One of the first things to consider when starting a new project is what materials to use. I'm lucky to live in an area where there is rich farmland and kind farmers. When I choose fiber to create yarn I consider a few things. I meet farmers, see how their animals are raised, and check the quality of the fleeces.
Once the fleeces are picked they go to the mill. I use Gurdy Run Woolen Mill. I worked there for four years, so I know my fiber is in great hands. The wool gets weighed on incoming and washed. Wool, on average, can lose anywhere from 25% - 50% of it's incoming weight when the dirt and grease is removed. After the wool is dry it goes through a picker which opens the locks and prepares it for the carder.
One of the first things I do when I get a new yarn back from the mill is sample it. This allows me to understand the characteristics of the yarn and how it will look as a finished object. Once I know more about the yarn I design a project that will showcase it. When a project it planned the next step is winding a warp. Each thread in a project has to be exactly the same length. When the warp is prepared it is time to set up the loom. Set up involves beaming the warp, threading heddles and the reed, tying on to the front beam and tying up the lamms and treadles. Depending on the size of the project this could take a whole day to get done.
The fibers are aligned and prepared for spinning in a machine called a carder. It has a series of toothed-cloth cylinders that the fibers pass over. Think hairbrush. Once it comes out of the machine it is called roving and is ready for pin- drafting. Pin-drafting further aligns the fibers and thins down the roving. After a couple of passes through the pin- drafter it is finally ready to be spun. First it will get spun into single strands of yarn. Then two single strands of yarn will be spun together in the opposite direction. this is called plying. The last stage is to wind on to cones so it's ready for weaving.
I have been growing flax to process into linen for a few years. It is satisfying to grow and process, but I can only do it in small quantities. When I buy linen I go with Bockens. It is spun in Sweden, where there is a long history of flax production. The quality of yarn is exceptional, and that shows in the final object.
Natural dyes create gorgeous colors that match well with each other. In using dyes that I harvest or purchase from ethical sources I'm cutting back on my use of yarns that use petrochemical dyes as a colorant. I love growing plants and harvesting weeds to extract color.