blue roving I got in Lindale on this wheel. The roving, quite frankly, sucks - it's full of VM, it's neppy, and getting a perfectly even, smooth yarn is impossible. I'm not too upset by this - I only paid $12.50 for the pound of wool (which is, what - $0.79/oz?)...but, it got me thinking: why do people market sub-standard roving/batts/clouds to handspinners, charging high prices for same? (And no, I'm not naming names - I can't remember where most of my fiber has come from, and even if I could, there's no point in pointing out someone's defects. Someone else may take the same prep and love the results...I'm just picky. And really picky about what I'll let leave my hands for someone else to do something with)
I prefer to spin as even and consistantly as I can. I am at the point now that I can pretty much control what type of yarn my wheels produce (well....I am still not totally with the heavier grist yarns, but I'm working on it. I *will* master singles that have an EPI of less than 40 one of these days!) - if I want to make a slub yarn, I can, but I generally chose to spin as "perfectly" as possible. With a properly processed fleece, this isn't a problem...but with an improperly processed one, it is - the processing dictates the final product.
Take, for example, the purple/green/blue roving. It's carded.....but. I don't know if the fleece was weak, wasn't teased properly, or if the processer has little to no clue; it has neps (little balls of fiber), some shorter fibers, and some felting going on that have made it impossible to mindlessly spin the perfect laceweight singles I was going for. Since I was using it for demos, I didn't mind - I can get it even enough to not get comments like: "Gee, I can buy better yarn than that!" - but had I paid more per ounce? Yeah, I'd be complaining.
I got some batts from somewhere a while back.....I had reservations when I saw the pictures, but I thought it was maybe the way the photos were taken. I mean, the seller is a handspinner, so I figured they knew how to properly card wool. Only, No. They had each been run thru the carder maybe once - the only reason the batts held together at all was due to the nature of wool to want to stick to itself. Spinning it was a nightmare until I gave in and just let it go.....can you say lumpy-bumpy unevenly textured yarn? (The intended recipient of the finished project - a shawl - loves the yarn, so it's good...but I'd never *sell* yarn like this. It doesn't make me happy.)
On the one hand, yeah - I could have recarded it. But - I had paid something like $7.00/ounce for them (It's been awhile.........I'm thinking $15/2 oz, but can't remember exactly)why should I have to re-do what the seller should have done in the first place? What was I paying for, if not the processing?
Contrast this with the perfectly prepared batts I got at Irish Fest.......*those* (and the next batch I grabbed gleefully when I had a chance) spin up into nice, even, smooth singles that ply up beautifully. And those were only $5.00 (or $6.00) an ounce! (or even less - my brain is going. I bought a pretty good assortment, and only paid $25....I can't remember to total weight, here, but yeah - it was *very* reasonable, especially considering the care the seller took in the processing)
You have to card batts more than once to get a good prep. What *I* do is flick all the fiber open, then rough card all of it in small batches - just enough fiber to completely cover the large drum of my carder. Then I split each batt in either half or quarters, mix 'em up, and recard. *IF* it looks good, then I'll sit down and start spinning; usually I re-split and recard at least 1 more time. Yes, it takes longer to work my way thru a pound of fiber....but the end result spins up so quickly that it makes it worth it.
Sometimes, I'll simply flick a fleece and spin from the locks - I can get a nice yarn that way, IF the fleece is open and clean to start out with. I'll even spin from hand-carded rolags, but again - it has to be well carded before I'll even consider it. Combing...well, *I* haven't run across any poorly processed combed slivers yet - probably because of the nature of combing vs. carding.
I've been debating on whether I should go ahead and re-card this roving or not.....I probably won't since I have 1 large skein and 1 3/4 bobbins already spun. *Next* time, though - I'll skip this type of prep, even if the price is right and the colors sing, because I do not need to be constantly flicking bits of VM out of my yarn. (or worse....1 batch I got was full of....insect parts. :ick:)
All that being said, had the batts in question been priced lower (like, say....$5.00 or less/ounce) I wouldn't have been so turned off. As it is, I haven't re-ordered, and I won't. (For the record, I'll spend more per ounce for hand-processed preps than I will from commercially processed ones - hand-processing takes more time, and the seller should be compensated for it. But $8/ounce for ill-prepared fiber? Nope. Never again, if I can help it)
Ah, well....tax season is well upon us, my wheels are calling me, and I'm stuck up here thinking about spinning instead of actually *doing* it. Tomorrow, however, shall be spent communing with my lovely Norwegian, spinning from perfectly prepared batts of wild and unusual colors (um.. I had bought this batch of batts intending to sell the resulting yarn....I'm thinking it'll make great (LOUD) socks, now...:grin:), and enjoying the fair.