Sometimes an impulse should be resisted.
On impulse, last week at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, because it seemed like a bargain, I bought half a dozen bags of generic wool roving in pretty colors, half a pound each. At that point, I was practically shopped out and ready to leave, and that's probably exactly what I should have done.
I haven't mentioned the vendor's name in previous posts and I shan't now, because this roving is a mess. It's the first time I've experienced wool so badly prepared. It's honestly very much like what I was removing from the drum carder to throw away when processing my own little fleece. It seems to be, literally, almost nothing but nepps. For non-spinners, nepps are those little balls of lumpy fiber you see in the picture instead of a nice smooth river of wool.
I have to believe that their product is usually better than this. Perhaps they let the children run the woollen mill for a day?
I took samples of the gray, light brown, and blueberry colors and blended them using my drum carder. I wanted to see how they would look together, and whether some of the messy stuff might card out. That didn't happen; to get rid of the messy parts, I'd have had to throw away the whole lot. In fact, I thought seriously about cutting my losses and doing just that. I wished I knew someone who needed a quantity of wool to stuff a mattress with.
Failing that, I thought, let's just try it out and see what it's like. After all, isn't silk noil made up of all the little bumps like this that don't make it into the smooth silk fiber preparations? Wool noil, that's what it is! I took the blended roving to my spinning wheel Rastro to see what the two of us could make of it. I started spinning and found that, try as I might, it was going to come out as lumpy, bumpy, thick and thin yarn. Maybe I could go with it and knit it into some kind of very slouchy, casual sweater. In any case, there was no way to spin anything else with this roving. Slubs automatically formed around all the little fiber pills. I actually wondered if there was enough good sound wool in the mix to serve as connective tissue between the bumps.
Nevertheless, I spun a couple of single strands and plyed them together. The result was better than I expected. The spinning itself is painful, and I'm not convinced the yarn is strong, but it's holding together for now and doesn't look half bad. It just looks like a very rustic yarn with lots of texture and character. If I can stand spinning my way through a pound and a half of this involuntary bumpiness, maybe I'll have the makings of an attractive simple sweater.
I'm so glad I didn't encounter wool like this any earlier, before I got some decent spinning experience under my belt. I'd have thought it was coming out that way because I wasn't doing it right. I'd have tried and tried and probably ended up having a good cry out of sheer frustration.
Now that I more or less know what I'm doing, I can handle it, and maybe even make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. We'll see.
And then there will just be the other pound and a half of this stuff to get through!