targhee

Ah, Targhee, I didn't realize how much I loved you - but really I shouldn’t be surprised. My experience with Targhee had thus far been limited to milled yarns and I'm happy to report that the things I love about this breed's fleece is apparent when both knitting and spinning.

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The hope for a dual purpose, uniquely American breed that could withstand the harsh weather of the wild American West was certainly fulfilled with the creation of Targhee sheep.

"Invented" quite recently at the United States Sheep Experiment Station in 1926, Targhee hail from Rambouillet, Lincoln, and Corriedale stock - all long wool breeds known to produce lovely fleece. This lineage of fine fiber combined with the knowledge garnered through the creation of the Columbia breed (also at the USSES), resulted in the big boned-incredibly soft fine fleece producing-Targhee. 

Naturally polled and with open, wool-free faces, Targhee rams can weigh in at a whopping 200-300 pounds, with ewes weighing as much as 200 pounds (big sheep!!). In general, Targhee are white but every now and then some black or brown will sneak in, though deviation from white isn’t accepted per breed standards.

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Like their genetic predecessors, Targhee fiber is both soft & squish-able and dense & durable. A staple length of 3-5 inches makes spinning it quite enjoyable - that said having spent so much time recently with much longer staple length fibers keeping my hands and feet in sync at the wheel kept me on my toes (literally).

Having picked up this braid soon after bringing home the antique wheel, I figured might as well get this sassy lil bit of hand dyed Targhee on that 200 year old bobbin. When breaking up and preparing the fiber, I tried to do a bit of a fractal thing with the colors. Juries still out on whether or not I actually accomplished it though…

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The specs: 19 wraps per inch | gauge unknown | 39 grams so far

Plans for this skein are still in the works, and I have another ~30 grams of it to spin, but the idea thus far has been to use it to make a pair of house slippers for Andy, something like these ones made by Temple of Knit. At any rate, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to eek out enough yardage for some kind of fun small project.

stash pt. 1

My goal this year has been two-fold: to knit from stash, and to spin whatever else was needed. Since my making is rooted in my politics, each unused skein of yarn or neglected cake is a not-so-subtle reminder of my consumptive habits and lack of impulse control concerning all things wool.

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"Reduce, re-use, recycle" and "make do and mend" are common phrases heard in my house. And in all aspects of my life, I strive to reduce the footprint I'm leaving behind on this planet. When it comes to the art of making, these phrases I so hold dear get complicated and twisty. Often I need materials, so I'll go buy things. While buying local is my first preference, sometimes things need to be ordered online, but regardless either myself or the delivery person is driving around burning fossil fuels to get the thing to me.

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So, what am I doing about all this. 

The first step is simple; use what I have. Whether that's ripping out old projects that haven't been finished or using up the skeins and cakes that have sat on the shelf for far too long, using what's already within arms reach alleviates stash related anxiety as well as capitalistic urges to consume, consume, consume. 

I've happily begun the adventure of working through my stash, and so far have finished a Beach Tank and a pair of socks. Soon to follow are some sweater WIPS including Kumon, Yves, and Lovage. It's been really liberating so far to watch the skeins dwindle, even if only the smallest of dents has been made in my yarn cubby. 

Stay tuned for stash pt. 2 where I'll talk more about my stash busting projects!

 

a tale of two nests

I learned to spin at a shop in my old neighborhood. The wheel I sat at for two days was an Ashford traditional, and I was joined only by two other women and our teacher. Even to this day a few years later I carry the lessons I learned over those two days very close to my heart.

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Before venturing out into the world of wheel spinning, Andy got me a drop spindle kit and I spent a few months trying (desperately) to figure out how to make yarn with that thing. Needless to say, I was unsuccessful and frustrated and just wanted to move on to a spinning wheel because I just knew that the problem was with that cruddy little spindle.

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Well, I wasn't wrong. At least not entirely. I was very lucky to have my first moments at the wheel feel like magic, but I think that had a lot to do with the struggles I had with that cruddy little spindle. 

One lesson I learned that helped me enormously was that pre-drafting roving makes a world of difference. Take for instance the foto above, to the left is a nest of pre-drafted fiber and to the right is a nest of straight up roving. Notice how airy and floofy the left nest looks. Notice how the individual fibers have been opened up and are ready to be pulled apart just a bit more to invite the twist in.

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What didn't come with that cruddy little spindle were any instructions at all about how to prepare your fiber before spinning. Naturally, when attempting to spin straight up roving on a light-weight spindle made of balsa wood one will encounter little success. 

There are, it seems, two camps of folks; those who pre-draft and those who don't. Having tried both methods, I'm definitely of the former group - pre-drafting can really make the difference between a happy and a frustrating spinning experience!

a new, old wheel

On our way home yesterday, Andy and I decided to finally pop into an antique store that we'd driven by a hundred times. Being a collector and a lifelong fan of antiques, I was (naturally) distracted by all of the amazing bits and bobs. Old keyhole covers, door knobs, cornices, and stained glass windows were everywhere - and up high on top of a display case was a super cool, giant, taxidermied hyena.

"Andy look at that hyena!" I said and immediately focused in on something else, "Uh. Jamie did you see the spinning wheel?"

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Sure enough, right next to the hyena was a beautiful old spinning wheel. Geez, Jamie, how could you miss that!! From our vantage point on the ground everything seemed to be intact, and the price seemed fair. We found a kind member of the staff to bring him (the wheel) down. Said staff member was maybe a little smaller than us and getting this heavy fella down off of the display case required some assistance from her teammate. Once it was within prodding distance, I was smitten. 

He was in great shape and with what seemed to be all of his original parts. He even had a makers mark - "W.M.DLD." Not wanting to be impulsive, we put the wheel on hold so that I could do a bit of research. After some due diligence, I learned that this wheel was made in Nova Scotia sometime around 1820/1830 by William McDonald. How it came to be in Portland, we'll never know but I'll keep researching and will surely share whatever I discover.

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After skeining up the old wool that was still on the bobbin, it took all of 15 or so minutes to sort out proper tension and be off spinning! Boy oh boy, does he spin like a dream. And as I treadle, I can feel the foot impression of the person (likely a woman) who spent hours and hours sitting at this wheel long before me. 

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I could wax more poetic about what's fueled my months long search for an antique wheel, but maybe that's a conversation best had another time. There's just too much for me to say on the topic, and right now I would rather go spin on my beautiful new, old wheel!