I spin tales, they spin yarn

When I was in junior high, I found a pattern for a knitted bikini in Glamour magazine or some fashion magazine like that.

I didn’t know how to knit, but I really wanted to have a knitted bikini!

I had tried crocheting, with limited success. And my left-handed mother was not a knitter and could not have shown me how anyway.

So I taught myself how to knit out of a book.

I did manage to finish the knitted bikini after some time — summer was long gone about twice before I accomplished the task. And as you might imagine, a bikini knitted by a beginner isn’t wearable for a variety of reasons, nudity laws ranking high on the list.

But I persevered with the knitting and have started a number of projects over the years. I’ve even finished some of them, too, learning quit a bit along the way.

Once I made a long-sleeved sweater. I lengthened the sleeves (for my freakishly long arms) in all the wrong places and ended up gathering the shoulders so much that I looked like a football player.

I made a scarf for a boyfriend once that refused to lay flat.

And I have the cutest unfinished halter top in my knitting basket now.

But I’ve also had enough knitting successes to really enjoy the process, and I experienced enough to know that I hate using the cheap 100% acrylic yarn that is available in most craft stores.

This past weekend, I got to see how real wool yarn is made. We had dinner with a couple of Tyler’s high school classmates, who also happen to be the proprietors of Illinois Wool and Fiber Mill.

They showed us around their farm where they raise a small flock of sheep and mill their fleece and the fleece of other sheep owners into yarn. The amount of work that goes into making real wool yarn is amazing, and it makes me appreciate all the more the skeins of yarns I’ve handled over the years.

Besides having to care for living sheep while they grow fleece on their backs, these yarn makers must shear the sheep, wash the fleece, dye it (unless they’re going for a natural color), dry it, tumble it (to further remove foreign matter), blend it with other fibers if necessary, card it into rovings or batt, pin draft it (I think that’s the term) and finally spin it into yarn. Depending on how many ply the yarn has, multiple spinnings are in order. You can see a little slide show of the process at www.ilwoolfibermill.com

As I walked through all these steps, I’m amazed some caveman somewhere ever thought to turn a sheep’s fur into something wearable. And how that caveman got all that dirty fuzz into something useful (like yarn) — wow. The whole step of knitting a string of yarn into a sweater is all the more amazing! Talk about visionary.

The resulting yarn looks and feels wonderful and inspires me to take on another knitting project. Not a bikini, but perhaps a hat.

2 responses to “I spin tales, they spin yarn

  1. We raised sheep when I was little so of course I saw them sheared many times. My brother Byron was a top shearer and made quite a lot of spending money doing that before he was married. I have also tramped raw wool down in a wool sack to pack it for shipping–large bags 6 ft. long. One’s feet get very soft from the lanolin in the wool. I think spinning is a very amazing process.

  2. Your mom and dad were over tonight.
    They are doing well.
    Bonnie and I will be at the Twin’s game in Detroit the 28th. I hope we are still in the thick of it.

    You and you’s take care.

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