I bought myself a bunch of BFL (blue-faced Leicester), which is supposedly and apparently an easier yarn to learn to spin because the fibers are really long. I am enjoying the shit out of spinning it. These last two evenings, I didn’t even work on my afghan, because I’d just rather spend a couple of hours doing this.

A thing, though, that still irritates the piss out of me is that everything having to do with spinning is so expensive. How can this thing that used to be so ubiquitous–that multiple people in every household would have known how to do–cost so much to do it?

It’s like there’s a level of the craft missing. There are all these things that clearly are solutions for the time/labor intensive but cheap as fuck way to do things, but it’s not clear what those cheap things are/were. Like, I got a really, really great deal on some solid color fiber and I’d like to blend the four solid colors I got together in some ways, to give me more variety of yarn. A blending board costs $150.

Which… I mean, Jesus Christ. It’s a prickly cutting board. But, hell, it’s not like I know how to make a prickly cutting board, so more power to you, blending board makers of the universe.

But there’s something before this, clearly. Some thing spinners did or do that would make them exasperatedly say, fine, fuck it. I’ll shell out the $150.

But what is that?

I’ve watched a couple of tutorials on making “fauxlags,” which I think might suit my purposes. I wanted to test it out last night, but I don’t have a free flat workspace, because I have so much other shit started.

7 thoughts on “BFL

  1. The reason spinning used to be so ubiquitous before industrialization is that it was the most time/labor intensive step of cloth production, which was an essential industry. There’s a reason that the spinning jenny had such an impact on everything. Speaking as a pre-modern historian, I think it’s likely that the sorts of things you want to do were *always* long and slow and done under guild/factory supervision to exacting standards, for the luxury market only. Ordinary folks could only afford such items once they came to the used clothes market.

    Think of ale/beer production: when it was “oh, my grain is spoiling [i.e. sprouting] so I can’t use it for flour; I’d better make ale and sell it to all my neighbors”, everyone knew how to make ale, and sometimes did. It was tiresome but small batch, and produced an ordinary product. Once it became “sprout the grain deliberately, add hops and all these other flavorings that have to be imported instead of herbs out of the kitchen garden” it could be made commercially and people would come to expect a level of consistency and expertise that they didn’t from ales made by their village neighbors, and it became more expensive.

    So you, and home brewers, and people like that, are trying to produce at home things that once were produced by (female and male) professionals using professional (i.e. expensive) equipment for wealthy consumers, while you have been led to think that you’re just doing what any woman did at home in her spare time, for her family and friends. It’s not the same thing at all.

  2. You had lots of children and made them card things by hand during winter. Or apparently, in India they had a fancier bow technology? (The carding thing was shown to me by a grandparent as a child to keep us busy during a rainy week maybe?)

    Essentially she taught me to make (googles frantically for example: a pseudo rolag with a pet brush and omg I just realize how freaking off the cuff that was to keep a kid busy.

  3. I can’t solve the economics. I’ve always assumed it was one of those things where it used to be cheaper to do it yourself, but mass-production took care of that, while the price of specialty tools is somewhat higher than the price of tools everyone needs. (But actually not that much higher — people just needed to invest in tools.)

    But depending on the effect you want, you don’t need a blending board to blend colours together. Just fluff up your roving a bit, stack up the various colours, and maybe plank it a couple times. (I’m suddenly unsure about whether or not this is standard terminology and google doesn’t want to help. I mean, pull the ends of the mixed pile to stretch/draft out the whole thing at once. Then break it in the middle and stack the two parts on top of each other. Repeat until you’re happy with the mix. It’s a (semi) worsted technique. I’ve never had much success with woolen styles.)

  4. Rivikah, I was going to try your method with the fiber that I’m complaining about in today’s post. But I wanted to say that you gave me the guts to just stick some crap together and see what happens, so I drafted some Romney and silk together into little nests to spin up at some point in the future. And it was fine! The silk stuck to the wool. I didn’t need any fancy tools.

  5. I think everyone picks up some terrible fibre at least a few times.

    You could try this to shake some of the crud out of the fibre you’re complaining about (provided it’s mostly just loose in there and not stuck and matted in): Grab a half inch (or less) from the end of your roving and pull out a staple length chunk of it. If it’s sufficiently diffuse, it should fluff up quite a bit, and hopefully drop a bunch of the loose stuff in it. Giving it a bit of a shake might help too. To get back to something like roving, take each handful and lay out out in a line overlapping with the previous one by half or so. Do another layer if it’s not as thick as you’d like. You can always draft it back out if it’s too thick. Kind of pat everything back together. (This should have the side effect of helping with your fibre alignment.

    If it fluffs up too far and springs all over the place with this terrible static thing, try dampening your hands and then patting the roving to get a little bit of dampness in there before you start.

    I once saw a video of a woman working wool from locks with a similar technique (she needed to do a few passes to get everything fluffed up) but it has disappeared into the depths of the internet.

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