Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tatting Tea Tuesday and The Tour de Fleece

It's Tatting Tea Tuesday again and since I'm also well into the Tour de Fleece, today's post will be about handspun tatting thread.

I am absolutely fascinated with this idea.

You think about it now, we don't trust things we make ourselves. Take food for example. It's not just convenience that causes most people to not make their own cheese, bake our own bread, smoke their own salmon, or ferment their own pickles. It's something more. We are afraid. We don't have the skills or the knowledge. On the whole, we feel that we cannot feed ourselves as safely as a huge factory can.

We have given away something to the companies that provide for us: Not just trust in our own accomplishments, but we have also lost pride in what we can create. This is very sad to me.

I'm afraid the same has happened with yarn. We don't weave with handspun warp very often because of the convenience, consistency (a word that, perhaps, is held in too high esteem), and a belief in the strength of the factory constructed. I am often petrified with the fear that I don't know enough to spin for a difficult project. I read and read, searching for the perfect technique to avoid making the most common mistakes. There is so much to read, what with the internet and all the books on the topic. It's no wonder I've taken so long to attempt the 'impossible' when there is a world of literature telling me that it is impossible.

This fear of failure prevents me from trying new things and learning from my own mistakes. Instead, I am Hamlet. I think and read and consider the possibilities while nothing actually gets accomplished.

Handspun yarn is not the same as the commercially made stuff. Certainly, you can produce a yarn by hand that matches a commercial yarn. But there is so much more to spinning than that.

One of the beauties of handspun yarn is the minute differences in the yarn as you move along its length. This handspun tatting thread has this quality and needs to be treated accordingly. It is strong, it is smooth, it is not as stiff as commercial cotton thread (but then again, this is made from silk), and it has slight variation one inch to the next. Not big changes or bumps. Just slightly thicker here and slightly thinner there. For that reason, especially if shuttle tatting, one needs to not pull the knots quite so tight if one wants the ring to close.

As you see, it is gorgeous to tat with handspun silk thread. It's Navajo ply (3 ply), Bombyx silk. The pattern is Chantilly.

At first I was so delicate with the thread, expecting it to shatter if I breathed too hard. But as I was tired, I kept making mistakes. Forgetting to flip knots, stuff like that. So I had to untat this and untat that - until I was treating this thread with as much vigour as I would any factory made thread.

I hope to experiment more with spinning tatting thread as the summer progresses. I want to try different fibre preparations, different fibres, and different methods of plying. I'll keep notes and perhaps, if I can get my confidence up, will see about writing an article for my spinning guild's newsletter. That is is anyone wanted to read it.

The nice thing about spinning for tatting is that it takes such a small amount of fibre and spinning to create a sizeable sample of tatting. The unfortunate thing about this, is that spinning silk thread is exceptionally hard on the arthritis.

I have 75 yds spun up and need to create at least that much again this week. So, my Earl Grey tea, my wheel and I are off to sit in the sunlight with the ducklings and see if I cannot get the rest of the silk spun up into singles today for plying later in the week. Then, I can get back to my main Tour de Fleece challenge: combing and spinning Shetland wool.


riggwelter said...

that is gorgeous!

Sarah said...

An article for the newsletter would be great! Sounds like an interesting experiment. I love your thoughts.
(And Spin Off would probably love an article like that too!)

Josiane said...

I was about to say the same thing Sarah said: I'm sure Spin Off would love publishing your article about spinning for tatting.

You are absolutely right about the fear, and the fact we gave away a lot of our power to create things for ourselves to big companies. It's really sad that we got to trust them more than ourselves, especially since I'm not so sure all of them are quite so trustworthy... Let's hope that we'll inspire more people to try some of these things for themselves.