Three Spinners, a Camel, and a Supported Spindle
Heather Zoppetti may own her own yarn company, Stitch Sprouts, and receive all the yarn she could want for her handknit design work. But Heather’s fiber needs aren’t all met by commercial yarn. Heather is a spinner.
As a designer of exquisite lace, Heather knows that she can get the loftiest and finest laceweight yarns using a supported spindle, and for the Winter 2016 issue of Spin-Off, she showed us how she uses them: she cards fine fibers such as cashmere or camel (maybe blended with a little mulberry silk) into punis or tears off a little fiber and folds it over her finger, then spins them with a long draw on a Russian or Tibetan spindle.
The shawl that Heather designed and knitted with the luxurious fiber doesn’t look much like the large, shaggy beast who provided the downy fiber. In her article in the issue, Judith MacKenzie talks about the origins of a luxury fiber that she believes is overlooked. As she says, “Though not as fine as cashmere (which is about 19.5 microns), adult camel down ranges between 20 and 24 microns. Baby camel, which is rare and quite wonderful, can be as fine as 16 microns, making it easily as fine as cashmere.” Interwoven with facts about Bactrian camels and spinning techniques, Judith tells stories of the roles camels have played in history and textiles.
Heather came to spin the particular blend that she used for the issue’s Pyrope Shawl when she fell in love with a luxurious baby camel/Bombyx mori silk blend from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. Jennifer Heverly, the dye master behind Spirit Trail, has a particular skill for rich colors, and the deep garnet shade struck beautifully on both the glistening silk and the muted, downy baby camel fiber.
But this isn’t really a story of three spinners. It’s a story of five: Heather, Judith, and Jennifer, of course, but also you and me. You see, I was so smitten with what these three women created that I asked Jennifer to dye some more of her irresistible fiber so that we could offer the Luxurious Camel/Silk Shawlette Kit. We decided to add an extra ounce of fiber for you to sample; Heather’s shawl weighs 2 ounces, but to leave some extra for sampling and spinning slightly heavier yarn, we included 3 ounces.
And now you’re the fifth spinner. What will you make?