Fear Factor Fibre – Cotton Noil

I bought this noil because the colour really struck me. I had never heard of noil before and realised after I bought it that there would be a need for some fibre prep before I could spin this. I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet and get some hand carders.

Up to this point, I have been resistant to getting into the major fibre prep thing as I knew it would be a slippery slope to drum carders, buying whole fleeces and generally turning my apartment into a wool mill. But my I was foolish enough to fall for some pretty pretty fibre in need of prep, so hand carders were in my future.

Luckily for me I wouldn’t have to shell out for a brand new set of hand carders just yet. On a trip to Quebec city with my parents, while visiting the antique shops on Saint-Paul in Old Quebec, my dad pointed out to me this lovely set of hand carders. I looked at the price and pretty much squeeeeeeed in delight. A decent pair of hand carders for pretty much half the price of new ones. SCORE!

Yes, I know they say “N° 5 Wool” on the back, but I figure it’s close enough for me to try things out without too much of an investment. And as my dad said, if they don’t work out, they’re still antiques. He spent the rest of the trip pointing out loom bobbins, flax combs and any kind of spinning wheel he came across. A side note, there are several shops on the way to Quebec along the 20 with a great selection of wheels. You can get a wheel in good condition complete just needing a belt for around $300. But of course you’ll only be getting 1 bobbin at the most.

I’ve been studying up with my spinning fairy godmother, Ruthann Macaulley and researching making punis is no different. So following her demonstration in this video:

I went to work.

After a few awkward attempts, I really started to get the hang of things. Passing the fibre from one card, back to the other almost like a pro. Wouldn’t you know it, but this fibre prep thing is kind of fun! Before long I had quite the stack of hand rolled goodness to spin up.

I never thought I’d like the fibre prep—lord knows I abhor doing hours of predrafting—but working with hand cards is a lot faster than I thought. And I guess add some technology/toy to the equation and it’s party time!

Can I just tell you right now how much I LOVE the word puni. PUNI! P-U-N-I! I love that when spoken, it kind of sounds like a swear or something dirty but it’s totally not. No really, it’s ok to say puni at the top of your lungs PPPPPUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNIIIIIIIIIII! Puni. Love it.

K, onto working with the punis (…puni). Spinning from punis is pretty cool. Much easier than working from the cotton balls. At least at my level of experience with spinning cotton. I found that they were somewhat easier to work with when rolled a little bit tighter around the knitting needle. A firm puni makes for happy spinning. The fibres are more inclined to stick together when somewhat strongly encouraged. Plus I found that working with slightly felted fibres when I was first learning to spin helped me feel like I wouldn’t “break” the fibre while I was spinning it.

There was some breakage here and there when spinning the singles and overall they came out somewhat slubby and quite neppy. I think the nepps are mostly because I was working with noil. Overall there wasn’t nearly as much swearing and heart break as I had when first playing with the cotton balls.

I was quite concerned about getting a lot of breaking when plying the singles so I kind of left it for a week or two. I even started spinning some of the cotton sliver (is it pronounced sliver or sl-eye-ver? anyone know?) which drafts like a dream. I just have to watch that I get enough twist to keep it from coming apart altogether. The twist in the singles was very well and set once I did get around to it. And the breakage was minimal thought swearing was heard when it did happen.

I decided to go chain-ply because I didn’t bother to do any kind of puni counting (sounds kind of like cheating at strip poker doesn’t it?) while I was spinning and just filled one bobbin. Ruthann advises against plying from the inside and outside of a center pull ball when working with cotton and I’m very inclined to believe her.

Overall I’m very happy with how the yarn turned out. I like the neppiness. I like how subtle the colour shifts are. The weight is nice. One comment from a fellow spinner “It feels like Rowan cotton.” Not so bad for my first completed skein of cotton. It’s challenging but rewarding enough that I will definitely be playing with cotton more in the future. And not just because there’s a ball of sliver (sl-eye-ver?) on my coffee table.

I also plan to play more with the handcards. There will be punis and rolags and all sorts of hand carded fun in my future.

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