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hand spinning wool for hats
Photograph of Carol spinning at her Lendrum Wheel (from Bountiful) by Alyce Henson
Carol comes originally from the open chalk downs of Wiltshire, in southwest England. She grew up five miles from Stonehenge, amidst sheep, larks, wild flowers and the rambling Avon River.

Photographs of a Rug Weaving Demonstration at Carol's Studio by Christian White.

She learned to knit, crochet and sew from her great aunt at an early age and in her late teens learned to spin from a guild member on the north coast of Cornwall, England.

Since then she has combined these skills with weaving forming a business to produce high quality, original hand-crafted items, including hats, mittens, sweaters, woven scarves and rugs.

A spinner's and weaver's guild member, she gives fiber arts classes and presentations. Her specialty has been in seeking out and designing with high quality natural fibers, using their original colors and adding dyed fibers only on request.

Photos of Carol's Studio in Western Pennsylvania by Alyce Henson.

With WearFiberArt.com, Carol hopes to bring high quality, natural fiber, hand made products to the attention of those who love unique and artistic objects, especially ones so soft and warm.

Contact Carol if you would like to take private lessons in spinning, weaving, knitting and crochet.

hand spinning wool
Photograph of Carol Rak at the spinning wheel by Alyce Henson

Wool

Lustrous, soft, curly - all qualities I look for in fleece. I have been working with two people over many years now, who produce high quality, handspinning fleece. Dorothy Bohonik, with her flock of primarily Canadian Border Leicester with some Border Leicester/Dorset cross and Cary Pesek, with her flock of Border Leicesters, Romney and Lincoln. Both of these people work very hard to maintain healthy, well fed animals, pasturing whenever weather permits and feeding them in such a way that vegetable matter and seeds don't make their way into the fiber. Dorothy coats her sheep, making the coats herself. This not only keeps the fleece cleaner, but prevents sun-bleached tips. Cary coats some of her colored sheep and does her own shearing. The quality of fiber is reliant on access to high quality feed and good clean pasture (clean, meaning there are no burdock, thistle or other plants that could get entangled in the fleece!) Both of them skirt their fleece well, separating the tags and course wool so what remains is high quality, wonderful spinning fiber. All the wool used in these pieces come from these two farms.

Mohair

The mohair, from angora goats, is kid and yearling, each with their own unique qualities. These terms refer to the age of the goats when they are clipped. Kid mohair is the first (at a few months old) and second clip (six months after the first clip); yearling is six months after that (the goat can be anywhere from 15 to 18 months. Kid is very soft and fluffy, it can be compared, in texture, to angora rabbit fur (although it contains grease before it is washed, which the rabbit fiber doesn't). Yearling is still very soft but has already begun to develop a sheen and more defined curls. I use each kind for very specific effects in my work Sharon Reiland and her husband keep angora goats, as well as sheep, llama and other animals on a small farm in Pleasantville, western Pennsylvania. Sharon has been supplying me with high quality mohair for many years now and selects her prime quality fiber for the work that I do. She also runs a small store and studio, attached to their home with spinning and weaving supplies, yarn made from the fibers they produce from their own animals, as well as commercial yarn and woven articles she makes there in her shoppe.

 

I have several sources for llama and alpaca fiber, all in western PA., Sharon being one of them. These photos are from Sharon. Visit her site from our Links page.

The silk is imported from India. Tussah silk is one of the kinds of wild silk, with a creamy gold luster. It adds a richness and glow the other fibers. All the wild silks vary only in their color, being varying shades of cream or gold. Silk moths are feed only on mulberry leaves. In captivity they are fed consistently the same food producing the white silk fiber indicative of cultivated silk whereas in the wild there is more variation.

The Process

When I bring the fleece home, in spring-time, I lay them out and check there are no tags, or course wool that escaped the attention of those who skirted. This having been done, I wash them, one fleece at a time, with a mild dish detergent, to break down the lanolin (that's why dish detergent), which can be quite dense.
After several washes and rinses in hot water I use the spin cycle on the washer to remove excess water and then lay the clean fleeces outside to dry in the fresh air. I wash the mohair in a similar fashion, although using more washes as the grease is heavier. The fibers glisten in the sun as they dry.

This is all I need to do before spinning, when I am using the natural colors of the fleece. If I need to dye some of the fiber I immerse them in the dye bath while they are still wet, both wool and mohair.


Photo by Alyce Henson

Spinning

There are two methods I primarily use for the articles seen on the site; singles and core and ply or novelty spinning. All the colored pieces are spun core and ply, producing a light weight bulky yarn with mixed colors and fibers. The natural, undyed fibers are spun in the same manner for some of the pieces and in singles, as in the twill scarves. With core and ply, I fluff fibers onto a strand of yarn attached to the bobbin (as seen in the photo in "about us"). When I have filled a bobbin I ply another fine yarn to "wrap" and secure the fibers onto the initial core - then the yarn is ready to knit or weave.

Spinning singles I use only the fiber itself, this is traditional spinning, to form the yarn. I spin a "chunky" weight single, similar the yarn used in Salish Indian sweaters, for the accessories in the photos. Plyed yarn is combining two thinner singles, and reversing the twist to ply them together.

I give private lessons as well as workshops and presentations, teaching and demonstrating the methods in each stem of the process, from fleece in the grease to finished product. Contact me, either by phone or email, for information.


Photos courtesy of Alyce Henson

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For more information about Carol Ann Rak click on any of these page links:

*private lessons are also available - including: spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet
Call us:
724-253-2299

Other Informative Links about Carol and www.WearFiberArt.com
Testimonials from Clients page (March 2003)
Photographs of a Rug Weaving Demonstration
at Carol's Studio -Photos by Christian White. (December 2002)
Press review of NY Times fashion show with Rak scarf
Studio photographs by Alyce Henson (March 2002)
Carol's essay on Fibers and Fleece
Carol's essay on Fiber Art
Lessons with Carol in Western Pennsylvania area Contact me.
www.WearFiberArt was formerly www.kofcolor.com
Customer comments page coming soon.

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Photography on site by Alyce Henson