Lessons of a spinning n00b: an apology to the Cheviot

I’ve been doing some thinking about the Cheviot of Sad, and about what I wrote last week. Specifically, about the claim that I like crunchy, wooly wool, and how incongruous that claim was with how I actually felt about such a wool. Do I really like wooly wool, I wondered, or do I just like to think of myself as the sort of person who likes wooly wool, in the same way that in my twenties I liked to think of myself as the sort of person who read Nietzsche, and so carted that copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra through eleventy moves, despite the fact that the bookmark never moved past page 86? Was I becoming a pretentious fibre indie snob, the kind who secretly only likes mainstream pop but is afraid to say so? Was it only a matter of time before some anonymous friend sent me a t-shirt reading, “Your favourite yarn sucks,” as a hint? Was I, in fact, talking out my backside?

I thought about what I had been working with alongside the Cheviot. As a new spinner, and one who doesn’t have the equipment (or the chops) to prep her own fibre, I’d been buying commercially prepared spinning fibre, which meant that the majority of my spinning had been with combed top. This is a very different preparation from the Cheviot: for combed top, the fibre is, well, combed, so it’s all neatly aligned with any second cuts or shorter fibres removed. This preparation ensures a complete lack of neps (tiny, undraftable clumps of fibre), as well. In roving, the fibres are all jumbled up, and as my much more experienced mother pointed out, this will often cause neps as a matter of course.

The other factor was the relative softness of what I’d been working with at that time. I looked back at my projects, and realized that the yarns I had been using — Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga! (merino/cashmere/nylon), Malabrigo Twist (merino), and Shibui Knits Silk Cloud (kid mohair/silk) — were not just softer, they were noted for being ridiculously soft. I had forgotten a basic lesson of grade school science: sensation is relative. After sucking on a lemon, almost anything will taste sweet. After working with those yarns, what fibre wouldn’t feel like sandpaper? Since my evening knitting for the last week had been with Beaverslide Worsted (merino/mohair, but decidedly crunchy in the skein), I pulled out the Cheviot yarn again. Sure enough, it didn’t feel so bad. In fact, it felt kind of nice.

But what about the prep? Did it deserve the criticism I had heaped upon it? After all, for all its perceived failings, the yarn had turned out looking pretty smooth. As it happened, some Jacob roving had just dropped on my doorstep. I had bought this roving from a supplier with an excellent reputation, so I pulled some out and spun it. Oh, look! Some neps! Neither more nor fewer than the Cheviot, in fact. Face. Palm.

Oh, Cheviot, how I have wronged thee.

So, dear Cheviot, I owe you an apology. You are not the Cheviot of Fail. You were unfairly judged by this newbie spinner, who made some very basic mistakes. I have given you a soak with a bit of conditioner so that my delicate princess hands will be appeased, and you will become the socks that you were destined to be.

And yes, I was talking out my backside.

4 thoughts on “Lessons of a spinning n00b: an apology to the Cheviot

  1. LOL I love that! I know what you mean about “wanting” to like all the entire range of all the wools in the entire world. I realized that my tastes were apparently very different from other ppl when I took a sheep breed workshop, where we tried lots of wools in the same day. Everyone else oo’d over a Romney, and I really loved Southdown. So to each his own 🙂 More for me!

    1. Ooh, Southdown is top of my list of fleeces to try once I use up more of the fleeces I have (or until my stash closet becomes bigger on the inside). I do love me some sproingy wool. The variety of wools out there is just astounding, isn’t it? There really is something for pretty much every purpose.

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