Monday, February 17, 2014

Spinning a Feathered Yarn

 Until I decided to actually sit down and spin my chickens' feathers, I never realized exactly how many different types of feather a single chicken had. I raise Black Sussex chickens because they are cold hardy, produce an above average number of eggs and excellent foragers. I allow them to free range during the day and close them in the coop at night to protect them from predators.

My goal was to produce a soft yarn that had feathers dangling from it. My first attempts involved several different ways of wrapping the feathers into the yarn using a core thread as well as threading the feathers on a thread. The wrapping method caused the feathers to be wrapped unevenly and parallel to the yarn. The threaded feathers kept splitting where the needle had gone through the feather. Neither method worked for me since, besides not hanging the way I wanted, they looked sloppy and I did not feel that they were anchored securely.
I then came across some jewelry crimps with a hole in the top. I could crimp the feather inside the metal and thread each of the feathers onto a core thread and then place the feathers as I spun. I selected some of the softest feathers which were 3-4 inches in length.

I found a roving in my stash that coordinated with the feathers: a blend of alpaca and kid mohair in natural colors.
Spinning the yarn was a challenge, since the feathers were wispy and periodically got hung up in the holes.
When I wound the yarn off into a skein, I got some interesting effects. I made sure that I put enough twist in that the weight of the feathers would not cause the core thread to hang outside the yarn.
 Different lighting cause the feathers and yarn to look much lighter in color.
 Above is the yarn before I set the twist.
 The twist has been set and the yarn is now balanced.
A close up of the feathers attached to the yarn. My next challenge is to knit/weave or crochet it up into wearable art. I have spun a single to give me enough yardage.

Things to consider when spinning feathered yarns:

Commercial feathers available in craft stores are not the same as natural chicken/bird feathers. You have to read the fine print on the packaging to be sure that they are not dyed and that they can be washed. You have to be able to set the twist as well as remove the oils that your handling the fibers leave on your yarn. My test skein was washed and the feathers looked sickly until it dried and they fluffed back to the original state.

Some feathers are going to be too small to be held by the crimp and others will need a much larger crimp to be held in place. I used 6mm crimps for this skein.

Crimps come in several different colors. Be sure to pick one that coordinates with your feathers and yarn or the whole skein will look off. Art can very quickly become craft and crass when colors don't work together.

Let me know what you think! I have already come up with a few other ways to spin feathers, but I will save them for my freeform art yarn class.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

New Lambs and Yarns

 Above: Black Eyed Pea with her lambs born this morning. Cloudy and Showers are the names. Bet you can picture our weather!
 Sweet Pea and her lambs are out in the front yard with the rest of the sheep. They have figured out that they need to keep an eye on their mother. They are now sprinting around the field. I have handled them enough that they will let me pick them up. I could not catch them otherwise.
 It is supposed to rain and then snow again. We closed the farm gates so the sheep could get out of the barn for a while. It does not look like there is much to eat, but they seem to be finding something.
On Thursday I head off to the Ocean City, MD, for their first fiber festival. I have loads of new yarns and colors, so come check it out, if you have time. It closes on Sunday at 2 p.m. so don't wait till the  last minute.