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Fiber weekend – Silk, silk and more silk!

I asked people on my Instagram if they would like to know more about fibers I work with and it was a unanimous YES! I am not a huge expert on any type of fiber, but I do have experience that I accumulated through carding, spinning, knitting and embroidering which I would love to share with anyone who is interested. I figured – weekends are great for longer materials, such as blog posts, also – there are so many fibers I work with, so tune in every weekend to read about them on my blog.

Hand dyed A grade mulberry silk roving

Let me start by saying that if money was not a problem, I would spin everything and anything with silk. I honestly don’t see why all the yarn in the world shouldn’t be made of silk or at least with some silk. It has loads of amazing properties, some of which I will try to cover in this post.

Silk is:

  • Painfully beautiful (that shimmer and shine!)
  • super soft
  • adding nice draping qualities
  • very fine (so it can also be spun into lace)
  • very lightweight
  • strong
  • has great moisture absorption properties (which are actually a pain in the butt when you wash your freshly spun skein of yarn and it takes days to dry in humid days)

What is not to love about silk, am I right?

Price. The silk that has all these great qualities and then some is ridiculously expensive. Granted, it goes a looong and expensive way from caterpillar cocoon to becoming an expensive yarn. Quality silk is still amazing and I sometimes buy some, but I never put more than 5 % even in my most luxurious blends. For all the great qualities that silk has, there are so many substitutes out there, man made or plant based, and I try to experiment with them all (like rose, pearl, mint fibers, nettle, nylon – I will definitely talk about the future posts).

poorly dyed tussah silk noil

There are different types of silks which vary depending on the breed of worm that made the silk cocoon or their diet or location. There also are many different “sub-products” of silk. For example, my very favorite silk product is silk noil, which:

  • is leftovers from spinning the actual long and shinny silk fibers or short fibers of the worm cocoon
  • lacks the length
  • lacks the strength
  • lacks the shine
  • is more comparable to cotton than silk
  • can be used in spinning projects to add texture to the yarn
  • is a lot cheaper than standard silk
yarn made with white silk noil (clearly visible clumps)

This yarn is a very good example of what silk noil looks like when even a tiny amount is added to the yarn – it leaves a visible, chunky clumps, sometimes quite big. It is a great way to add more texture to the yarn, and help it look even more “hand-made” and unique.

In addition to the noils, there also are various silk sari related products, which are usually either waste of sari production or recycled sari silk. Whatever it is, it usually also lacks all or some properties of the premium quality silk (weaker, less shinny, less soft, short etc.).

Merino – bamboo blend colored with recycled sari silk

I have tried recycled sari silk and it is:

  • entertaining to work with (as there are so many different colors packed in a small and light quantity of fiber)
  • not too pricey
  • short (which is great to add small specks of color, but harder to spin)
  • still nice and shinny

By the way, for a month starting October 5th this beautiful merino-bamboo blend with recycled sari silk is on discount! Use this opportunity and snatch yourself a skein! click
https://www.alionanova.com/product/bamboo-wool-yarn-permanently-dirty/

So all in all – silk is sure rich in it’s properties and prices, but totally worth it. So even though I said that I would use it day and night, most of the time I pass it for a great substitute. One of my favorites is nettle fiber, which I will be talking about in my next weekend post. Stay tuned!

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Fiber weekend – Merino Roving vs Carded Wool

I asked people on my Instagram if they would like to know more about fibers I work with and it was a unanimous YES! I am not a huge expert on any type of fiber, but I do have experience that I accumulated through carding, spinning, knitting and embroidering which I would love to share with anyone who is interested. I figured – weekends are great for longer materials, such as blog posts, also – there are so many fibers I work with, so tune in every weekend to read about them on my blog.

A thin piece of hand dyed merino roving

I present you – merino roving. This is something I use in every single yarn I make. This is the highest quality and longest wool fiber that I purchase in white and then hand dye to give it some color.

Why does it matter how long the fiber is? Because spinning gets very hard if fibers are short, it might slip from my hands and disappear into the bobbin, and it is pain in the butt to keep pulling it out of there every minute or so. It is a lot more work with short fibers and, naturally a lot less with longer. Actually, do don’t even have to spun roving – it looks like a very chunky, fluffy and even strand of yarn as it is, only problem with it being fragility. But spinning, of course, adds strength.

To sum up, merino roving gives the yarn such qualities:

  • Warmth (merino wool is considered warmer than regular sheep wool);
  • Durability and strength
  • lightness (merino roving traps a lot of air, which makes the yarn look fluffy and puffy)
  • softness (it’s fine, it’s long, it doesn’t stick out much)
  • easy to spin (ouh man, it spins like butter!)
  • price (good quality and properties usually come at a higher price).
A commercially dyed piece of carded wool

Another fiber that I use a lot is carded wool. So it might seem ironic after I just spent 3 paragraphs explaining how superior long fibers are, because carded wool is usually super short, therefore it can not come in roving. Carding helps short fibers to somewhat get oriented to the same direction, but it is still pretty entangled in order to stay in one shape. It is still very easy to take apart by hand, even the thickest bat of carded wool is.

But it is still wool and it is still warm, breathable, it has great moisture absorption properties and acts just like your usual wool. But… it is cheaper and it comes in so many colors, which usually doesn’t increase the price that much.

So how does this fiber find it’s place in my yarn?

  • it adds color (adding up to 20 % of carded wool gives it plenty of subtle color, yet doesn’t visibly negate merino roving properties)
  • it adds texture (it cards differently from other fibers, therefore it looks and feels differently when I spin and in the final product)
  • it doesn’t break the bank and allows me to charge less for my yarn, than I would normally had to charge if I worked with pricier materials.
hand spun carded wool yarn

I didn’t know all this when I started spinning. I made quite a lot of rough, bitting yarn using purely carded wool. It was hard to spin, the result wasn’t very even (due to short fibers being much harder to work with, especially for a newbie) and often my yarn would break when I tried to take it off the bobbin. Spinning, adding twist, helps to keep those short fibers together, but rewinding yarn, washing etc., it all untwists it a bit and it can fall apart.

All in all – wool is still one of my favorite fibers to work with, be it merino or sheep wool. It is amazing how many different varieties and types of wools there are, I barely tapped into that vast universe of wool! Same sheep produces different fleece depending not only on the breed, but also it’s age, living conditions and/or diet, so no wonder the world of wool is so rich.

Hope you found my basic notes on these two types of wool somewhat informative and interesting. Join me next Saturday for the thoughts and notes on various silk fibers that I use in my yarn.

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Humble beginnings

Exactly a year ago I was taking part in a training called “Find yourself”, targeted at young, unemployed people. I was the oldest in the crowd as I was approaching the ceiling of the age of their target group. It was an experience I will never forget as it helped me to shape who I am and what I do today. But not in a way that I just made it sound like.

The lady hosting the training was a very self-confident, middle aged woman who has kids my age herself. I was confused whether or not she had business of her own, but she was confident in her advice of starting one, or at least seeking employment. She didn’t shy away from criticizing everything that clashed with her views and opinions, including the participants, their looks, opinions or behavior.

During a two-day training she expressed an opinion, that if someone didn’t find themselves before the age of 29, then no amount of money will help such a loser to achieve that and she would never want her money to be invested into such a lost cause. Here she was criticizing the effort of European Union funded program on behalf of Labour Exchange to fund and thus help to kick start businesses dreamed up by young people.

I don’t know what made me talk when it came time for the trainer to distribute her business advices. At the time I was in the process of teaching myself how to spin and my dream was to make and sell hand-spun yarn to people who appreciate and are willing to pay for quality and unique hand made items. I passionately talked about this idea of mine and many many ways I am going to diversify my activities, products and services, just to her face frown up even more.

After giving it a couple seconds of thought she was ready to crush my hopes and dreams right in front of everyone. Any hand-made business is not profitable, it is not going to work unless I seek financial assistance from the government, nobody needs yarn, it is such a niche thing to do etc. I am sure most people sitting there thought “wtf, who makes yarn? spin? who spins these days? who is this delusional girl?” and it was greatly fired up by self-confidence of hers while “crushing” my dreams.

But I said at the beginning that it was an experience that helped me out at the beginning and I didn’t exaggerate. After her speech, during a brake, I approached her to thank her and let her know that back in the day, my small, insecure self would be devastated by her answer to my craft-business idea, but today I am shocked by how little affect it had on me. Actually, it made me believe what I do even more.

I didn’t want to do normal things, things that unemployed youth is encouraged to do. I wanted to do my things. Also, I didn’t start this to appeal to masses, to make regular looking yarn and crafts, that would definitely sell. I wanted to make weir looking yarn, different, something that would stand out in a crowd, something that would wear it’s uniqueness as a badge of honor and wouldn’t get crushed under first criticism. And I always knew that somewhere on this planet there are people, who want to have that uniqueness and weirdness and can pay for it.

I told her how really it didn’t matter how much money I would make, because this is something I spend ALL my time on, so every euro is a win to me, since I would be doing exact same thing even if I crumbled under criticism and insecurity.

I was so so proud of myself. I have bad days filled with self- doubt, but mostly I wake up and go to sleep with a smile, because I love what I do. My yarn, my embroidery comes from love. And it’s the best.

Me, learning to spin on a kitchen floor, using a very old spinning wheel, summer 2018

I wish everyone reading this, whatever you do – love it!

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Welcome to my shop!

Hello dear visitor!

You are one of the first people to visit this little art shop of mine. I am still making baby steps towards being able to easily share my creations with the world so bare with me, because soon I will share:

  • more information on how and why I use recycled fibers to make my yarn;
  • how yarn and embroidery comes to life in my hands;
  • my newest selection of recycled fiber yarns and other kinds of specialty yarns;
  • more beautiful embroidery art.

While you are waiting for more content and browsing, please remember that all the designing and making of all the products as well as administrating of the shop is one woman operation – mistakes are inevitable. I will be happy to help you if you encounter any problems with this website or my products, just drop me a line via email or Instagram (aliona.nova).