This is the second part of our previous interview with our customer, Cathe.
Cathe has a full-time job and is busy with a number of other things too, yet finds the time to pursue her hobbies – like spinning, weaving, and knitting. She lives in the university town of Kalamazoo in South West Michigan. Cathe has imbibed the values and life lessons shared by her maternal grandparents who had lived through the Great Depression.
Let us now learn more about her experiences in weaving and spinning.
Cathe’s Cotton Warp getting ready for the loom
Q: What method do you use for spinning? Which loom do you use for weaving?
Since I learned to spin on a castle wheel, I’ve continued to use one. I never learned how to use a spindle.
In the fall of 2003, I attend my first Michigan FiberFest, where I tested different spinning wheels and bought my first spinning fiber; one pound of a pre-dyed silk/wool combination.
I purchased my new wheel, a double-treadle “Ashford Traveler,” online, and spent the next few years practicing my spinning with that pound of silk/wool.
In early 2004, I lucked out with a barely used 24-inch, four-harness “Leclerc Artisat” jack-style floor mill.
I immediately used it to create a set of checked, honeycomb dishtowels from #10 crochet thread as a wedding present for brother and his new wife. They turned out to be the most absorbent towels they had ever used, so I followed it by making a set of plain white honeycomb dishtowels for my partner and me. Although they show a lot of wear, after nearly 16 years of use, they’ve held up very well. I plan to replace them, though, and have already begun warping the cotton thread.
Q: What are your favorite fibers and yarns?
I adore natural fibers. I learned to spin using white Romney wool, so wool is the easiest for me to spin. My favorite wools are Merino, Peruvian Highland, Polwarth, Rambouillet, and Targhee. I also love to work with alpaca, llama, and baby camel. In fact, when I was first learning to spin, I blended some black alpaca with our Siberian Husky’s undercoat to make yarn for my daughter. I have yet to work it up into a shawl for her, though. I also prefer to knit with #1 superfine-weight yarn and prefer lace-weight yarns for weaving. To date, I have woven mostly cotton and wool blends.
Q: What other fibers do you use, to weave or knit with?
In October 2019, I was able to purchase nettle fiber for making sock yarn, along with five other cellulose fibers I plan to begin spinning in the spring. They are ramie, linen, hemp, banana, and pineapple.
I’ve always wanted to spin silk but stopped purchasing blends when I found out that the caterpillar is boiled during processing. I don’t believe that any living thing should die or be tortured to make my clothing. Incidentally, that’s also why I choose to not purchase angora, and make certain my wool comes from a farm that refuses to mulesing its sheep. When I purchased the cellulose fibers, I also learned about Eri silk and planned to order some in the future.
Q: What type of clothing are you dreaming of making?
I actually dream of making all of my own clothes. But, to begin with, I am spinning Peruvian Highland wool with Eri silk to make sock yarn. I love socks and plan to make different compositions for different seasons. For instance, I just finished my first pair of 100 percent un-mercerized-cotton lace footies for summer.
Next, I plan to spin a 100 percent Eri silk yarn to make long underwear. I hope to have the yarn made and knitted up by the beginning of next winter. I also plan to spin heavier-weight yarn combinations for making pullovers and cardigans, as well as lace-weight yarns for weaving fabric for pants, suit coats, wraps, etc. It’s a big venture, and I expect that I will be doing this for a number of years to come.
Q: You recently purchased Muezart’s Eri silk Roving (our short fiber for spinning). What was your experience with using this fiber?
The 500g sliver I purchased, was smooth on the outside, but did contain a lot of artifacts; specifically, lengths of material still gummed together (like bits of straw), some tiny fragments of hardened material that I can stop and pinch away, and a lot of tiny coils of knotted silk that require a good deal of pinching and drafting to diminish their size.
I want to be clear. The fiber I have already spun is a bit knobby, but it is also beautiful. I love the cottony quality of the fiber. And, when I spin it for the loom to make suiting material, it will be gorgeous. I just can't use the short fiber Eri silk roving for my underwear. And, if I had done my research, like I normally do, I would have likely chosen the Eri silk top.
Thanks for the candid feedback on the Eri Silk Roving you bought. We describe it as an excellent fiber for spinning a more rustic yarn.
Q: What was your experience with Muezart’s Eri Silk top?
I began spinning the Muezart’s Eri silk top. It is amazing! First, I split the total in half; then, split the first half into quarters with the intention of making two 100g 4ply skeins. When I took the first quarter to the wheel, it was a little slipperier than I expected, but I soon got a rhythm going.
As you can see, the singles spun up very nicely and consistent, just as I hoped they would. These first two skeins will be used to begin knitting long underwear leggings. Obviously, two skeins won't be enough, so I'll return to Muezart for more Eri silk top. Later, perhaps in the summer, I will also create a two-ply to warp onto my floor loom.
In the past, I've woven with mercerized cotton and a handspun silk/wool combination. Both tended to be a bit coarse to work with, and warp threads had a tendency to "grab" onto each other making the warping process frustrating.
Muezart’s Eri silk on the Bobbin
Even in its "single" form, I can already tell that the Eri silk will be much easier to work with. It has a satiny feel that allows the strands to float next to each other without tangling. Yet, during spinning, the fibers hang onto each other so well, I can get a very consistent, very thin working thread. It will be a real treat to throw it up onto the loom, and really test its tensile strength and anti-static qualities.
Q: You love knitting socks. Any experience making larger garments?
Finished most recently was my winter coat. I probably should have kept better track of the number of actual hours I spent. But, overall, the winter coat took two years of planning, pattern redesigning, and knitting.
The yarn was a purchase, and one of the reasons I'm done with purchasing industry-made yarn. The yarn is a 35% acrylic, 30% alpaca, 20% unspecified wool, and 15% viscose blend from Ice Yarns. It is a #5 bulky yarn single, mock-homespun (thick-to-thin).
So, after all the work I put into it, after wearing it for only one month, the exterior of the coat is pilling and shedding, as is to be expected. I started with a published hooded sweater pattern, then rewrote it to be double thick with an interior lining of 3M Thinsulate to make it cold resistant to -20 degrees F (it gets pretty cold in Michigan).
Just as FYI to you, Cathe, Eri Silk does not pill.
Q: Do you have a community of spinners and weavers you work with?
Although I’ve taken classes from members of the Kalamazoo Spinners and Weavers Guild, I haven’t thought much about joining. At the university where I work, however, I’m finding a number of faculty, staff, and administrators who are also spinners and weavers, and some who raise fiber animals. Though none of us has found a time that’s compatible with our schedules, we joke about needing to get together.
Thanks, Cathe for taking the time to share your stories and experiences.
We hope to update this post once Cathe is ready with a finished garment using Muezart’s Eri silk.
Are you a weaver, spinner, knitter? Connect with us and Share your story with us.