Saturday, February 27, 2016

Horse Hair Yarn - Spinning Rudolf

Sorraia stud colts at play on unseasonably mild December day
Ravenseyrie - Manitoulin Island
Ontario - Canada

Last November, I wrote a detailed account in the Journal of Ravenseyrie about learning to crochet and how this stimulated a desire within me to also learn to spin my own yarn so that I could make things with the shed winter coats of our "wild" Sorraia horses.  

Set up to blend Sorraia horse hair and sheep wool
approximately a 50/50 blend

Silvestre, soaking up the February sun at Ravenseyrie,
soon he will be shedding his warm, winter coat and I will spin
more yarn from him and his mates!

I titled that entry Spinning Sorraia!...double click on the title and the magic of the internet will take you to that particular creative odyssey.  

In this month's journal entry, I would like to share with you what I was inspired to create with the horse hair my friend Annemiek sent me from the Netherlands.  

Rudolf, a dark bay Thoroughbred and good friend of my friend,  Annemiek Stuart
photo credit:  Jacolien Frens

Annemiek's horse, Rudolf, and the Furminator brush she used to collect his shed winter hair

Annemiek sent a nicely prepared bagful of Rudolf's dark bay hair, scented with earthy essential oils.  For a horse-loving-gal such as me, the mingling of Miek's essential oil scents with the natural odeur de cheval had me intoxicated with the desire to card and spin a sample of Rudolf straightaway.   

Annemiek's bag filled with horse hair from Rudolf
alongside my first hand-carded rolag
75% horse hair/25% sheep wool

My first spin of Rudolf's hair I did on a homemade spindle

I asked Miek if she wanted me to spin yarn and send her the finished skeins for her to use, or would she like me to crochet something special?  Annemiek opted to have me make something for her.

During the period of several weeks that I was carding and spinning Rudolf's hair, I was all the while thinking about what I might crochet for Miek.  I was surprised that Rudolf's hair was a bit more prickly than the hair of our "wild" Sorraia horses - I would have expected it to be softer than the grullo hair.  I decided to try blending Rudolf's hair a bit differently and went with 60% horse hair to 40% sheep wool and that helped make the yarn spin more even, but I felt it was still to prickly for making a garment like a hat or a neck warmer.  Perhaps a vest might be nice?  Hmmm...

...reaching into the tote bag Miek had sent Rudolf's shed winter hair in gave me the idea that the yarn made with Rudolf's hair would perhaps make a very unique and useful fashion bag.

Being still fairly new to crocheting (since October 2014), I had never before made a tote bag and began to research images and patterns until I felt I could cobble together something of my own design.  It soon became obvious that there was not a sufficient amount of Rudolf's hair to make enough yarn for the size of bag I had designed, so I decided it would be a great time to use yarn that I had made from thistledown gathered off the Ravenseyrie landscape.

Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) at Ravenseyrie

I don't have my own photo handy of the cottony down the Bull Thistle yields up when it turns to seed, but you can view a nice image of that at Andy's Northern Ontario Wildflower website.

Handspun yarn made with Thistle Down
50% sheep wool/50% thistle down
I was a very bad girl and did not back up photos taken on my iPad of what carded thistledown looks like and those images have vanished.  (I promise to document more thoroughly how I make yarn from thistledown this autumn!)  Even more appalling - I did not keep track of how I made the tote bag, i.e. what size hook, what combination of stitches, how many, etc.  Definitely Miek's fashion tote is a one of a kind as I doubt I could reproduce it even if I did have more of Rudolf's hair to make yarn from.

Fashion tote bag made from horse hair and
thistledown yarn
I was very happy with how the tote bag turned out.  It was a great educative experience for me to learn to increase and decrease stitches in particular places so that I could get a rather flat, rectangular bottom.  I was very pleased with the addition of the thistledown yarn, as it had lots of rustic nubbiness and subtle brown flecks from bits of chaff from the dried plant matter that complemented nicely with the dark bay colour of Rudolf's shed winter hair.  I used sturdy jute to make the handles.

I decided that this tote bag would be more finished and useful if I made a liner for it - another new aspect of learning for a gal like me who can hardly sew a button back on correctly.  Thankfully, Lynda Noe, an expert quilter/fibre artist has her studio on the lower level of the building where my Ravenseyrie Studio & Art Gallery is located.  Back in 2010, Lynda and I had a joint exhibition at the Gore Bay Museum's art gallery.  You can read about that show by clicking HERE. With Lynda's input, I was able to make a nice liner for the tote bag that would keep things from poking through the spaces between the crocheted stitches.

Horse hair fashion tote, with liner sewed in
Yes, indeed...I felt this was a very nice fashion tote and perhaps the only one made from horsehair yarn!  I packed it up and sent it off to the Netherlands in early November, anxious to see if Miek liked what I made for her with Rudolf's hair.

When Annemiek received her package from Canada, she wrote me that she thought making a tote bag with Rudolf yarn was a great idea and sent me a photo of it as soon as she unwrapped it:

Horsehair fashion tote, safely makes it to its destination in Holland
Later, Miek sent me photos of when she showed Rudolf the tote bag.  She said she thought he liked it but he seemed more curious about the way it smelled than how it looked.  (I wash my finished yarn and completed crochet items in water containing lavender oil to deter bugs from making a meal of the fibres.)

Annemiek Stuart with Rudolf, who is checking
out a fashion tote made from his shed winter hair
Annemiek gives Rudolf a kiss of thanks for his contribution
to her wardrobe 

I had a great time spinning horse hair again and crocheting it into a tote bag along with homespun thistledown yarn and really appreciated getting a feeling for the differences between Rudolf's hair and the hair of our Sorraias.  All the Sorraia yarn that I made from last winter's shed winter coats I am saving and hoping to add more to it this spring when all those lovely wild equines shed once again.  I have an idea for a dressy poncho I'd like to make from those varied shades of grey.

Horsehair yarn from grulla coloured Sorraias
naturally shed winter undercoats

Thank you Annemiek for gathering and sending me Rudolf's hair, and also sending photos to help me document the process here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie.  I hope you get many years of good use out of your Rudolf fashion tote!  And for those of you who wonder what to do with all that hair that comes off your horses in the might consider taking up spinning!  This author thinks horse hair makes wonderfully attractive and useful yarn!