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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment April 29, 2016

4/2/2013 1:17:00 PM
The art of spinning fiber
Jane Burkholder at the spinning wheel. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Jane Burkholder at the spinning wheel. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

Jane Burkholder had enjoyed knitting as a hobby for 20 years. Then she decided to buy a spinning-wheel with the idea of harvesting her own wool or fiber.

She didn't own sheep or alpaca, but she did have an Australian shepherd named Granger. She collected his fur from the soft undercoat when she groomed him on a regular basis.

"I saved his fiber for a long time, because I knew that one day I wanted to spin," recalled Burkholder.

When Granger was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, she decided to learn how to spin and would use his soft furry undercoat that she had harvested over the years. She hand-carded Granger's fur.

Carding is the process by which fibers are separated, cleaned and straightened in preparation for spinning. Wooden hand-carders, somewhat like dog brushes, are used two at a time, brushing the wool or fiber between the two until all the fibers are in a bunch going in the same direction.

"I carded Granger's fiber and blended it with sheep's wool so it wouldn't be so slippery for spinning," Burkholder explained.

Hand spinning is an ancient textile art in which plant, animal or synthetic fibers are twisted together to form yarn.

Just about anything that is fiber-like can be spun. The most common fibers used for spinning are sheep's wool, cotton, silk alpaca, mohair and angora.

The fiber that Burkholder harvested from her dog ended up weighing four pounds. After carding it and blending the fiber with sheep's wool she spun it into yarn and knitted a very warm coat.

Since Burkholder enjoyed the meditative process of spinning fiber into yarn, she decided to try angora rabbit fiber. She bought a young French angora rabbit named Douxette six years ago and began the process of harvesting her fiber. A few years later she acquired another angora, Anouk.

"I harvest their fiber when it is three or more inches long, usually every few months," Burkholder said.

There are three ways of harvesting angora fiber; shearing, combing and hand plucking. Burholder prefers shearing gently with scissors.

Burkholder prefers to send out their fiber to be carded and blended with sheep's wool. The fiber returns to her as rovings, a long narrow bundle of her angora's fiber. She then spins the bundle into soft yarn.

The ancient art form is making a comeback, which is good for knitting, crocheting or felting enthusiasts.

"I don't spin because I need more yarn, or make sweaters because I need more sweaters, it is the process of creating that is so satisfying," Burkholder says.

Burkholder lives in Sisters and is a yoga instructor at the studio.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Article comment by: Anthony Meyer

Good to see you and I are in better places.
Look me up (if you wish) on Facebook my group, The History Of Sugar.
If not no biggie. Stay well. HNY.

Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013
Article comment by: Joan Amco

When I first visited Jane at her studio/bakery, I also met Granger and it was love at first sight. He was the most marvelous dog, and I envy Jane for having the most gorgeous coat in the world made from his fur. It always made me feel good just leaving her house with a couple of his sheds on my jacket!

Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013
Article comment by: Gene Livingston

Jane Burkholder , my best friend for over 10 years , she sums it up herself by the last line in her article.
" spinning is not for the finished product but the process of creating that is so satisfying " . We all could learn by the example she sets and follows , to always strive to make this a more wonderful place to share with one another .
Thank you Janie for who you are .

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