The first thing Sarah taught us was how to do thick-and-thin (aka slub) yarn on purpose. The trick is to note your fiber's staple length, and then make the slubs just a bit shorter than that, so that the ends of the fiber are caught and spun on both sides. I didn't particularly like doing this exercise, since I don't like slub yarn, but it was definitely valuable to practice paying attention to staple length and drafting and how they relate to each other to get to the yarn diameter that you want.
Next up was long draw spinning from the fold, using a soft prepared top with a good staple length. This technique is SO COOL once you get it down, but it's also only going to work by spinning from the fold or from a rolag, which is why I didn't figure it out before. The neatest bit is that as you draw back with your left hand and control twist entering with your right, the thicker spots will thin out to match the rest, and the result is a really springy yarn. It's like magic! I definitely need more practice with this technique, but I've got the basics down for sure.
After teaching the long draw method, Sarah passed out rolags she'd made ahead of time as well as offering short instruction on how to use hand carders to make your own. I made mine in purple and lime green! I don't plan to card my own fleece or fiber very often, but I do have a small and precious bag of Curzon's undercoat that I want to spin with some red wool to make yarn for a bracelet, so I'm glad to have gotten the practice. Plus it's the best fiber prep option for doing the long draw method for a springy woolen yarn, so knowing the trick is pretty neat.
Later in the afternoon we tried spinning cotton for the first time, using these punis (basically cotton rolags) that Sarah made ahead of time using silk noil blended with the cotton. We spun these using a similar technique to the long draw learned that morning, although with much more twist to accommodate the shorter fibers.
It was interesting to spin the cotton, and it was definitely a lot of work even with the "ease" added by the silk noil that helped bind the short fibers together. I can see why there are so many specialized cotton spinning tools available (tahkli spindles and charkha wheels), as it was not easy to spin these well on my Sidekick! I don't think this is something that I'll do much of in the future, but I'm glad that I got the chance to give it a shot.
The end of class was left with the option to work on whatever we wanted, including carding either wool or cotton, spinning with the additional fibers, flick carding wool locks, or playing with the luxury fiber Sarah brought along. The brown is prepared camel down roving, and the silver is the most gorgeous extra-long-staple alpaca I've seen. I really enjoyed spinning them both, especially the alpaca which was so long that I could spin thread nearly effortlessly. It was also nice to enjoy spinning camel down, as my only experience with it so far was in a mixed batt and the camel down bits were horribly neppy and ugly and not at all pleasing.
It's been five weeks and four days as of today, and I still want Curzon back so badly it hurts. I've been working on the photo book I'm making for him, and last night was the first time I could do it without ending up crying at my desk while looking at the pictures. I've been going through our photos one year at a time, last night going through 2009, and then putting them in the book and into an album on Facebook as well. We decided to add more pages to have more pictures, so interspersed with the story pages are solid collages of pictures of that wonderful boyo.
Martok is continuing to be a comfort, even as he shows personality traits that he could have learned from Curzon, which both make me smile and want to cry at the same time. He's such a bright and inquisitive little guy it's amazing, and the way he throws himself into everything (often literally) is a delight. I so wish we could have had more time with both of the boys together...