It is St. Patrick’s Day after all and my father and grandparents and long forgotten ancestors would all haunt me into my grave and beyond if I didn’t acknowledge it in some way.
So it is a leprechaun? A shamrock? A marathon showing of “The Quiet Man”?
Wait, wait, don’t tell me… The door will open and horde of Celtic dancers in green kilts and knee socks will come prancing out.
The observant among you will have noticed the sheep silhouette next to the door.
This year I am not indulging in green beer, wearing a shamrock on my lapel, or a button that says “Kiss Me I’m Irish.
No, this year in honor of the Blessed Saint, I give you:
Big green machines. Specifically machines for turning fleece into yarn. Because last weekend I went with a few friends to visit a small indie fiber mill in North Georgia. This particular machine is a carder. It does pretty much what a hand carder would do but faster.
The fleece is washed first, then it goes thru a smaller, also green machine to draw in out into what will feed thru the carder. A small set of rollers on one side of the carder turns it into roving. Then It goes to the pin drafter, another green machine that makes a lot of really irritating noise. The roving falls from here into a big canister and is ready to spin.
This is the one that actually spins the roving into yarn. This is the tricky part. Some fibers, especially blends, are more prone to separate and cause breaks. The owner, here, had just shown us some really beautiful soft suri/silk blend she had been working on which was not playing nicely at all. It was a bit like trying to spin the undercoat from a Golden Retriever.
The other side of this machine is used for plying the yarn.
Then the yarn has to be wound into skeins on this:
A giant mechanized niddy noddy. Then you get to take home some lovely yarn.
I learned that most small mills like this one use second hand equipment that has to be kept running with duct tape, prayer, and a network of people who understand this machinery. It also doesn’t hurt to make friends with a machinist or engineer in case irreplaceable parts have to be replaced.
I was very impressed by how much thought and research and knowledge went into the entire process. I won’t ever look at the fleeces at SAFF quite the same way. I confess, I want to buy one and have the mill make me some yarn. Seems like it would be worth it.
May you have a Grand St Paddy’s Day and all.