Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pioneering: Part 4

I've invented a new word: Lanaphilia. Those of you who, like me, love word derivations (weird, I know), will know that philos is Greek for love. Lana is my sister. And while I do love her dearly, the lana in this word refers to wool. I am a lover of wool. I drool over it and try not to get caught. I have bins and bins of it. Wool is a perfect creation. Aside from keeping sheep cosy in damp climates, it can be spun in yarn! Felted with heat/agitation and/or needles! Knitted and crocheted into FABRIC! How cool is that? I don't care what weight it is. Sport weight? Love it. Bulky? Yup. I even like the scratchy, bits-of-grass-stuck-in-sporadically, unevenly dyed kind. The above photo was taken outside of the Upper Canada Village Woolen Mill. How bountiful and beautiful it is, full of creative possibility!

I was in a bit of bliss at Upper Canada Village.

Trying my hand at spinning for the VERY FIRST time! I know I'll treasure this when I'm a master spinner! (I wish I had a snap of the first time I knitted something).

My niece wrassling a lamb (it's a Leicester for those of you who know your sheep: they're one of the most heat-tolerant breeds, so are a good choice for our Canadian summers).

Two pioneer sheep-wranglers (check out those forearms...they don't use electric shears!)

This lovely pioneer lady let each of the kids try a bit of spinning and gave them the bit of yarn they created; I tied Jude's around my camera strap and love to touch it daily now...a kind of talisman to keep me focussed on my years-old dream of learning to spin. When you're 20, you think you have all the time in the world to realise your dreams. Now at 36 I realise it's time to make them happen NOW.

These machines, in the Woolen Mill, date back to the 1860s and are still running. The wool goes from fleeces to what we call roving (they call it "sliver"...that's with a long i), then into thinner sliver, then onto bobbins to be spun, then plied into yarn. Quite an involved process. This took the processing of wool out of the women's realm; hooray for the Industrial Revolution. Although I suspect the women were still doing most of the knitting. Wool was very valuable 150 years ago; a fleece could sell for 25 cents (which as good money at that time). People wove it and knitted it up to create most fabrics.

Now people can't get rid of their fleeces and throw them into the compost pile. It was wonderful to see these machines at work, and to then go into the gift shop to purchase a 3/4 pound bag of brilliant red "sliver", created on these very machines...ready for my forays into spinning!


  1. I giggled when I first read your "lanaphilia" because for a moment I thought it was a reference to powerful sisterly love. But I quickly realized, with a chuckle, that you OF COURSE meant wool! I'm a thinkin' that *your* name should have been Lana :-)

    Beautiful photos. I'm itchin' (ha) to touch that bin of wool.

  2. I agree with you on all points of wool. (Although, I find myself drawn more to the felting of instead of the knitting of. I am wrestling with a pair of socks at the moment that have been started and pulled off no less than 4 times in a week.)
    It is truly sad that so many farmers dispose of their wool in whatever way possible - last year I was the beneficiary of one feedbag full of shorn fleece. I washed it and carded it and man was it a whole lot of work....but I ended up with a whole lot of batting, basically for free.

  3. Great post! Hope you start spinning soon, then you can teach the rest of us. I just got a great little guide to using a drop spindle today...I like that it is so compact and could potentially be done anywhere! Reckon we should start a chapter of the Renfrew Country Swingin' Spinners??!!!
    looks like you had a swell trip!
    Maureen xo

  4. Ha! I just did a google search for Lanaphilia (after looking up the latin for wool), as you do at 1am, and your blog post popped up.

    Isn't spinning awkward at first!? I tried it at the local wool festival almost a year ago, and since then have had to buy a drop spindle, then a spinning wheel, then a HEAP of fibre... then my family started buying me fibre... lol. I'm hanging out for the wool festival again in July, when I'm going to stock up again. It is addictive, I must say.

  5. It's so funny....I was spinning with my drop spindle a couple of nights ago and was thinking of your blogs, wondering if you had tried spinning yet! I couldn't believe my eyes when I got to your blog today!!! An easy way to get into it is with a drop spindle )compact, cheap)and I recommend the book RESPECT THE SPINDLE by Abby Franquemont as it is the most comprehensive (but still use-able) one I've found yet. But definitely get out there and start spinning!!!!

  6. I've been loving reading about your pioneering adventure! This post got to me the most of course; I'm totally fascinated by the process of turning sheep's wool into roving into yarn...

    (This is Kat from!)


This space is a creative outlet for a busy mama; I warmly embrace your comments and feedback, as well as questions/requests for details. I do check them daily and will respond where appropriate! Thank you for visiting the Knitty Gritty Homestead!