Dyeing to spin

Dry & Drying

Dry & drying

I’ve been dying up some fiber for the fine spinning class I’m teaching on Saturday at The Wicked Stitch. I figured it’s way more fun to work with color, even when focusing on technique, so I dyed up some superfine merino, merino & silk, optim, merino roving, and silk hankies for class.


Merino & silk for fine spinning class

Superfine merino:

superfine merino or fine spinning class


Optim for fine spinning class

The Optim was very interesting. For one, it’s heavy. Weight heavy, not fiber heavy–so the length of a pound of of Optim combed top is a little over half of the length of a pound of merino combed top. But I’d guess there are twice as many actual fibers per inch, which would translate into a much finer potential yarn. I’m not expressing this well. You know how half a pound of mohair or silk takes up a third of the space of a half a pound of merino? It’s like that. And the fiber is so fine you feel blind looking at it. It’s meant to be used like cashmere–ultra soft, fine, and warm, with no memory–but really, since it has a much longer staple, it almost handles more like a lighter version of silk, though far less slippery. Almost like a silk hankie? But while it’s dense for wool top, it’s still lighter than silk top. But it does have something of a luster compared to normal merino, which you can see in the second picture up top. The Optim’s on the right, second row from the top. It looks closer to the merino/silk (purple/gold, second from right, top row) than the merino (green/purple, second from left, top row).

Optim actually starts life as merino–it’s merino that’s been permanently stretched in some magical process to make it long, superfine, and drapey. And while it’s pricey–in my shop, it’s for $35/8oz–that’s still less than half what you pay for cashmere, and without cashmere’s environmental ravages. Well, I’m speculating there–I don’t know how it’s actually processed, so I don’t know what the required inputs and byproducts of that mysterious process are.

Optim for fine spinning class

While I was struggling to get some usable fiber pictures this afternoon, I realized I need to suck it up and buy another DSLR. It’s probably more a reflection of my limitation than the camera’s, but I’m shooting 10x as much and getting fewer usable shots. I can get some really nice shots eventually, but the heavens need to align, and I’m not clever enough to suss out what’s making the difference when they all go terribly, terribly wrong..

I can’t afford the DSLR I want right now, so instead I compromised and bought an older, used low-end body from a random seller for $220 on Amazon. Right now, even that is really more than I can honestly afford, but I actually really do need it.

Being broke is excellent for disentangling need from want. While a new DSLR is still firmly in the “want” column, I can honestly shift a used, older body over to “needs.” I should reclaim an extra 2-4 hours a week from reshooting and photo editing–twice that when I’m shooting patterns or merch.

It’s a Sony like my old DSLR, but a cheaper model. But it takes the same media (now pretty much obsolete), lenses and maybe even battery, so I don’t need any extras go get rolling.

My only concern is that the seller said it was purchased in China (but still made in Japan). My dad goes to China all the time and inevitably comes back with electronics, much of which is undoubtedly counterfeit crap. A lot of it’s great counterfeit crap, some is just plain crap, and occasionally it’s the genuine article, just cheaper because it’s made there and the currency is manipulated. Or maybe that’s just the ubertight counterfeit. You always feel a little skeptical about it, since China’s so free and easy with intellectual property issues. Anyway, I’m assuming since I’m familiar with the Sony machines and UI, I’ll know right away if something’s fishy–though I’m probably giving myself more credit than I deserve.

4 Replies to “Dyeing to spin”

  1. Okay I absolutely LOVED the class. Thanks so much for teaching it. You did a great job, and I love the fiber. I can’t wait to take another one from you. It was a really well-done class.

  2. Such beautiful yarn!! Your colors are spectacular. Enjoyed learning about the Optim- having never heard of it before. Would love to see some photos of the spun fiber, and the garments that resulted.

  3. I think a word/concept that would help you describe the Optim is density. Density is mass divided by volume. Like, a beach ball has lower density than water, which is why it floats, and a regular rock has a higher density than water, which is why it sinks. I haven’t felt the Optim, so I don’t know exactly what you are describing, but I think the concept of density would make it a little easier. And it looks pretty!

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